Contratiempo y Desvelao: moscateles de albariza

I was unable to make it to this year’s Cuatrogatos Wine Fest – the best yet by all accounts – and in particular as described by Carmen Artola in this great piece from this week. But I didn’t miss out altogether. A fortuitous alignment of the planets allowed me to slip away from Madrid for the traditional pre-winefest dinner with the winemakers in El Arriate.

And it was a cracking dinner too. The most important ingredient of any dinner is the company and in that regard these cats are of the highest quality. There wasn’t all that much technical discussion on this occasion but it was great to catch up and hear the news of a group of people who are not only fun to be around, and utterly admirable, but complete nutters to a man, woman and child. They are and it was a blast.

The second key ingredient – and apologies here to the crew at El Arriate but I hope they will forgive me – is the wine, and there again the night was worth any number of hours in Renfe’s cold, unloving embrace. The assembled artisans produced bottle after bottle of evidence of their artistry – some really lovely stuff too (and there were some bottles from little known regions overseas such as champagne and saumur champigny that didn’t let anyone down either).

But for me the two bottles of wine I found most enjoyable were the two above. Contratiempo and Desvelao are two unfortified table wines from moscatel grown in the same vineyard on albariza by a really charming group of young lady winemakers. It wasn’t the first time I had tried them – in fact I had had them at the previous year’s winefest – but it was the first time I had the chance to try them at dinner and let them sit in the glass, and I found them very enjoyable.

Albariza is all the rage these days for palomino, but traditionally moscatel would be planted on sandy soils, and I had even had the impression that moscatel wouldn’t normally survive and thrive on albariza. But this one certainly has, and the resulting wine has all the sapidity and intense, savoury flavour you would expect from one of the new palominos, with what seemed to me to be just a touch more acidity up front and a really nice fruit/savoury finish.

But almost as interesting as that flavour profile is the contrast between the two wines: Contratiempo big, beefy and “horizontal” – full of flavour and growing in aroma in the glass – and Desvelao, from the same vineyard and vintage but with some time under a veil of flor was finer, fresher and sharper.

I gather there are only very small amounts of this available (if it is available at all), which strikes me as a shame. I for one wish there was more, and if you do get the chance to try them I would recommend you give them a proper go, with a nice dinner and good company. Bravo to Cuatro Ojos Wines and more, please!

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Fino Tradicion 2/17 in la Tasquita de Enfrente

Lunch yesterday at the Tasquita de Enfrente today and no better way to start than a glass of the house fino, an absolute belter from Tradicion. From the second saca of 2017 this was absolutely glorious: citrus sweet farmyard nose, yeasty, roast apple on the palate, a shimmer of salinity on the front and back.

Really delicious, mouth watering stuff: an aperitivo with attitude.

Pandorga 2014

The first vintage of a mould breaking pedro ximenez: the 2014 Pandorga by Ramiro Ibañez’s Cota 45.

No raisin juice here – this is all fruit. Pedro ximenez from Carrascal de Jerez, harvested late, given a few days of sun, then fermented and given a year in bota. The result is a wine that is sweet but sharp and fresh.

It is a honey-like amber in colour – not unlike a ripe apricot – and syrupy clear. On the nose it is apricot jam with a hint of grapefruit, then on the palate sweet and sugary, with nice acidity and then that apricot jam and grapefruit again. The finish is sweet without being sticky, fine apricot and grapefruit flavours.

A modern classic and a wine that might change the way you think about pedro ximenez.

Alvear Fino en Rama 2012 in Zalamero Taberna

The way I bang on about the new vintage finos coming out of Jerez you would think they were the pioneers but in fact it is not the case. Looking into this wine I discover that up at Alvear they have been producing single vintage finos since 1998 (a good few years before Williams & Humbert’s finos – at least as far as I know). In fact given the vocal supporters of Montilla Moriles I am surprised this hasn’t been pointed out to me before.

Anyway, you can see I am out of practice because I totally failed to note how long it had been in the bottle. It is obviously not long – five years or less and I would guess no more than four.

A beautiful The youthfulness is there in a bit of citrussy, grapey juiciness, but even so it has an almond nuttiness to it (I often find the almond more marked in px finos), and with the time in bottle (which I am guessing at two years) toasted notes. It is not as zingy as its big brother the Capataz, and in comparison big in the beam rather than fine and slippy, but still a fino in every respect and a fine one too.

So hail to the other place once again, and long live vintage wines!

Socaire 2016

There she goes, the third vintage of Chiclana’s finest, and a wine that has in its short history acquired its own cult – socairismo. It is by Primitivo Collantes, a 100% unfortified palomino from the vines on Finca Matalian (I think), fermented and aged for more or less two years in botas that had formerly held Fino Arroyuelo. Not necessarily under flor, bot not necessarily not under flor either: there is definitely a touch of biological on the nose and the palate (although that might be accounted for by the barrel).

Whatever the process, the result is a cracking wine. A clear gold in appearance, has a nose of chalk, ripe apples, nuts and chamomile, then a zingy, tangy palate that is rich with a mineral finish. An exuberant, tasty wine (for connoisseurs, this is much closer to the explosive first vintage in 2014, with a touch less acidity and a touch more shape than the 2015).

Love to see the date proudly displayed on the label too – about time the authorities recognized and encouraged these wines. I had this when I visited Primitivo this summer with some chicharrones and a slice of the excellent local cheese. As I wrote then, the most impressive thing about Primitivo is not just the wine he makes, but the progress he has made against the tide. This wine is almost the embodiment: when he first had the idea he couldn’t convince the company, so paid for and bottled at least the 2014 himself.

Class wine from a class bloke.

Manzanilla Solear en Rama Autumn 2017 – the Iberian Lynx

Back in Madrid and back in business with this superb little bottle. I remember being slightly underwhelmed when this came out – the wine not quite living up to its majestic label – but after a year in the bottle and a few weeks in which the sherry levels in my bloodstream have dropped to dangerous low levels this is absolutely delicious.

Aromatic like a hayloft after a rainstorm, zingy and sharply saline, packed with vegetable flavour and spice. Love it.

Thinking outside the box: Pitijopo Volume 2, Number 2

Eighteen months ago when a group of friends and I sat down to share Volume II of the Pitijopos this wine, from Miraflores Alta, was my pick of the crop so when I saw them being sold individually in Reserva y Cata recently I couldn’t resist picking it up for another dip.

And I am glad to say it is just as good as I remembered – maybe even a little finer. A little closed first up but the clouds soon burnt off and it grew into a really class, fresh and “vertical” (in the parlance) white wine with a lot of enjoyable lemony umami citrus on the nose and the palate and just a classy touch of salinity on the finish.

Lovely stuff and great memories.