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Madrid, Spain

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!The Wines to Try List - Recent Selections


Avgvstvs Cabernet Sauvignon 1993

DO Penedès (Cellers Puig Roca)

While Bordeaux-style varietals are not standard fare in the Spanish wine industry, Cellers Puig Roca has been producing some creditable Cabs and Merlots for some time. A full bodied red - mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, tempered by 6 months barrel ageing - this will go well with a nice ripe cheese or a charcoal grilled steak.

Dark cherry garnet color, clean amd bright. Nose somewhat closed at first, but opening in a few minutes to show nice plum and red berry fruit with toasty vanilla/wood tones. The palate shows tasty plummy fruit well integrated with the oak. Good tannic balance, acceptable acidity and length. [Can more than hold its own against similarly priced CA Cabs.]

{1 Feb 1999}

Luberri 1998

DOC Rioja (Luberri)

Year after year, Luberri rates as one of Riojas top "cosechero" wines - young, unoaked reds made in the traditional Rioja Alavesa style. This is the first of this year's young Riojas we've had a chance to taste, and it's a good one.

Deep, dark red-purple color. Potent aromas of ripe red fruit (raspberries and plums). Thick, rich palate with loads of fresh, ripe fruit. Very tasty, good balance and length. Excellent!

{9 Jan 1999} 

Casa Gualda Cencibel 1998

DO La Mancha (Ntra Sra de la Cabeza)

Just out, this is the first 1998 vintage wine we've gotten to taste. Made from 100% Cencibel - the "normal" Casa Gualda has a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon - this wine is ready to drink but will certanly mellow and improve with a few more months of bottle ageing.

Clean purple garnet color, medium depth and density. Crisp, fresh fruit aromas showing rich blackberry and cherry. Fresh, mid-bodied palate with good solid fruit, pleasant acidity and nice dry fruit tannins. Still a wee bit green, but excellent nonetheless.

{18 Dec 1998} 

Albet i Noya Tempranillo 1996

DO Penedès (Albet i Noya)

A single vineyard, barrel aged 100% varietal from 20+ year old vines, this organically grown wine from Albet i Noya's "Colleció" line is a joy to drink. It's still young and shows plenty of promise for the years to come. A full bodied red that will go well with most meat dishes.

Intense, deep dark cherry color. Solid aromas of black briary fruit and toasted oak. Full mouthfilling palate with noticable tannins. Good structure, balance and length, evolving nicely in the glass. Without a doubt, one of Penedès better reds.

{23 Nov 1998} 

Viñas del Vero Merlot 1996

DO Somontano (Compañía Vitivinícola Aragonesa)

In recent years, Somontano producers have surprised us all with some excellent wines - like this superb Merlot varietal from Viñas del Vero. A single vineyard wine with 6 months barrel ageing in Allier oak, it's still youthful and will certainly improve in the next few years. A full bodied Merlot, this is a wine which will go well with beef or venison.

Deep ruby red color with no signs of age. Rich aromas of ripe berry fruit, herbal accents and toasted coffee/vanilla tones. Full, tannic palate with solid but smooth tannins and firm acidity. Balanced, long.

{4 Nov 1998} 

Imperial Gran Reserva 1990

DOC Rioja (Bodegas C.V.N.E.)

Founded in 1879, CVNE (aka Cune) is a classic Rioja wine maker. The 1990 Imperial has been getting good press of late - and it's easy to see why. An excellent traditional style Rioja, ready to drink but with plenty left for the future.

Deep cherry red color with just a hint of brick around the edges. Enveloping and complex aromas, still showing ample fruit and a delightful mix of vanilla, spice, leather and tobacco elements. Rich, elegant palate with persistent ripe fruit, smooth but firm tannins - again showing beautiful complexity and good length.

{26 Oct 1998} 

Cosme Palacios y Hermanos 1994

DOC Rioja (Bodegas Palacio)

From the makers of Glorioso and Mil Flores, Cosme Palacios Crianza is an excellent example of the fine 1994 vintage. According to some experts, the '94 wines are evolving more slowly that the 95's - however, while this wine's still got plenty of cellar life, it's very drinkable today. A full bodied, moderately tannic wine which will go well with steaks, roasts, game and mature cheeses.

Dark cherry red color, clean and bright with no visible signs of aging. Crisp black and red fruit aromas with well integrated toasted woody tones. Ample, elegant palate showing hearty varietal fruit and smooth, spicy vanilla oak. Excellent!

