Lustau Manzanilla ‘Papriusa’

img_4806-edit-2I haven’t been drinking a lot of manzanilla lately, I had a couple of glasses on the beach at San Sebastian a month or so ago but that’s been it. Quite shameful really, it’s such a joyous drink. So I was very happy to see this little half bottle in a box of gear from Negociants a couple of weeks ago.

Fresh and light with aromas of sea spray, nuts, toasty, yeasty bread, apples and wild flowers. Light and delicate in the mouth, it is however intensely flavoured with apple and almonds with some good flor character. The contrasting delicate texture, intense flavour and crisp, crunchy finish make this a very tidy drink. 90 Pts.

Source: Negociants Australia Price: $18 (375ml) Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.emilio-lustau.com

Font de le Figuera 2005

img_4864A super quick note today. This is the young vines wine from these guys, Garnarcha and Carineña planted in 1998. Surprisingly, this had huge amounts of sediment, so do decant just to get rid of the muck or be very careful pouring it.

What a great little wine, plenty of complexity with a good overview of the landscape in Priorat: herbs, minerals, rocks and sun shine. The nose shows lavender, violets, and a little spearmint  after a while too.  On the palate its got a sarsaparilla, plum and cherry thing happening, moving on to blueberry as the wine opens up. Some minerals, pepper and hot cinnamon on the finish. A really convincing and complete example of Priorat to drink now and over the next 3 or 4 years. 91 Pts.

Source: Negociants Australia RRP: $65 Closure: Conventional Cork

Torres Artium Melot 2006

img_4820These Torres wines are difficult for me to review for a couple of reasons, but mainly due to the fact that they are quite good, enjoyable wines, but they aren’t very Spanish. It was quite trendy in the late 70s and early 80s to plant things like Cabernet and chardonnay in your vineyard to try and sell to the mass market. There are still plenty of companies that make good money doing this, and it serves a purpose (making money for the shareholders seems to be the main one, but I have nothing against that).  Personally I would rather see a garnarcha blend that reeks of Spain (such as Sangre de Toro, which really is Torres’s best wine for me)…

Deep cherry red in colour, with a nose of earthy, jammy plums and spice. A little vanilla as it opens up. Very generious mouthfeel, it’s lush and rounded, very easy to drink and full of flavour. More jammy plums with some blueberry and vanilla, a touch of green herb in there too. Overall, its plesant drinking. Drink now. 86 Pts.

Source: Negociants Australia RRP: $21 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.torres.es

Flor de Pingus 2006

Flor de Pingus 2006Every where I go at the moment I see bottles of Flor de Pingus 2005 for sale or on the wine list. This is a good thing, but I rarely have the couple of hundred dollars required to pick up a bottle in a restaurant. One of the many things I love about Spain is the low markups on wine in restaurants, it is often the same price as retail, sometimes even cheaper. Plus many will let you buy bottles off the list to take home. Very civilised.

If you’ve read my ramblings on the Cillar de Silos 2006 wines, you will get a picture that this vintage was a bit of a challenge in the region and it came down to, good vineyard management, picking the fruit at the right time and good sorting. Of course Pingus are at the top of the game and have out together a very convincing 2006 Flor de Pingus.

A very similar nose to the 2005: mocha coffee, earthy, smokey herbs, cola, dark cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant, plus a hint of anise. It is a fairly full on nose and it leads you to expect a very powerfully flavoured and full bodied experience in the mouth, however its all bravado. It’s just into full bodied territory at the moment, but this will mellow out as it ages, the flavours are complex and intense, not overpowering however. Blackcurrant, red cherry, andblueberry with cola and some minerals in the mouth. A big, tangy finish with supple tannins. I like this a lot, and it was excellent with a well aged steak at La Luna. The good thing is that this will be a pleasure to drink over the next 15 years at least, but give it a big decant if you’re going to open one now. 94+ Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $195 Closure: Conventional Cork

Lagar de Cervera Albariño 2007

img_4813I’ve been watching Spain…on the Road Againover the weekend (it’s on foxtel at the moment). Its a very annoying show, the gang go to these great locations and amazing restaurants, but all they seem to show is shots of the girls in convertible Mercs and mind numbingly boring conversation between Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali. I’m obviously not the target audience, but the episode on Gallicia is well done and gives a good sense of the food and wine of Rias Biaxas. Worth a look if you are interesting in doing a wine and food pilgrimage to Spain…

Regardless of all that, this is a cracking albariño from 2007. I am liking the 2007s, but from what I tasted in Spain last month, 2008 looks to be a return to the ‘classic’ lean and minerally expression of Albariño from Rias Biaxas. Bring it on. This seems to have had quite a price increase since I looked at the 2005, the RRP of $45 may be stretching the wallet a bit too far given the current econmoic situation.

Light straw colour with a nose of fresh white peach, apple and lemon peel, wet slatey rocks and a touch of bay leaf. Focused and tight in the mouth, with very fine acid and just a hint of oily texture. More pear and peach in the mouth, plenty of minerals and river stones with a long finish. Very enjoyable and is a textbook example of Albariño from O-Rosal. 91 Pts.

Source: Negociants Australia RRP: $45 Closure:Screwcap

Web: www.riojalta.com/lagar.htm

Calle Laurel: a culinary institution

img_4576On my first trip to Rioja, I was given some great advice: ‘There are plenty of good places to eat in La Rioja, but there is only one place that you musteat during a trip here and that is the tapas street of Calle Laurel in the old town of Logroño.’  There are tapas streets in other towns:  Haro has it’s ‘Horseshoe’ area and there are good little bars in most towns and villages, but they don’t come close to Calle Laurel.

