Alba Sobretabla 2014 and Ancestral las Alegrías at Angelita

Another quick but incredibly interesting lunch at Angelita yesterday, the highlight of which was the chance to have another look at two of the wines of Alba Viticultores: the Sobretabla 2014 and the Ancestral Las Alegrias del Carrascal. (I should maybe point out that they are not on the winelist – David had opened them to taste them with some friends and was convinced that I had heard the bottles opening/smelt them, so uncanny  was my sudden and unexpected appearance.)

The Ancestral Las Alegrias was particularly interesting. It is a 100% palomino fino from a vineyard by the name of Las Alegrias on the Pago Carrascal in Sanlucar. I think this was harvested and fermented in 2015 although I have no idea when it was disgorged – I reckon it didn’t have long on the rack but there was no indication on the bottle and David was working too hard to be interrupted. I was struck by the nose, with its suggestion of sweetness and leafiness: a bit like having your head in a lemon tree or something. Then on the palate you have a first suggestion of sweetness, then a shock and buzz of carbonic acid and then a bitter fruit palate between a lime and a grapefruit, then length that is mouth watering, buzzy and tart on the tongue.

The Sobretabla 2014 by comparison came across as a little muted. Again I don’t know which of the “botas” this was, but in principle I believe it is 100% palomino fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 14 months in a 500 litre butt that had held manzanilla for over 50 years. Maybe it was an unfair comparison with the Ancestral, which of course has the added dash of the bubbles and carbonic, but it seemed a little shy. Even so, it had a nice salinity and structure, a much more muted flavour between citrus and ripe apples with leafy herbs.

And those two were only the highlights, I started with a very decent pet nat with the oeuvre bouche and with the callos a la asturiana I had yet another dorado de rueda (of which more later) before finishing with a cracking rice – not a great pairing to be fair but it was delicious and just what I needed.

 

 

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Colet Navazos Reserva Extra Brut 2011 

Really top class Spanish bubbles these: 100% chardonnay from Penedés as the base wine with 41 months of secondary fermentation and rack and licor de expedición made up of manzanilla and manzanilla pasada.

A nice deep, gold color as you can see and tight, well integrated bubbles. Although it is dry it is big and rich in body, and elegantly shaped – not too much of the “diesel” I sometimes find in cavas with a lot of rack time. Maybe a hint of nutty and roasted flavours like an oxidated blanc de blancs, and mouthwatering mineral freshness at the end to make the finish extra clean and fresh.

In fact a great combination of a big tasty wine but with a sharp acidity up front and a fresh salinity behind. Really excellent.

 

 

The Wines of Alba Viticultores in Wine Attack Madrid

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I finally finish writing up my notes of a really fun tasting at the end of June. It was a really good laugh for a number of reasons, but at least in part because these wines seem to have fun embedded in their DNA. Seven bottles in total, four bubbles (two ancestral and two brut, of which one was rosé) and three dry white wines.

First up was the Ancestral Alegrías del Carrascal 2015 – 11,5%, 100% from 50 year old palomino fino vines from the Alegrías vineyard on pago Carrascal (de Sanlúcar).  2015 was a very hot year and the wine was fermented in 1000l stainless steel tanks for 14 days before being bottled at the end of September. No added ingredients here and while we had tasted one with 7 months on the rack last year this one had a further 12 months before disgorging. A curious combination of the most vertical and atlantic of the Sanlúcar pagos in one of the warmest recent years, it was fresh and very amenable, the slight residual sugar making it very appetising, with nice tight bubbles, appley sweetness and fresh grass, a touch of salinity and a slightly bitter finish.

Second came the Ancestral Confitero 2015 – 11,9% vol – from 35 year old vines on the El Confitero vineyard on pago Miraflores (just inland of Carrascal), very near to the legendary “Armijo” of Gaspar Florido. Again ancestral method with only 3 gr/Hl of so2 before pressing and no additives. This one was fermented in plastic containers for 12 days before bottling then spent 17 months on the rack was disgorged by hand and refilled with the same wine. Pretty decent bubbles these – a bit broader in the shoulders flavourwise but didn’t hold together quite as well. A bit more serious, more wine/vine/root-like, not quite as much residual sugar and less of a defined shape.

