Halloween: a night to enjoy sweet wines

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Halloween is a modern celebration known all around the world. It is celebrated everywhere on the night of October 31 and, although it is mainly a feature of English-speaking countries, it has been catching on all over Europe and Latin America. There’s one part of this celebration that only happens on this one day every year that children particularly love: “Trick or treat”Children dress up and go from door to door asking for a treat, ending up with bags full of sweets from their neighbours. When they get home, all that’s left to do is enjoy what they’ve collected. What better excuse for the adults to have a bit of extra sugar by opening a nice sweet wine and pair it with their favourite desserts or dishes.

A sweet wine is a delicious speciality of the winemaking world that contains over 45 grams of sugar per litre. This sugar can be from the sweetness of the grape itself or by using special production methods. At Decántalo, we have a wide range of sweet wines from Spain, Germany, France, Hungary and more, to give you plenty of choice. However, when we think of sweet wines we shouldn’t just associate them with dessert. These wines are also great for pairing with a varied dishes like foie gras, cold meats, blue cheese and nuts. To get you started, here are five of our top recommendations. Five sweet wines that are perfect for opening on one of the most magical nights of the year. So, if you have the chance, make sure you try them and tell us what you think!

Sweet wines to die for

Disznókö Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2010

Made from grapes affected by botrytis cinerea (also known as aszú), Hungarian sweet wines from the Tokaj region are popular around the world. One of nature’s works of art where the amount of sugar is identified by the number of puttonyos (baskets of botrytis affected berries) the wine is made with. The more puttonyos, the sweeter the wine. The hundred-year-old Disznókö winery, classified as “Premier Cru”, has produced this 5 puttonyos wine that is sweet and fresh in equal parts. A delightful wine with an incredible aging potential.

Château Rieussec 2011

From within the Bordeaux wine region comes the Sauternes French sweet wine. This wine, like the Tokaji, is made with grapes affected by botrytis cinerea or noble rot. This Château Rieussec wine comes from a Premier Grand Cru owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild. The key to this wine is the ripeness of the grapes, and the harvest, which is entirely manual, can easily last between 6 and 8 weeks. As a result, they produce this sweet wine with great aromatic complexity and elegance that it gets from its long aging in oak barrels. Class and freshness in a glass.

Kracher Auslese Cuvée 2017

One of the main producers of Austrian sweet wines made with the special “noble rot”, Alois Kracher and then his son Gehrard have gained a great reputation around the world with their fantastic wines. Sweet noble wines that are made under the direct influence of Lake Neusiedl, in the Burgenland wine region. Hot summers and cold winters cause the lake to evaporate, creating fogs that encourage the development of botrytis fungus. Made with the Chardonnay and Weischriesling varieties, these wines are characterised by a succulent elegance and well-integrated acidity. Noble and exuberant sweetness.

East India Solera 1996

This sweet wine made with the Palomino and Pedro Ximénez varieties is one of the great icons of Lustau. This wine has a present but moderate sweetness with 140 grams of residual sugar. It undergoes an oxidative aging process in soleras and criaderas, mirroring the aging process that took place on transatlantic voyages in the seventeenth century. Power, complexity and freshness from one of the leading wineries in the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry.

Ekam Essència 2015

In Castell d’Encús, a winery situated in one of Spain’s highest points, 1,000 metres above sea level, the prestigious winemaker Raül Bobet makes this sweet wine in the Catalan Pyrenees within the D.O. Costers de Segre in the style of German Riesling wines. This is a very small production made from botrytis-infected grapes, with a high percentage of sugar, fruit acids and mineral touches. These characteristics combined with a 36-month bottle aging before being sold, result in a rare wine not to be missed. 

If you love sweet wines, it’s likely you’ve tried a few of these recommendations or have at least heard of them. On the other hand, if you’re not usually a fan of this type of wine, well, now is the perfect opportunity to give them another try. So, how about it? Trick or wine?

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International Champagne Day, a sparkling celebration

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International Champagne Day is celebrated every year on the penultimate Friday in October. This is a celebration to honour the best known sparkling wine in the world. However, not all sparkling wines are champagne. Champagne is actually a legal Denomination of Origin that was established on July 22, 1927 and can only include wines made in the Champagne production region (France) in the areas of Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et -Marne. There are a total of 319 Crus of which 17 are Grand Cru and 44 Premier Cru. As well as that, only three varieties can be used in its production: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. There is a whole world of champagnes to discover and toast with.

How did #ChampagneDay start?

Although champagne is born and made only in the Champagne region of France, #ChampagneDay actually started in 2009, in the US, with Chris Oggenfuss, a North American wine expert blogger who wanted to create a global online event to share a celebration with all champagne lovers. Now, on the 11th International Champagne Day, the event has grown exponentially both on Twitter and Instagram and not only involves a toast with a global community of over 30 million champagne lovers, but has also become an opportunity to educate consumers about the uniqueness of champagne and the importance of protecting its Denomination of Origin. 

How should we enjoy champagne?

If you want to celebrate International Champagne Day properly, there are a number of rules to follow. Without these, you will not be able to properly appreciate the excellence of a good champagne. So we suggest you follow these tips before you begin your toast.

