Manzanos 1961

Vinous dreams come in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s trying a revered vintage, getting a fantastic bottle at a bargain price, or perhaps even simply getting a night on your own without the kids to enjoy the bottle in question.

Thanks to the UK’s leading online wine merchant Laithwaites you can now sort two out of three dreams straight away, just leaving you to just find the babysitter.

1961 Banner

1961 was (and is) a well lauded vintage in France – Could this Rioja keep up the pace?  JFK had just become the US President, the space-race was in its infancy and the Beatles were still trying to decide on a band name.  We’re talking seriously old-school.

Commercially viable volumes of very old bottlings such as this are increasingly unheard of, and it is only thanks to the extremely close relationship between Laithwaites head buyer Beth Willard and 5th generation winemaker Victor Manzanos, that such a rare gem has made it to the UK market.

Building a strong relationship both professional and personal, Beth was on hand to support Victor through the tough times following the sudden death of his father.  Maintaining almost daily contact as the London based Victor returned to Spain to take over the family business at just 19 years old, Beth was top of the list when Victor unearthed a fantastically old cache of bottles.

Beth takes up the story: “Until around 10 years ago Manzanos were a medium sized producer focused on the area around Azagra and Calahorra in Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja). They are now one of the biggest producers of wine in Rioja and Navarra, owning several bodegas and lots of vineyards throughout the whole region.”

“Their extended family has been a big holder of vineyards dating back to the late 1800’s and (because of the large expansion) only now has Victor had a chance to dig around to see what they actually hold. In Azagra, close to where the principle bodega is located, some of his relatives’ own tunnels are full of old bottles of wine.”

The great news for wine lovers is that these older wines are now being assessed with a view to offering further archive releases in the future.

Following the discovery, the hand-harvested 1961 (mechanical picking was still in its infancy then) was rebottled, recorked and relabelled as the original packaging wasn’t up to today’s commercial standards.  The wine, however, was perfect, spending 3 years in French oak and then having laid perfectly untouched since being bottled in the mid-1960’s.  I jumped at the chance to give it a try.

1961 Bottle

Manzanos 1961, Rioja, Spain, Tempranillo based blend, 12.5%, £30

Some older wines can disintegrate a bit when left to decant for several hours but I decanted, and wasn’t disappointed.  The wine evolved significantly over several hours.

Still retaining a glossy ruby colour, there were hints of garnet colouring to the core, and a light water-white rim.

Shortly after opening, the nose began with a Burgundian barnyard tone, but this developed to include figs, mushroom, roasted nuts and sweet tobacco.  Further developed fruit came in the form of herbaceous wild black cherry, a touch of red cherry, and a whole load of green bell pepper.

Pronounced in character with a real sense of density from the off, the wonderfully fragrant nose only got better as time went on, adding liquorice, bitter black chocolate and treacle/caramel.

The palate, as expected, was extremely evolved with the tertiary notes of roasted black coffee.  Chewy, dense, with an almost oily thick texture it was still rich and broth-like, but retained a refreshing zing of acidity to balance it out and keep it fresh.

Further black cherry fruit came to the fore over time, along with pepper spice, liquorice and a light vanilla relief.  Light chalky tannins were still evident.

The finish is in the 1-minute range, carried by the acidity, black cherry and caramel.  If I was being super-critical, it’s a shame that the finish didn’t last longer, but it was still more-ish enough to have me reaching for the next glass.

Quite austere on its own (but still medium plus in weight, so not heavy in any way) this would stand up very well to most well roasted meats.  Sadly I tried it on its own and can only imagine how it would have drunk alongside a beef joint.

Knowing that there will only be so many bottles available for a relatively short time, and at a very agreeable price, I have several more cellaring, so I’ll hopefully be able to find out in time.  I fully recommend that you grab yourself a bottle (you can purchase it here) whilst you still can to give it a try for yourself.

Drink to 2026.

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Laithwaites Autumn Press Tasting – Standout Whites and Reds

Further to a previous blog where I highlighted the best Sparkling wines on display at the recent Laithwaites Autumn press tasting, here’s my top highlights from the red and white wines on show.

laithwaites-trade-autumn

White Wines

Tiago Cabaco Encruzado 2014, Alentejo, Portugal, 13%, £12.99

I must have visibly lingered over this wine a little too long as the wine buyer came over to chat to me about it.  Winemaker Tiago is only in his mid-thirties, and this is his signature eponymous bottling which is limited to about 2000 bottles.

