Marqués de Arienzo Gran Reserva 1998

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

I hardly dare review a Spanish wine after my admonishment at the hands of Lorenza, but I had already purchased this on my way home from Spain in July.  There is not much to do at Malaga airport other than mooch around the “duty free” shop, and €16.30 doesn’t sound like a lot for a Gran Reserva.

Memories of our one day long summer!


EWBC2008 Highlights

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The European Wine Bloggers’ Conference 2008 was a massive hit, it has to be said, much to the surprise of the organisers.

So much happened in one weekend of my life, I can barely pick out my favourite bits.  Let’s start with the lowlights – landed in Bilbao, bag (including wine samples) landed in Palermo.  Arrived back in UK, bag arrived one hour later, one bottle of wine smashed, clothes ruined and bag stunk of wine, had to drive home overnight with a blood stained handkerchief wrapped around my finger, nearly sliced off from glass shards.

OK, that’s only one lowlight really.  The rest of the weekend was awesome – here are my top 11 highlights:

11.  Teaching Ryan Opaz (US citizen and all round good guy) to say “arsehole” instead of “asshole” – what is the matter with Americans? I suppose we could agree to use “George W Bush” for the same meaning.


Evidence of risk taking at Riscal tasting

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

One weekend in La Rioja is not anywhere near long enough to enjoy the fruits (and tannins) offered up by this part of northern Spain.  I was, therefore, extremely pleased to see a visit to Marqués de Riscal winery, one of my favourites, on the itinerary of the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

Riscal is a traditional old winery yet some experimentation is being dared, such as the inclusion of increasing quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon in this Tempranillo dominated region, and talking of innovation (a noun to which Riscal aspires) it is hard to ignore the stunning architecture of the Frank Gehry building.  Although supposedly representative of the wines of Riscal, I suspect Gehry may have been influenced by something more hallucinatory than wine when he sat at his drawing board at the turn of the millennium.  Very impressive though it is, I spat rather than swallowed, the argument that it “blends in” with the surrounding landscape.  I think its very beauty is that it blends in like a spaceship placed next to the Houses of Parliament.  Come to think of it, when is the London Eye scheduled for take off?


Risky Rioja 2003

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The Marqués of Risk Management

A mate, and former business client, used to take me to Rafa’s El Rincon in Manchester (I always paid).

When it came to whistle wetting tapas oil, Marqués de Riscal was our weapon of choice, partly because it was bloody good, partly because it was bloody and good, mostly because the bill payer knew it was bloody good value.

Taking good note of my cyber-mate, Rob‘s evaluation of the 2003 Rioja vintage, I popped into Sainsbury’s in Manchester and after a bit of mooching, selected a 2003 Marqués de Riscal Reserva at only £9.99, apparently £3 off (but I remember Rafa selling this stuff for less than 20 quid – not much of a mark-up!)

I wonder if the reduction is because most of Sainsbury’s customers had read Rob’s comments about 2003 and have already moved on to looking for the reputationally better 2004 and 2005 vintages.

I was not put off.  The wine, to me was top notch, tasting mostly of blackberry and apple crumble with cream and vanilla pods.  I always look out for Riscal in Spanish restaurants in Manchester, Spain and other places.

Palacio Robledo 2006 Sauvignon Verdejo

Monday, July 21st, 2008

I visited Spain for a weekend recently, and tried a few wines with various blends of Viura, Malvasia and Verdejo.  Not many left an impression, to be honest.  I have a friend who doesn’t drink Spanish wine unless from Rioja.  I think that is a bit binary.  For example there are some great Albariños from Galicia, and Ribero del Duero is hardly shy in getting their punters to part with large sums of wonga for their best wines…  But I take his point that Rioja is perhaps more consistent, whereas other areas require discretionary selection.

This bottle, like Don Quixote, came from La Mancha, unless I’m a daydreamer.  I found it in the “Spain and Portugal” section of my wine rack and it was part of a Sunday Times Wine Club (Laithwaites) “Crisp refreshing whites” case (about £60 the dozen).

Robledi Robledo life goes on hey, li li li li life goes on….for some reason

I am not sure what to conclude.  At the price, it is OK.  As a party wine it would go down a treat if you chilled it to 3°C or below and served it to Sancho Panzas or ASBOs.  As a serious wine compared to any other Sauvignon or so called “crisp dry white”, I found it a little too citric and perhaps best suited to the tartest of lemon dresed shellfish, rather than as an aperitif.  However, if you are a donkey houghty type, wake up and smell the gooseberry.  You never know, you might like it!

At the time of writing it is still available from Laithwaites at £5.67, and as you can probably tell, I have never read any Cervantes.

European Wine Bloggers “to drink Rioja dry”

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

The European Wine Bloggers Conference is fast approaching and I am looking forward to meeting up with a wide range of nationalities with one common aim, to drink Rioja dry discuss maturely the status and future of wine blogging in Europe.  But my travel plans are a nightmare and I’ve really messed up.