Make sure it is cold

Serving champagne at the right temperature is vitally important. Too high a temperature creates too much foam, hinders the uncorking and hides the nuances of the wine. Likewise, too low a temperature reduces the bubbles and directly affects how you experience it. In order to appreciate the aroma, flavour and structure, experts advise serving sparkling wine between 8ºC and 10ºC.  However, the most aged champagnes should be taken out of the fridge about 15 minutes before opening to appreciate their complexity of aromas. 

Uncork carefully

To open champagne like a true professional, you must hold the bottle by the body, and not by the neck, with one hand, tilt it about 45 degrees and uncork with the other hand turning the bottle, not the cork, little by little. You should also remember that although everyone loves the noise of the cork popping, it should actually be removed gently and quietly. It is much more elegant. 

Serve it in a suitable glass 

The glass you serve champagne in is also very important. Just as fashion evolves, so has the design of glasses. Until the 70s the Pompadour glass, characterised by being very open, was the only glass to use. It made it possible to drink more quickly and the slightly closed edges stopped the contents from spilling. In the 80s the flute glass was all the rage. Its elongated and narrow shape is perfect for watching the bubbles rise to the surface and it prevents the concentration of aromas. However, nowadays none of these glasses are considered the best for enjoying champagne. The best glass is the tulip glass, wide in the centre and slightly narrow at the edge, giving you a better experience of the flavours and aromas. If you don’t have a tulip glass, a white wine glass also works. Although it will lose more carbon, the aromas will be perfectly in tact. 

Pour just enough

Finally, to avoid the typical overflowing of the champagne foam, it is best serve the champagne in two stages. Firstly, pour a small amount into the glass and wait a few seconds for the foam to settle. Then top up the glass to two-thirds full. All you need to do now is toast. 

10 recommendations for toasting to International Champagne Day

1- Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée

A very special cuvée and the hallmark of one of the most important Champagne houses. Fine and deep, this champagne is made exclusively from Premiers and Grands Crus. 

2- Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

Made from a blend of almost 50 different top quality wines, this sparkling wine showcases the most sophisticated side of this legendary winery. Structure, freshness and delicious aromatic complexity.

3- Dom Perignon Vintage

Dom Perignon is the father of champagne and the spirit that represents the Möet & Chandon winery, one of the most sought-after brands in the world. This exclusive champagne of the best vintages is made in his honour. 

4- Krug Vintage 2006

Taking into account that 1998 was an exceptional vintage, this champagne is made only with a selection of wines from this year and fermented in barrels. This has resulted in a very seductive champagne with intense and sweet freshness.

5- Louis Roederer Cristal

Directly commissioned by Tsar Alexander II, this delicious cuvée is the most famous wine from the prestigious Louis Roederer winery. A fresh and powerful champagne that is a symbol of luxury and magnitude in both presentation and content. 

6- Jaques Lassigne Les Vignes de Mountgueux Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs

Located on the “Montrachet de Champagne” hill, the greatlittle Jacques Lassaigne maison is a landmark in the Montgueux area. Their organic champagne is delicate and deliciously mineral. 

7- Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature

Avoiding the excesses of modernity and working according to organic and biodynamic principles, Thierry and Christian Laherte produce this very aromatic Champagne sparkling wine that is full of minerality. 

8- Bérêche & Fils Brut Reserve

A hundred-year-old family winery, Bérêche & Fils is committed to a meticulous and minimal intervention process in all of their wines. This ample, meaty and supremely elegant champagne is a great example of this. 

9- Voutte & Sorbée Fidèle

“Nothing chemical, nothing synthetic, only life” is the motto of Bertrand Gautherot, one of the most renowned winemakers in the Côte des Bar. This champagne is for lovers of purity. It is not filtered or clarified and contains very low levels of sulphur. No dosage is added.

10- Georges Laval Garennes Extra Brut 

Made through biodynamic viticulture, this champagne is a direct reflection of the environment it comes from, in the heart of Champagne and is made by viticulturist George Laval.  A complex sparkling wine that is elegant and full of freshness. 

As you can see, we have tried to show you a wide selection. Wines from large, prestigious wineries as well as small winegrowers who have recently stood out for their meticulous work and minimal intervention. So now you just have to choose one and toast to #ChampagneDay.

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Terra Alta Garnachas, some of the best in the world

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The Garnacha variety originates on the Iberian peninsula and grows all around the winemaking world. In all the places Garnacha is grown, it is known and loved. 

Grenache, Garnacha, Garnatxa, Cannonau, Lledoner and Vernatxa are just some of the names this variety goes by, depending on the area the grapes grow. It also comes in red, white, grey, hairy, and many other forms. This rich variety results in versatile and highly appreciated wines, especially centred around one region that is worth highlighting: the Terra Alta Denomination of Origin. In this region, the Garnacha variety reigns supreme and it is home to some of the best known and most highly prized wines in the world. 

The Terra Alta Denomination of Origin is located in the south of Catalonia, between the Ebro river and the border with Aragon, which is considered to be the birthplace of Garnacha in Spain. This Denomination of Origin has soils that are rich in limestone and poor in organic matter and a predominantly Mediterranean climate, but with a great continental influence because of the cold winters. One of the unique features of Terra Alta is the perfect balance between its two dominant winds: the Cierzo, which comes from the northwest, and the Garbinada, a warm wind from the south. 

