Italian sparkling wine, the taste is in the bubbles

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There is a great variety of Italian sparkling wine, and some of them are very high quality. Each region produces something slightly different. Delicious sparkling wines with authentic local character that really reflect a region. Here are a few examples.

Prosecco, the most famous

Without doubt, the most popular Italian sparkling wine is Prosecco. It comes from northern Italy, specifically the Veneto region and also Friuli-Venezia. It is popular around the world both for its effervescence and its price. And compared to other sparkling wines like Champagne, it is simpler, softer and much easier to drink. This is mainly due to the way it is made.

While Champagne is made using the traditional method, where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco is made with the Charmat method, where the second fermentation takes place in a sealed stainless steel tank. This means less time, and, above all, less work, so wines made with this method tend to be much cheaper.

Prosecco is made mainly with the Glera variety. Although it must contain at least 85% of this grape, up to 15% of the wine can be made with other varieties like Bianchetta Trevigiana, Glera Lunga, Verdiso, Perera, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Due to the tank production method, most Proseccos do not age for very long and are characterised by their refreshing effervescence, lightness and their combination of citrus and sweet notes. It has a low alcohol content, which makes it ideal for any occasion. But most importantly, it must be cold. However, not all Proseccos are the same, nor are they made in the same way. There are different levels of quality ranging from the most ordinary to the highest level. It’s all about trying them.

Franciacorta, a classic

Franciacorta is made in the province of Brescia, in the Lombardy region. It is the first Italian sparkling wine made with the Champenoise method that is, with a second fermentation in the bottle. If there is one thing that makes this sparkling wine with ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita’ stand out from other sparkling wines made with the traditional method, it is the fact that it is governed by strict standards that can be summarised in four points. To start with, it can only be made with the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc varieties.

Secondly, the harvest has to be completely manual. Thirdly, for the tirage, the pressure inside the bottle must be between 5 and 6 atmospheres. Finally, Franciacorta sparkling wines are characterised for their long aging of a minimum of 18 months.

However, there are different types of Franciacorta: the Millesimato, the Rosé, the Satèn and the Reserva. For example, Satèn does not reach 5 atmospheres of pressure and the amount of residual sugar makes it comparable to a Brut sparkling wine. Like the Rosé, it ages for a minimum of 24 months. 

The Millesimato ages for a minimum of 30 months and the Reserva, 60 months. Finally there is the Franciacorta “Dosaggio Zero”, which has no sugar or alcohol added after disgorgement, so it is like a Brut Nature sparkling wine.

Whatever the different variants are, Franciacorta wines are Italian sparkling wines linked by their production method and origin. Elegant, complex and very balanced long-aging sparkling wines.

Asti DOCG, sparkling wines from Piedmont

The leading sparkling wine in the Piedmont region is the Asti, a sparkling wine with DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) that is made with the Moscatel Blanca variety. Produced according to the Charmat method, that is, second fermentation in a stainless steel tank, it maintains the aromatic quality of the grapes and a moderate alcohol content of between 7 and 9.5%. Aromatic, sweet and easy to drink, it is perfect for enjoying with desserts.

Lambrusco, a young, fresh Italian wine

Is there anyone who does not know of Lambrusco? A casual and fun Italian sparkling wine, also made in with Charmat method. 

However, being the best-selling sparkling Italian wine in the world, it should be taken into account that sometimes sparkling wines that are sold as Lambruscos are actually low quality wines that are not the real product. The authentic ones are made with the Lambrusco variety, hence its name. This grape and this wine come from four areas in Emilia-Romagna and in one in Lombardy, and are mostly made in the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Mantua, Modena and Parma in northern Italy.

These are wines with a low level of carbon, low alcohol and a fresh and very fruity character. If the label is marked with amabile”, it is a sparkling wine made from a partial fermentation or with the addition of must to keep it sweet. But if it is a Lambrusco “secco , it means that it has undergone a full fermentation to create a dry wine, with a bitter touch and fresh notes of red fruit. Characteristics which, of course, go perfectly with Italian cuisine.

Now that we have given you some facts about Italian sparkling wine, it is down to you to make your decision. Take a look at our selection and enjoy the most sparkling toasts.

Photo of Pixabay – misterfarmer.

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Merlot, an elegant and seductive lady

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Often in the shadow of Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot grape is now considered an essential in the winemaking world thanks to its appearance in a small but exclusive selection of musts that have produced some of the most legendary, expensive and sought-after wines in the world.

Vinos con uva merlot

Legend has it that this variety’s name comes from the translation of “merlau”, which means “little blackbird” a bird with a certain penchant for the ripe and sweet Merlot berries and with a similar blue-black colour.

Merlot is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes strains, so you could say it is a “sister” of Cabernet Sauvignon, a variety that it is often found with in coupages and that it is so similar to, so much so that in blind tastings they are often confused.

There are over 60 names you might know this variety by, for example: Alicante Noir, Bigney, Black Alicante, Blauer Merlot, Bordò, Crabutet, Crabutet Noir, Hebigney, Médoc Noir, Merlau, Merlot Black, Merlot Blau, Merlot Crni, Merlot Nero, Merlot Noir, Merlott, Merlou, Picard, Pikard, Plant Médoc, Sémillon Rouge, Vidal, Vitraille, etc.

What is the Merlot grape like?

It originates from Bordeaux, France, where it is the most planted strain. In Saint-Émilion and Pomerol it is the star of their great wines and in Médoc it plays an important part in the famous Bordeaux coupage.

It usually grows in the same climates as the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot varieties.