The blend is pretty unique and perhaps one that people will either like or hate, with traces of minerality alongside wood notes and a salty finish.  There’s a good warmth from the alcohol and a long length, and it has the right structure to pair well with food.

Savage White 2015, Western Cape, South Africa, 14%, £27.50

I adore nice touches to a wine’s presentation and the old-school wax seal on this bottle looks great, as does the minimalistic label.

savage-white

The new world sunshine gives you lots of well ripened tropical and gooseberry fruit here, and a lovely smoky finish sets it off perfectly.  This is another white that would be greater with food as it has tons of power to match up to the flavours, whilst not being over-powering to drink on its own.

Newton Johnson Southend Chardonnay, South Africa, 13%, £14.99

Hailing from a family run winery, this has a lovely spicy creamy nose and bags of creamy flavour on the palate.  The lemon citrus plays the central role but there are also traces of orange peel and white pepper spice.

Rounded off with a good long finish this is great at this price point, but sadly not available through Laithwaites.co.uk at this time.

Red Wines

Chateaux Sixtine 2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France, 15%, £30

This Grenache based blend had a rich blackcurrant nose and was absolutely rammed full of spice, cassis, mocha and chocolate.  Warmth from the alcohol and a grippy tannin keep this wine happily lingering in the mouth for a long time.

Again this is another wine that is unavailable from Laithwaites at this time.

Chateau Belgrave 2000, Haut-Médoc, 5éme Cru Classé, France, 13%, £45

Inky dark in colour, this Cabernet based blend had an intense nose of bitter chocolate.  Alongside the blackcurrant and spice there remained a generous acid matching well with the grippy tannins.

chateau-belgrave

The finish was rounded and refined if not a little too short.  In fairness this is perhaps to be expected from a wine of this age, and it was tasted alongside a lot of youthful wines on the day.  Although great, this feels like a wine to drink sooner rather than later, so grab it while you can.

Gran Fontal Syrah 2008, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain, 15%, £28

Using grapes grown at an altitude of 830m this cheery wine packed a decent weight punch and balanced it’s powerful black cherry and spice with a vanilla note and a lovely fresh acid.  For a wine with 15% alcohol this kept it mouth filling and not overpowering.

Alongside the core fruit I could also detect traces of herbal tea and menthol so there’s a good degree of complexity to be found from the 8 years of age. Points are deducted for the heavy glass bottle but loads of bonus points are given back as this is currently down from £28 to £12.99 on Laithwaites.co.uk.

Vina Tondonia Reserva 2003, Rioja, Spain, 13%, £28

The colour of this 13 year old wine was moving towards garnet and the nose has picked up tertiary tea-like characters.  The acid is still fresh though and ensures that this is an easy drinking refreshing wine with mature character.  I doubt this will last much longer so it’s one to drink soon.

As you can see there were certainly some impressive wines on display although a few are frustratingly not currently available.  At an event level, what I did find incredibly interesting was the lack of the wines that Laithwaites frequently laud as their ‘Customer Favourites’ – the likes of Black Stump, Il Papavero, Calabria etc.

None of these wines made an appearance and I was unable to source any member of the team on my way out to find out exactly why.

The range on offer certainly made me re-evaluate my thoughts towards Laithwaites and, although I have widely blogged about my wine-plan wines and their Premiere range, this felt like a company that I had only barely scratched the surface of.

I’ll certainly be paying more attention in the future.

With thanks to MHP Communications and Laithwaites for inviting me to this event.

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Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend 2016

Last weekend saw the approximate one year anniversary of me discovering and joining the Tesco Wine Community which, despite being a one-of-a-kind promotional tool for Tesco, sadly closed last August.  That, however, didn’t stop a core number of us staying in contact and organising a weekend away to do what we do best – talking about and trying new wine.  For me it was a wonderful and fitting way to celebrate the anniversary, by meeting in person some of the people I’d been chatting to online for some time.

Many attendees had met each other at previous Tesco winemaker events, but a rented house in Stratford-Upon-Avon last weekend marked the first time that a concerted effort had been made to bring together a wider group of us from all over the south of England.  Added to this, each attendee was bringing wines that they rated highly and wanted to present in the best possible light, so it was set to include a stellar list of top quality examples.