{14 Oct 1998} 

Conde de Valdemar Crianza 1995

DOC Rioja (Martínez Bujanda)

Martinez Bujanda has become one of Rioja's top producers in recent years. The 1995 crop was an excellent one, and the winery's made good use of the quality harvest. Perhaps over filtered, but still a good wine, ready to drink now.

Medium depth cherry red color. Pleasant, but rather light aromas of Tempranillo fruit with a touch of spice and vanilla. Good, medium bodied palate. Moderate acidity and tannins, good fruit with unobtrusive oak flavors and a reasonable finish.

{30 Sept 1998}

Solagüen Crianza 1995

DOC Rioja (Unión de Cosecheros Labastida)

A couple of years back, the '81 Solagüen Gran Reserva merited a medal in Montreal. Made by the local co-op in Labastida, this is a typical Rioja Alavesa "crianza" - not too heavy, but with the body to stand up to red meat, stews and game. A good wine, good value and ready to drink now.

Good dark cherry red color. Penetrating varietal aromas with a hint of gentle oak and a stemmy, rustic background. Very tasty palate with plenty of black/red berry fruit, minimal vanilla-oak, a bit of peppery spice and a long, vaguely bitter finish. One of my personal favorites.

{20 Sept 1998} 

San Vicente Reserva 1991

DOC Rioja (Señorío de San Vicente)

One of the new generation Riojas, San Vicente has had plenty of good press both in Spain and abroad. Despite being the very first commercial San Vicente, the '91 is a beautiful wine, powerfully fruity and elegant. Great stuff!

Deep garnet, cherry red color with slightly orange-tinged edges. Gentle, but fine aromas of black/red berry fruit, with a touch of vanilla and spice. Tasty, elegant, balanced palate with smooth, well resolved sweet tannins and a long finish. Excellent.

{10 Sept 1998} 

Masia Esplanes 1995

DO Tarragona-Falset (Capafons-Ossó)

It seems Tarragona-Falset wines are all the rage - it's only the second one to appear here, and the other was last week! Cellers Capafons-Ossó is a small producer making two "estate-style" reds, Masia Esplanes is a full-bodied, oak aged red made (apparently) from mainly Garnacha grapes. Goes well with game or beef.

Deep cherry red color. Dense jammy fruit aromas of blackberry and red currants with a gentle touch of oak. Full, rounded palate, dry with well integrated fruit/oak and firm, smooth tannins.

{11 Aug 1998} 

Mas Donís 1997

DO Tarragona-Falset (Capçanes)

The Falset area of DO Tarragona lies quite close to Priorato, one of Spain's more fashionable quality wine growing areas. Like Priorato, a combination of slate-based soils, harsh climate and old vines has led to some superbly concentrated wines with personality and character. Mas Donís is made from an innovative combination of Garnacha and Syrah - fermented separately, then mixed and allowed to rest in large vats before bottling. This is a superb medium-bodied red with no oak and fruit to spare.

Clean cherry red color, not too dark. Aromas of fresh red and black berry fuit with peppery, spicy notes. Superb, long palate showing berries and gentle spice with a nice fruit-acid balance and contrasting grape tannins. Excellent!

{4 Aug 1998}


Viñas del Vero Chardonnay 1994

DO Somontano (Viñas del Vero)

Since it was founded in 1986, the Viñas del Vero winery has specialized in varietal wines. This barrel fermented 100% Chardonnay is a good example of the kind of quality this Somontano producer can provide. An excellent Chardonnay by any standard.

Bright brassy yellow color, somewhat darkened with age. Initial aromas show a hint of oxidation, but this quickly disappears to reveal deep buttery varietal tones, gentle oak and lots of complexity. Thick, rich, buttery almost chewy palate with balanced fruit, good acidity and length. Excellent!

{10 Mar 1999} 

Muga Barrel Fermented 1998

DOC Rioja (Muga)

Since 1991 Muga has been making a fair amount of noise with its barrel fermented white - at the time a revolutionary departure from traditional Rioja whites. Due to hit the shops in a month or so, we got to chance to taste this excellent "new" Rioja at the winery last week. It's made with mainly Viura grapes (about 90%), a bit a Malvasía and about 4 months in oak

Clean, sharp yellow-straw color with vaguely greenish tints. Nice complex aromas of medium intensity showing ripe fruit (peaches, apricots, pears) and well integrated, unobtrusive toasty vanilla oak. Fresh, balanced palate with pleasant lemony acidity, a grassy note that brings to mind dried stone fruits, and nicely integrated wood tones.