In 2013, the Interprofessional Council of Roussillon wines created the Grenaches du Monde competition dedicated exclusively to this grape, the Garnacha, with the aim of promoting quality wines made with any Garnacha variety in the world to increase consumption and encourage customers to choose Garnacha wines with a label that reveals their quality. 

This competition has also helped promote the extraordinary quality of Garnacha wines from the DO Terra Alta, which have a strong representation year after year as well as occupying an impressive position in the medal table, at the same level as other great Garnacha producers like the Aragon region in Spain and the Roussillon region in France

If you have never tried the extraordinary Garnacha wines from the DO Terra Alta, then here is a small but representative selection of tasty and elegant wines with extraordinary value for money. These are wines worth trying, enjoying and sharing. What do you think? 

4 unmissable Terra Alta wines 

LaFou El Sender 

Although it is not a single-variety Garnacha, this variety is the dominant grape in the coupage and is complemented by a small amount of the Syrah grape and the Morenillo variety, which is native to the area. LaFou El Sender is a fresh, round, tasty red wine and a clear example of what extraordinary value for money really means. Not to be missed! 

Señora Carmen 

Vins del Tros is a young winery run by two childhood friends with a passion for wine. Since 2009, they have been working with the aim of promoting Terra Alta’s native varieties at their best. Señora Carmen is a red wine that they are delighted with. A single-variety, aged Garnacha Tinta that is always highly regarded and recently named the best red wine in Catalonia. Do you want to try it?  

Bàrbara Forés Abrisa’t 

A vi brisat is a traditional Terra Alta production that involves making white wines through a process similar to red wines, where the must remains in contact with the grape skins. Wines made like this are currently known as orange wines. Bàrbara Forés has recovered this traditional method to produce the most elegant white wine using skin-contact maceration. Bàrbara Forés Abrisa’t is a surprising white wine: voluminous, fresh and well structured. A true gem! 

Herència Altés La Serra Blanc 

Herència Altés is a young winery that was set up in 2010 with Núria Altés working to continue the family winemaking legacy, but creating a careful and elegant style, a style that is clear to see in each and every wine made here. The Herència Altés La Serra Blanc wine showcases the Garnacha Blanca variety in all its splendour and is only made in the best vintages. A long, complex white wine with a delicious concentration of white fruit. The elegance! 

This is just a small sample of the Garnacha wines from Terra Alta, a denomination of origin making wines you are sure to fall in love with, whether they are made with the Garnacha variety or not.

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From bag in box to keykeg. New ways of packaging wine

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Creativity is everywhere and the wine industry is certainly no exception. We have gone from the ancient system of packaging and transporting wine in amphorae, from the romantic image of uncorking a bottle which has left its mark over the years, to the creation of new ways to transport and drink wine, which some people love and others hate. 

bag in box wines

So here are a few examples of some of the new and original ways people have come up with for transporting, selling and drinking wine. Some wine packaging and distribution trends have been accepted and are now in use and others, thankfully or unfortunately, have been forgotten. 

4 unusual wine packaging ideas Wine in a can 

We don’t really need to say much more about wine in a can. The can is the same as is used for beers and carbonated or energy drinks and is aimed mainly at young audiences, the millennial generation. This style seems to have caused a clash between generations and, like everything, it has its fans and its haters. Wine in a can is obviously trying to make wine culture more accessible and casual for a younger audience. In the United States, wine in a can has exploded in popularity, which means that, despite the negative comments, this trend is probably here to stay. 

Bag in Box

As the name suggests, this format involves a bag within a box. This curious container was designed to revolutionise the way we preserve and serve wine without waste. The container has a multilayer polyethylene or aluminum bag with a valve that acts as a tap integrated into the bag itself. This bag is placed inside a special box with space for the tap to sit outside, making serving wine as convenient and clean as possible. The liquid sits in a material that does not affect its organoleptic properties and does not allow any oxygen in, so it is much better preserved. The bag in box is a practical system and great value for money, which makes it accessible for every budget. 


“Wine is a delicate drink and deserves the best possible protection.” This premise is the focus of those behind the keykeg, an innovative PET (polyethylene) barrel with a laminated aluminum bag inside, similar to the one used in the bag in box system. This helps better preserve the quality of the wine, still or sparkling. It uses a gas propellant that never comes into contact with the wine, so the liquid maintains all its organoleptic properties and quality for much longer. This is an easy-to-fill and easy-to-use system that comes in different sizes depending on what the customer needs and is ideal for businesses who serve wine by the glass or in bulk. 

The keykeg is also used in the brewing industry, and is actually much more common there than in the wine industry. It is currently widely used in the United States, growing in popularity in countries like France and Italy, and has recently been introduced in Spain

Wine in a tube 

Some years ago, two ideas emerged for new ways to sell wine: wine in test tubes and wine in cardboard tubes created by two different companies that promoted the use of these unusual containers and that never really got off the ground.  

Wine in test tubes was invented some years ago by Vincent Barthe, a French computer scientist who loved oenology, and the company that sold it offered selections of wines in two different size tubes: 6 and 10 millilitres. 