CR Wend Table

What follows isn’t an account about what transpired, or even a looooooong list of tasting notes – in order to preserve the relaxed atmosphere none of us were taking them.  I will however, as the one who took lots of photos of the bottles as they came and went, try to draw together a list of the 30 wines that were tasted as part of the weekend (including a few not available in the UK and shipped across from Germany).

I appreciate that a simple list of wines may make curious reading for some, but for 10 people in particular, it will remain a document of a wonderful weekend with great wine, great food and above all, great company.

And so, in no particular order:

Sparkling wine

We covered a good number of the sparkling bases here, with an example from each of the major categories:

  • Cono Sur sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, 12%
  • I Duecento Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.5%
  • Freixenet Extra Vintage 2013 Brut Cava, Spain, 11.5%
  • Louis Delaunay Brut NV Champagne, France, 12.5%

White wine

Our white wine selection comprised:

  • Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
  • Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
  • Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
  • Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
  • Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
  • Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
  • The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
  • Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%

CR Wend German

Red wine

All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain.  Our full selection comprised:

  • Arjona (unoaked) 2014 Rioja (100% Tempranillo), Spain, 13.5%
  • Club Des Sommeliers, Morgon (100% Gamay) 2014 Beaujolais, France, 12.5%
  • J Opi 2014 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5%. This wine was decanted to bring out the rich flavour
  • Marques de Riscal Finca Torrea 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 14%
  • Cháteau Hervé Laroque 2007 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), Fronsac, France, 13%
  • La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
  • Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
  • Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
  • Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
  • Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
  • Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%.  A rare opportunity to try this wine.
  • Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
  • Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
  • Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
  • Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%

CR Wend Lineup

Thanks to Clare for organising what proved to be a successful event, and one that is already mooted to be taking place again next year.  Cheers!

CR Wend Table 2

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Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva 2001 – Review

One particular bottle that I have been really looking forward to trying for some time is the Bodegas Faustino I.  It’s a wine that comes with impressive critical acclaim and, with the ease of the availability of other wines in the full range (V, VII, for example), it represents something that is within touching distance, and yet has remained elusive to me until now.

Wine is a product that is inherently limited, but in the main isn’t sold on a ‘Limited Edition’ basis.  I’ve tried many English wines that, when you see the low thousands of bottles produced each year, you feel truly honoured to be able to taste them at all.  The Faustino I is clearly labelled with the edition number of 226,400 bottles produced for this vintage and, with the full clarity that this is no small production run, it was still absolutely interesting to me that I was tasting bottle 39,797 and bottle 39,856 (not on the same day I might add!).  I’ve often been interested in small facts like this, and I do think it really helps towards the ‘artisan’ element of the production, even if some production volumes are what others would consider ‘industrial’.

With both the Gran Reserva 2001 and 2004 available to me at this time (both rated as ‘Excelente’ vintages), I opted for the older 2001.  Not only was this vintage slightly smaller than surrounding vintages, I also noted that it was likely to age longer than the ’04 (due to damp conditions that year), and would therefore represent more of a longer term trajectory.

I was also swayed by the inclusion of a neck brace on the bottle proudly proclaiming that this wine was a Decanter ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2013, scoring 19.25 points out of 20.

Pic Faustino

Bodegas Faustino, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Rioja, Spain, 13.5% (~£18)

Before we get to looking at the wine itself, the first thing to discern is the care that has gone in to the bottle appearance.  The frosted glass is adorned with a completely distinct label – a 1641 portrait of Dutch merchant/trader Nicolaas Van Bambeeck by revered artist Rembrandt.  This particular portrait was chosen in order to symbolise the family’s passions for both art and commerce.

When looking at the wine in the glass, it was a dark and opaque dense cherry red in colour, clear with almost no hint of a lighter rim.  On the nose there was an immediate hit of dark chocolate, and sweet notes of spices and cloves.  The red cherry fruits then came to the fore, brushing alongside wood, vanilla, giving an incredibly full, layered and vivid nose.  At once, this wine was serious, intense, and inviting.  The literature for the wine confirms that they put an immense amount of focus on berry grape selection in order to preserve that quality of grape, and overall composure.

