"Sharing amazing wines among friends... a real pleasure!"
Most of our guests tend to drink more reds than whites so they were very keen to get to this section of our tasting to sample what we'd brought from around the world...
Monastrell, for those who aren't familiar with the grape, is native to Spain and in France is known as Mourvedre, while in California and Australia it's often known as Mataro. You'll find it in popular "GSM" (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blends from the Rhone Valley and now Spain, Australia and beyond.
Here it's presented alone with just 4 months oak aging and made from grapes from 40 year old vines. While 12 and 18 month oak aged versions are also available from the winery, the 18 months has some Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. The 4 and 12 months versions are available from allaboutwine.co.uk while the 4 is also available at £9.99 from Virgin Wines.
I was advised to serve it chilled as they do in Spain, but it's very unusual for a punchy 15% alcohol red wine as dry as a Mourvedre to be served chilled. In any case, it was February in Southport so there seemed little need for refrigeration. For once, the bringer of the bottle instantly recognised it - perhaps testament to why she'd spent January on an alcohol free detox? Or perhaps simply it's that this wine is so deliciously drinkable, that it couldn't be anything else?
It was an instant hit with all 11 of us and had none of the "dog strangling" harsh-drying tannins which give this grape it's French nickname "Etrangle-Chien"... We all tasted what seemed a very fruit forward wine full of blackberry, plum and dark rich fruits, with hints of the oak aging showing in it's vanilla and coffee overtones and all agreed it was a bit of a bargain.
No-one requested it chilled!
The over-riding impression of this wine was cherry - bright red cherry with a hint of redcurrant.
Greece's Agioritiko grape is famed for its rich velvety red wines, the best of which are from Nemea where this wine was produced. In 800BC when the Greek poet Homer sung its praises so this is no new kid on the block, despite it's unfamiliarity to my crowd. Unlike most of the reds we tasted, there was no oak aging whatsoever leaving a simple and fruit driven wine, which would be light and easy to drink with a Greek salad or perhaps a lamb kebab. Following the Juan Gil was always going to be a challenge, and in this case, my guests were left wanting more - particularly those who'd tasted better Greek wine in Greece. Even if they have no idea what it was!
In Spain, "reserve" wine actually means something and is controlled by law, unlike in many other countries where it's simply a marketing term meant to imply prestige.
Gran Reserva wines are not sold until they are 5 years old and usually spend at least 2 years of that time in oak barrels.
The oak aging difference was intensely evident here with the Tapa Roja being full of meaty, game and leather flavours. It was an enjoyable example of the wine and though it would probably have been more at home with food, if you like aged Riojas. you'd like this. As Virgin Wines seem to have run out and I can't find another stockist in the UK, we'll leave the story there!
Cal Pla Crianza 2006 was warmly greeted by smiles and nods of approval. Crianza means it's spent at least 12 months in oak and in this case 14 months. Somehow we sampled a whole range of Spanish oaking strategies with no forward planning. Amazing!
This Priorat was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, , and Garnacha (known in France as Carignan and Grenache). You can imagine that the 11th wine of the night is always going to go down well and fortunately this righted all of the Barolo's wrongs.
Crowd-pleasing blackcurrant, dark plummy damson, sweet spices and that hint of leather from the oak aging combined to provide a real treat.
Fortunately for us, this was the second wine generously provided by our most educated wine guest. Even more fortunately, it redeemed his kudos points significantly after the less appreciated Chignin Bergeron he brought to represent the whites.
I'll certainly be visiting my local Spirited Wines branch to pick up a bottle or two of this. Being fashionable, Priorat can sometimes be overpriced. This seems good value to me.
Yes, we really did have to go dancing after all of this wine, and indeed one of our guests had to go on to DJ two sets during the evening. Now that's commitment. I didn't enjoy this bottle quite as much as I had the previous time, although it's still a fabulous example of Barossa Shiraz, the lesson here is watch out for tannin build up, drink plenty of water during a tasting and remember to spit frequently!