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Oak in Riojan Wine: Fundamental or a style choice

Editor’s Note: In exciting anticipation of the #EWBC (#DWCC), which will be held in Rioja in just 3 weeks, Quentin Sadler explains how the success, the aromas and flavours of Rioja wine all revolve around oak. The red wines of Rioja are the first love of many wine drinkers. I think that is because they have a very clear identity which makes the flavors accessible. That identity quite clearly comes from oak aging, long aging in oak barrels, more specifically aging in American oak barrels. Modern Rioja is better made, riper, fuller and fruitier than Rioja of the past, but those vanilla aromas and flavors from aging in oak barrels is still the defining characteristic of the region’s fine red wines. Rioja does […]

Red Grape Varieties of the Mediterranean Deserving More Attention

Ever wondered why the same small bunch of grape varieties bobs up so frequently from wine regions around the world? There are many hundreds of different grapes out there, but only a small handful of them have managed to become widely grown and internationally known. Mostly grapes have to settle for limited local fame on their home turf. As far as red wines and black grapes are concerned the core range of grapes grown worldwide is really only Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir. I know some of you will take issue and say that I have ignored Malbec, Zinfandel or Pinotage – or something else that is dear to your heart, but really apart from the four I […]

Wine Closures: Focusing on What’s Truly Important, the Liquid!!

Throughout man’s relationship with wine the challenge has been to find a way of bringing it to the customer. We get a glimpse of one of the earliest solutions in the The New Testament Matthew 9:14-17 and the parable of putting new wine in old skins. Even when I was a child, some 2000 years later, Spanish lorry drivers kept wine in ‘bota‘ – tear shaped leather bottles. Solid flasks or carafes were used throughout history to bring wine from the storage vessel – amphorae in ancient times and wooden casks in mediæval – to the table. These were often stoneware, but glass was favoured by the wealthy. They slowly evolved into the wine bottles of today and we get […]

Bidding Adieu to Old Favorites: Scholtz Hermanos Dessert Wine from Malaga

It is never easy to say goodbye and to turn your back on a chapter of your past – parting always hurts and today I have to say two farewells. I have been writing about Spain and Spanish wines for Catavino, as well as my own blog,  for quite a while now, and sadly this will be my last Catavino piece, but by a remarkable coincidence this week saw another last for me regarding Spanish wine. For almost thirty years I have been a devotee of a Málaga wines, especially those made by the wonderful, if rather un-Spanish sounding Scholtz Hermanos. If you have never tried a Málaga, then you have really missed out as it can be one of […]

A Gluttons Guide to Spanish Culture

I love Spain, but I love the view of the country that I have in my head from childhood and – democracy and human rights apart – that is how I still want it to be. Whenever I am there I seek out the traditional and the old fashioned, because I like it. Not for me the trendy tapas of foaming asparagus concoctions in test tubes. In fact if I am honest, I do not want Spanish food to be creative in anyway – I want the old dishes of my youth; Huevos a la Flamenca, Riñones al Jerez or Chicken Chilindron. As a consequence the trendy new restaurants of Spain leave me cold. I do not want gleaming mirrored […]

Wines of Andalucia: On the Rise and Worthy of Far Greater Attention

I wish I was a winemaker, it seems such a wonderfully exciting, creative and honest thing to be. The skill and dedication required to make great wine beggars belief – the life consists of seriously hard work, but to the observer it seems attractive – idyllic even. Whenever I hear about mavericks who create little wine estates in particularly beautiful and romantic places, I am drawn into daydreaming about having my own vineyard – who knows, one day I just might, but I would need a good dollop of more technical knowledge first. Recently whole areas of Spain that I had previously written off as unlikely and unheard of wine regions have been opening up before me and they have […]

Sierra de Gredos: A Treasure Trove for Old Vine Garnacha

I have a guilty secret. I just do not get the excitement about Grenache and Shiraz. Blended together, or on their own, these grapes often seem too much of a blunt instrument to me. That is not to say that I cannot appreciate that these are good wine grapes that have their place – of course I can. I even sometimes enjoy the wines made from them, but I hardly ever get excited at the idea of them, or seek them out. This can sometimes be a problem in Spain. I love a good rosado and it is more normal for them to be made from Garnacha than any other grape – which is why I often look for Ribera […]

Chacolí: The Wild Wine of Spain

Spain is a country steeped in wine and wine-lore. Wine is important in Spain and as a consequence many wine consumers have a clear view of Spanish wines. Or rather, they think they do, as this view is almost universally red and more often than not from Rioja. Actually Spain produces an incredible variety of wines; for reds unlike anything from Rioja – try a Bierzo made from the Mencia grape, for some of the finest rosé wines in the world – try a Ribero del Duero Rosado from the Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) grape, while the array of white wines that the country produces is dazzling. Galicia’s Rías Baixas region and its star grape Albariño are pretty well known, but […]

The Vibrant and Dynamic Wines of Spain’s Radical Center

I well remember my first experiences of Spanish wine, I was only a child, but mixed with enough Gaseosa I seem to recall finding it palatable. Every summer we would spend our holidays in Javea, midway between Valencia and Alicante. We usually drove down through France, but occasionally used the car ferry direct from England to Bilbao or Santander – which in those days was more famous as a port than a bank. The everyday wines in Javea, back then were mostly from the nearby region of Jumilla. This is a hot place that in those days was a byword for pretty ghastly wines – even as recently as the early 1990s I remember pouring some away rather than drinking […]

Virginia: A Corner of a Foreign Field that is Forever Spain

Last week I enjoyed a spectacular trip around the wineries and wine regions of Virginia. The state, or more correctly Commonwealth, is a beautiful place and the wine areas are largely dominated by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachians. Indeed Virginia is hot and humid – in the summer anyway, so quality grapes can really only thrive at the higher altitudes of the Blue Ridge, or near the ragged, Rias Baixas-like coastline of Chesapeake Bay. Most of the American wines that we are offered on this side of the Atlantic are made from a narrow range of Grape varieties; Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel with a few others thrown in to spice up the mix. Well Virginia […]