In terms of wine in cardboard tubes, the idea was quite similar to the bag in box, but instead of a box it was a cardboard tube that contained the bag with the wine. They were marketed by a company called Four, named after the size of their containers: 4 bottles of wine, which is equivalent to 3 litres of liquid.  In short, and as they say: “beauty is about what’s inside.”  What about you? Have you tried wines in any of these unusual styles? Or do you prefer the old-school bottle and cork? 

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Dolcetto d’Alba: an exceptional Italian DOC

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Because Italy has such diverse geography and climates, there is also huge variety in the styles of wine made here. This is a country with a long history of winemaking. One significant area of the country is Piedmont, in northwest Italy, home to one sixth of the total area of vineyards in the entire country. A winemaking paradise that includes 44 DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin) and 12 DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin). Among these is Dolcetto d’Alba, a Controlled Denomination of Origin where the wines are made entirely with Dolcetto variety grapes. 

Dolcetto d'Alba

Dolcetto, the third most common variety in Piedmont

After Nebbiolo and Barbera, Dolcetto is the third most common red grape in Piedmont and is mainly linked to the cities of Alba, Dogliani, Diano d’Alba and Ovada, in the province of Cuneo. The name Dolcetto, means “little sweet one” and is named because of this grape’s sweetness when ripe. However, some studies have found that its name actually comes from the hills where it was originally grown. It is an early ripening variety that grows mainly in the cooler and higher areas where other varieties might struggle. In fact, many local growers cultivate Dolcetto to start making a profit while they wait for the Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes to finish ripening at lower altitudes. 

Characterised by its low acidity and soft and not very aggressive tannins, its wines have very fruity aromas with apple blossom flowers and spicy touches of black pepperOn the palate they are full of fruitiness with an appetising sweet bitterness at the end. And although the name suggests sweetness, the wines are normally dry, light, easy to drink and for opening soon after purchase. They should generally be opened within 5 years.

DOC Dolcetto d’Alba: wines with a young expression

Today the Dolcetto variety enjoys a very good reputation and in recent decades it has become more and more popular. So much so that no one can now deny the excellence of the Dolcetto d’Alba, a Controlled Denomination of Origin that covers the highest area of the province of Cuneo and wines made there must meet the following conditions:

  • The maximum yield of grapes in a wine must not exceed 70%.
  • Wines must be produced entirely with the Dolcetto variety.
  • The total natural alcohol content must be at least 11%.

This results in ruby red wines that are very pleasant, balanced and easy to drink, perfect for pairing with pasta and pizza dishes.

5 of the most accessible DOC Dolcetto d’Alba red wines

Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba 2018

Sandrone Dolcetto d'Alba 2018

Starting from a great respect for the terroir, Luciano Sandrone is world renowned for his elegant and modern wines. With 90 Parker points, this is an eclectic wine with a young personality for all occasions.

Ceretto Dolcetto d’Alba Rossana 2018

Ceretto Dolcetto d'Alba Rossana 2018

One of the best known wineries in Piedmont, a wine with a Ceretto label will always be excellent. A red that showcases all the intrinsic characteristics of the DOC Dolcetto d’Alba, made with grapes that have been cultivated according to ecological principles.

G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba 2019

G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba 2019

Located in the highest part of Piedmont, G.D. Vajra’s wines are characterised by their freshness and liveliness. A perfect location for the Dolcetto variety to reach its best, which is exactly what the winegrower was trying to show in this wine. 

Elio Altare Dolcetto d’Alba 2018 

Elio Altare Dolcetto d'Alba 2018

Thought to be one of Langhe’s most innovative winemakers, Elio Altare uses all the knowledge he acquired in Burgundy to revolutionise the traditional Barolo region. This young red wine is perfect for refreshing the atmosphere and a great example of Elio’s work. 

Cascina Fontana Dolcetto d’Alba 2017

Cascina Fontana Dolcetto d'Alba 2017

This is the first wine produced each year by Mario Fontana, an expert winegrower who, with six generations of experience behind him, has an exceptional understanding of the Dolcetto variety. This is clear to see in this wine, which although is relatively young, can hold onto its vitality and freshness for up to five years.

Bearing in mind that the best Dolcetto comes from Alba, these five wines are the perfect way to enjoy an authentic Dolcetto d’Alba at a very affordable price. What are you waiting for? 

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International Pinotage Day: a New World variety

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Every second Saturday in October, we celebrate International Pinotage Day, and this is a great opportunity to discover one of the New World’s flagship varieties that is still largely unknown to many wine lovers.

Pinotage grapes

It’s always good to have something to celebrate. So why not celebrate to help promote one of South Africa’s most important varieties that is gradually gaining more popularity around the world? This Saturday, October 10, 2020 is International Pinotage Day, so what better excuse to take a look at our selection of Pinotage wines. If you still don’t know much about this variety, here are some facts.

A variety made by crossing one variety with another

The Pinotage variety was made by crossing one variety with another. The man behind this crossing was Abraham Perold, a professor of viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, in South Africa, who in 1925, decided to create a unique variety that combined the elegance of Pinot Noir with the vigour of Cinsaut (called Hermitage in South Africa). So the name of the new variety is a blend of these two varieties: Pino-tage. The results were immediate and the grapes ripened quickly, developing high levels of sugar, they had no health problems and were a much deeper colour than its parent varieties. In other words, this new berry was relatively easy to grow, which made it possible to produce a fairly alcoholic red with an elegant and markedly fruity character

Although it is now the second most planted variety in South Africa, Pinotage has been heavily under-appreciated for decades. This is because when Apartheid ended in 1990 and South Africa entered the world market, many producers chose more famous international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and SyrahThere are now new generations of South African winegrowers, who are well trained and proud of their land, and it is they who have recognised Pinotage as one of their country’s leading varieties. It is now so successful that it is grown throughout the country, and has also spread to other New World countries like New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Chile and the USA. However, the best place to celebrate International Pinotage Day is in its native country, specifically near Cape Town, where they make best wines with the best international reputations. 

