Mi Casa, San Juan, Alicante

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Finding it is a bit like going to a rave.  First, you need to know a local hombre to get the number.  On tinkling, you are directed to another telephone box to wait for a call.  Then, like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn, a taxi appears to pick you up from Alicante town centre and you are driven 20 minutes up the coast, blindfolded.

This sort of experience excites the hell out of me and has my salivary glands pissing like a Dutch dyke.


La Taberna del Gourmet, Alicante

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The hyper-observant of you will notice that there is a sex shop a couple of doors up from this back street tapas joint.  When I sat down to eat at La Taberna del Gourmet recently, I started to wonder whether “Pikante” might offer better value, and possibly have more edible items for sale.


Xe Que Bó, Alicante Marina

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Sometimes the seedy looking places turn out to be greatest.  When walking along a Spanish seafront a good tip is to choose the place that has the most punters irrespective of decor or appearance.  Xe Que Bó, Alicante Marina is just one of those places.  It looks tackier than a Leeds nightclub carpet, but the food is fab.


Carra Valseca 2004 Rioja Reserva

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

2004 was, by most commentators, considered to be a good year in Rioja, and Laguardia might be the prettiest village in all of Northern Spain.  So this wine has two things going for it already.


Orballo Albariño 2007

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

After Mad Cow disease and Foot & Mouth, those of us living in the pig free zone of West Yorkshire are pleased to see an agricultural problem that does not affect us directly.  I started feeling sorry for the pig farmers in Wiltshire until I realised that a sneeze in Mexico was like a butterfly flapping its wings in Hong Kong, or a banker collecting his bonus on Wall Street.  In any case, the impact on the world is (potentially) awesome.

Orballo and some clouds...for some reason

So while I sit indoors in my H1N1 isolation with a super strength face masks in 100 packs, in an ante-pandemic panic order, my only consolation is yet another Spanish wine, a nice Albariño from Virgin Wines at £9.99.

Smelling of perfume (which makes a change from flu), grapefruit, parma violets and the sort of mixed flavours you get from cheese and pickle, this is a dry wine that does well as an aperitif, or with barbecued belly of pork.

A tissue please…..sneeze into it, bin it, wash your hands, drink lots of wine, survive the pandemic (hopefully)…….

Artadi Orobio Rioja 2005

Monday, May 11th, 2009

In order to test my hypothesis that it is possible to contract Deep Vein Thrombosis whilst watching an opera, I went to see the 3.5 hour epic Don Carlos at Leeds Grand Theatre last week.  But way back in 1867, Giuseppe Verdi must have foreseen that the seats in the balcony of this fine theatre would be designed for pigmies and children only.  Although there was only one interval, he thoughtfully planned the opera in four acts with a total of six scene changes.  My calves yelled with delight each time the curtain fell and I was able to stand for a few brief but exquisite seconds.

As an opera, Don Carlos has it all.  Intrigue, deception, death, war, royalty and of course, adultery, all of which delivered by a huge cast.  I know you southern types have Sadlers Wells and the Royal Opera House, but up here where it’s cold, wet and cheap… Well we have got Opera North and we are justifiably proud.  This was one of the best productions I have seen with the pick of the cast being William Dazely as Rodrigo, veteran of equally excellent ON productions of Let ’em Eat Cake and Of Thee I Sing where he was a great President – John P Wintergreen.

Anyway back to Spain where Don Carlos (son of Philip II King of Spain) had to suffer the ignominy and heartache of having his promised love, Elisabeth de Valois, marry his father in a political settlement, and as you can imagine, that makes for a promising start to any story.

Artadi Orobio - young style or greedy winemakers?


Miudiño Albariño 2007, Rias Baixas

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I have given mixed reviews of Virgin Wines in the past.  In truth, the quality has varied from the sublime to the downright ugly, but you can’t argue with the prices.  That means value has to be taken into account.  For example, if you sign up for their Wine Bank promotion you merely need to commit a credit crunch dodging £20 per month to your wine account and every three months, Virgin adds another £20 implying a 25% discount on the prices on the site.

So, having tried some bottles at the cheapest end of the spectrum, I thought I would order a few at about a tenner.  But I forgot that this Miudiño Albariño advertised at £9.49 only cost me £7.12 because of Wine Bank.


Naked wines exposed

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

So, Naked Wines has launched and as the website quips “Rules:  Nudity Optional” but this looks like a serious undertaking to me.

You may recall that Rowan Gormley described it as the LastFM of wine shopping, but there has been some controversy over the half launch of Naked Wines, the latest project from the former founder and MD of Virgin Wines.  Its aim is to match wine makers to buyers directly (well via Naked Wines to be precise).  True to his irreverent style, Mr Gormley claims that winemakers “would rather be with their vines than in a Travelodge waiting for an appointment with Tesco”.  This is what the internet was invented for.  Look at the effect it has had on auctions, travel agents, banks, electrical stores, estate agents, bookstores.  The internet is the world’s cyber-wholesale Exchange & Mart.

On the other hand, orders still need to be processed, the wine still needs to be shipped, local duty accounted for, customer service delivered, refunds processed.  In this sense, is Naked Wines really so different from other online wine retailers?

I was invited to join the “tasting panel” and three bottles arrived in the post a few days later.  I was expecting some yawningly predictable staples:  a Petit Chablis, an Aussie Shiraz and a NZ Sauvignon for example.  In fact I got a South African Chenin, a Chilean Cabernet/Carmenère and a Spanish erm….thing.  My interest is aroused but I can assure you I was fully clothed as I tasted the first two – both reds.


Cosme Palacio Cosecha 2004 Rioja

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

US Election night and I am backing Barack.  But not with enough conviction to stay up all night and watch the results.  In fact, not even enough conviction to watch the preamble, since I have just returned from Opera North’s somewhat strange production of Puccini’s Tosca at the Lowry Theatre in Manchester, famed for having the most uncomfortable seats of any modern (or ancient) theatre I know.

I am not much of an opera buff but I do generally love Opera North and I am a sucker for anything live performance – music, theatre, busking, comedy, ballet.  Well maybe ballet is beyond me, in the same way that algebra is beyond a two year old, or an ASBO.


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!