Actually, it’s too big for just one street, it’s more of an area of the old part of town. The streets are lined with small bars, each place specialising in one thing. Most places will serve a range of food and drinks, while some just serve the one tapa with some beer and wine.  You can come for lunch or dinner, but the important thing to remember is to stop in, have a drink and a snack, chat with the locals (even if you don’t know any Spanish!) and move on to the next place. For the full experience, turn up on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night at around 9:30pm and bring your sense of fun. The streets will be full (and I mean full) of all kinds of people: whole families, young punks, famous winemakers and gitanos (gypsies).

The tourist office in Logroño (in the big square at the top of the old town) puts out an excellent little book of who does what, and everything is on offer: pigs ears, mushrooms, top level jamon, pork, artichokes, seafood and tripe. The same goes for drinks, anything goes: from very top end red wines from Rioja to a glass of water. if you want the small beers that the locals are drinking, ask for a corto. A larger beer is a caña (pronounced ‘can ya’).  The thing that makes the food here special is the produce, it’s fresh and full of flavour.  Here are a couple of my favorites: 

Bar El Sabas: Famous for the Tortilla de patata, and it is very good. Choose from a couple of different versions, salt cod is my pick. They also have a good list of wines, one of the better ones on the strip. Calle Albornoz, 7.

Taberna de Correos: This little joint at Calle San Augustin, 8, specialises in skewers of Iberian pork cooked over wood and drizzled with a honey reduction. Ask for La Pluma to order these.

Bar Plan B: Another on Calle San Agustin (No. 41), this one specialises in Foie, the best one is Foie al Pedro Ximenez washed down with a glass of young red wine. Amazing stuffNot everyone gets this one. I go here for the Esparrago frito, white asparagus wrapped in ham and cheese, then battered and deep fried.On Calle Laurel

La Universidad:These guys are the pulpo (octopus) kings on the street. Go in for Pulpo a la Gallega and a beer. Travesia del Laurel.

Bar El Soriano: This is the best of the best. It must be one of the most popular and smallest bars on the strip. So simple but oh so good. It’s a couple of mushrooms drowned in garlic oil, with a tiny prawn on top and a bit of bread on the bottom. To look like a real local, don’t eat the bread. All of this with a corto will cost you 1 euro. There is a guy here who always tells me it’s the best tapas bar in the world…he may just be right. Oposite La Universidad.img_4587img_4565

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La Purisima Estio Tinto 2007

img_3898Estio is the entry level range from La Purisima, who also make Trapio. There is a red, a white and a rose in the line up, all under $20 at retail. I think you really get your money’s worth with these wines, I quite like this tinto, but I think the pick of the bunch is the rosado.

The nose is full of cherry bubblegum, figs and blueberries, a touch of hot cinnamon and wood smoke.  Fresh and juicy in the mouth, plenty of fruit but it remains savory. Open and round, its easy to drink with just a touch of acid to keep things moving. Fig and plum in the mouth, some earthy spice. A tangy finish. Get the BBQ out while its still warm enough to enjoy and a grab a bottle of this with some pork chops. 87 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Cost: $19.50 Closure: Conventional Cork

Torres Gran Vina Sol 2006

img_4818Its good to see some Torres gear still hitting the shelves, they seem to have been forgotten in many parts and relegated to the bargain bin. Torres tend to use a high proportion of ‘international’ varieties such as Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, while I am not too keen on this I do think that many of their wines are good drinking and good value. I have a couple of their wines in at the moment, including their new Priorat venture.

This wine is based on chardonnay with 15% of the native parellada, then a portion goes into Limousin oak for fermentation, then rest into stainless steel. The resulting wine is fresh with a nose of  melons, lemons and cashews. Quite toasty, yet fresh with plenty of sunny fruit. This isn’t your full on style of chardonnay, it’s more fun and seafood focused. The palate mirrors the nose for the most part, but adds a little butter and creaminess.  My only gripe is that it isn’t all that Spanish tasting, but a good drink for the price. 87 Pts.

Source: Negociants Australia RRP: $21 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.torres.es

Capcanes Mas Donis ‘Negre’ 2007

img_3897A quick note on what is a great little wine. It has some new funky, young and fun packaging and is secured under a screwcap. What more could you want? Mostly garnarcha  with a splash of syrah for something different. 4 months in American oak too. These wines are very consistent from vintage to vintage, which is a great attribute in a house wine.

Bright fresh garnarcha  fruit with some smokey, rocky and toasty notes with raspberry and plum fruit. Easy to drink, but there is a bit of structure there. Under ripe apple like acidity and good length on the finish. More raspberry and raspberry leaf on the palate with some rocky earthy notes. Clean, fresh and cheap. Perfect for easy nights at home or a quick snack in a bar. 87 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Cost: $23 Closure:Screwcap

Web: www.cellercapcanes.com

Prima 2006

Prima 2006So this is a little number from the guys at Bodegas Mauro, a bit further west and south in Toro. They make two wines here, this wine as well as a top end wine, San Roman. Prima means a female cousin in Spanish, so I’m assuming the lads thought that Toro is more of a cousin than a sister region to Ribera del Duero. Anyway, the wine is mostly Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) with a dollop of Garnarcha. Its aged in a mix of French and American oak for 11 months.

This bottle did have a bit of DMS (a tinned corn smell) on the nose to start with, give it a good decant and it will blow off.

The nose kicks things off with toasty oak, a touch of tinned corn, sarsaparilla, blackberry and earthy minerals. Big juicy fruit, red and dark cherry, blackberry and sars, black olives, inky fruit, plenty of small chalky tannins. Nice balance and length. Rustic and tasty with classic Toro character. 89 Pts.

Source: Negociants Australia Price: Around $42 Closure: Conventional Cork