Posts Tagged Telmo Rodriguez

A Spanish Christmas

A Spanish Christmas

Spain has been one of the most exciting wine producing countries for a decade or more now. Relying on their own collection of indigenous grape varieties, every region of Spain seems to be offering great unique wines just waiting to be discovered. This week, four Spanish wines, two from well-known regions, the others from less familiar areas.

Together, they make up the complete Spanish Christmas collection.

Cava María Casanovas Brut de Brut NV Organic

Fresh orchard fruits and melons with a touch of brioche. There is plenty of citrus acidity, good depth and great length for a sparkling wine at this price. The prefect way to start proceedings at Christmas or for New Year’s Eve.

€26 from Green Man Wines, D6W; Pinto Wines, D9;; Corkscrew, D2; Grapevine, Dalkey; McCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown; A Taste of Spain, D2.

Made from a blend of 30% Macabeo 30% Xarel.lo 40% Parellada, this organic wine is produced on a small family-owned estate in the Penedes. I could write a book on the legal changes afoot regarding sparkling wine in Cataluyna. Suffice to say that there are some excellent sparkling wines being made at the moment, some under the Cava DO, others under the name Corpinnat, and still more labelled Clàssic Penedès. There are big moves towards better quality, and also to organic viticulture.

Gabo do Xil O Barreiro 2022, Valdeorras

Fresh and light, but not lacking in concentration, this has a lively minerality, peach and melon fruits with a lip-smacking dry finish. It has good texture and will probably fill out with time, but it is drinking beautifully now. Enjoy it with the traditional Christmas dinner starters.

€24.95 from Lilith, D7; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Pinto Wines, D9; Deveney’s, D14.

The Godello grape, recently rescued from near extinction, is now responsible for some of the greatest white wines of Spain. Telmo Rodriguez (see below) was one of the first to become entranced by the wines produced from grapes grown on steep terraced slopes of Valdeorras. He has 23 hectares of vines here, and recently bought one small 2 hectare north-facing vineyard, which he told me, will be his final project.

Rioja Lanzaga LZ 2021 Organic

Fresh, with delightful, sweet/sour dark fruits and a tannin-free finish. Lovely purity of fruit, and decent length. This would go nicely with turkey, ham and all of the other trimmings.

€21 from Ely Maynooth; Green Man Wines, D6W; Lilith, D7; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.

This is a traditional Basque Rioja, fermented and aged entirely in cement tanks using organic grapes from around the village of Lanziego in Rioja Alavesa.

Pablo Eguzkiza and Telmo Rodríguez met while studying wine in Bordeaux. Together they have been amongst the most influential forces in Spanish winemaking over the last few decades. Both of Basque origin, they were instrumental in reviving the winemaking history and culture in many parts of Spain. Their focus has been to work with indigenous grape varieties and local growers. Rodriguez grew up in Remelluri, the family estate in Rioja Alavesa, the Basque part of Rioja, and is focussing more of his energies here these days.

Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos NV

A lovely rich Amontillado sherry with dried fruits, toasted wood, mahogany polish and butterscotch. The perfect after dinner drink with walnuts and blue cheese.

€14.50-17 for a ½ bottle from Mitchell & Son; O’Briens; Morton’s, Ranelagh; Bradley’s, Cork; Redmond’s, D6; MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; McHugh’s, D5.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s Lustau was one of the most innovative sherry producers, developing the concept of Almacenista and vintage wines. While a generation of other younger wineries now produce an amazing array of wines, Lustau remains the benchmark by which they are judged.

Posted in: The Wine on Wednesday, Top Drop

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Easter Weekend – the wines

It was my birthday on Easter Sunday, so I felt justified in opening up a few nice elderly bottles from my stash.


El Grano Chardonnay 2013, Chile
€15.90 from 64wine, Glasthule; Baggot Street Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Blackrock Cellar; Le Caveau, Kilkenny.

An organic wine made by a Frenchman who set up in the Curico Valley in Chile. Gerard Maguire in 64wine, Glasthule first put me on to this wine. It is a delicious plump Chardonnay, with great purity of fruit and a lovely freshness.

Miro Traminec 2013, Jeruzalem, Slovenia

€20.99 from Cabot & Co., Westport or On the Grapevine, Dalkey.

Miro came over for the Knockranny Wine weekend, and put on a fascinating tasting of his wines. Included was a Traminec, or Gewürztraminer. I am guilty of ignoring this grape, mainly because I grew tired of the overblown aromas, flabby fruit and residual sugar that you so often find. Miro’s version however was lovely; lightly aromatic, spicy nose; soft textured lychees on the palate and good length. A charming wine to sup by itself or I suspect it would go nicely with Chinese or Thai food.


Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut Nature Champagne
Around €60.

We didn’t open up the bottle of Bollinger in the picture above for various reasons. The Brut Nature, has no residual sugar, unlike most Champagnes that have 9-12 g/l. It showed in the bone-dry, austere finish. I loved it, but others were a little less sure. It didn’t stop us polishing off the bottle before dinner though. Light crisp apple and brioche with an elegant bone dry long finish. Nice wine.

Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2002, Trimbach, Alsace
The current vintage costs €50 – 60 a bottle.

One of my favourite white wines, and this bottle, the last of a case I bought, was superb. Elegant and restrained, with perfectly mature fruit. Toasty, nutty and honeyed, with plenty of acidity, I could have sipped it all evening. Despite the price (around €50) I still believe this is one of the best value white wines. It is made from several Grand Cru vineyards, and is less expensive and more consistent than most grand cru white Burgundy.


Villa de Corullón 2001, Bierzo
Around €65 a bottle.

This had been stashed away for the best part of a decade. As I had just finished a tasting of Bierzo, I thought it might be nice to try a mature version. It certainly didn’t taste ten years old with sour cherries, plums and a strong mineral streak. Good length. The leftovers were nice the following day too. Nice without every bowling me over.

Ch. Canon 1990, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé


I bought this around fifteen years ago; elegant and maturing with an attractive leafiness and some restrained plum fruits. It still had some tannins on the finish. Opened out nicely and went very well with my roast pork. Very good rather than excellent.

Ch. Coutet 1989, Barsac

Rich marmalade and honey fruits, with a tangy long sweet finish. Very tasty, lacking the complexity to be really great, but a very nice wine.

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An Irish favourite: Rioja reigns from Spain

First published in the Irish Times 13th February, 2016

In the weeks before Christmas I spent a great deal of time standing in wine shops, inveigling customers into buying a copy of my wine book. One store I visited had two giant piles of rioja reserva on offer at a discounted price. There were other wines on promotion too, but it was the two riojas that flew out with the greatest speed. Both stacks were severely depleted by the time I departed a few hours later. Rioja, and rioja reserva in particular, has long been one of our favourite wine styles and shows no sign of losing popularity.

Most of us would be unaware that rioja has been going through a huge personality change over the last decade, redefining itself several times over. You could now argue that there are three categories of rioja, with some crossover, but generally very different in style. Yet despite this upheaval, rioja has managed to retain its position as Spain’s favourite quality wine.

Until the late 1990s every bottle of rioja was classified according to how long it had been aged in oak barrel and bottle prior to release. Under this system, there is a specified a minimum period of ageing in oak: six months for crianza, a year for reserva, and two years for gran reserva wines, At one stage the required period of ageing was even longer in each category. Some, such as López de Heredia, still age wines for 10 or more years in barrel.

Old barrels were generally used to avoid oak flavours while allowing the wine to soften and develop delicate mushroomy, leathery, earthy flavours. Nowadays, a portion of newer barrels is sometimes included to add vanilla and spice.

Classic examples of the traditional style (López de Heredia, Muga Prado Enea and La Rioja Alta 904 spring to mind) can be superb, complex wines that last forever. The only exception to ageing in oak was up north in Alava, the Basque part of Rioja, where the tradition has been to drink young, unoaked wines often made partly or completely by whole-berry fermentation. These light, acidic fruity wines went perfectly with those tapas the Basques love to eat in bars and restaurants.

Rioja expanded massively in the 1990s and at times the quality of the wine decreased. There was a downward pressure on price in Spain (where most rioja is sold) and elsewhere. It lead to some very cheap and uninspiring reservas and gran reservas. During the prolonged period of economic success in the years preceding the millennium and after, many producers started to produce a new, modern style of rioja: full-bodied wines with high levels of new oak, alcohol, ripeness and extraction. They were also very expensive.

These fruit bombs were rapturously received by much of the media and a sector of the public. They were generally categorised as simply cosecha (meaning vintage or harvest) and ignored the traditional system of classification.

More recently there has been a move among smaller, younger producers towards much lighter, more elegant wines with little or no oak ageing. Again these are simply labeled cosecha. They often come from a single vineyard, some are made by whole- berry fermentation, others simply fermented and matured for very short periods in stainless steel or cement.

While I enjoy rioja reserva, I have always been a fan of the less oaky style as well. Tempranillo has such wonderful clean, delicate fruit it is a pity to mask it with too much oak. Having said that, the best of the traditional style are unique wines.

I received a number of excellent samples from the trade for this tasting. Sadly I couldn’t find space for the wonderful LZ de Lanziego (about €20). I also tasted the fine GA2 Graciano from Curious Wines (€17.49), and the excellent Artuke Pies Negros 2014, a wine that features in my book. See for full details of the tasting.


IMG_0005Artuke 2014, Rioja

Seductive wine; supple easy sweet ripe strawberry and red cherry fruit, with surprising concentration and depth.

Stockists: Listons, Camden St; 64wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines

DSCF6385Cantos de Valpiedra 2012,Rioja,
€18.50/£12.50 This was an excellent cultured modern Rioja, with smooth supple cassis and subtle spice. A real crowd pleaser at a very fair price.


Image 26Señorío de Cuzcurrita 2008, Rioja

A lovely mature wine with ripe sweet strawberry and dark fruits laced with a soft, dusty earthiness, a little oak, and a fine minerality.

Stockists: Wines on the Green

Posted in: Irish Times

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