Dorado Carrasviñas

Was given this blind by Fran, the sommelier at Alabaster, at the beginning of what turned into one of the all-time great lunches, and didn’t get anywhere near identifying it. To be fair, while I had read about “Dorados” from Rueda, until now hadn’t had my hands on one. (The nearest was probably For this is the verdejo and palomino answer to the solera aged wines of the South and it was very interesting indeed.

You can find a ficha here in Spanish and as you will see that it is an unfortified blend of palomino and verdejo (proportion not revealed but order of varietals suggests more verdejo) that have been separately fermented in inox before coupage. Then it is stored in 16L glass demijuanas for 18 months and subjected to the extremes of the Castilian summer – which leads to the oxidation – before being finished in oak barrels. (Although it all sounds like a single vintage process I couldn’t find a date on the label or bottle.)

The resulting wine is pretty interesting. As you can see it has a deep old straw color to it, which in my mental processes it had me heading manzanilla pasada or old fino. Then the nose had fruit – much more like a manzanilla pasada than fino, but even more fruit than that, very bright nose. On the palate it had quite an acidic start, which on top of all the fruit had the alarm bells ringing, and then that fruit, then a turn to sour fruit bitterness and a deepish groove of salinity. Quite a long, fiery and mouthwatering finish.

I might get pelters for this from the guys down in el marco but I really enjoyed it – tasty and complex, and a reminder of how much fun it is to taste wines blind. May have been a bit of the element of surprise involved but will have to see if I can get some to try against the real thing at my leisure. Nice one Fran!

Bruto 2014

Now here is an interesting wine: 100% palomino from a single vineyard, spontaneous fermentation in the butt, then 12 months “under flor” and 4 months in inox. 948 bottle in total. And from Rueda of all places. 

Quite a geographic shift (about 600 km north as the urraca flies) but I am told it is less of an innovation than a throwback to the times when a lot of palomino was grown and aged in the North. It is also from an impeccable maker – Beatriz Herranz of Barco de la Corneta – who has a cult following for making serious wine from a grape (verdejo) and in a region that are too often synonymous with egregious mass production. 

Most importantly it is pretty tasty stuff. I wouldn’t have said it had 12 months under flor – if anything I would have said a good few months oxidation – and neither was it the most expressive, but there is pungency, solidity and salinity there. 

As experts in Madrid bar tops will know from the picture, I tried it in Angelita, where this month all the wines are from female winemakers, but you can find interesting wines by the glass all year around. 

Lacum Listán Dulce 2014

A sweet wine from palomino fino (listán Sanluqueño) that I was first told had been aged in Sanlucar in old oloroso barrels but I have since been corrected – inox all the way.

I have only ever had a couple of sweet palomino wines and haven’t really warmed to them. (In fact to be honest I am not the biggest fan of sweet wines in general.)

This has a nose of sweet tomatoes and a nice mineral, sweet herb sweetness on the palate. It has a nice texture and isn’t over the top in sugar or alcohol, but for me lacks a bit of acidity up-front and has a slightly sticky bitterness – like biting tomato seeds – on the finish. Comes across as a bit heavy and a bit two ended – no real shape to it. 

File this one under interesting. 

Encrucijado 2014 

I had another glass of this at the bar of Angelita and it left me in two minds.

On the one hand, I feel privileged to have had the chance to try another glass. It confirmed my growing impression that it is a wine of some stature and getting better: an aromatic butterscotch and hazelnut on the nose, zingy acidity and more butterscotch on the palate and a sapid finish.

On the other hand, it depressed me to find that such a wine hadn’t been exhausted long ago. I wrote about this wine being available by the glass in Angelita on March 15, and even given the diminute reach of this below average blog it is shocking to me that the half dozen or so readers didn’t tool up there and drain the swamp in the nearly two months since. You hear a lot about the “sherry revolution” these days and you can’t chuck a half brick in Madrid without inadvertently vandalizing a so-called “sherry temple”, but here we have a bona fide cathedral to wine and on its list they have one of the most exciting wines being made, in tiny amounts, in the sherry triangle, and in two months they haven’t sold out. There really can only be two causes: people are not going to Angelita as much as they should (a scandal itself in my view) and those that do are not trying the right wine. It is enough to make a fella weep.