{28 Feb 1999} 

Marqués de Riscal Rueda Superior 1997

DO Rueda (Vinos Blancos de Castilla)

Made from 85% Verdejo and 15% Viura grapes, this is an excellent example of the Rueda style. A dry white wine with character and depth. Excellent with shellfish and fish dishes.

Pale golden straw color with greenish tints. Characteristic aromas of apple with hints of tropical fruit (mangos), citric elements and a touch of mineral. Full, rich, dry palate follows nose, developing nicely along the way. Good acidic structure and lengthy finish.

{28 Dec 1998} 

Palacio de Fefiñanes 1997

DO Rías Baixas (Bodegas Fefiñanes)

A classic Albariño varietal white from the Rías Baixas in Northwest Spain. Young, floral, fruty, fresh - a wine that goes beautifully with seafood.

Bright yellowish straw color. Fresh, ripe, apple-fruit aromas with floral overtones. Balanced palate, potently fruity. Nice acidic structure and good length.

{14 Nov 1998} 

Sumarroca Muscat 1997

DO Penedès (Molí Coloma)

Molí Coloma has built its reputation on the excellent Sumarrroca line of young, unoaked 100% varietal white wines: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Reisling, and Sauvignon Blanc.Made from the Alsatian Muscat grape, Sumarroca Muscat is a fresh, dry wine - good on its own and will go very nicely with fish or shellfish.

Pale, clean golden straw color. Great nose, potent grapey aromas with floral accents. Fresh and clean on the palate with excellent acidity, a pleasant, just perceptable tingle of youthful spritz, and none of the residual sweetness often present in Muscat wines.

{26 June 1998} 

Guitian 1995 fermentado en barrica [White]

DO Valdeorras (La Tapada)

Recently selected as a finalist in the "Sibaritas" magazine's annual wine awards, this is a splendid, barrel fermented white made from the local Godello grape. Situated in the country's northwest, DO Valdeorras is a small area with only 1,500 hectares of vineyards - primarily planted with Godello (white) and Mencía (red) grapes.

Pale straw-yellow color, bright and clean. Delicate, elegant aromas of fruit and oak, with a hint of yeasty lees. Balanced, tasty palate, powerful fruit and good length. Good with fish and seafood, but with the force to stand up to veal, fowl or pasta dishes.

{3 May 1998} 


Montesierra Rosado 1995

DO Somontano (Bodega Pirineos)

Here's a good bright, medium-dry rosé. A good choice for the appetizer course, this wine will also go nicely with seafood, casseroles or pasta.

Made from Tempranillo, Moristel, Macabeo and Garnacha grapes. The color's a bright, clean strawberry-pink. The aroma is substantial, showing lots of red fruit with flowery-spicy overtones. The taste is smooth, balanced and lasting. *[$M]
{23 Sept 1996} 

Jerez (Sherry) & Fortified wines

Agustín Blázquez Pedro Ximénez [Sweet]

DO Jerez (Agustín Blázquez)

Sweet wines made from sun ripened Pedro Ximénez grapes make an interesting end of dinner alternative to brandy or other spirits; and are also used to sweeten oloroso-style Jerez wines to make "cream sherries". This limited production PX from A. Blázquez is something very special indeed.

Dark mahogany color with iodine tints and showing very thick and syrupy in the glass. An explosion of delightfully complex aromas: rasins, prunes, halzenuts, moka coffee, and leathery hints of long "solera" ageing . Very thick and richly sweet palate of, but not cloying despite a low 8% alcohol (typical is more like 15%. Balanced, complex and very, very long.

{10 Feb 1999} 

Fino Quinta [fino sherry]

DO Jerez (Osborne)

A Jerez classic, Fino Quinta is consistently among the region's top rated dry sherries. Crisp and bone dry, it's prized as a cocktail and aperitif wine, but also combines beautifully with fish and shellfish - and also can hold its own with the hot, spicy stuff.

Clean, bright yellowish straw color. Sharp, penetrating aromas of "flor" with a hint of herbs and straw. Very dry, slightly saline palate starts off as nutty "flor", blending into a long, pleasantly bitterish finish. Superb!

{20 Jan 1999} 

*Araceli Pedro Ximénez [Sweet]

DO Montilla-Moriles (Aragón y Cía)

The DO Montilla-Moriles region in the province of Córdoba is one of two places in the world producing true finos, amontillados and olorosos - the other being Jerez, which owns the name "sherry". Made from 100% sun ripened Pedro Ximenez grapes, Araceli is a delicious sweet wine: dessert in a wine glass.

