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Tasting notes, wine and regional profiles, wine book reviews, and breaking news in the Iberian wine industry allows your next wine purchase to be an informed one.

Vermouth in Barcelona: The past and present of a delicious aperetivo culture

What is vermouth? Well, let’s start with what vermouth is not. Vermouth is not only a supporting role to classic cocktails, nor is it the dry, bitter stuff that languished away in Mom and Dad’s liquor cabinet, only to be drunk in secret by soon-to-be rueful teens when left alone at home for the weekend. Yes Mom, your Martini Extra Dry met the same stomach-turning fate as the Jose Cuervo Margarita mix, the suspiciously-watered-down Gosling’s rum and that sticky bottle of Manischewitz kosher wine. So, let’s move on. Vermouth is—by definition—an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with botanicals such as herbs, spices, roots, barks, flowers, or seeds. The key to crafting vermouth is that the wine is aromatized and fortified (anywhere from 13% […]

Three Dynamic Female Portuguese Winemakers

Portugal might be on its knees economically, but the wine industry is going from strength to strength. Exports are growing quietly (between 5-10% per year over the last decade), and the country is beginning to escape the shackles of being seen only as a value producer. I’m not talking about Port, which has its own long-established market and following, but rather about “still” or non-fortified wines. Portugal was known for knocking out large quantities of “rustic” fare in decades gone by, but this started to change in 1986. Accession to the EU was a watershed which split apart the old cooperatives and saw the emergence of smaller, more quality-lead wineries. Not surprisingly for a country which is relatively new to […]

Off the beaten track in Porto – Simplesmente Vinho

What do you call a group of small, artisan wine producers at a tasting? If you’re in France or Italy, the “natural wine” moniker might well rear its head. The suggestion being that these are winemakers who eschew overtly industrial production methods, intervene less and attempt above all else to express their terroir. The less charitable may claim this merely means long beards, stinky wines and radical stances on sulphur. In Portugal things are a little different. Here, no-one seems that interested in defining such a slippery category – least of all the 23,000+ visitors to Porto’s annual Essencia do Vinho tasting. The mix of trade and consumer attendees are packed in tighter than sardines, and beating a path to your favourite producer’s stand can turn into […]

Top 10 Things to do in Jerez – Other than Enjoy Sherry!

The history of Sherry is rich. For starters it is one of the oldest wines in the world, introduced to Britain when notorious pirate Drake, plundered Cadiz and filled his decks with over 2000 barrels as a gift for his adored Queen Elizabeth 1st. But prior to all that, the Moors tended the chalky vineyards around their occupied city of Sherish and made their wine of present day Jerez. For centuries, Britain was the main market for Sherry, sending their sons to oversee production- hence the many Anglicized names involved in the industry. A sometimes forgotten fact is that Sherry can only be called Sherry if it is produced within the DO of Jerez- likewise, Champagne can only be Champagne […]

Bobal: The Spanish Grape of Newfound Nobility

In the Spanish autonomous province of Valencia, you can discover a remarkable variety of landscapes far from the long beaches of golden sand found in most conventional tour guides. Dry, desert-like areas, river valleys and fertile foothills give rise to great diversity in the wines made here. The region encompasses three DOs: D.O. Valencia, D.O. Alicante and D.O. Utiel-Requena. Among them, the wines from Utiel-Requena are probably some of the most exciting. The area has developed dramatically in the past few years, planting more vineyard area and opening new wineries. Some of the more diligent producers are paying homage to their roots through wines made from their native grape: Bobal. This variety’s newfound nobility is causing a stir among the […]

Aromatized Wines: Can we protect the “style” Sangria in Spain?

The levels of stupidity attained by my fellow man rarely fail to amaze me. Granted, I occasionally feel hopeful that logic will creep into the fold, but as you’ll quickly read, I’m still not holding my breath. On Tuesday, January 14th, 2014, the European parliament – in the middle of saving the whole of Europe from collapse – took it upon themselves to protect the term “Sangria”. From what I can tell, they gave geographical protections to a host of aromatized wines, including: Clarea (a drink I’d never heard of) along with Vermouth, Glühwein, etc . By a vote of 609 to 72 and four abstentions, we are now safe to say that the term Sangria must be reserved for Spain. According to […]

Collaboration in Spain

As the international success stories of newcomers like Australia and Chile and traditional producers like France and Italy have made evident, a country’s image makes a big difference to wine sales. The truth is, few products flaunt their origin so openly in their struggle to differentiate themselves from their competitors. As Spain’s economy deteriorates and domestic consumption decreases, Spanish wine producers are compelled to look to export markets to survive. In spite of its status as the world’s leading country in vineyard area and the third largest producer in volume worldwide, Spain has been unable to take its rightful place of leadership in international markets. Among the reasons for this are the small size of Spanish wineries, a distorted country […]

Aguardente Bagaçeira: Portugal’s Seriously Strong Wine Spirit

After a fantastic picnic among friends, we gathered at an outdoor café to finish the afternoon with a stiff drink called bagaço. The boys ordered two very full snifters of a crystal clear beverage that I had never heard of, nor did I have to chance to ask just how potent it was before it was passed around to “enjoy” a healthy swig. Erring on the side of caution, I took a tiny sip, but that’s all it took before my eyes popped wide open, and my face clenched and shuddered in pain. I rapidly slammed my fist on the table until the wave of fire passed; and when I came back from the fifth dimension of hell, all that was […]

Malvasia de Sitges: A grape born from mercenaries and knights

Hundreds of years before Catalunya became part of Spain, the land was under the control of the Crown of Aragon; a kingdom that stretched from the Iberian peninsula through southern France, modern-day Italy, and as even as far as Greece. Without a standing army, conquests and vengeance were exacted in the name of The Crown (our whoever had the gold) by troops of ruthless, long-haired, fast-moving Catalan mercenaries called almogavars. In 1303, led by the infamous Roger de Flor—an Italian-born Templar Knight, commander of the feared “Catalan Company”, and namesake of my first (temporary) address here in Barcelona—a troop of almogavar foot soldiers set sail for Constantinople to protect the city from the invading Ottoman Turks. They were under the pay of the Byzantine […]

The Najerilla River Valley: a special corner of Rioja with a unique style of wine

Modern holidays are something more than just a chance for relaxation and leisure; they are an opportunity for personal enrichment. Holidays give us a chance to experience a different way of life and to create a special relationship with the place visited. Only a short 30 km drive from Logroño, the Najerilla Valley is one of my “special places”. It has a number of alluring qualities: amazing landscapes, towns with a long history and great cuisine. More importantly, through blending in with the locals, I’ve learned many things about the region and its traditions, to the point that it has changed my perception of Rioja and its wines. Among these traditions, one of the most interesting is the production of “Clarete” and “Ojo de Gallo”; two local wine […]