After the ancestral wines we turned to the methode champenoise wines, starting with the Brut Nature 2014. This comes from palomino fino from different Sanlúcar pagos, is fermented in stainless steel at controlled temperatures, then aged in deposit, initially with a little flor for around 5 months. Then it is put in 16 litre demijons for six months where flor again develops. Then it is bottled and has spent 25 months on the rack. Once again, only 4gr/Hl of so2 before pressing.  The result is a quality bottle of bubbles – tighter, sharper bubbles – with a bit more bite and crispness. Has those same apple and herb aromas and flavours and a compact, elegant profile. Really top class and probably my favourite wine on the day.

That was followed by the Brut Nature Rosado 2014, pink bubbles made from 93% palomino fino and 7% tintilla de rota, all grown on vineyards in Sanlúcar. Fermented in stainless steel and bottled in June 2015, with 25 months on the rack. 3 gr/Hl of so2 added before pressing and then no other additives, disgorged by hand and refilled with the same wine. Again a quality bottle of sparkling wine and full flavoured, with quite brash red fruit flavours and a bit of the heavy metal effect you get from cavas with a lot longer on the rack. Again bags of potential here.

The first of the still wines was the Alba sobre tabla 2014 (Bota 2). 100% palomino fino from different vineyards in Sanlúcar, a white wine fermented in stainless steel and aged there until January 2015, when it was put in a manzanilla butt. For the 2014 vintage there were three butts of Sobre Tabla: Butt III was bottled in August 2015, Butt I was bottled in March 2016 (and was part of last year’s tasting) and Butt II was bottled earlier in 2017. None of the three butts developed flor except this Butt II which saw some develop in the last few months. The wine was excellent and there was general agreement that of the wines tasted it was the wine with most fruit and, at the same time, oxidated “sherry” character. Has a nice tingle of salinity/acidity and ripe apples on the nose and palate and a slightly tingling, mineral finish.

That was followed by Alba Flor 2014, essentially the same wine but whereas the Sobre Tabla was in a butt that was filled to the top this one was placed into a three quarter full butt for four months under flor.  I must admit I found it hard to spot the difference between this and the previous wine. Slightly finer maybe? By a hair’s breadth if anything. Then again it was my sixth wine of a very enjoyable lunch. Still a very fragrant, tasty white wine by any measure.

The final wine was La Charanga 2014, from the eponymous vineyard in pago Mahina. This wine is from the oldest and best palomino fino vines tended by legendary mayeto “el Bolli”, on a vineyard that faces West to the breezes from Doñana. The wine was fermented in an oloroso butt and was aged for a year in a manzanilla butt. I had placed this wine last in the order on the basis of it’s being from the beefiest of the Sanlúcar pagos and a memory of it having a fair structure to it but on the day it came across as lighter and more floral than I expected. Nice slightly sweet floral/herb flavours and a long elegant finish.

Seven quality, imaginative and well made wines, a lot of fun and yet again a demonstration of the value of what can be achieved by working the vintage and the vineyard.

 

 

 

The Wines of Alba Viticultores Revisited 

A fantastic lunchtime tasting yesterday with a few good friends at Wine Attack. The subjects were the wines of Alba Viticultores and to an extent the occasion was a return to a similar tasting a year or so ago.

There were of course differences. That first tasting was the first time I and my colleagues really got to grips with these wines, and there was a sense of freshness and discovery that it would be impossible to repeat. But there were also similarities: some of the wines we tasted yesterday were in fact the same wines with more time in rima, and others were only subtly different to the wines we had tasted before.

There was also a return to one of the big topics of conversation around the wines of Alba Viticultores: their price. These tend to be, by the standards of the sherry region, relatively expensive (roughly €15-€40). However, it strikes me as curious what a big issue this seems to be for those who have been involved in the two tastings (particularly since I paid for the wines on both occasions). First, they are hand made, largely natural, small production wines. Second, if the wines sell then I am not going to argue with the prices (and they certainly seem to, – it is certainly not easy to get them). In fact, to me it is almost preferable that the wines are scarce and that the bubbles have similar price points to grower producer champagnes, for example.