It is one of the three most planted grapes in the world and it grows in many countries, for example Spain, Italy, Portugal, United States, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Chile, even in places that seem unlikely, Algeria and Cyprus.

This vine produces small oval berries, with thick blue-black skins that are hard to remove, and with large leaves made up of five well-defined lobes that create a pentagonal shape.

The Merlot variety ripens early, but it is easy to grow because it adapts to different kinds of soils. This grape likes cool weather, which is where it expresses itself and develops best. In hot temperatures, it usually loses its acidity and tannic balance.

This strain is also fairly resistant to diseases but is sensitive to frost and botrytis in ripeness and over-ripeness.

What kind of wine does it produce?

Merlot wines captivate with their expressive aromas and flavours of blackcurrants and black cherries, their soft and flexible tannins and a finish of chocolate.

In hot climates the variety produces red wines that are usually more fruity, with refined tannins and aromas of cherries, raspberries and violets. They are dry but voluptuous and fruity wines, with spicy notes and a delicious touch of chocolate and mocha.

In cold climates, which this grape prefers, the results are more structured wines with a delicate earthy note, hints of red and black fruits and slightly more acidic. The nose has a greater complexity revealing floral aromas of violets, balsamic notes and nuances of truffles and undergrowth. They are usually less concentrated and offer pleasant hints of chocolate or liquorice.

This grape is often used in coupages with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc varieties (the famous Bordeaux-style coupage) because it softens and balances the tannins and provides a fruity touch to the resulting wines.

It is often said that the Merlot variety contributes the feminine aspect of coupages that contain Cabernet Sauvignon, that is, it softens the powerful tannin of the Cabernet and provides subtlety and elegance with its fruity character and velvet touch.

It is an elegant and sensual grape. And as well as their feminine and masculine roles, they are also like Ying and Yang, two opposing forces, interdependent and complementary and that can be transformed into the other, which means they can be mistaken for each other. Finding wines with the perfect balance of these two great varieties in the same coupage is an exquisite pleasure.

Some facts about the Merlot variety

During the 19th century, grafts from Bordeaux were taken to Chile and were thought to be Merlot strains, however, studies conducted in 1994 by a researcher named Jean Michel Boursiquot found that it was a completely different variety, which today we know as Carménère. This has become the flagship grape of wines made in this South American country. The Carménère vines have leaves that are practically identical to Merlot leaves.

In the 90s, wines made with Merlot in California had a bad reputation because of their softness, inconsistency and sweet edge. Then, “thanks” to the famous movie “Sideways”, translated as “Entre Copas”, one of the characters’ open disdain towards the Merlot grape saw sales fall and its reputation deteriorate further, while wines made with the Pinot Noir variety, the protagonist’s favourite, became more popular.

Although loved by some and underestimated by others, it is undeniable that the discreet role of the Merlot variety, which often remains in the background, has produced some of the most sought-after and expensive wines in the world. For some of these wines, it has finally become the absolute star, as is the case with the famous Pétrus, which we have talked about so much, a great red wine from Bordeaux made in Pomerol.

Initially it was a Merlot coupage with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is now a single-variety Merlot that is made in extraordinary vintages and can reach exorbitant prices on the market.

Despite the reputation of this strain as a grape that produces young and simple wines, so many people are still unaware of the great potential and elegance of a wine made with Merlot. They are able to continue aging and improving in the bottle for years to come.

Why not take a look at our selection of Merlot wine and discover all the wonderful secrets and the seductive nature of this elegant wine.

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Vella Terra, celebrating all things natural

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We started the week with a visit to Vella Terra, the Independent Natural Wine Fair of Barcelona, which for the past five years has showcased producers who work under the principles of organic and biodynamic agriculture and with little or no intervention.

It brought together more than 140 artisan producers from various parts of Spain as well as France, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Georgia, Sweden, United States, Canada and Slovakia. Over the course of two days, they offered all visitors the opportunity to try natural, biodynamic and artisan wines, made using native yeasts, and no chemical products in the vineyard or the winery, unique wines that are an honest reflection of the terroir and the varieties they come from.

Many of these producers also do the important work of recovering the native varieties of each of their “terroirs” and, without neglecting their artisan work, they experiment with different winemaking styles where white and red varieties are no longer kept apart, a revolution that begins with ancient knowledge and is enriched by the passion of these winemakers to find new ways and create new experiences through the things they love and respect so much: the vine and the grape.

Here are three interesting producers that are worth keeping an eye on.

Three natural winemakers that you should take a look at

1. Aldo Viola

Aldo Viola is an interesting Sicilian winemaker who works 16 hectares of vineyards in the Trapani region where he makes his wines with the best grapes from his vineyards and vinifies them using long skin-contact maceration, creating what we know as orange wines.

Aldo Viola y sus vinos naturales en Vella-Terra 2020.

Aldo Viola makes his wines using native varieties with the aim of preserving the identity of the terroir. His wines are a great example of dispelling the myth that natural always means wild and uncontrolled. Aldo Viola’s wines are handmade and complex, but they also express a finesse and elegance that will take away all false assumptions about natural wines. The perfect introduction to this fascinating world of natural wines.

2. Còsmic Vinyaters

Salvador Batlle is a winemaker from another planet who works in two very different parts of CataloniaAgullana in Alt Empordà and La Serra del Montmell, in Baix Penedès. The names of Salvador’s wines are statements of intent that express everything this young producer feels about his land and about nature. Rounded, pure wine, always made with one variety and produced with minimal intervention. Batlle uses techniques like energy cleansing, sacred geometry and sound vibrations to harmonise the space, people and, above all, the wines that start life in these terroirs. In short, this is winemaking filled with good energy and in tune with nature that results in extraordinary and unique wines.