Let’s be clear: if you love wine, you should be supporting places like Angelita and the other fantastic bars and restaurants that Madrid is blessed with; and if you want to understand anything about the “sherry revolution” that is possible, you should be trying wines like Encrucijado.

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.

Forlong Rosado 2016 

I am pretty sure this is the first Cabernet Sauvignon on this blog and it is another of the fresh and inventive wines from the guys at Forlong in Cadiz. I first tried it at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest a while ago and had another chance to have a closer look this week.

As you can see it is  a clear pink/orange or orange/pink – maybe pink/gold. The nose is floral and summery fruit but also has some nice dairy and bakery notes. On the palate it is fresh on entry, maybe even has a bit of zingy salinity, a nice buttery texture, some summery red fruit and a bit of undergrowth. Again a fresh, slightly mineral finish with notes of baked fruit. 

One of the top cabernet sauvignon wines I have tried from Cadiz, no doubt. 

Vibaveflor, saca of January 2017

My second dip at this fascinating wine – this time in Wine Attack, a funky new natural wine winebar. It is a viura from La Rioja which has been in a bota with flor since 2015. I am occasionally criticized for only tasting hyper-specialized wines with very limited releases but this is an exception: it is an experiment at this stage and isn’t on sale anywhere.

The first saca was January 2016 – and I happened upon a bottle last June in Reserva y Cata. This second saca was from January this year and while still very young it seemed to have a bit more oxidation than further flor effects. A very straightforward profile and a very pleasant drop.

Not big by any means – and no comparison to the true flor wines from the South – but a nice nose of butterscotch tending to wood glue, and more of that slightly toffee flavour on the palate. Compact in the extreme – a short straight blob of flavour – and not very expressive, but quite a long and pleasant, only very slightly saline aftertaste.

Interesting stuff – looking forward to next year’s saca already.

CGWF17: Part 7 – The winemakers

Some final great memories from the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest in Puerto de Santa Maria. Hard to believe that it is already a couple of weeks ago (a fine testament to the velocity with which I write up my posts). It was billed as wine and laughter and vice versa and delivered on both promises.

For a start, some absolutely cracking wines you can drink by the gallon from makers like:

  • Jose Crusat (Entre os Ríos) and his fantastic range of wild and woolly whites including the leesy and buzzy Altares de Postmarcos, the super sharp Vulpes Vulpes, his two wild albariños Komokabras Yellow and Green, an even wilder one with time in a tinaja and a funky ancestral called “Bubbles from Rivendell” (which I missed out on on the day);
  • German R. Blanco and his range of reds from across the North, including juicy fresh Quinta Milú and La Cometa, increasingly refined mencias from Altos de San Esteban the fascinating range of parcel specific wines from Casa Aurora, and his new Rioja, La Bicicleta Voladora (which I again missed out on on the day – you snooze, you looze);
  • Javier Castro and Sonia López (Bodega Ziríes) and their garnachas from Toledo – four wines that were in turns mineral, fresh, aromatic, concentrated and expressive;
  • Beatriz Herranz, the “Verdejusticiera” (Verdejo law maker) from Barco del Corneta with what are probably the best wines being made in Rueda, mineral and rich, serious stuff, and also a really interesting palomino (Bruto);
  • Cristina Carrillo (Bodega Finca Fuentegalana), whose stand seemed to be mobbed every time I stepped near it (to the point where I could only try one wine at a time) had a really interesting stuff range of wines from albillo to shiraz; and
  • many other cracking bodegas (I would write them all up if I was a half decent blogger/had time), including Xabier Sanz and his fantastic feathered friends from Navarra (Viña Zorzal), Eulogio Pomares and Rebeca Montero, Miguel Montoto and Inma Pazos (Vinos de Miguel: Coto de Gomariz, Ailalá y Vinos de Encostas); Xurxo Alba (Albamar); Charlotte Allen (Almaroja); Verónica Ortega (Verónica Ortega); Cuatro Ojos Wines, Clos Lentiscus, Casa Castillo – the list could go on and on.

