One great way to learn about wines is to drink a lot of them (what a hard life I lead!). The only problem with this is the cost involved in drinking enough wines to feel confident when it comes to the WSET diploma blind tasting exams. So with my fortified wines exam quickly approaching I decided to head for the Decanter Great Spanish Fine Wine Encounter and drink a lot of sherry. The event was held at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone, the usual venue for Decanter events. Amongst the exhibitors at the event were Berberana, Grupo Codorníu, Campo Viejo and Numanthia. I was met at the event by Alex from tippletips.blogspot.com, a fellow diploma student. We decided to start by going round the forty or so stands and tasting the whites. This may sound like the most sensible way to do things but after trying thirty-odd Verdejo’s I was starting to feel a little weary of the grape. Of course we tried some very nice ones such as such as Bodegas Frontaura’s Vego Murillo Verdejo 2010 which as has undergone lees aging and had fantastic aromas of mango, jasmine and citrus and had a rich texture. And I have to give it the woman on the Consejo Regulador Rueda DO stand who reacted to my attempts to try something other than Verdejo by giving me a sparkling Verdejo and an oaked one – both different from the others we had tried but neither of which were far enough away to break through the monotony.
We had a much needed break from white wines when we entered the blind tasting competition at the Water Aid stand (I guessed Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux and Nero d’Avola from Sicily – the first one was right the second was Nebbiolo from Piedmont. I was happy with one right). We then moved on to sherry and I was slightly disappointed by the lack of exhibitors – only Lustau and Bar Pepito with a few others carrying the odd bottle. We were very lucky to be able to try the whole selection that Lustau were promoting and after telling the host that we were diploma students he talked to us in depth about the different styles and how they are made.
Los Arcos, Dry Amontillado
Don Nuno, Dry Oloroso
East India, Solera – Oloroso flavoured with PX
San Emilio, Pedro Ximenez – delicious, but so sweet it made my teeth hurt!
Next we moved on to the reds where we tried a variety of grapes and styles. A couple that really stood out were from Bodegas Frontaura – Nexus Crianza 2006 and the Nexus Cosecha 2010. The Crianza was made from thirty to forty year old vines. The younger, fruitier Cosecha was well-balanced and complex enough to have with food or have on its own. We also tried several wines from the Castillo Perelada stand where the delightful and informative host talked us through the wines with such passion he almost had us booking a holiday to Empordà so we could visit the vineyard. Amongst the wines we tried here were ones that had been on the wine list of elBulli. The most incredible, and the ones we asked for seconds of, were the Finca Malaveina 2006 and the Cims de Porrera, Solanes, Priorat 2006. The Finca Malaveina which grows on red clay soils mixed with pebbles in the area of Garriguella was well-balanced, with fresh acidity. It was also complex with savoury notes and juicy ripe fruits. The Solanes which is a blend of Carignan and Grenache comes from vines that range in age from forty to a hundred years old. It was earthy, minty and with lots of black fruit, it was balanced, complex, silky and smooth – and all round incredible.
We finished the event with a tasting of the Termanthia 2008 and 2007. The stand had been four or five people deep for the whole event so we stopped by just as the doors were closing, the poor host looked shattered and the stand looked like a blood bath. I thought that the 2008 was a better, more balanced wine than the 2007 – both of which retail at £120 and come from vines that are 120 years old – a pound for every year – a good way to work out the price! The host proudly told us that the vines were ungrafted and the grapes were crushed by foot.
Both of the wines were nice but after tasting the wines from Castillo Perelada which retail at nearly a quarter of the price I couldn’t help but feel that the Termanthia wines were lacking that little extra something. Perhaps when I have learnt some more and drank more I will appreciate why there is such a difference in the price of wines when often there seems to be little to differentiate them and sometimes the cheaper ones are the ones you remember more favourably.
All in all a good day and a great way to learn about Spanish wines from the people that make them.