Salcombe Gin “Finisterre”

If you are going to have lunch with some top finos you need something really dry as an aperitif and here you go. A dry martini made up of a gin made by Salcombe in Devon and aged in a former fino bota shipped over by Bodegas Tradicion and a decent splash of fino from the same chaps.

When it comes to dry martinis I have very classic tastes but this fragrant, woody and saline version is very suppable indeed. Great stuff.

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Legends in Taberna Maitea

There is an English expression intended to belittle achievements: “a legend in his own lunchtime”. It is a comment on ephemeral glories. The phrase feels completely inadequate in the face of my own lunchtime today.

Today in Taberna Maitea I came face to face with such legends and so quickly that it hardly seemed real: Carta Blanca, Fino Caribe, Manzanilla Pochola, PX Viña 25, and the legendary Amontillado la Botaina. Dinosaurs that once ruled the earth and even in fossilized form are like a jeep ride through jurassic park. In addition there was the Callejuela manzanilla madura, the Viejo C P palo cortado and a mystery 2016 from Miraflores, all of them ourstanding, but still …

I should say right away that this was not an everyday lunch at the bar (although they have a great list these wines are not generally available). All I can do now is express my sincere thanks to Nico for such an outstanding lunch (the food was also brilliant – just see below) – notes of the wines will follow when I come down from the clouds.

Three years under the flor – a birthday wish

Back on the Costa where this blog was born three years ago now and it has been another fun year. More than 900 posts , thousands of hits and visitors and the rest (from over 120 countries, not including Iceland), some enjoyable lunches, sneaky glasses, fascinating tastings and riotous dinners, but most importantly, a few pennies are starting to drop and I am beginning to think I am getting a handle on what is what where these wines are concerned.

The first thing I learned is the incredible range of wines that can be achieved in the cellar: whether through concentration, oxidation, reduction and barrel and biological aging, blending with sweet wines and in soleras at variable speeds, all with the benefit of timescales that shame other regions, there is a sense of possibility that is quite amazing.

But the second thing you discover is that those possibilities bring great responsibilities, and mean great discipline is needed. With so many dimensions it is all too easy for your wine to end up unbalanced and misshapen, and if you get it just slightly wrong for thirty years you will finish up quite a long way off the path.

And the third thing you learn is that the biggest mistake that has been made is one of the most common, and it has been made for a lot longer than thirty years. Simply, that many bodegas have forgotten that underneath all those effects there should be a wine, a wine with a personality given it by vine, vineyard, and vintage. Too many of the wines in the region are being made with high yield, low concentration, low personality palomino clones that could and indeed are sourced from anywhere across the region. They are often still delicious – crisp, mineral, punchy and full of yeasty or caramel goodness – but they could be so much more.

Because once you have discovered the unique personality that palomino can have when produced with low yields, in different vineyards and in different vintages it is impossible to forget and difficult to go back. The resulting wines not only have added dimensions, they are unique. However majestic the bodega, however great the skill of the capataz, bigger bodegas can be built and techniques can be copied, but vines, vineyards and vintages cannot be replicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I never say no to a glass from one of the great soleras (and the Solear above was absolutely delicious at sundown yesterday), but if this blog gets a birthday wish it would be for the region as a whole to rediscover the miracles of its vines, vineyards and vintages. (And if I were allowed a second wish, it would be for the great “gurus” of terroir and vine to finally give el marco de Jerez the credit it deserves.)

 

El Triángulo in La Antojá

Quick bite of lunch today and very pleasant one too – sardine sandwich, black pudding on toast and a few meatballs washed down with a lovely sharp and fresh xarel-lo (Pardas Rupestris) and this cracking tintilla de rota wine, tight acid up front and stewed blackberries all the way through, just the slightest hint of green pips.

Love it – punchy in exactly the right way.

Fossi and veggies in Taberna Verdejo

Not just any veggies – the superb “Verde que te quiero verde” in Taberna Verdejo: horseradish, artichokes, borage, chard, asparagus and whatsit broccoli. Pairs with this gem of an amontillado – sharp, smooth and savoury rich – like a metaphorical glove.

Appropriately enough too – although these days everywhere in Madrid seems to have a good sherry list Verdejo was one of the first and in particular one of the first to really embrace the #chiclanapower of Primitivo Collantes.

The Cuatrogatos Wine Fest 2018

I am on the train to Madrid after a fun and inspiring weekend with winemakers from every corner of Spain, brought together by my friend and top man Federico Ferrer.

There were a few exciting new wines from el marco de Jerez and I will be writing up the notes as soon as I can, but for the time being I wanted to post my thanks to Fede, Marta and all the winemakers for a really fantastic event and a lot of laughs.

Wines do not make themselves. They do not occur in nature. They do not grow or emerge from the soil, however famous the vineyard. They are made by people and making them is bloody hard work. (And if you think making them is hard, try selling them.) I am a little in awe of anyone who can make wine, an awe that only increases when you spend time with them and see just how much of their life they pour into that work.

I really feel privileged and grateful to have been there this weekend. Long live the winemakers, and long live the Cuatrogatos Wine Club!