3. Cascina degli Ulivi

Cascina degli Ulivi is the winery belonging to Stefano Bellotti, one of the great names and pioneers in natural viticulture who unfortunately died very recently at just 59 years old. Bellotti was president of the Rennaissance Biodynamic Wine Growers Association, Italy; a humble, wise and approachable winegrower whose legacy and teachings are now in the hands of his daughter Ilaria Bellotti who still works at Cascina degli Ulivi with the same commitment and passion she learned from her father.

Cascina degli Ulivi y sus vinos italianos naturales.

There they work to increase the presence of the Cortes and Dolcetto grapes, making wines that reflect the Piedmont region whilst also trying to revive the area’s native varieties, creating interesting wines that bring out the full expression of their grapes, always using a philosophy of coexistence between agriculture and nature.

But Vella Terra is not just about wine. Some of the artisans were there to exhibit oils, coffees, breads, ciders and craft beers made with the same philosophy that underpins this exhibition: respect for nature and little or no intervention. We hope that the Vella Terra Fair continues to grow year on year, providing this interesting showcase that celebrates all things natural.

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Vinos Off the Record, an unmissable event for any wine lover

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Vinos Off the Record is a “petit comité” exhibition of small producers first held in Barcelona in 2016, and quickly becoming a must for all wine lovers who are looking to discover new products and try wines made by new talent before they become too well known and their small productions are not readily available.

This exhibition is held in Madrid in odd years and Barcelona in even years. This year it was one of the great successes of Barcelona Wine Week held in the Catalonian capital, with a flurry of activities that took place as part the event and drew in this group of extraordinary winemakers whose work is well worth discovering.

This year, 32 small producers from across Spain took part, with some exhibitors from Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.

For us, it is without doubt an event not to be missed because it gives us chance to discover those special, artisan wines that reflect emotions and landscapes, and also gives us chance to stay up-to-date with projects we love and those who are making special wines that we really want you to experience.

As you can imagine, it was a challenge, because the 32 producers all have exceptional wines. From the selection, we have chosen five that we think you should experience.

5 unmissable winemaking projects

1. Bodega Alvar de Dios Hernández

Alvar de Dios comes from a winemaking family and works his own vineyards in Zamora, which lie within the Toro wine region where the Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) variety is the absolute protagonist. Wines made here are usually intense and blunt. Alvar de Dios decided to listen carefully to his vineyards, reviving ancient varieties that are still growing there and breaking with this style of full-bodied wines that are not necessarily to everyone’s taste.

Alvar de Dios

He also works with native white varieties like the Doña Blanca. His white and red wines, are a reflection of the terroir they come from and are full of elegance and subtlety, wines that will change your perception of the Toro region, and that are great for all tastes and occasions.

2. Bodega Barco del Corneta

Beatriz Herranz is the captain of this ship, Barco del Corneta, which offers a pure expression of the Verdejo variety that she inherited from her grandfather and that she works with such care to respect its expressiveness, without dressing it up and making it overly sweet. The vineyards are located in La Seca, Valladolid, more than 700 metres above sea level, where the Verdejo grape expresses itself according to the age of the vines and the soils they grow in. This is a lovely revival project and a sign of respect for the environment and the varieties. They have also revived the Juan García variety, which they use to make a red wine in Arribes del Duero.

Barco del Corneta

3. Bodega La del Terreno

Julia Casado made her way to Bullas, a region she had been told about and that she had fallen in love with because of its altitude, its greenery and how different it is to other wine regions in Murcia. Julia went into a hunter’s bar and said: “I’m looking for vineyards”. Just like that, passionate and direct. What must the people sitting in the bar have thought of this young and determined woman looking for plots to work?

They named her “La del Terreno”, which is also how the Monastrell grape is affectionately known there. She, in turn, gave this name to her first wine, a fresh and smooth, single-variety Monastrell that is full of fruit and with a completely different personality than we have come to expect from this characteristic Murcia grape.

Then came “Ninja de las Uvas”, another name that very much suited Julia Casado and that she uses for her Garnacha made in the land of Monastrell.

La del terreno

Julia Casado also has a musical background, so she puts great importance on finding harmony in her wines.

In short, she is a determined women who works to get the best out of this privileged location she fell in love with in Bullas, and who has turned her land into her trench.

4. Bodega Javier Revert Viticultor

Javier Revert is a young vine grower and winemaker who is part of the Celler del Roure team who decided to revive a plot planted by his great grandfather in 2014. Javier Revert fell in love with this vineyard and settled in the highest area of La Font de la Figuera, in Valencia. From there, he makes interesting wines that come from revived vineyards of the region’s ancient varieties. These are wines with a rustic spirit but with amazing finesse and elegance. His work, both at Celler del Roure and here with his own project is attracting some attention and turning Valencia into a wine region that is worth rediscovering.

Javier Revert viticultores

5. Bodega Verónica Ortega

Verónica Ortega is moving from being a revelation to becoming a reality. This young Cadiz winemaker has an enviable background and experience: she has taken part in grape harvests at Romanée Conti and Domaine du Compte Armand in Burgundy, she has worked with Daphne Glorian and Álvaro Palacios in Priorat, and has even taken part in grape harvests in New Zealand. When you see her in person, before even tasting her wines, the first impression you get is of elegance and self-control, characteristics that are conveyed in the wines she makes in Bierzo where she works with the Mencía and Godello varieties and seeks to obtain maximum expression of the terroir. Sharp, mineral, elegant and characterful wines, where the Burgundy influence is clear; extraordinary, vivid and unmissable wines.