There was plenty of laughter too. Shouldn’t really have been a surprise given that we were all there thanks to the genial Federico but in addition to it was genuinely a fun place to spend the day.

And for me it was a fascinating and inspiring day. When you think about it wine making is miraculous – and I refer to all winemaking, not just the water into wine at wedding stuff – and to me there is something not quite canny about winemakers – people that can look at a vine and consider how to prune it, how many leaves and bunches it can support, when to harvest the fruit etc,  let alone all the decisions and judgments needed thereafter in terms of cepage, batonnage, barrel age, and other words ending in age. It requires a lot of knowledge, skill and, frankly, hard work and I find it extraordinarily inspiring to chat to really good winemakers and let the technical knowledge wave over me. When they are as friendly and generous as this bunch were it makes for a really uplifting and educational experience.

Encrucijado 2014 

Another taste of this – currently available by the glass at Angelita – and it seems to be improving by the day. I enjoyed it the first time I was able to try it a couple of months ago, but really enjoyed it in Palo Cortado at last week’s tasting and am loving this too. Seems a sharper, more defined entry and then that elegant, butterscotch structure. 

Really worth trying if you get the chance so get down to Angelita! (On the other hand, looks like it is getting better in the bottle so mine is staying buried in the minibar.) 

CGWF17: Part 3 – Cakes and cream in the afternoon 

The second cata at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest, lead by the man himself, Federico Ferrer, was short and sweet. At least it was for me: short because I overdid the siesta and rocked up an hour late, and sweet because, well, the wines were sweet, as were the little crumbly pastries we swigged them down with.

The sweet stuff isn’t really my bag but these were not your bog standard sweet sherries by any measure.

  • Moscatel Oro “Los Cuartillos” (Primitivo Collantes) was a really cracking start – citrus rich and lush but with nice acidity and a bit of mineral bite, muscle. Nice bit of freshness to it too.
  • Pandorga 2014 (Cota 45) is another favourite – a 100% pedro ximenez that is not as other PXs: sweet, tasty with apricot richness but with nice acidity, like a late harvest riesling.  Top class.
  • Golpe Maestro (Federico Ferrer) – the only wine of the lineup I hadn’t tried and a fascinating beast. A late harvest, sun dried palomino that has been two years in half full barrels. Unlike anything I have tried before – has a curious, herbal sweetness and a funky green bitterness (like bitter salad) to it. Really reminds me of the spicey peppery edge to some manzanillas, but more concentrated and with residual sugar. Need more time alone with this if I can get a bottle.
  • Piñero Cream (Juan Piñero) is a 20 year old 75% oloroso, 25% old pedro ximenez blend, with a nutty, woody, slightly bitter, acidic oloroso to balance the raisins of the PX. A tough ask in this company: next to the younger varietals it comes across as slightly less fruitful, elegant and natural
  • Pandorga 2015 (Cota 45) is something else altogether. Ramiro Ibañez at Cota 45 believes in expressing the vintage so in a hot year he harvested even later and left the grapes longer in the sun. Added to the fermentation at high ambient temperatures what you get is a nectar with a staggering amount of sugar and only five degrees of alcohol (so low he can’t call it “wine”). All that sugar is balanced with a lovely acidity and intense apricot flavour and the stuff is far, far too easy to drink. No spitting this  one!

(This is where I think I am obliged to make some kind of witty remark about the kind of sherry your grandma drinks or something but I can’t be bothered.)