Decanter Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter 2014

Decantertitle2014The prestigious Landmark Hotel in London was the venue for this year’s ‘Decanter Spain  & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter 2014’. The hotel and Decanter did a brilliant job as hosts and provided my wife and I with a great afternoon tasting some wonderful wines.

The event started at 11.00am which was a little early for us as we intended stopping for a hearty lunch on route, we finally got there around 12.50pm. After checking in and receiving our Decanter wrist bands we made our way to the main tasting rooms. The event was split into two rooms, one hosting Spanish wines the other Portuguese wines. With my love of Spanish wines in particular we naturally headed to the Spanish stands and had a quick wander around  to get our bearings.

This had to be a quick look as we had a ‘Torres Masterclass’  booked for  1.30pm but couldn’t resist stopping off at the Muga stand and trying the Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2005 and the Barrel Fermented White 2013, both very nice and a great start.

At around 1.2decanter2014masterclass(600 x 450)0pm we queued up for the ‘Torres Master Class’ hosted by fifth generation winemaker Mireia Torres. In the room tables were set with hundreds of glasses filled standing on pristine white table cloths, the reds were all primed and ready but the whites (chardonnay) were still to be poured.
We took our seats and disaster struck, I decided to pour some water out before the tasting started and unfortunately the water bottle was at the far part of the cluttered table and as i reached over my sleeve caught the nearest glass (Torres Mas la Plana 1996) and you guessed it, sent red wine flying everywhere, luckily nothing smashed and only that glass lost its contents but it did leave a sodden and very red table cloth. Thank goodness the talk hadn’t started yet. Luckily again, the guys serving quickly cleared up and with the whites poured we were ready to go.Masterclass(600 x 450)

Mireia  gave a fairly detailed  talk on the history of Torres which included tasting  single vineyard wines. Of the 12 wines we tasted they were all pretty decent, starting with the excellent   Milmanda Chardonnay 2008, deep gold coloured rich, honeyed and bursting with ripe tropical fruit, ending the first set of six wines  with The Mas la Planas 1983, 1996 & 2009 which were also extremely good.
Of the second set of wines, I really enjoyed tasting the first two Jean Leon’s  100% Cabernet Sauvignons  the 1982 Gran Reserva and the 1998 Gran Reserva both intense and complex.
Ending  with the Grans Muralles, again all fantastic including the 2001, 2007 & 2009 and featuring the lesser known and disappearing varieties Garro & Samso.

Mestizaje(450 x 600)Back in the ‘Spanish tasting Room ‘ I was like a kid in a sweet shop, not knowing which way to turn, lots of brilliant wines tasted, too many to list all my favourites but just to highlight a few, the best reasonably priced red I found was from Bodega Mustiguillo, Pago El Terrerazo from Valencia, The Mestizaje 2011 a fantastic blend of Bobal, Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon Garnacha & Shiraz Around £11 in Uk about 9 Euros in Spain.

Best white was from the same Bodega the Finca Calvestra 2012 made with 100% Merseguera (one of the nicest whites i’ve tasted for a while) this was a little more expensive at around £24 but a price I would be Fincacalvestra (450 x 600)more than happy to pay. I must say the guys at this stand were particularly helpful and Knowledgeable.

As I say lots of brilliant wines tasted too many to mention and I didn’t get to taste any Portuguese wines, what with the Masterclass finishing at just after 3.00pm and the event closing at 5.00pm just didn’t have the time.

To see more pictures and a brief Decanter Video click on link……….

Finest Cotes de Gascogne 2013

cotesdegasgogne (450 x 600)France 11.5%

Always nice when freebies come along and this bottle of Cotes de Gascogne  was sent to me courtesy of Tesco last week for my humble thoughts. To tell you the truth I didn’t expect to like this but as it turned out I was pleasantly surprised. This is an unusual blend of Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc which may not be to everyone’s taste but……..

After collecting it from my neighbour (I’m never in when a delivery arrives) I promptly put it in the fridge expecting to drink it sooner than later but as it turned out it spent the best part of a week between the butter and milk.