Verónica Ortega

Vinos off the Record is a Lectores Vini initiative and the next event will be held in Madrid in 2021 and Barcelona in 2022. An unmissable event for anyone interested in and passionate about wine

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Barcelona Wine Week

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An opportunity to visit the region and experience the unique characteristics of Spanish wine.

This week we headed to the first Barcelona Wine Week, an event organised by Fira de Barcelona, through Alimentaria Exhibitions, a spin off of the Intervin space that is now separate to the Feria Alimentaria with the aim of providing a place to really showcase Spanish wine and give it centre stage. The hope is that it will become an annual event that draws people from around the world.

The very first Barcelona Wine Week fair has managed to gather more than 500 exhibitors from all over Spain and producers from around 40 Denominations of Origin.

The wine exhibition was divided into sections where you could journey through the #BWWLANDS, a space where producers were grouped by area and the wines were promoted for the specific characteristics of the area they come from.

We also took a look at the Artisan Wine Attraction space, which grouped together independent vineyards; small wineries that work their vineyards to preserve regional identity and with the utmost respect for the local environment.

Women of the winemaking world were also given a prominent place at Barcelona Wine Week. The FABULOUS 50 by Women space gave us the opportunity to try a selection of 50 wines made or promoted by women. An extraordinary free bar with information sheets where you could sample the wines and learn a little more about them and the women behind each fabulous bottle.

The Barcelona Wine Week also had a range of information and training events within the BBWHub space, where we were able to get the latest news on new trends in both technology, like the use of smartphones and applications linked to the sector, consumer habits and the workings and future of online marketing, as well as information on topics like wine tourism, reviving ancient varieties and the effects of climate change. 

There was also the opportunity to learn more about the role of the sommelier, see first-hand how biologically aged wines develop or enjoy the different interactive experiences on offer: tastings accompanied by music and art to enhance the enjoyment wine using different methods.

Wines that surprised us

During the Barcelona Wine Week we were able to meet producers we already knew, see new things and have the chance to try some treasures from the winemaking world like the Tío Pepe Amontillado Cuatro Palmas, by Antonio Flores, winemaker and master blender at Bodegas González ByassThis fortified wine from Jerez was named Best Wine in the World in 2019 by the International Wine Challenge.

We also had the opportunity to try the Don PX Convento Selección 1931, a sweet wine made with the Pedro Ximénez variety by Bodega Toro Albalá in the DO Montilla-Moriles, which has been awarded 98 Parker Points. His 1946 vintage was awarded 100 Parker Points. It is without a doubt, a treasure with a great history and an international reputation.

In short, our time at the Barcelona Wine Week left a great taste in our mouths. The event also had an emphasis on sustainability, a topic that was addressed in different presentations and on different topics, and also played a big part in the organisation of the fair. Organisers chose to use materials like cardboard, paper and glass for better usability and recycling, and the furniture will also be reused for future events.

We want to say a big thank you to all the producers who welcomed and served us so well, and congratulations to everyone involved in the organisation. We look forward to coming back, hopefully next year.

A great success all round!

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Tim Atkin “Rioja Special Report 2020”

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Tim Atkin, the prestigious British Master of Wine, has released his fifth annual ‘Rioja Special Report 2020’. A much-anticipated report where the wine guru not only rates 1,228 Rioja wines, but also gives his opinion on the current landscape in this wine region.

Tim Atkin - Special Report Rioja 2020

Caballero del Vino, Chevalier du Tastevin and member of the Ordre du Bontemps, Tim Atkin is known for his long career as a wine journalist. With a deep love for Spanish wines, he has visited the country many times and he knows the Rioja region better than almost anyone else. So much so, that five years ago, he decided to create the Atkin list of the best Rioja wines. An annual report where wines are rated using the Bordeaux system, with five different categories and including a wide range of producers: modern, traditional, large, small, new and established. Bearing in mind that 85-89 points is a bronze medal, 90-94 a silver medal and 95-100 a gold medal, this year’s ‘Rioja Special Report 2020’ is a good one. Of the 1,228 wines Mr Atkins tried, 106 have been awarded 95 points or more.

The future of Rioja: zoning, typicity and something new in the air

In his report, Atkin explains in more depth. From his point of view, issues like climate change, the stagnation of the Regulatory Council and the expectations of a new and more demanding consumer, all call for change.

Looking beyond the three sub-regions

The Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin has traditionally been divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta (27,870 ha), Rioja Baja (25,191 ha) and Rioja Alavesa (13,178 ha). However, Atkin believes that this division is limited to soils and geology and does not work when talking about terroirs. The reality is that climate change is having an effect and the vineyards in Rioja are becoming more varied in terms of appearance, altitude and typology. Classifying them into three simple zones is not enough. An example of this drive for change is the new single-plot wines with specific zoning that goes beyond the administrative areas.

Garnacha, the new star of the show

If there is one thing Rioja wines are known for, it is the Tempranillo grape variety. That is because some areas produce wines using this variety that have made a name for themselves around the world. However, this does not mean it has to be the main variety across the entire D.O.Ca. According to the English wine guru, it is time to open the doors to new varieties that are currently not recognised by the Regulatory Council and that are perfectly suited to the environment. In his opening statement, Atkin puts his money on Garnacha as the future leading variety in Rioja, because it is as diverse as Tempranillo but with an unrivalled ability to adapt to the hotter and drier conditions caused by climate change.  

