Angelita again again 

Allow me to insist: if you love wine you will love Angelita. If you enjoy eating, the same is true. And they have a new chef, and a new list of wines by the glass, which to me seem like perfect reasons to go there if you haven’t been for a while. But suit yourselves. It is a free country etc. 

Manzanilla and Fino Las Botas 

Once again in Territorio Era, where else, and trying yet more new wines. This time the wines labelled as “Las Botas”. A barrel selected manzanilla and fino chosen from two distinguished soleras – San Leon Reserva Familiar and Camborio – and bottled en rama by Raul Villabrille, sommelier at the legendary El Campero in Barbate.

Two excellent wines, no doubt. The manzanilla has the benefit of a good age in solera, is aromatic with haybales and herbs but not over the top, then full bodied and full flavoured on the palate but fresh and elegant, with a nice compact profile overall.  The fino too is a cracker. Maybe not quite as aromatic as the manzanilla but has a sharper salinity and that horizontal muscle. Again a full bodied and full flavoured wine with a nice shape to it – a sharp entry, sharp fresh finish and a nice package in between.

A great example of the value of barrel selections – and en rama bottlings of familiar wines.

Amontillado Seco Valdivia Dorius (2006)

Another long lost label – this one once of Ruiz Mateos, later absorbed by Garvey, recently acquired itself by Fundador – but David at Territorio Era has somehow got his hands on a few bottles, including this one dated 2006. A middle aged amontillado with a deepish colour, relatively quiet, nutty nose (with a bit of reduction first up that soon blows away), then a palate that is relatively mellow and roasted-nutty with a little bit of bitterness from the time in the bottle. 

Encrucijado 2014 

A top wine, getting better every time I try it – and seems to show something different too. Today (and maybe in this glass) it is amazingly aromatic and has a more vertical feel on the palate too. Lovely – and as those in the know can see, still available at Territorio Era.

The joy of blind tasting 

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.


Two years under the flor


March 27 around already and another year has flown by. An appropriate moment perhaps to take stock and reflect. The old blog has had a few hits: 49,800 in total now (meaning 33,200 since this time last year) from 17,100 daily visitors in 105 different countries around the world (not including Iceland or Uruguay). It really is rather humbling, and all I can say is many thanks to everyone for your clicks, retweets, comments, likes and messages.  There has been a fair bit to look at too: 326 posts this year, not including this one, or the page updates with lists of restaurants and the like, and just shy of 5,200 tweets, plus all the facebooking etc. Makes me wonder where I find the time.

I am not much cop at deciphering the stats so can’t really tell you with great precision which have been the most visited pages and posts of the year, but I am happy to say that by far the most used page on the blog is the Where To Drink It section, with its list of restaurants of every kind where you can drink the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar, and after that most of the interest appears to be directed at the (proper) Authorities and at the learned writings on topics such as Terroir.

After that, I am also very pleased to say that the wines that arouse most interest are some that are very near to my heart: the Fino la Barajuela 2013, UBE, Encrucijado, the Pitijopos, the Mayeteria Sanluqueña and the Wines of Alba Viticultores. I am convinced that these wines don’t get nearly the attention or respect that they deserve and make no apologies for my numerous posts on them. I only wish that they were more widely available – I have received more than one grumble about my blogging on wines that are made in less than 1,000 bottle batches and I can understand that frustration.

There have once again been a fair few highlights (since March 27 last year):

  • Without question the top day was a visit with Willy Perez and a tasting of the wines of the Barajuela Project down in his cracking bodega in Jerez. I really think these are fantastic, exciting wines and the chance to sit down and taste them altogether was really a treat.
  • The Cuatrogatos Wine Fest, in Puerto de Santa Maria this February, was an absolute blast, with top wines, top people and a lot of laughter in general and in particular a first look at the Mayeteria Sanluqueña.
  • Ramiro Ibañez was involved in many of the highlights of the year, and in particular (and aside from his wines) his two day residency as guest sommelier at Surtopia (Day 1 and Day 2) and an absolutely top drawer masterclass on Palo Cortados in the eponymous taberna (which I am still writing up).
  • Primitivo Collantes gave one of the best tastings of the year, and one of the most disarmingly convincing advertisements for terroir focussed winemaking I have seen, a few weeks ago in Enoteca Barolo, restoring my faith in moscatel in the process.
  • And indeed there were a lot of good tastings, including the Lustau Almacenistas (in Taberna Palo Cortado), the Wines of Alba Viticultores (in La Buena Vida), Toro Albala (in Taberna Palo Cortado again), Mons Urium (in Taberna Palo Cortado again), the Williams Colección Añadas (in Taberna Verdejo), the great Gran Barqueros (in Reserva y Cata) and a fascinating “vertical” of the Tradición Finos (also in Reserva y Cata).

Regrets, as they say, we have had a few, but only a few. The lowlight of the year was the end of an era in one of my erstwhile favourite watering holes some six months ago (although I am told that good news is around the corner), and there were a few tastings, and wines, that to be quite honest were a bit of a let down. More generally, older and, maybe wiser, maybe just grumpier, I find myself getting more irritated these days with wines, and blarney of all kinds (and the acceptance of them by some sommeliers, who ought to know better), that I might have found charming a couple of years ago, and the “everything is awesome” tone of the blog is getting harder to maintain.

Finally, though, I couldn’t write about this last year without talking about Territorio Era. It is without doubt my favourite bar or restaurant in Madrid at the moment and it should be yours too. All available space that is not dedicated to Diego’s fantastic cooking is given over to storing hundreds of wines of every kind, of which over a hundred are available by the glass. I have lost count of the fantastic lunches and dinners, swift and cheeky glasses of wine and general emergency stops that have taken place in there.

So onwards to year three. There is still a long way to go for the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar so time to push on. Many thanks once again to everybody for all your support up to here and I look forward to the next twelve months.