Finally, in the glass, which became instantly covered in condensation from a  week’s worth of chilling the golden straw like colour looked bright and refreshing, although faint, aromas of green crisp apples, pears, peaches and a hint of sour grapefruit, quite a pleasant nose.
Taste – Initially very dry, sharp and mouth watering and because it was very cold the flavour was quite subdued. What I did notice though was the finish stayed with you for some time.
Drank this finally with a simple meal of Haddock, potatoes and veg and I would have said it definitely needed food but as it warmed up in the glass it changed into a different wine altogether (my wife also agreed) much more intense flavour still sharp and tangy and still with an incredibly long finish.

Drink this with food, preferably fish,  don’t over chill and enjoy what is a perfectly acceptable and  enjoyable bottle of wine

7.5corksMy Rating 7.5/10 Corks

Tesco £7.99


Lagunilla Rioja Reserva 2008

Lagunilla (450 x 600)Spain 13%

Sitting in a local bar in a hot Spanish town eating tapas with soft flamenco music and the sound of stomping feet in the background or at the kitchen table in a rain soaked and windy UK. Opening a Rioja for me, is always joy, whether it be a traditional  bottle, aged typically in American oak barrels or a modern style Rioja with its richer deeper colour and fruitier style and time in subtler French barrels.  This Lagunilla Reserva 2008 (80% Tempranillo 20% Ganacha)is more the traditional style made in the higher Alta region of Rioja and for the price is remarkably good.

Aromas of ripe cherries, strawberries, candle wax, spice, vanilla. Taste wise full of velvety ripe dark berries, quite meaty and savoury tasting , smoke, leather, wood and vanilla, everything you would want in a Spanish Rioja.

Nothing to dislike about this, reasonably priced around £6-£7 a bottle, great taste on its own or with food, even on day two it still tasted pretty good.  So, an ‘all round excellent bottle of wine’ I hear you say, ‘most definitely ‘ is my reply.


My Rating 8/10 Corks

Various from around £6 – £7

Palataia Pinot Noir 2012

palataia (450 x 600)Germany 13.5%

Sunday lunch with family, having Roast Pork, so what do you drink with it? I bet the first choice wouldn’t be a German Pinot Noir but I have to say it turned out to be an inspired choice. The Bottle in question is the Palataia Pinot Noir 2012 from the German Pfalz region, one of the most seductive and elegant  Pinot’s I’ve tasted for a while.

Decanted this for around an hour or so although tasting it straight off it still tasted pretty good.  In the glass, lovely colour bright, delicate and see through with wonderful aromas of strawberries, red cherries and the longer you hovered with your nose over the glass the more interesting it became with a meaty , gamey and herbal undertone.

Around the lunch table the first sips were greeted with sighs and a universal surprise at how nice this really was.  Beautifully balanced with fresh red berries and that meaty, herbal flavour,  slightly sweet and a little spicy kick to finish with. Paired  brilliantly with the Pork cutting through the fattiness and rich flavours.

A Pinot Noir to rival a more expensive Burgundy and a German one at that. German Precision is often talked about, German elegance not so much, drink this and it will change your perception.  At around £8.99 this is the best sub £9 bottle I’ve bought for a while.


My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

M&S £8.99

Trouble with some supermarket wine aisles

wineshelf2You’ve just turned out of aisle 9 tinned fruit and jams and next comes the aisle 10-wine, you want to buy a nice bottle of something to go along with Sunday lunch, so after negotiating your trolley ungracefully into position, what do you see, usually there’s about half a dozen or so people staring blankly at the rows of bottles, maybe picking one up reading the back label then putting it in their trolley only to reach back a few seconds later and put it back on the shelf.   Supermarket wine aisles can be daunting to some especially those with little wine knowledge or experience who only want to find a reasonable bottle to drink with their evening meal. To others it’s just somewhere to pick up the cheapest bottle of red or white not really caring where it comes from or what it is.