Something new in the air

Finally, when it comes to the winemaking story, there is more to be said. Although wood and Rioja seem to go hand in hand, there are many producers who are committed to using other methods where generic wine is all the rage. As Atkin explains, new generations bring changes and although they may clash with the traditional rules in the D.O.Ca, they exist to make the best wines and bring a richness and splendour to Rioja. These are changes that all wineries must get on board with, the large ones but also the medium and small ones, because without those latter two categories, Rioja will be in danger of moving from a wine region to a wine industry.

5 recommendations from Atkin’s Rioja Report 2020

1- Artuke La Condenada 2017 red wine (98 points)

A Grand Cru Rioja

This red wine comes from a small but magnificent one-hectare plot that has been revived from almost nothing. Typical Rioja varieties like Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and other white varieties provide the background and shape to a wine that stands out for its balance, elegance and vivacity. A great Gran Cru from the beautiful Rioja

2- Rioja Alta 890 Selección Especial Gran Reserva 2005 red wine (98 points)

A reward for patience

A great selection from the winery’s oldest plots that have created an outstanding wine. A mixture of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo varieties that spends exactly 72 hours in American barrels. A complex, aromatic wine that is incredibly persistent, the result of passing time. 

3- Reserva Viña Ardanza 2010 red wine (95 points)

A spectacular vintage

2010 was a very good year for Rioja and that is clear to see in this wine from a Rioja Alta winery. If you are passionate about the Rioja style, you are sure to fall in love with this wine. It is a classic, made with Tempranillo and Garnacha, which gives it the perfect combination of American oak and fresh fruit

4- Gomez Cruzado Montes Obarenes 2016 white wine (95 points)

The result of typicity

The Tempranillo Blanco and Viura varieties in this white wine come from a single plot with clay-calcareous soils with a high limestone content, influenced by the Obarenes Mountains. In the winery it ferments and ages in a combination of French oak barrels and concrete eggs. The result is a very rich, intense and deeply mineral wine.

 5- Marqués de Murrieta Capellanía Reserva 2015 white wine (96 points)

Wonderfully elegant

Made by one of Spain’s oldest wineries, this wine comes from 70-year-old vines planted at 485 metres above sea level. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in new French wood, it presents elegant citrus notes, spicy touches and a saline, mineral and very elegant palate.

Now that we have given you all the latest on what is happening now and what is to come, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy all the Rioja wines rated by Atkin. Rioja is a region that still has plenty to say. Enjoy!

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Seductive Pedro Ximénez sweet wine

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We know that Pedro Ximénez are responsible for some of the most captivating and long-lived sweet wines in the world, but behind this name there are stories, legends and other curious facts. Let’s find out a little more about this seductive sweet wine.

Pedro Ximénez, a very Andalusian German

As well as being a man’s name, Pedro Ximénez is the name of a white grape variety with significant presence in Andalusia but which can also be found in other enclaves, even outside Spain such as Portugal, Australia or Chile.

Among the stories and legends about its origin that of a German soldier from the Flanders regiment stands out. In the 16th century, he travelled from Germany to southern Spain carrying a vine in his backpack that matched a native variety of his land, perhaps the Riesling or Elbling grape, which apparently loved the southern climate and thus found a new home.

By making the name of this German soldier Spanish, the present name of the Pedro (Peter) Ximénez (Siemens) variety was derived, retaining the “x” spelling, which was commonly used at that time. This strain is also known as Alamis or Pedro Ximén or by its initials PX.

Years later, with DNA analysis of the variety, this romantic legend about the German origin of Pedro Ximénez and his relationship with the Riesling grape fell apart. It’s more related to the gibi variety which is said to come from Al-Andalus and introduced there by the Arabs.

We usually use the name Pedro Ximénez, or its initials PX, to refer to a style of known sweet wines which, inadvertently due to their fame, have adopted the name of the variety they are made with to name the resulting wines. That is to say, Pedro Ximénez is the name of the vine these sweet delights are made from, but is not in itself the name of the wine; something similar happens with sweet wines made with muscat grapes.

What is the Pedro Ximénez grape like?

As we’ve already mentioned, Pedro Ximénez is a white variety of large grapes with high sugar content, a quality which has allowed it to be the protagonist of sweet wines of excellent quality which are usually made by the process of “sunning” prior to vinification, which consists of exposing freshly harvested grapes to the sun to dry them and thus increase the grapes’ sugar concentration. This variety has a fine skin which is very favorable for carrying out this procedure.

What are their wines like?

The Pedro Ximénez variety is the queen of the Montilla-Moriles Denomination in Córdoba, Spain, where besides being used to make some of the longest-lasting, best known and award-winning sweet wines in the world, they’re also used to make white wines and fortified wines similar to those made with the Palomino variety at Marco de Jerez, under a veil flower and with the dynamic maturation system at soleras and criaderas.

In Jerez, the Pedro Ximénez grape has an important presence in vineyards. There, it’s usually used for the production of fortified liquor wines which are created by fortifying or combining fortified wines with naturally sweet wines which result in wines with varying degrees of sweetness, but always with an amount of residual sugar exceeding 5 grams per litre. The best known are the Pale Cream, Medium and Cream.

Naturally sweet wines are also made with the Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez varieties which, as we’ve already mentioned, are made by “sunning” the bunches from which, after pressing, musts with an extraordinary concentration of sugar and a certain level of colouring are obtained, the fermentation of which stops with the addition of wine alcohol.

The Regulatory Board of the Denomination of Origin Jerez-Xérès-Sherry created two special categories to certify the age of true oenological jewels such as long-aged wines. Therefore, if on any label you see the acronym VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum or Very Old Sherry) it means that this wine is at least 20 years old. And if the acronym VORS (Vinum Optimum Rarum Signatum or Very Old Rare Sherry) appears, it means that this bottle contains a wine of at least thirty years old.