More importantly, the tasting was a confirmation of the quality of the wines. The seven wines were generally excellent, a couple of them were really excellent, they prove that with the right care you can indeed make sparkling and unfortified white – and even rosé – wines with palomino, and all down the list there was a demonstration of palomino fino’s ability to express terroir and vintage.

And it was also a lot of fun. The food and snacks laid on by Antonio, Carlos and the team at Wine Attack were first class, the surroundings could not have been more congenial – sitting around a big kitchen table in the back room – and there was even more laughter than wine. Despite the detailed discussion of Manchester music and dancing greats down the ages I even managed to take a few notes, which I will write up shortly, but for the time being, many thanks to everyone for coming along and my compliments once again to Alba Viticultores for some cracking stuff.

 

Ancestral Las Alegrias del Carrascal 2015  

Was on a mission for fish and chips at La Berenjena de Chamberi (thanks to Victor de la Serna, my personal fish and chip consultant) and observed that they had a few nice wines on the winelist – Fino Arroyuelo, el Fossi and a couple of other goodies, and most eye-catchingly this. On another day I would have put to the test my theory about manzanilla and fish and chips but couldn’t resist some Sanlúcar bubbles.

By Alba Viticultores, it is a 100% palomino fino from a vineyard by the name of Las Alegrias on the Pago Carrascal in Sanlucar. Harvested and fermented in 2015 and this one was disgorged in October 2016.

I was having too much fun to take notes but from memory it had a little bit of reduction first up but then a very pleasant nose of herbal apple sweetness and fresh grass. On the palate it was dry, with muted appley fruit, salinity, maybe a suggestion of creaminess and a slightly bitter, carbonic finish.

Very pleasant all around – will have to come back to try the manzanilla and chips another day.

Colet Navazos 2011 – Extra Brut

Having picked this up from Coalla Gourmet as a wine of the week lately (despite a moratorium being in place) I had the chance to crack this open after lunch yesterday at the home of a good friend and I thought it was brilliant. It is from Equipo Navazos and in particular their JV with cava producer Colet. According to the (as always) excellent ficha it is a 100% Xarel Lo with 30 months in rima and dosage with palo cortado and amontillado.

It is a big exuberant cava: yeasty, floral, roast apple and a touch nutty on the nose. Then a nice full, moussey texture with crisp carbonic bite, nutty flavours then heavy metal and grapefruity citrus on the palate.

A serious wine – bubbles to savour.

Bubbl

Alba Brut Nature Rosado 2014

I have written before about these fascinating (and really rather good) sparkling palomino wines from Alba Viticultores and so, taking advantage of the more permissive domestic stance on the consumption of bubbles during the Christmas period I picked this up (and the information below) from Coalla Gourmet.

It is a sparkling rosé. The base wine (about 93% of the volume) is palomino fino from albariza vineyards in Sanlúcar (unusually for these guys they don’t specify the pago – they have vines both inland and in Miraflores so would be interesting to know). It was fermented and spent a few months in inox, then five months or so in demijons under flor before bottling for the second fermentation in August 2015 and disgorging in October 2016 with no filtering, clarifying  or addition of sulphur. The rosé is achieved by adding tintilla de rota – which makes up 7% of the volume -and although the wine is labelled “brut nature” I wonder if it might not be one of the sweeter versions.

The packaging is edgy – the crown cap as if it was yet to be disgorged – but this time the bottle is frosted rather than dark or clear (although to be fair I guess it is to show off the rosé). Not the most bubbly bubbles, but a nice fizz and a deep almost reddish pink colour. Natural wine nose of countryside, undergrowth and fruit, and even chocolatey aromas. On the palate again a nice fizz and effervescence and a rustic feel to it – lots of carbonic and those fruity undergrowth flavours. Serious aftertaste with a touch of diesel and, dare I say, palulu.

Not really my cup of tea to be quite honest: a bit too natural and rustic and lacking that liftoff and elegance of the pure palomino Brut Natures. Having said that, the group I opened it with liked it and it disappeared pretty quickly!