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Robert M. Parker Jr.

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Dominio de Sexmil: A Rising Star in Tierra del Vino de Zamora

Tierra del Vino (do not confuse this with Vino de la Tierra) is yet another small region pretty well overlooked by the wine world. Its full and correct name is Tierra del Vino de Zamora but everyone who lives within its borders calls it Tierra del Vino (land of wine). There are regular discussions over large dinners, frequently brought up by those who have a handle on the notion of marketing, as to why the appellation was not called, simply, Zamora. These are often-repeated, never settled debates, that almost always end with an authoritarian voice saying ‘this has always been Tierra del Vino’. That settles it. (Flickr photo by migturrado) The land of this appellation – or more correctly, Denominacion […]

How Should Albariño Taste? A Palatable Debate

A few weeks ago I found myself in the midst of a blind tasting with five Masters of Wine candidates. I will tell you how I came to be there another time, but part of it was down to my – dare I say childish – love of blind tastings. Once we had spent a couple of hours trying to pin down 12 wines, it was time for the enjoyment of discovery: time to unwrap the bottles. I will not bore you with the lineup but draw your attention to a bit of a spat concerning one wine: Pazo de Senorans Albarino 2009. While this wine is considered a classic by the Institute of Masters of Wine (the 2008 figured […]

The Slow and Painful Death of a Wine Romantic: Pedro Ximenez (aka Raisin Juice)

I have issues with Pedro Ximenez. Since my first taste of the raisin-smelling, thick, brown, sugary slop, I struggle with the stuff. The only truly stand-out PX I had last year was the Hidalgo Napoleon Old PX (which is a bit like saying my favourite whisky last year was Lagavulin 16 year-old – yes, it’s good, but like decent brands it’s good every year…). I even quite enjoyed Gonzalez Byass’ Noe. But it took me a year to drink it. The problem is that, no matter how hard I try, I struggle to shake off my first impression of PX: several years ago someone handed me a glass with an impressive nod and all I could smell was raisins. This […]

Resolutions and Rewards: How to Preserve that Gorgeous Iberian Wine for Yet Another Evening?

January typically sees hordes of grown-ups and semi-grown-ups persuading themselves to ‘give something up’. Normally, in the case of grown-ups and wine lovers, this means going on the wagon for the month in a vain attempt to persuade themselves that they are not beholden to the bottle and that they are ‘being healthy’. Come February (in the Northern hemisphere), the winter has shown no sign of abating – despite the empty promise of longer days – and everyone is back off the wagon, on foot, drinking ‘winter warmers’ like a naughty Shiraz or a cockle-warming Côte-Rôtie. By March, we’re back into the swing of things and the rest of the year follows the year before that, like some endless Bacchanalian […]

Spain’s Greatest Wine: Vega-Sicilia Unico 2000

It’s not often that the fates conspire to have me taste the latest release of Unico twice in as many months and I would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to share my thoughts on what is (I think we can all agree?) Spain’s greatest wine. Of course, there are pretenders but Vega-Sicilia has the pedigree. And lots of people put lots of store by pedigree. Pedigree is the main argument for not tasting wines blind. For instance, if you taste Unico next to a whole lineup of similarly highly-rated wines (see my previous post on the Penin tasting), I’ll forgive you for thinking Unico is slim, ready-to-drink (almost as if it was on the downward slope of maturity), […]

Rare Iberian Discoveries: Old Vintages from Unknown Regions at a Low Price

I don’t want to encourage wine buying in supermarkets but this will have to be an exception. Two days ago, I stood in front of the serried ranks of bottles on the shelves and, avoiding the usual suspects, went to the end of the aisle where the ‘lesser’ appellations are. This was a supermarket in Zamora (Spain) and Toro – of course – dominated the selection, but, down towards the tawny Ports, were the odds and ends that one can find in any supermarket in Europe. Unheard-of appellations, unheard-of wines, unheard-of grapes, blends, producers, the lot. Now, as most wine lovers will know to their cost, unusual wines in supermarkets rarely repay the risk and the money (albeit small change). […]

2009 José Peñin Tasting: Should Spanish Wine Producers Push Their Latest Vintage?

Evey year, as well as releasing his guide to the wines of Spain, José Peñin puts on a tasting of the top wines (those that got 94 points or more) in Madrid. Like so many tastings of this type (large room, producers behind tables, indecipherable layout, and too many people) the pointers for those attending remains the same: turn up early (to avoid the hordes), taste all the best stuff first (before it runs out), know what you want to taste (this prevents you from running about like a mouse trying to find cheese in a behavioural science experiment) and avoid any woman ostentatiously dressed (her perfume will lay any subtle aromas to waste like napalm over lemongrass) – I […]

Abstraction vs. Context: How do Toro Wines from Quinta Quietud Measure Up?

A couple of months ago, wine writer Jamie Goode and I disagreed over an abstract approach to wine assessment. I took the deconstructive stance that one does not need to know any information about a bottle of wine to be able to rate it or appreciate it. Jamie argued that context (where it was made, from which grapes and by who) was all-important. To be fair to both of us, I think we didn’t view our approach from the correct angle, namely: who we were talking to. If you (and by ‘you’, I mean you the reader) want to know whether a bottle of wine is good or not, an abstract approach is key. A fair (underline ‘fair’) assessment of […]

Where Should Spanish Wineries Invest their Money -Their Wines or Their Wineries?

As a rule, I do not believe wine writers should encourage companies to spend vast sums of money on building wineries. While it is evident that people cannot help but be swayed by gimmicks like heavy bottles, expensive machinery, labour-intensive winemaking techniques, famous architects and impressive postcodes, if we believe wine writers should cut through all this (this also means we should cut through its reverse – any attempt to make a winery more rustic, idyllic and down-at-heel), then the object of our focus should be the wine. I said two weeks ago that, in the case of large wine groups like Bodegas Faustino, their job is to produce good, solid wines that represent their region. These wines should also […]

Living Up to a Gran Reserva Label: Bodegas Faustino

As far as I’m concerned, the job of big brands is to produce good, standard, classic wines of their type and place. Although I haven’t tasted their entire portfolio, and I am still doubtful about some wines, Bodegas Faustino seem to do this relatively well. I say ‘doubtful’ and ‘relatively’ because I’m not entirely sure whether one should call their ubiquitous Faustino V Rioja ‘classic’ despite or because of what I think is a decent whack of Brett. But, after all, Brett is named after the British and, as with quite a few good Bordeaux, twist my arm and I’ll say it’s meant to be there. But lets move on. After a British press trip to visit the Faustino group’s […]