It’s very possible that some of these wines which go through the system of Soleras and Criaderas have a proportion of wines which come from centenary Soleras. That said, they’re all historical gems of world oenology!

On the contrary, if someone offers you a wine of this denomination assuring you that it’s vintage, don’t believe them if it isn’t certified with one of these labels on the bottle.

What do these sweet PX wines have that seduces?

They’re perhaps the sweetest wines we can find in the world, but at the same time they’re of a very interesting complexity and intensity.

Despite their sweetness, we can find much freshness and harmony in them because the “sunning” procedure they are made with concentrates sugars but also the natural acidity of the grape, which is why they’re so surprising and capable of creating legendary contrasts.

They are ebony in colour, almost black, with iodine reflections, ample free-run juice and considerable density.

They offer sweet aromas which remind us of raisins, figs or dried dates, accompanied by notes of honey, rice and candied fruits or compote and, as they age, they become even more complex offering an aromatic palette of toasted notes, chocolate or liquorice.

In the mouth, they caress our palate with their velvety and smooth texture and enter with a sweet power that is reduced by the expression of acidity, some may even offer us a subtle saline hint. They’re a warm embrace of flavoursome and practically everlasting finish.

These wines are a dessert in themselves. If you want to die of love, try them slightly chilled, between 12 and 14º, if they are old vintages. Younger ones you can try cold, even.

Sweet PXs are an excellent tool of seduction because they go wonderfully with high-intensity blue cheeses or slightly bitter chocolate-based desserts, ideal combinations to surprise.

We bet that no one can resist trying a chocolate or vanilla ice cream, for example, bathed in a delicious and dense sweet Pedro Ximénez wine and who wouldn’t melt if they started with breakfast in bed consisting of hot pancakes, which instead of syrup are covered in a tempting sweet PX! What a temptation!

Can Pedro Ximénez wines be served with aperitives, rice or fish?

Of course!

Remember that, although this variety is best known for its extraordinary sweet wines, white wines and dry fortified wines are also made with it, which are perfect companions for aperitives, rice dishes and all kinds of fish and seafood.

Everything that can have a characteristic aromatic strength; don’t expect these wines to be sweet or semi-sweet. Some may be even drier than you imagine.

Monovarietal white wines from Pedro Ximénez are also produced in some areas outside Andalusia or in coupages with local varieties such as in the Priorat region where you can find dry whites, with a mineral note and much elegance.

And, speaking of aperitifs, vermouth is also made with base wines of the Pedro Ximénez variety, another great way to approach this very versatile grape. The Pedro Ximénez variety certainly seduces its all its versions!

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Vinho Verde, one of the freshest DOCs

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You might think we are talking about green-coloured wine, but Vinho Verde is actually a Controlled Denomination of Origin in northwestern Portugal known for its young, fresh and pungent acidic wines.

It is likely you have heard of Vinho Verde on various occasions. But do you really know what it is? Contrary to what you might think, Vinho Verde is not about a type of grape, or a wine colour. There is much more to these aromatic, light, fresh and low-alcohol wines.

7 characteristics of Vinho Verde

1- Made in Portugal

Vinho Verde, translated as green wine, is the name of a Controlled Designation of Origin that was created in 1984 to classify Portuguese wines that are produced along the entire Costa Verde, specifically, in the area between the Valley of Cambra and the Miño river, in the northwest of the country. This is a wine region dominated by the Atlantic that, because of both the climate and the geographical characteristics, is perfect for producing white, rosé, red, sparkling and even distilled wines. However, this DOC is mostly famous for its white wine which is dry, lively and young.

2- Atlantic freshness 

If the DOC Vinho Verde wines are known for something, it is their high acidity, an essential ingredient to achieving the freshness and lightness that is so typical of these Portuguese wines. Another thing is the taste, which is determined by the grape variety that is used to make it. Whites are usually made with Alvarinho, Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal. Reds are usually made with Binhao, Borraçal and Amaral and rosés are most often made with the Espadeiro and Padeiro native varieties. These are all local varieties that, thanks to the Atlantic climate, have a good balance between acidity and sugar for vinification.

3- A touch of sparkle

Another characteristic of the wines from this Portuguese denomination is the presence of carbon. Some producers make the wine through malolactic fermentation in the bottle itself. As a consequence, a natural carbonic gas is emitted that gives the wine a sparkling touch, which is why is it bottled into dark or opaque bottles to avoid showing its cloudy appearance. However, not all producers in this denomination follow this practice, only those who want the wine to have a sharp touch.

4- Young but mature

At this point, we hope it is clear that Vinho Verde is not a grape variety, nor does it refer to the colour of the wine. The origin of the name is actually quite controversial. Some think the name comes from the area’s lush vegetation, others think it describes the recommendation to drink this type of young and fresh wine. Finally, there are those who think that Vinho Verde refers to its short aging. However, this does not mean the grapes are unripe, just that, unlike other denominations that allow the berry to overripe to obtain the maximum sugar, the DOC Vinho Verde producers harvest at just the right time. 

5- Low alcohol

The Atlantic climate, characterised by its mild temperatures, is perfect for making a wine that has good acidity as well as a low alcohol content. This characteristic makes it an easy-to-drink wine that is perfect for drinking cold, especially on hot days. However, not all wines from this Portuguese region have the same percentage, it all depends on the variety and the subregion they come from. While white wines usually range between 8.5 and 11% alcohol volume, there are reds and rosés with a higher alcohol content of between 11 and 14%. 