The conference is in Logroño, which is a bloody good reason to visit in its own right, being at the heart of La Rioja.  But my flight is to Bilbao, home of the world famous Guggenheim Museum, and I booked the wrong flight back, leaving me zero time to visit.  And you know how difficult/expensive it is to change a flight with QuEasyjet.

Furthermore, my flight out is from Stansted at 7:15am which means I have to leave home at 3am to get to the airport – at least the roads will be quiet!

I sense that the travel travails will be well worth the effort for what looks like a great event.

Cittadella, you WILL go the the ball!

I was going to talk about this Romanian Pinot Grigio “from Transylvania”, but like a lot of PG it is rather ordinary.  For the record it tasted a bit of grilled tomato with herbs.  La Cittadella came from the Sunday Times Wine Club in a “Crisp Refreshing Whites” mixed case for about £60.  I suppose I shouldn’t have opened a bottle of Cloudy Bay next, which did kind of eclipse this poor Dracula juice.

Meanwhile a big fangs to Rob, Gabriella and Ryan for the hard work organising the conference and I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Azul Marino, Puerto Banús, Spain

Friday, July 18th, 2008

There is no hiding place for the rich these days.  All the summer High Society events are being gatecrashed by chavs.  Royal Ascot this year even tried to enforce a new dress code that ladies must (amongst other things) wear knickers, and not on display.

Blue sea all around...for some reason

We are supposed to be heading fast into the biggest recession since the 1920’s and yet I see no evidence of spending slowing.  As every generation passes, it becomes more affordable to travel to, and participate in, the rich playgrounds of Europe.  You don’t need a yacht to blend in at Puerto Banús, but if you haven’t got one, it helps if you have several tattoos and can chunder at top volume into the early hours, or simply pass out, drunk, on the front of some expensive clothes shop at 4am.

The world famous prostitutes of Puerto Banús draw similar class lines, with prices pitched accordingly, although at both price points there seems to be a massive over-supply problem that is being addressed by aggressive marketing tactics.  A Brazilian, and by this I mean a woman from Brazil, approached me, “You is beautiful” she whispered in my ear.  You are beautiful I corrected.  “Oh thank you!”  No, not at all what I meant, sorry, goodbye…


Marqués de Arienzo Rioja 2003

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

I never look a gift horse in the mouth, Trojan or otherwise.  I never knowingly say “neigh” to a first class excuse not to spend my weekend cutting the lawn.

I’ve just been invited to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley on Saturday.  This will be the third time I have seen them in the last 12 months (first at Live Earth, second at the O2).  One of very few bands that can sell out two nights at Wembley, they must be doing something right.  The Foo Fighters were reborn from Nirvana after Kurt Cobain’s “self inflicted shotgun wound to the head”.  I became a believer quite recently which resulted in me enjoying the first hour of the O2 concert and then listening in bemusement as they excavated deep into their back catalogue.  The crowd went wild and I was left holding the spade.  I must do some revision before going this time.

It will also be an opportunity to attack another trophy restaurant (memo to self: bring change of grunge clothing) for Sunday lunch in our fair capital.  I might look up one of the places my mate Douglas has reviewed and see if I agree with his cultured palate.

For me, last year’s “culture” came from a lads’ trip to Puerto Banús.  On the way back I picked up this bottle from Malaga Airport for only €7.  At the time this was a bargain but, of course, with recent currency movements it is now the approximate pecuniary equivalent of a magnum of 1961 Château Pétrus (if bought in the UK or US).

Malaga Airport or bust - Arienzo

I am sure that Rob could tell me if 2003 was a good year for Rioja.  I thought this Crianza excellent.  In the background, strawberry flavoured, it had a good level of tannin and the sort of sweet acidity I associate with blackberries.  I know this because I happened to be eating said fruit when I drank it.

So maybe it tastes like blackberries soaked in tea with a strawberry sauce and just a dab of vanilla ice cream?  Perhaps it smells like teen spirit?  Or maybe I’m an idiot.

Auction shows me up as a virgin

Monday, May 12th, 2008

If you were thinking of inviting me to a party in the near future, you might want to think again.

I’ve been experimenting with Virgin Wines and, having built up a bit of a credit in my Virgin Wine Bank, I thought it would be fun to try and spend some of my ill-gotten gains on the auction part of the site.  In concept, it’s brilliant, but as with all auctions, caveat emptor applies, in other words, make sure you know what you are buying…..

In a head-rush, I read about the Marqués de Valencia Gran Reserva 2001 and thought it looked a nice Rioja.  Voted wine of the year 2007 by Virgin members, the retail price was advised as £95.88 per case.  For a Gran Reserva this seemed cheap so I quickly placed a bid of about £65 and an hour later had won the case for less than £50.  That’s cheap for any wine.  When it arrived I understood why.

On opening it smelt a bit odd.  Where is the familiar vanilla/oak?  Why does it taste of petrol?

Marqués de vile emptier


Café Istanbul, Manchester

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople, but I am pleased to find it alive and well on Bridge Street.  To be fair it doesn’t look all that great from the outside.  Not very Byzantine.  Let’s open the box and go inside.

Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s a resto…for some reason