Was very fortunate to take part in an absolutely top class event organized by Vila Viniteca here in Madrid this weekend – The 10th Premio de Cata por Parejas (Tasting in Pairs competition).
I was blown away by the scale of it – 120 pairs of contestants in the contest itself but on top of that 50 top drawer bodegas showing off their wines to around 2,500 people in total, and all in the stunning surroundings of Madrid’s original Casino (not currently a casino, confusingly). If you don’t believe me you can see some TV highlights from three of Spain’s national broadcasters and Madrid’ local news (all in Spanish and untainted by my presence) here, here, here and here.
I was also surprised by the quality of the wines – first up was a lovely old Salon, with the tightest, creamiest bubbles you can imagine, followed by a wine given no fewer than the perfect 100 points by you know who – the 1986 Castillo y Gay. (I got the regions, DOs, grapes and approximate ages of both, but never imagined they would be that generous so duffed the makers.) In fact all the way down the line the wines were excellent, and my favourites were in fact a Barbera by Voerzio (I said Sangiovese) and a Malvasia from Tenerife (Sauternes). (Again, accurate details will be available on the Vila Viniteca Blog.)
And it was enjoyable for a lot of other reasons. First, my “pair” was Ana, formerly of the Chula de Chamberi and we spent most of the 90 minutes laughing, teasing and generally enjoying ourselves. Second, there were an awful lot of good friends and big names around the room and the place generally – it was a pleasure to compete against and chat to Jesus Barquin, no less. Third, the wines downstairs were as good as those upstairs – the new Riberas from Dominio del Aguila and the classic Riojas by Finca Allende stood out for me, and Jerez was fantastically represented by Lustau and all their almacenistas, but there was top drawer liquid everywhere to be honest.
But most importantly I have discovered I really enjoy tasting wines blind. Not because I am any good at identifying them (although I was pleased with the effort on the day) but because it strikes me that you focus on and enjoy the wine that little bit more. On the day itself they were top wines, but in the last few weeks people like David at Angelita, David at Era and David at Santceloni (different people) have been trying me out and wines I previously thought I didn’t like were surprisingly enjoyable. In fact I reckon that from now on I am going to tell sommeliers I am training for next year.
So a great day, and bravo both to Vila Viniteca for an outstanding event, and to the winners – Luis Gutierrez and Ignacio Villalgordo – winning this thing for the second time no less. A brilliant performance from them and the other podium dwellers and I clearly need to drink a lot more Salon in future.