6- Good value for money

The DOC Vinho Verde is divided into different sub-regions: Amarante, Ave, Baião, Basto, Cávado, Lima, Monção, Paiva and Sousa, and the wines are great value for money. And that is where its success comes from. There are currently 22,000 winemakers working around 21,000 hectares of vineyards to produce more than 85 million litres per year. And they are not just enjoyed by the Portuguese. The unique qualities of this type of wine have not gone unnoticed around the world because they are perfect for those who prefer wines with a low alcohol content and that are not too expensive. And that is probably why, after port, it is Portugal’s most exported wine.

7- To go with snacks and much more

Young, sharp and very refreshing, Vinho Verde wines are the perfect accompaniment for all kinds of snacks. Also, having a low percentage and fewer calories, they go with any light foods like salads, tapas, vegetarian dishes, seafood, sushi or white meat. However, being an easy to drink wine does not mean it is uninteresting. After a light sip, layers of minerality appear from the region’s granitic soils. In conclusion, it is an extremely versatile wine that is perfect for modern life. 

Now that you know a little more about the Vinho Verde Controlled Designation of Origin and its wines, take a look around Decántalo and choose the ones you like most. We are sure you will love them…

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What does a wine with 100 Parker points taste like?

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You will almost definitely recognise the name, it is likely you have come across wines that have been judged by him. Robert Parker with his ratings, has become one of the most important figures in the winemaking world; you might have gone looking for his ratings or looked for a sticker on a bottle of wine showing his score to decide whether or not to buy a particular wine, but…

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Who is Robert Parker?

Robert McDowell Parker Jr. is an American lawyer with a passion for wine who, while still a law student, went on a summer trip to Alsace to visit his then girlfriend and now wife and discovered the wonderful world of wine. He fell in love in this place, where he found a broader wine culture than existed in the United States at that time, where consumers had little or no information and were confused when it came to choosing wines. There was also no familiarity with classifications.

In 1975, Parker started writing a wine guide where he tried to act as “a lawyer for the consumer”, adding his personal notes and assessments and creating the famous scoring system that is still in use today and that saw him become the most influential wine critic in the world. And that is how The Wine Advocate was born. It is also often known as “The Parker Guide”. The publication has been so successful that there is currently a group of specialist tasters who work for it by testing wines around the world, from every possible region and style.

Robert Parker Jr. announced his formal retirement from “The Wine Advocate” in May 2019.

How does the scoring system created by Robert Parker work?

This prestigious publication’s tasters use a scale that goes from 50 to 100 Parker points to rate the wines, and we will try and give you a simple explanation:

96-100: extraordinary wines that might even be difficult to find.

90-95: great wines that are complex and full of character.

80-89: good wines with characteristics that put them above average.

70-79: technically correct, simple wines, with little to set them apart and perhaps some imperfections.

60-69: below average wines, with imperfections.

50-59: wines considered to be unacceptable, with defects.

Is a wine with 100 Parker Points expensive or unattainable?

Not necessarily. There are many more questions we could ask here, before giving a simple answer. For example, what is an expensive wine?

To make wine of the highest quality, you need excellent ingredients as the starting point. Many great wines come from very low production vineyards that are located in areas machinery cannot reach; beautiful landscapes but where heroic, risky, dangerous harvests take place. Many of these wines may have had to go through years of aging and years of resting in the winery to reach the extraordinary quality they have when the cork finally comes out. They are wines made through patience and hard work. These wines are both unique, and very exciting. How can you put a price on all of that?

It is important to note that the price does not necessarily mean a high score because there are so many factors involved in the rating. There are wines that have more than 90 Parker Points and are excellent value for money. Just as Parker’s ratings have ruined the reputation of some of the most expensive and sought-after wines in the world, they have also surprised people by awarding high scores to wines that sell for no more than 20 dollars.

What does a wine with 100 Parker points taste like?

Keep reading to find out what our top 5 Spanish wines with 100 Parker points are so you can pick out and enjoy the experience of trying wines that have impressed the experienced tasters from this famous publication.

1. Don PX Convento Selección

A wine with history.

It is hard to believe that to drink this nectar is to enjoy the produce of Pedro Ximénez grapes that were harvested and dehydrated under the sun in the middle of World War II. Bottled in September 2011, this is a concentrated and very complex wine that is full of umami. A sweet, balanced and smooth wine on the palate, with saline nuances, great elegance and plenty of extraordinary life left in it. A fortified wine that will be around for eternity!

2. Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Blanco 1986

For those who say that white wines can’t age.

Luis Gutiérrez, an experienced taster for “The Wine Advocate” says that “Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Blanco is one of the best white wines ever made in Spain”. This wine, from the 1986 vintage, went on the market in 1995 but most of it stayed in oak barrels for 21 years followed by six more years in cement deposits before being bottled. An extraordinary wine made with the Viura (Macabeo) and Malvasía Riojana (also known as Alarije) varieties. A wine with a powerful and elegant palate. In short, it is perfect!

3. Clos Erasmus 2013

Pure rock and roll

Daphne Glorian was born in Paris, grew up in Bern and fell in love with Priorat. In 1988, she met René Barbier and Álvaro Palacios and formed a team. She was the only woman in the famous “magnificent 5”, along with Josep Lluís Pérez and Carles Pastrana. They all played their part in reviving this designation of origin. And that is where this spectacular Erasmus Clos wine comes from. It was made in collaboration with the renowned winemaker Ester Nin with her 2004 vintage and was the first in Spain to be awarded 100 Parker points, followed by the 2005 vintage receiving the same score. So it seems right that this is considered one of the most valued wines in the world. An elegant treasure from Priorat!

