…a very responsible blog…catavino.net…[it's] refreshing to see such professionalism.
Robert M. Parker Jr.

Archive by Author

Politics, Practicality and Pomp: The Battle Over the Future of Spanish Wine

Editor’s note: All views expressed below are solely that of the author.  All good things must come to an end. And it seems sadly appropriate that, after six years, Catavino – a site that mirrored so well all that was burgeoning and metamorphosing in the Spanish wine world – closes its doors just as the outlook for Spanish wine gets bleaker. Of course, I don’t need a crystal ball or the touch of a soothsayer to tell you that the European Economic Crisis – and Spain’s part in it – will exact its cost from the wine industry here. Perhaps the best that some can hope for is that a depressed Euro or, dare I say, Peseta will encourage export. […]

Part 2: Cutting up the Iberian Pig

WARNING: This post is extremely graphic; however, it does depict the very real act of processing an Iberian pig after the Matanza(Killing). If you are someone who is an animal lover, or gets squeemish at the site of bodily fluids, we might suggest you skip this article and await happier articles of drinking wine by the sea. Please read part 1 here: La Matanza if you want better context to this story.   Part 2: Cutting up a pig Now that the dead pig has been cleaned and prepared, the fun begins. Before the massive corpse is transported a few hundred metres to a shed to be butchered, Luis and I hold a rear leg each while Alvaro takes a knife and slices down […]

La Matanza: The Very Real Story Behind Jamon Iberico

WARNING: This post is extremely graphic; however, it does depict the very real act of killing an Iberian pig. If you are someone who is an animal lover, or gets squeemish at the site of bodily fluids, we might suggest you skip this article and await happier articles of drinking wine by the sea.  Preface: Every year, in the cold winters of rural Spain, families come together for the matanza (lit. the killing). There is a very communal atmosphere around the tiny villages during this time, all the while pigs are being slaughtered, cut up and made into Jamon, Chorizo or Salchichon and left to dry in neighbours’ attics. Having never watched a large animal die, let alone be a […]

Cellar Serendipity: Finding an Unexpected Bottle of Amazing Port Wine

Cellar Serendipity they should call it. That feeling of unexpected joy as you put what you think will be a jaded wine to your nose, take a sip and realise that the sensory receptors and processes in your brain are telling you this really isn’t such a dodgy bottle at all. In fact it’s bloody marvellous. And you pour out some more. It has happened to me twice in the last two years. The first was a year ago when, with my parents, we opened a bottle of 1997 Swiss Lavaux (made from Chasselas grapes grown on the slopes that tumble down into Lake Geneva from the Jura mountains) from a relatively unspectacular producer. Chasselas itself (with all the love […]

The Alchemy of Crafting Spanish Wine for Sushi

Massive wine corporations and cynical marketing strategems don’t get great press these days but perhaps we should spare a thought for Grupo Freixenet and their Oroya Sushi wine. Freixenet and Sushi wine, I hear you cry, whatever next? But I’ve got quite a bit of time for it – in fact I might say I even admire the entire concept. For starters, I like the marketing. Sure, I don’t praise Bordeaux’s Chateau Lafite for putting a dinky little Chinese symbol on their 2008 – that’s just pathetic – but I might suggest that wine companies (not necessarily multinational giants) look into Malvasia Negra for Mexican food, Prieto Picudo for Paella or Banger and Mash Bonarda. The beauty of Oroya is that, like a […]

Judging the Quality of a Wine by How Much of It you Drink

Several years ago top wine writer Ch’ng Poh Tiong wrote a piece in his Decanter magazine column that basically said that you could (perhaps ‘should’) judge the quality of a wine by how much of it you drank. If your glass was emptied relatively quickly (the abuse of alcohol is dangerous for your health, enjoy wine moderately), you could be pretty sure it was a good – maybe a great wine. If you struggled to finish a glass, something was obviously not right. It’s obvious, right? But it’s an approach I like. It’s an approach to rating and drinking wines that works (and yes, it works for tasting – i.e. spitting out – wines too) and is immediately quantifiable. So I […]

International Varieties: Are They Intended to Reflect their Origin or are They Made to Please?

In my last post, I highlighted an ‘international’ grape variety, grown in Spain, made in Spain, but not allowed to say which region it’s from because the local Denominacion de Origen (DO) doesn’t recognize Viognier as part of its ‘terroir’. Whether this is fair or not is a difficult question – just what does a grape have to do to be allowed in a region? For the most part, it seems it has to have been there, on the spot, on the ground, as it were, for longer than living memory. Which is fine. In the case of Norrell Robertson MW’s Viognier – good as it is – it hasn’t been there long enough. And that might just about seem justifiable. It’s a […]

El Puño, Viogner, Vino de Mesa, 2009

Now I normally recoil from international varieties being propagated on Spanish soil like a liberal in Alabama. The idea of Pinot Noir in Castilla, for example, is about as revolting as seeing an Englishman in a baseball cap (to borrow a phrase from the Libertines). But, as we all know, Ribera del Duero is not built on Tempranillo alone And credit where credit is due. Scottish winemaker Norrel Roberston MW (who has probably done more than enough for Grenache in Calatayd – although that doesn’t mean the region’s old, old vines are not in danger, quite the contrary) has produced a really lovely barrel-fermented Viognier in that selfsame region. Which means that it cannot be classed as Aragon or Calatayud […]

It’s Not Unnatural to be Wine – A Skeptic’s View

Television viewers in the UK will have recently been treated to an advertisement for Dolmio Ragu sauce in which a family of towel-textured, round-faced puppets make lasagne while a voice-over tells us Dolmio tomato sauce is made from ‘100% natural. Which is nice if you want to be reassured that what gets mashed into your bowl of Penne hasn’t been developed in a laboratory. Indeed, it’s always reassuring to know that your food hasn’t been put together by a group of escaped Nazi scientists bent on producing a swastika-shaped black tomato without seeds and grown in a Petri dish. We probably wouldn’t buy something like that. Something ‘natural’: yes. The point is, of course, that, whether you believe it or […]

Rioja Reserva, Pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator?

It is a fashion, of late, to praise ‘modern’ winemaking and its techniques. Up until very recently – if it isn’t still going on – the argument held that because US wine guru Robert Parker liked a certain style of wine, most wines were made to this standard (Parker wielded great power on behalf of the consumer, so winemakers made wines to please his palate and therefore sold more). Parkerisation, modernisation, globalisation and standardisation of wines became synonyms. Parker liked new oak and lots of fruit. So wines were made with new oak and lots of fruit. And it was the fashion for people in the wine world to rail against this. But now, while in many areas ideas about […]