The king of the “Cape Blend”

Pinotage wines come in many forms. The single-variety wines are intensely aromatic, elegantly fruity and deliciously velvety. This variety has been criticised for sometimes having an acetone smell, but in truth, it is the perfect choice for including in a blend. If there is one thing the Pinotage grape is known for around the world, it is its use in the famous Cape Blend wines. 

Cape blend wines, are a style of red wines that are characteristically South African. These wines are made with a proportion of Pinotage mixed with other grapes. These blends work very well with noble varieties like the Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and they have become a great introduction to this country’s wines. However, as is the case with everything, there are differences in opinion when it comes to recognising cape blend wines as the quintessential ambassador of the Coastal Region and Western Cape South Coast wine regions. Not only is its official recognition disputed, but there are also disagreements about the minimum (30%) and maximum (70%) amount of Pinotage grapes that should go into South African wine. Although the debate continues, the reality is that Pinotage, in all its forms, will always have a central place in South African wine production. 

Here are 3 Pinotage wines

Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2017

Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2017

Awarded 93 Decanter points, this single-variety wine made by the Kanonkop winery is a very good introduction to Pinotage in its purest form. Fruitiness, silkiness and concentration, made in one of the most sublime terroirs in the Western Cape. 

Robertson Winery Pinotage 2019

Robertson Winery Pinotage 2019

Robertson Winery is an exceptional valley on the Western Cape South Coast, where vines have been cultivated for over six generations. A wine with a well-integrated fruit and barrel that reveals the dignity of this famous local grape.

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017

Members of the independent Swartland collective, David & Nadia Wines are a couple of winemakers who are committed to organic farming and minimal intervention winemaking in the Western Cape. A new generation blend that is fresh and pure with its own personality. 

So, that gives us one more wine-related date to celebrate. Given that there are more than 300 strains that can be used to make wines, with more and more being rediscovered, it looks like we might have quite a few days to celebrate.  Do you know what the next one will be?

Escrito en Breaking news, Winemaking |

Rioja Gran Reserva wines, patience rewarded

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Rioja Gran Reserva wines are those made from excellent harvests and aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels plus two years in the bottle before being sold if they are red wines. According to the Regulatory Council, white wines must age in the barrel for at least six months and have a total aging time (barrel and bottle) of at least four years. These wines are, therefore, a reward for patience. 

With more than 65,000 hectares of vineyards, Rioja is the oldest denomination of origin in Spain, an exceptional wine region where the soils and climates work together to produce some of the most loved and sought-after wines in the world. 

Rioja produces white, rosé, sweet and sparkling wines, but it is by far the red wines that are the best-known and sought-after all over the world. In general, Rioja wine is characterised by expressing the landscape and tradition and identity but, to make it easier to understand the differences and unique aspects of the wines made in this denomination, the DOCa. Rioja Regulatory Council  created a classification system to distinguish these characteristics. 

How are Rioja wines classified? 

There are two ways to classify Rioja wines, by origin or by aging. 

By origin 

The Qualified Denomination of Origin is spread across both banks of the Ebro river, in the north of Spain, and is divided into three large areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental, formerly known as Rioja Baja. The three different areas of Rioja all have calcareous clay, ferrous clay and alluvial soils that give local wines unique characteristics and make them easy to identify. 

In order to be more specific about the origin of these wines and the specific personality that this gives them, the DOCa Rioja Regulatory Council has established the following subdivisions: Viñedo Singular, Vinos de Municipio and Vinos de Zona (wines from a single plot/estate, town or zone). These indications cover a smaller to a larger area and help to differentiate which estate or zone the grapes in a wine came from. The Council have also set certain quality standards that must be met to be included in this. 

By aging 

The DOCa. Rioja Regulatory Council also states that wines, regardless of where they come from, can be classified by their traditional aging process. This gives us four different types of wine: Generic Wines, Crianza Wines, Reserva Wines and Gran Reserva Wines

What are Rioja Gran Reserva wines like? 

Rioja Gran Reserva wines are more complex and have a more obvious influence of wood. The best wines will have an elegant balance between the fruit and the notes taken from the barrel aging process. 

How do we know what we are drinking? 

As with Crianza wines and Reserva wines, every bottle of Rioja Gran Reserva has a label that makes it easy to identify. This makes it really easy to choose the right thing. 

The DOCa. Rioja Regulatory Council always tries to make the information clear and accessible for everyone, so every bottle has a different label according to its category. A Rioja Reserva wine label looks like this: 

It is largely accepted that the longer a wine ages, the better it will be. This is mostly true; wines that go through a long aging process, like Rioja Gran Reserva wines, are usually excellent quality wines that have been touched by the magic of time, but this rule does not work for all wines.  