Very dark walnut-coffee color with bright metallic tints. Rich penetrating aromas of ripe, sweet rasins and dates. Thick, syrupy palate like liquid rasins with notes of coffee and chocolate. Very sweet, but with enough acidity to keep things in balance. Excellent!

{8 Dec 1998} 

Emilio Lustau "Los Arcos" [Amontillado]

DO Jerez (Emilio Lustau)

Lustau's sherries have won high praise from critics and wine lovers in recent years, and after trying their Solera Reserva "Los Arcos", it's easy to see why. Amontillados, subject to both biological ageing under "flor" and long barrel ageing, boast rich complexity and a unique taste. Dry and nutty, this is a great before dinner cocktail alternative.

Eye catching tawny-gold color with coppery tints. Penetrating nutty aromas with some "antique furniture" hints as well. Great hazlenut palate with old oak and a pleasant finish showing just a touch of fruit-based sweetness. A minimun of "heat" despite a muscular 18.5% alcohol level. Excellent wine, great value.

{1 Sept 1998} 

Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez [Dessert]

DO Montilla-Moriles (Péerez Barquero)

While not as well known as Jerez, the Montilla-Moriles region produces some excellent "sherry-style" wines: finos, amontillados, olorosos, and so on using the same "solera" ageing techniques used by Jerez producers. The Pedro Ximénez grape is the region's key varietal, used in both dry and sweet "Montillas". Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez is a first rate dessert wine and a great after dinner drink.

Deep, dark mahogany-chocolate color. Powerful raisiny aroma with hints of chocolate and dates. Full flavored palate of pure liquid rasins, thick and sweet with a pleasant, long lasting taste. *[$M]
{15 Feb 1998} 

Fondillón Alone, 1970 [Fondillón]

DO Alicante (BOCOPA)

Fondillón is a type of fortified wine, typical of the Mediterranean area around Alicante. This class of aged-oxidized wine was very much in decline, but has clearly made a recovery in recent years. Fondillón is a red wine, made from grapes which are "toasted" under the sun before fermentation. The resulting wine is aged in oak in a solera system similar to that used for sherry. The process slowly oxidizes the wine, adding complexity, while the color evolves from red toward brick and mahogany.

The 1970 "Alone" is mahogony colored with reddish tones. Fragrant aromas show raisiny fruit, old oak and grassy-hayish notes. Relatively dry on the palate, it's complex and very tasty, and goes down easily despite the 17% alcohol content. A superb after dinner wine. *[$H]
{17 Jul 1997} 

Solera 1847 [Oloroso Sherry]

DO Jerez (González-Byass)

This excellent "oloroso" gets it's name from the fact that the original "solera" was laid down in 1847. Olorosos are not biologially aged like "finos", but once fortified with alcohol, go straight to barrel-ageing using the solera system.

1847 is somewhat unusual, it's a sweet oloroso - not as sweet as the closely related cream sherry, but sweet nonetheless. The color's deep dark mahogany-coffee color. The aroma is old-woody, potent. Mouthfilling, with a good balance between alcohol, sugars and old oak. *[$H]
{30 Jan 1997}

Cavas (bubbly)

Louis de Vernier Brut Nature, '92

DO Cava (Josep Masachs)

Rated "reserva" by the winery - meaning the base wine is barrel aged. A tart, tasty cava that's good as an apetizer and also goes well with meals - in this case the tasting group washed down large quantities of a beautiful seafood rice dish with excellent results.

Made of 60% Parellada and 40% Macabeo grapes. Clean golden color, well supplied with small-medium sized bubbles. Crisp aromas of fruit and yeast with a hint of oak and a pleasant citrus background tang. Dry and tasty on the palate - while the taste is not overpowering, it's clean, with a pleasant, slightly bitterish aftertaste. *[$M]
{6 Jul 1997} 

Freixenet Cordon Negro, D.O. Cava, (Freixenet)

This popular cava in the black bottle is rather well known. There's a hint of ageing, and perhaps a touch of almonds in the aroma. The taste is dry and crisp. A good value from the Freixenet winery. *[$M]

{9 Jan 1996} 

Prices: To minimize confusion, and country to country differences, I'll use a Spanish Relative Price (SRP) approach. That is the normal price of the wine here in Spain, expressed in $ USA (updated to reflect 1999 inflation levels).

*[$L] = Low (less than $7)
*[$M] = Medium ($7 to $12)
*[$H] = High (more than $12)