4. Pingus 2016

Duero purity

Peter Sisseck, a Danish agronomist and founder of Dominio de Pingus described this as a perfect wine! And Luis Gutiérrez, Spanish wine taster for “The Wine Advocate”, says the same. He sampled this extraordinary wine while it was still in the barrel and where it was already showing qualities that placed it among the best, if not the best “Pingus” made to date. A precise, elegant wine, which despite its youth has an impeccable integration of oak and is overflowing with purity and freshness.

5. Rumbo al Norte 2016

…to infinity and beyond.

For some time now, the Comando G team have been revolutionising the wine world, mostly through the subtlety and elegance of their GarnachasRumbo al Norte is a limited production wine that gets people talking. This is an almost magical wine that is powerful and balanced with a mineral touch that expresses the Sierra de Gredos landscape it comes from. Tasters from “The Wine Advocate” predict that this wine has great bottle-aging potential.

Comando G: “G” for Garnacha, Gredos, Granito and even Glory!

But wine lovers don’t just live off wines with 100 Parker Points

Why not have a look at our selection of wines with Parker points. You will be surprised by the range of quality wines with high scores that are not difficult to get your hands on! =)

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Tempranillo, the great Spanish ambassador

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Tempranillo is the fourth most planted grape in the world and the most common red variety in Spain. It is known as the grape of a thousand wines because it grows in many different regions and the resulting wines are different everywhere.

Thought of as one of the 9 noble red grapes, Tempranillo is the most prevalent grape in many parts of Spain. This is especially true in the  D.O.Ca. Rioja, the first region in the country to gain national and international recognition with this variety. 38 denominations of origin now use it, and it is the main grape in 14 of those. Although it can be used for single-variety wines, it is more commonly used as the predominant grape in coupages. In Ribera de Duero, for example, the Regulatory Council states that 75% of a wine must be Tempranillo to be labelled under this designation of origin.

7 facts about the Tempranillo variety

1- Where does the Tempranillo grape grow?

If there is one thing this variety likes, it is temperature contrasts. It needs both low temperatures for optimum acidity and warmth to guarantee intensity in the fruit and high levels of sugar. That means the best Tempranillo wines come from grapes grown in areas with high levels of sun during the day and very low temperatures during the night. And these characteristics are both typical of the continental Mediterranean climate.

Because of this, in Spain, you will find a high number of these vines in the Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Catalayud, Cigales, La Mancha, Somontano, Valdepeñas, Costers del Segre and Conca de Barberà Denominations. Outside Spain, this variety is mostly grown in Portugal, France, Argentina and the United States.

2- What does the Tempranillo grape look like?

One of the main characteristics of the Tempranillo grape is that it has a short cycle, budding in the middle of the season and ripening early. Hence the name Tempranillo. The clusters, once ripe, are large, compact and uniform. The berries are bluish black, with thick skin and colourless, juicy and very meaty pulp. And those characteristics are perfect for making medium-bodied red wines that will go with everything.

3- What are Tempranillo wines like?

Because this popular variety is so versatile, it can be used to make both young wines as well as reservas and gran reservas. These are fruity reds with herbaceous and floral touches in the young wines and spicy, woody notes in the aged wines. In general, these might be Tempranillo’s main traits, but the truth is that each wine is unique. Significant factors like where the grape grows and the winemaking process mean the possibilities are endless. 

4- The grape of a thousand wines

Tempranillo is a native grape that grows in many places around the world, but in each place it is slightly different, even in name. There are currently more than 15 different names, each of them producing wines with different nuances. To give you a few examples, in Rioja it’s known as Tempranillo, in Ribera de Duero it’s Tinto Fino or Tinto del País, in Zamora it’s Tinta de Toro, in Catalonia it’s Ull de Llebre, in Galicia it’s Arauxa, in La Mancha it’s Cencibel, in Portugal it’s Tinta Roriz, in France it’s Grenache de Logroño and in the USA it’s Valdepeñas.    

5- Tempranillo around the world

Although almost all international varieties traditionally came from France, this native Spanish variety is crossing borders around the world. Being a versatile variety that adapts well to different cultivation methods and creates a wide variety of wine styles, Tempranillo is increasingly common in places as diverse as California, Chile, Argentina and particularly the New World. 

6- The white version of Tempranillo

The Tempranillo variety is already well-known around the world, but one of its variants is not quite as famous. We’re talking about Tempranillo Blanca. Just like with Garnacha Blanca that came from Garnacha Tinta and Pinot Grigio that came from Pinot Noir, Tempranillo Blanca is the result of a natural mutation that occurred in a strain of red Tempranillo in 1988 in an old vineyard in the Rioja town of Murillo del Río Leza. It is a genetic variation through albinism that is very rare but completely natural. As a result, it is now the second most planted white variety in the Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin.

7- Perfect pairings for Tempranillo 

Wines mostly made with the Tempranillo variety are the most versatile. They are structured in colour, sugar and acidity and are great for pairing. Of course, each wine has some particularly good pairings. Young wines with a great fruity character and persistence go extremely well with traditional dishes like roasts, poultry, red meats and serrano ham. But if the wines are aged, this variety sits much better alongside heavier dishes. Seasoned stews or a game stew would be a good choice. But whatever your tastes, whether you like meat, fish, cheese or desserts, when it comes to pairing, you just need to remember not to lose the flavours of either the food or the wine. The secret is to find the right combination so that you still get the most out of both. One pairing rule that almost always works is to combine dishes with wines from the same region.

Now you know a bit more about one of the most famous grape varieties in the world, you will need to go and try every style of Tempranillo. We can guarantee you will never run out of things to try…

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