It is important to remember that aging is not good for all wines. Wines made in great vintages that are masterfully produced and properly preserved are the ones that will age with dignity and even to improve over time. 

If you want to know what we mean when we say that Rioja Gran Reserva wines are blessed by the passing of time, here are four examples that will bring you a whole new level of enjoyment, wines that are worth the wait. 

4 Rioja Gran Reserva wines that really stand the test of time 

Faustino I Gran Reserva

Faustino I is not just the iconic wine made by Bodegas Faustino, it is an example of the most classic Rioja wines. A wine that was first made in the sixties and has grown in popularity ever since. And for the price, this really is a gem. Do you want to try it? 

Contino Gran Reserva

Contino is made by the renowned Bodegas Cvne, the first winery in Rioja with a château spirit. Contino Gran Reserva is a coupage of the Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and Viura varieties that have been aged for around 5 years in wood and the bottle. French finesse and elegance. A wine that will always make you look good. 

200 Monges Gran Reserva

Made with a typical Rioja coupage and 70 months of aging, 30 of them in new French and American oak barrels, the 200 Monges Gran Reserva wine, from Bodega Vinícola Real, has gradually become an extraordinary and sought-after delight for those who want to experience the joy of sipping a warm, elegant and flavoursome wine with an excellent bottle aging potential. 

Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva 

Made with the Tempranillo and Mazuelo varieties and aged for five years in the barrel and bottle until it reaches its most elegant. Castillo Ygay is only made in excellent vintages. A powerful and sensual caress that challenges the passage of time. In short, a complex and deep wine with a liveliness that makes it very persistent. 

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Recommended wines for the month of October

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October’s recommended wines are here. Don’t forget, our recommendations might be new additions to our catalogue or new vintages of wines we already have.

Clos Mogador 2018

Our first recommendation is the new vintage of one of the best Priorat reds. Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta, Syrah and Cariñena aged 18 months in French oak barrels to the delight of those who love good wine. Remember to air it well before drinking it. Our sommeliers recommend leaving it for up to 2 hours to make sure it is at its best. If you have any questions about their service, you can get in touch using our online chat.

Safrà 2019

Another new vintage of this wine from Celler del Roure. A red wine made with local varieties and fermented in clay jars. 94 Parker points and excellent value for money. You won’t want to miss this. Garnacha Tintorera, Mandó and Monastrell made into an ecological, fresh and silky wine from Valencia.

Domaine Rouchier Syrah 2018

Now let’s take a look at an outstanding new wine for those who love natural wines. A small earthly treasure with an intense fruity aroma made with Syrah. A great wine bottled without filtering, clarifying or adding sulphites. This wine is made from two plots, one with young vines and the other planted in 1952, both certified ecological and cultivated with maximum respect for nature both in their processes and their environment.

Puro Rofe Blanco 2019

This white wine is new to our catalogue. This 92 Parker wine from Lanzarote (Canary Islands) has an Atlantic acidity and 100% volcanic character. Malvasía, Vijariego Blanco and Listán Blanca together in a wine aged on its own lees.

Words written by our sommelier in his tasting notes for the 2019 vintage: “Puro Rofe Blanco 2019 is a white wine with fruity aromas, mineral notes and smoky touches. On the palate it is fresh, spicy and easy to drink. A wine with exuberant acidity, a marked Atlantic character and a saline background.”You won’t want to miss out!

Vermut Les Cousins Donzell 2017

Our final wine recommendation for October is a vermouthLes Cousins Marc & Adrià have made this refreshing Priorat vermouth that is great for sipping as you enjoy the sunny moments of early Autumn. Open it with your nearest and dearest, take a sip, enjoy the moment and decide what you think of it.


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Discovering Mario Rovira, one of the most promising figures in Spanish viticulture

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As one of the most promising figures in Spanish viticulture today, Mario Rovira is a young and enterprising, dedicated winemaker. Mario is also a quiet man who knows how to simply listen to and understand the vineyard. Not content with the challenge of just making wine in El Bierzo, he also puts his skills to work in different regions like Jerez and Alella. So, let’s find out a bit more about Mario and his interesting projects that are catching people’s attention.

Mario Rovira

Exclusive interview with Mario Rovira for Decántalo

What does wine mean to you? 

For me, wine is a way of life. As a person, I’m quite shy and reserved, so for me, wine is a way of expressing myself, of communicating, a way of relating to the environment and of interpreting what I see and feel in the vineyard throughout the year in a bottle… it is also largely a passion for persevering through the hard times that frost, stone and disease have brought us recently I see it as art, as culture and of course, as a business too. And it’s this last point where, through social awareness and education, we try, as small producers, to make people aware of what it costs today to maintain and run small and family projects like ours.

What is your first memory of wine? 

I have many memories of wine, but I think my earliest memory is the taste of the must that my grandmother gave me in a litre bottle. I come from a humble neighborhood in Barcelona and my parents worked late, so I spent the days with my grandparents until my parents came home in the evening to look for me, and there was always a bottle of must at her house. That’s a flavour I will never forget. It was addictive, I remember the fruit, the sugar, the colour of the bottle… the label was horrible though…

What made you decide to spend your life making wine? 

