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?


How to wash your dog in Spain

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Every now and again, someone leaves a comment on this blog that makes me laugh.  Recently, I nearly wet myself when this comment appeared on my post about the Costa del Crime:

Hola, por si entiendes español, te mando esto, deberias elegir otros vinos en España, los que eliges ( valga la rebundancia ),aquí se utilizan para desatascar el inodoro y el cava freixenet para lavar al perro. Saludos

As it happens, Spanish is a language that avoided me at school, so it is not technically true that I wet myself when Lorenza left the comment.  Fortunately, my mate Paul, who learnt Spanish on a beach near Barcelona whilst variously selling deckchairs, running a water skiing school and generally bumming around for several years, was able to assist.  Here is his translation:

Hello, in the case of you being able to understand Spanish, I am sending you this. You should choose other wines in Spain, the ones you choose, here we use them to get rid of smells and Cava Freixenet is for washing the dog.

Thoughts of massaging Cava into Bonzo’s furry skin got me to wondering whether Spanish dogs are exported to Korea as a canine take on wagyu beef?

Last day on the Costa del Crime

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

On the way home from Banús, and on Sundays many restos are shut.  Our contorted journey this time, for some reason, comprised a bus to Marbella, a taxi to Fuengirola and a train to Malaga airport.  Planes trains and automobiles!  Good job we had the best part of a day to waste.

Apart from the travelling, our first waste of time was stopping at La Tasca de los Niños.  The only excitement drawn from that place resulted from a couple of Spanish piss-heads already warming up for the European Cup Final (Spain were to deservedly beat Germany 1-0).

Viva Espana?

Fortunately tapas are served on small plates, so after the first two disappointments, we decamped to Cervecería Gambrinus right next door to the rail station.


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.

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…


La Bocana, Puerto Banús, Spain

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Last year, we watched the yachts of the rich and infamous from La Bocana overlooking the harbour entrance.  The food and wine were good enough to warrant a revisit in 2008.

La Bocana and a barrel for some reason


La Paz Garrido, Fuengirola for 5* tapas

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

When in dining mode, I am a grazer.  I like to sample a range of flavours, and try new things as often as possible.  Chinese banquets are great.   I like my Indian food to be served on as many plates as possible so I can play culinary Russian roulette with my taste buds.  A spot of lime pickle on a spoonful of Vindaloo is like walking your tongue across hot coals, but this is far superior to pavement slabs of bland meat.

The ultimate grazer’s delight is a combination of three words:  Spain, seafood and tapas.  I think I may have found my mecca, ironically just to the west of the railway station in Fuengirola, Costa del Sol.  This place is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten in and almost certainly the best value.

Not much to look at eh?


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


Condes Carpallo 2006

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

As I sit here contemplating a meaningless friendly against France (meaningless since Signor McClaren failed to qualify England for the 2008 European Championships) I thought I would tip a nod to our new head coach by sampling a bottle of Carpallo.  Now Sr Capello is Italian, whereas this wine is Spanish.  Sr. Capello is a heavyweight, and this wine is a lightweight.  Sr. Capello is serious, whereas my comparison to a wine named Carpallo is inane and trite.  Then again, Sr. Capello has picked David Beckham in the squad which is a bit of a laugh and not exactly building for the future is it?  My final comparison is that Condes Carpallo is dirt cheap, whereas Sr. Capello is very very expensive indeed.  Which one delivers the best value?

Condes Carpallo…isn’t he the new England manager?????


Palacio de Monsalud 2001

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I found Palacio de Monsalud at the Sunday Times Wine Club.

Nice bag of Earl Grey (my favourite) and Monsalud (not)

It is inexpensive (£7.42 per bottle) and I think it arrived in one of those bin end cases that always looks great value but invariably disappoints on balance.  The smell on opening was prunes.  A heavy thick set wine that reminded me of Port, despite only 13% alcohol.  Some spice in the form of French mustard may have been false interest introduced only by the smear of Dijon mustard on my pork sandwich.

At first I assumed the wine was spoiled but as it developed I think it just tastes crap as a matter of course.

I suppose, not surprisingly for a wine that smells of Port, it went better with cheese than anything else.

But I thought that Spanish wines were supposed to be great wines at great value to us Brits.  There was nothing here to inspire me to write anything interesting or informative….sorry.