The initial palate was given over to the cherry fruits (both black and red), although my immediate view was that the fruits were just slightly over-ripe, almost confectionate and sweet, which isn’t something that appeals to me.  This wasn’t a negative for the wine however, as it still forged a good strawberry line, and held that ‘creamy’ texture that you can find in a good aged Rioja.  Subtle integrated acid and a light tannin kept it moreish and pleasant, whilst touches of dark chocolate and bitter characters brought up the rear.  The palate is absolutely still all about the fruit as opposed to the tertiary characters, and it’s a testament to a 15 year old wine that the fruit can remain such a pivotal point of the focus and be so rounded, full and velvety smooth.

They certainly weren’t wrong in the official reviews that this wine has a life ahead of it, and I’d be very interested to revisit this in a few years time.  This was a wonderful wine and it didn’t disappoint.

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Bodegas Beronia ‘Dos Maderas’ 2009 Rioja Reserva – Taste Panel

Wine tasting, food matching and dressing up – could there be a more interesting way to spend the evening?!

Beronia Kit

This latest taste panel comes courtesy of the fine people of Bodegas Beronia who hail from the world famous northern Spanish region of Rioja. What was supplied, however, gave more than the usual opportunity to try a wine and reel off a tasting note. Alongside the wine were several food items, recipe cards, moustache, and a traditional woollen beret, in order that you could recreate traditional Txoko (pronounced Chock-Oh) conditions in northern Spain. The preparation of food is a group activity there and friends form societies (Txoko’s) where they prepare the meal together, eat together, occasionally sing together, and wash it all down with great wine.

It was this group mentality that led to the founding of Bodegas Beronia in the Rioja Alta in 1973. Four local businessmen decided to take their get-togethers a step further, and actually make the wines themselves, with a commitment to producing Reserva and Gran Reserva wines in the traditional Rioja style. From this humble beginning, Beronia have worked their way up to be in the top 10 Rioja wineries in the Spanish market. Spanish wine giant Gonzalez Byass recognised the quality of their production early on and have invested in to the company since 1982, ensuring that Beronia delivers both tradition and innovation at the same time.

The Reserva 2009 ‘Dos Maderas’ is comprised of 94% Tempranillo, with dashes of both Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano rounding the blend out. This is then aged for 18 months in barrels made exclusively for Beronia, and comprised of two distinct types of oak. The French oak barrelheads bring touches of spice to the wine, whilst the American oak staves add seductive vanilla flavours. It is this unique ageing touch that gives the wine its name: ‘Dos Maderas’ literally translates as ‘two woods’.

The tapas selection supplied included snacking chorizo, a dried nut/fruit selection, and a tin of anchovy stuffed olives. To turn this in to a full meal to share, I took inspiration from one of the recipe cards and served lamb shank with creamy mash, asparagus, and an onion, garlic and red wine jus. All cooked, of course, whilst wearing my traditional costume! The wine was left in an open top decanter for one hour before serving.

Beronia Selfie     Beronia Bottle

Visually the wine was a reassuring assertive inky dark colour, almost opaque. The nose was amazingly powerful and full of flavour, and it hit you before your nose was fully in the glass. The aroma was like falling face first in to a blackberry bush (without the ‘ouch’!). Strong hits of dark cherry were followed by blackcurrant, and then topped up with mocha and finally refreshing vanilla and violets from the American oak.

The palate initially showed fine grained medium tannins, but when paired with the fatty Lamb, they disappeared, leaving the ripe black cherry to take the lead. There was also upfront spice from the French wood, and the full body of the wine is kitted out with blackberries, bramble, tobacco and molasses. American wood also makes its mark on the palate with a lovely hint of coconut marrying in to the vanilla tones and it’s no surprise at all that this stunning wine won a Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge in 2013. The alcohol level is 14% but, given this and the amazing powerful concentration of fruit, the wine is in no way overpowering. A gentle balanced acidity glides it through, and a little alcohol warmth provides the backbone.

Wonderful stuff on its own, and it went amazingly with the fatty meat cutting through the tannin and the silky fruits matching the creamy mash. Even though this wine can easily be enjoyed now it has the backbone and fruit stamina to keep for another decade. World class.

With thanks to both Bodegas Beronia and Tesco for providing the wine, tapas selection and Txoko costume used in this tasting.

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