Quite often I get comments like ‘had a lovely bottle of wine last night’ and when I ask what it was they shrug and say ‘don’t know but it was red’, other comments I’ve had are along the lines  ‘think it was Australian or was it French, not really sure but it tasted good’  Now there’s nothing wrong with this attitude they seemed quite happy but what happens if someone generally wants to pick a nice reasonable bottle instead of blindly picking the cheapest on the shelf. Many a time I’ve tried to help by suggesting an alternative or just steering them in the right direction, sometimes they’re grateful other times I see them go straight back to their original cheapest option, maybe I will always be fighting a losing battle.

wineshelf3This is where supermarkets could try a lot harder to help. All of the stores split their aisles into red,white, rose and sparkling and generally a section of shelving is divided into various countries, now this is where it needs improving. Most supermarkets already have a number rating for wines ranging from dry to sweet but why not in each country section have some basic information about typical grape varieties, maybe a map showing the different wine regions. For some of the popular bestsellers have a little write up along side the bottles, this is all pretty basic stuff that would make the wine aisles a little more interesting or else you might as well have a row of bottles with blank labels.

Another little gripe of mine is the helpfulness of the assistants in the wine aisles, ok, I know that the person is not a wine expert and probably half the time doesn’t work in that particular aisle but I do expect a better response, as happened the other day to the question have you got anymore South African Chenin Blanc   ‘d’nno mate, hang on a minute’ then proceeded to look in the Australian section.

Listen I know it’s a supermarket and not a wine merchant/outlet but it’s where a lot of people buy their wines. A little more thought into giving a little more general wine information would definitely add to the supermarket wine buying experience.

il Bello Barbera 2011

ilbelloItaly 13%

I’ve heard it said many times that if you’re in a restaurant and you don’t know which wine to choose, go for an Italian. (wine that is, not the person !)  it’s usually the safe choice. Italian wine particularly reds are generally very food friendly with their high acidity and bright juicy fruit flavours.

Barbera is the most widely planted grape in Piedmont  and is the wine that you find most Italian people from the region filling their glasses up with but sadly for me, this ’ il Bello 2011’ didn’t all together hit the spot.

Firstly, let me say this is not a bad wine but it just didn’t  get me excited, it paired well enough with the Beef Lasagne dinner and at a price of around £6 pretty much what I expected.

I chilled this for around 20 minutes , in the glass it was a bright crimson colour with aromas of plums, cherries and a little nutmeg.  On first sip the explosion of tart juicy fruit was the overwhelming and slightly harsh , so  I decided to leave it in the glass for a while before trying again. After 40 minutes or so sitting in the glass and the dinner on the table I took another sip and fortunately it had mellowed slightly into a softer less offensive taste. It still was pretty sour but with the rich food it was much more to my liking.  Juicy bright cherries pretty much dominated  but there was a little hint of sweetish spice in the background.

Not sure I would enjoy this as a stand alone drink, it definitely needed a plate full of rich creamy meaty pasta to really enjoy it and in this case it did the job.  A little drop left in the bottle, will I finish it?,  maybe not, never mind on to the next bottle !

5.5 corksMy Rating 5.5/10 Corks

Waitrose around £6

Tesco Finest Sauvignon Blanc Furmint 2012

furmint1(450 x 600)Slovenia 12.5%

Slovenia ,  a small country in central Europe, it gained it’s independence from Yugoslavia back in 2004 and it now makes a pretty lively , racey little number  ’Sauvignon Blanc  Furmint’  which  is now part of the new Tesco Finest range.

Furmint is a white Hungarian grape used to make Tokaji  and in this collaboration with Sauvignon Blanc it makes for a tongue tingling, refreshing, very good but very different white wine.

Doesn’t stand out on the shelves in it’s small stumpy like bottle with a fairly bland label but it definitely stands out swirling about  in your mouth.  In the glass it has a greenish silvery look, aroma’s of citrusy fruits lime, bitter orange and crisp green apples, with a whiff of aromatic peach.

Taste –  on first sip ifurmint2(450 x 600)t was  lively and very refreshing ,  full of bitter fruits, lemon, limes, oranges and apples.  The traditional Sauvignon Blanc taste although there was hard to pick out and you would be hard pressed to know it had any at all.  This is a fairly dry wine  but with an almost spritzy  and slightly spicy finish.

This will be a big hit in the summer, chilled, very easy to drink, perhaps a little too easy as I noticed half way through our meal of Sea Bass and prawns that the bottle was suddenly three quarters empty.  My wife who loves Sauvignon Blanc found it a bit too different and I had to end up finishing her glass, shame !