By the time I reached university, I was already choosing subjects related to winemaking. We did work experience in a vineyard and made a rosé-style wine as a final project. That’s when the winemaking world really began to catch my attention. So, after studying Agronomy in Lleida, I turned my attention to Oenology and harvesting… but my real moment of revelation was working with Jean Claude Berrouet at Fleur Petrus (Pomerol) during his last year before retiring. There I was able to learn a lot about the rigour and knowledge involved in winemaking… the reasons behind the processes and most importantly: respect, balance and humility, which I think are key in this industry. From there I went to Sancerre, then New Zealand and I ended up in California.

Following your professional training abroad, why did you choose El Bierzo as a home for your wine project?

When I came back to Spain I was very keen to do my own thing, I was 27 years old and I was looking to do something I really cared about, using old vines, native varieties, and lying in a mountainous area, with its altitude, slopes and soils. I wanted to make more Atlantic wines, so I started looking and a good friend invited me to visit Bierzo and I found what I was looking for.

Thanks to the amazing and constant support from my family, I was able to set up the Akilia project, renting my first two plots in December 2010. In 2013, we started buying old vines and we now have 4.5 hectares in the San Lorenzo area (Bierzo). These vines have been cultivated organically since year one and we make every effort to ensure these plots get to express themselves more and more fully in our wines.

We know that you love the Mencía variety. What about this grape do you think sets it apart from other red varieties?

I think it’s a very complex variety… it still surprises me now. Of all our native varieties, I think this one can be interpreted in many different ways and produce very different wines: from young, tense and electric wines to aged wines that develop very well over time.

That versatility combined with the different slopes and orientations in Bierzo makes producing wines a really exciting game where you can create very different wines from a single variety.

The wines made at Akilia, your personal project in Bierzo, have caused a sensation among the tasters of prestigious publication “The Wine Advocate”. What has caught their attention or what do they like most about your wines?

Well, I honestly don’t know, I’ve never talked to them about it but what we try to do in our wines is represent the vintage and represent an area like San Lorenzo, with its altitude and slopes, but most importantly, right from the beginning we wanted to make fresh and elegant wines. To do this, we have always tried to adjust the harvest date, looking for a very specific time between the end of veraison and the beginning of ripening, a very crisp time for the grape, with a very spicy fruit and not too much sugar. We have tried to avoid over-ripening despite the difficult vintages we have had to endure… and these are the things I would like people to be able to appreciate in our wines.

After setting up Akilia, your project in El Bierzo (Castilla y León), you decided to make wines in Jerez (Andalusia) and Alella (Catalonia) as well. How do you manage this unique wine triangle? What made you choose these places to make new wines?

Well, these are three projects that support each other, but the first one I started after Akilia was in Jerez (Sanlúcar de Barrameda) in 2014 in collaboration with a historic Marco de Jerez winery, Delgado Zuleta.

It was a casual and unexpected collaboration because I have been making my Bierzo whites since 2011 with the Palomino variety. In fact the oldest vineyard we have, at 118 years old, is a Palomino vineyard and we created a plot called “Valdesacia”. We met at a fair and, as I tasted their wines and they mine, we decided to work together to make an unfortified cask under a flower veil. We went from that cask to two casks the following year and so on until today, and now we have 7-8 casks and two vats. And with that, the “Tosca” project was born. Now we have three wines; Tosca, Tosca Cerrada and Tosca de Lentejuela that go from less to more intense biological aging but are never fortified.

The Alella project has been a challenge for many years.

I was keen to do something in my area that would have a fresher Mediterranean expression and together with my wife, who I met in Bierzo, we found a 3-hectare plot with an old vineyard facing the sea within the Serralada de Marina natural park, so in 2017 we started pruning and did our first harvest in 2018. It is a big challenge to make wines in Alella with such rapid ripening and the sea so close. We tried to make the granite soil (sauló) and the salinity of the sea our common thread in the three wines that we made in Alella, but we always ended up rushing to make sure the heatwaves in August did not make the grapes lose acidity.

You make wines in Jerez, and the ones you make in Alella have names related to flamenco. Is there a relationship between some wines and others, a common thread that links them? If so, can you tell us what that is?

Well, they are related. We have used Jerez casks from our Tosca project to make the Alella wines. We do part of the aging process in casks for our first white, “La Flamenca”, which is made with Pansa Blanca and Macabeo, and for the single-plot “La Farruca” wine, which is 100% Macabeo, we ferment and age everything in Jerez casks. The names are different styles of flamenco, because we mix varieties from here and casks from the south.

Do you have a favourite wine from one of your projects?

It’s difficult to choose just one because they all have things that I like and that make them unique and different, from the freshness of the 2012 vintage wines to the elegance of the 2016 wines, like Villa de San Lorenzo, or the delicacy of the Villarín 2018I think the way the Tosca Cerrada 2017 wine develops in the bottle is magical and the Alella wines from my first vintage in 2018, are amazing after a year in the bottle.

But if there was one wine that stands out for its uniqueness and an emotional attachment, it would be the Valdesacia Tinta, which comes from the 118-year-old Valdesacia plot, where all the vines grow Palomino white grapes except for two rows of Mencía. We have only made two vintages so far, and not many bottles, but the credit for this wine goes to a good friend who is no longer with us. He really loved that plot and encouraged me to vinify those grapes separately.

Beyond wine, what are Mario Rovira’s secret and not so secret passions? 

