Monday, April 12, 2021

La Rioja Alta

Usually the top wine from any property should be the best. However, individual tastes decide the favourite.
I belong to a generation that were able to buy great Rioja...the 60's and early 70's...lovely soft vanilla aged gems. I remember spending a holiday in north Spain...where a restaurant had a ladder up to the bottles placed in the wall. I got to be a regular and was allowed to climb up to chose my choice for the evening. Not only so many goodies...but also reasonably priced. Rioja winemakers became greedy in the 80's...stretching the wines to make more. They got back on track in the 90's and the style split...the traditional version and the new technique.
One property that kept the old style was La Rioja Alta. Viña Ardanza Reserva was a regular house wine for many years. The next one up in quality was the Gran Reserva 904...for the special occasion.
Now we get to the nitty gritty of this post. For the very special occasion we would try a bottle of the Gran Reserva 890. Even back then...I was not the biggest fan. The wine should have been my favourite...but never was.
So...ordering a mixed case...I added a bottle of the 890. It was not a very special occasion. Those days are gone. A great bottle on a Tuesday and a glass of water on Saturday if you get my thread. Every day is special.

La Rioja Alta
Gran Reserva 890 2005

The wine is a mix of Tempranillo (95%), Graciano (3%) and Mazuelo, produced from their own old vines that are more than 40 years old and planted in the Riojan town of Rodezno. It spends 72 months in American oak barrels, 20% new... and here lies my problem.
Much as I love the style...I always find the 890 has a touch too much dryness.
Nose to me is always more Bordeaux-like. Vanilla aromas. Mocca and cassis. A balsamic bite. Dominant acidity. Don't tell me I need to lay it is over 15 years old. In no way a bad is just that we don't gel.
Points 16.5

The food was more Italian then Spanish.
Bruschetta followed by Black Carbonara.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Memory Lane #1

I have been drinking wine for over 45 years..and in the early days I dealt with the wine trade in England. My search for older vintages lead me to a couple of being Reid Wines...a few miles south of Bristol, England. I had lived in Bristol before I moved to I was back there a couple of times a year. I usually ordered the wines...then picked them on my visits (I drove over). Co-owner was a guy called Bill Baker. Now..when whoever made us all..decided to build Bill...he didn't cut corners...and the end product was a one-off! Bill passed away in January 2008. Now..before you think this 'Memory Lane' is going to be a sad post. Forget it. Bill Baker probably never knew the meaning.


The Telegraph obituary report at the time....and I smiled as I read it...mentioned him taking a few cases of vintage wines with him when he traveled abroad. I once arranged to meet him at a top restaurant in Bristol who he supplied wines to. I waited at the bar with my glass of something. Bill 'rolled' in. As I mentioned..he was large..but carried it well. Talking about carried..he was carrying a picnic basket...We sat at the table and he opened reveal 5 bottles!! Now I least I think I did..only drinking one...where the other 4 went to...we can only summise. Reid Wines was in the picturesque village of an old converted Mill. If I called and said I wanted to come over..the answer was..'be here at 11.30 for lunch'. On arriving...a table outside by the stream..some old oddity of a half-bottle as an apéritif..with some paté de Foie Gras..then a decent red. Another memory..which I should try to forget...was driving a few miles (a few more that it should have been)..meeting him for dinner...and returning by car along misty country roads...would never do it nowadays...ah..the recklessness of youth! Another memory is of joining him at the top country house 'Gidleigh Park'..for some memorable wines. He once visited me in Germany. We had a guest room..and a normal size bed. He managed. He asked if he could use the bath...don't ask me!! My wife cooked us dinner...and 'bonvivant' was had by all. He was 'expressive' about wine and people...and said if a wine was crap. He maybe annoyed a few..I never had a problem with him...oh yes I did...trying to keep up with him. On one visit he told me about a regular meet of all local merchants...once a month I think..where each one took along something special. He kindly invited me along..a privilege..and the rest of the group accepted the 'extra' visitor. Great wines...although my memory goes back to a whisky..which I never was a malt..about 40 years old..and as near to a great Cognac as you can get. The wine trade is full of 'odd' must be the liquid. Bill Baker was the last of a long gone style of merchant/gourmet/ it what you like. They don't make 'em like that any more. The materials are no longer available! Telegraph report here 

Enjoy the video with Jancis Robinson


Saturday, April 03, 2021

Clemens Strobl

Discovering a fairly unknown property still gives me great pleasure.
Clemens Strobl in Kirchberg, Wagram is one case.

Clemens Strobl is a family business in the second generation. Uncomplicated and not bound by tradition. Experimentation and curiosity is their aim. With passion and enthusiasm. Mixed culture instead of monoculture. These are the key points of winemaker Clemens Strobl's philosophy. Only his own grapes are hand-selected and carefully processed. With his wine manufactory, he fully concentrates on organic viticulture with an appreciation for flora and fauna. Birdhouses and beehives are small signs of the times. When it comes to vinification, it's then a case of "less is more". Spontaneous fermentation is a must and aging is in stainless steel, wooden barrel and concrete egg. Pure, terroir-focused wines that are fun to drink. Extract-rich finesse and elegance provide, thanks to the relatively light alcohol for high drinking flow. Hence my later gulping note!! 

During my writing cramp last year I tried a few of the properties Grüner Veltliner.
The top one...
Pfaff (Pfaffenberg) 2016 had impressed.

Finally got round to the Riesling of the same vintage.

Clemens Strobl Paffenberg Riesling 2016

Vines are 35 years old.
A gentle whiff of petrol...gets me every time. Aromas of peaches. Slightly smoky, then comes the stone fruit. Peach flavours, thrilling harmony...tried not to gulp this...a riverting Riesling....sumptuous and with an elegant creaminess.
Points 18.25

Italian-style food with the wine...Bruschetta and Pasta Bavette Nero Carbonari.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Sunny Afternoon

As winter fades away...and hopefully the world gets back to some sort of sanity...the sight of the warm sun does actually convince you all is not that bad.
A fresh bread roll...

one of the assortment of Greek Honeys recently purchased...

a fine Havana...
and a good book...

at the moment the story of the Kinks. I think everyone knows the song...

All that is missing a few friends to enjoy the gastronomic times with you.