Honestly, since I started the Akilia project, I don’t have much free time, I used to read a lot, I drew, I liked the sea a lot, but now when I have time I try to spend it with my family, which is my other great passion, those who put up with me and support me constantly. Without them, none of this would be possible.

As a young winemaker, could you tell us about the challenges you have faced as you’ve developed your projects? 

I’ve had so many challenges, from the seed of an idea and finding resources to putting it into action and facing rejection from people when you want to do things differently in a traditional area. That’s what I found most difficult at the beginning. Also the very disparate vintages that we have had in such a short period of time, the increasingly volatile market and now COVID, which presents a great challenge at all levels.

Is there a young wine project like yours that you think we should keep our eye on? If so, why?

There are many small and very interesting projects in Spain at the moment, but I like to drink wines from projects run by young producers in the Marco de Jerez, the electric wines from Galicia, the minimal intervention wines made in Penedés or the Garnachas from Gredos.

Which wine has excited you most recently and why?

Well, at this year’s end of harvest meal in Alella I was surprised by a white wine from Sicily made by Azienda Agricola COS with the Grecanico Dorato variety. It had a touch of contained development, it was saline and mineral, with good acidity and a certain texture… I think after harvesting was also the right time to enjoy this wine.

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How do you know if a wine is in good condition?

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Knowing whether a wine is in good condition or not is common sense. Sight, smell and taste are the best ways to find out if it there is something wrong. Although it is possible to see some of these problems without actually opening the bottle, the truth is that neither the sediment, the turbidity, nor the oxidised colours necessarily mean that a wine is in bad condition. The only way to be sure is to open it.

The 10 most common wine defects

1- Oxidation

Oxidation can be seen at first glance. Either from excessive aeration or having been in the bottle for too long, the wine appears slightly shiny and orange or brown. It will look like it has lost some life and will have a strong musty smell. At this point, it is too late to do anything about it

2- Reduction

At the opposite end of the scale, wine can also be lacking in oxygen. It will smell like sulphur and in more severe cases it will smell like rotten egg or burnt rubber. If there is only a small amount of reduction, the wine can be improved by aerating or decanting.

3- Sulphur dioxide

Sulphur is an additive used in wine as an antioxidant and antiseptic. Excessive use can cause an unpleasant smell of rubber, garlic or rotten egg. In these cases, it will also likely disappear with correct oxygenation

4- Defective cork

Of all the imperfections to be found in a wine, TCA disease is by far the most common. TCA is a cork defect that doesn’t discriminate and once it is in the wine, it cannot be removed. This is a chemical process that triggers the so-called “cork smell” and can smell a bit like mould or wet cardboard. If you discover this problem, there is unfortunately nothing you can do about it

5- Brett

Another unpleasant odour is caused by brettanomyces. This is a bacteria that forms in the winery when it is not kept clean enough. It smells a bit like wet animal hair, old leather or even rotten meat. If this happens, all you can do is return the wine to wherever you bought it.

6- Volatile acidity

Acetic acid is a chemical process that takes place in winemaking. The problem arises when the amount of acetic acid is higher than normal. When this happens, the wine gives off a smell similar to vinegar or acetone. However, it is worth remembering that producers of natural wines especially, often make use of this volatile acidity to add freshness to their wines. 

7- Crystallisation

A common visual defect in white wines is seeing crystals at the bottom of the bottle. This is just a natural component that crystallises and is normally removed in winemaking using cold temperatures. However, sometimes, to preserve all the qualities of the wine, this process does not happen. So, if you have a wine with some crystals in it, the problem is easily solved by decanting it.

8- Sediments

The current trend of minimal intervention means many winemakers are selling unfiltered wines. It is very common to see sediment in wine, but this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. It does not affect the aroma or flavour. However, it does change the texture of the wine. This can be solved by decanting the wine properly.

9- Carbonic

When a wine goes through an unwanted second fermentation in the bottle, it is usually because alcoholic fermentation has not been finished properly. When this happens, the wine usually has a bitter or vinegary flavour. However, this can sometimes be a good thing, adding a sparkling touch, especially in rosé wines and white wines

10- Sour wine

The term “sour wine” can be used for all kinds of wine defects, and this is probably the worst thing you can say about a wine. It is caused by a bad aging process in the winery or by poor storage in the bottle. This wine will have a vinegary taste and smell and will not even be suitable for cooking

The limits of natural wines

When it comes to talking about defective wines, both champions and critics of natural wines agree that there are many defects in sulphite-free productions. However, it is important to differentiate wines with imperfections from defective wines. The absence of regulations in natural wine production has led a few producers to join the sulphite-free revolution without being prepared to work the grapes “bareback”.  In our opinion, when a defect hinders the end result, it spoils the product. However, when an imperfection adds personality or even improves the final product, the defect becomes a characteristic of the wine; the result of an honest production process using only pure fermented grapes. Although, as is the case with everything, it all depends on individual tastes.

Either way, storing the wine properly is essential for future enjoyment. It is really important to avoid excessive temperatures, very low humidity and potential external influences like strong odours and noises that could harm the natural conditions of the wine. To make sure this is possible, make sure you have the right accessories for preserving and serving wine like a true expert.

Image by Elle Hughes @elletakephotos.

Original on Unsplash.

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