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Decanter March 19

The March 2019 Decanter (www.decanter.com) is out. Which is good news, because it's a rather good one. Especially if (as we do) you like Spanish wine(s). It's a Spanish Special. From the cover, Decanter are leaving us in no doubt of that ...

We at Exel particularly like the March edition as we can show off one of the super-top-headliners that promises, comfortably, to be one of our most popular wines all year.

It's the Olarra Cerro Añon Gran Reserva 2010, which - with an Outstanding rating and 96 points - tops the extensive Rioja panel tasting of the 2010 vintage - a quite superb year, as it has emerged - and does so at just £14.95 a bottle.

There's a lot to say about this one - and about its excellent (and brilliant value) younger siblings - so that's what we've done on another page, which you may like to head to. You don't see 96-point Riojas for fifteen quid every day of the week, after all.

But if you want to buy the blessed Rioja without any more information, just click the bottle below!

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Añon

Rioja Gran Reserva 2010

£14.95

 

We've far more to offer from this edition than just the Cerro Añon(s)... 22 other wines, in fact, albeit only three that aren't Spanish. Some are long-established favourites of ours, others recent award winners elsewhere. Let us explain....

The wines featured this month - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine from this current Decanter appear on each product page.

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1) The Rioja 2010 review concerns itself only with a) that vintage and b) wines of the UK-ever-popular Reserva and Gran Reserva categories (ie aged over a year in oak and three years in total before release). There are two Outstandings, one of which is pricey and not available within these shores. There are an impressive 34 Highly Recommendeds (90+ points).

Notwithstanding the Outstanding Cerro Anon above, two other wines stand out - both already big-sellers wih Exel customers in 2018 - being

- the Finca Nueva Reservarecipient of a Gold medal and 95 points in the 2018 DWWAs - whose "delightful Mediterranean nose" and "seductive palate" land 93 points and attract remarks of "classy", "stylish and harmonious". We knew this, as did many of you: this is a superb Rioja at the price (£16). It runs the risk, in this company, of becoming a case-filler for the Cerro Añon. But it's way better than that. This particular blog writer may even prefer it slightly to the Añon, truth be told.

the Ramón Bilbao Gran Reserva - which scores 93 points. "Powerful, dark and brooding" and "impressive, modern and polished" say Decanter. I got to try this one (see below) in Haro last January, and I'd not disagree: it has a "punch" beyond that of almost all Gran Reservas I've ever tried. NB: We have now run out of the 2010, as have both the importer and Ramón Bilbao themselves! However, the 2011 comes from a vintage also rated "excellent" by the Rioja Consejo Regulador, and held in high esteem by the pundits (Decanter, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator); so, although not the vintage on test, one should not (for one moment) discount it. Personally, I regard the 2011 as more approachable and fuller; the 2010 as the better long-term ager. Both the 2010 and 2011 GRs scored equally well (91) with Spain's leading reviewer, Penin.

Beyond these three above, we offer non-2010 versions of 4 more Highly Recommendeds from La Rioja Alta (two of these), Roda and Sierra Cantabria. In some cases here (and many across the review more widely), the 2010 vintage is simply not available any more: we're never sure how or why these wines ever make it to the tasting panel.

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2) The other main panel tasting is of the increasingly-recognised Spanish red variety of Mencia, from a number of regions (mainly scenic Bierzo...

... but also Ribera Sacre and Valdeorras).

This is perhaps not a variety for fans of Monster Reds: it has a precision, poise and elegance that makes it more cru Beaujolais than Ribera del Duero (say). Whether you're thinking of trying Mencia or an old hand, the 91-point  Ronsel do Sil and the 90-point Black Mencia from the fascinating Cuatro Pasos (you must check out the origins of this name, especially if you like bears... yes, bears) are definite 'must-try's.

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3) An article of 40 Best Tempranillos exposes some pricey-but-wonderful gems: the 2009 Rioja Alta 904 (Gran Reserva) (97 points), the 2011 Roda I (95 points) <NB: very little 2011 left in the UK, although the 2012 has now arrived> and the awesome Pago Negralada 2015 from Abadia Retuerta (92 points - I tried this in Ribera last year, and it quite one of the most wonderful and intense Tempranillos I've been lucky enough to taste - 92 is a bit harsh, in my view).

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4) Other Spanish regions:

- Rueda makes a feature, and both Ramón Bilbao's and Protos's (we love this) Verdejo(s) are listed; both are complexified sobre lias (lees-aged) versions - rather explaining their scores - but still fantastic value at £11-£14;

- non-fortified wines from Jerez also make a showing, with good scorers from Barbadillo, Cota 45 and those über-Sherry-meisters Hidalgo; and

- Hot Toro is emerging as a new home to very impressive (if heady) Tempranillos à la Ribera del Duero, and at superb prices. Exhibit A, Your Honour: we've long sung the praises of the two wines featured this month from Vetus: the Flor de Vetus (2015 - 90 points) and the classic Vetus proper (2014 - 91 points... in its very masculine bottle).

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5) Finally, it's not (quite) all Spain:

Jean-Claude Lapalu's Brouilly 2017 sneaks in in an article on Vielles Vignes (old vines, if you must);

- de Wetshof’s Bateleur Chardonnay gets the Spurrier's World treatment, although we (obviously) can't get access to the 2016 vintage he tried (can anyone?) and offer the 2014; and

- the enticing and fascinating Akarua Brut NV ‘Kiwi Fizz’ (how denigrating that term is; traditional method, this, two-thirds Chardonnay, one-third Pinot Noir) finds itself into 91 points and among the recommended Weekday Wines (you’re having a good week if this is being uncorked ...).

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Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

"I bought six of these and unfortunately I have given three away to friends. We opened it last night and decanted as per the instructions of your shop staff. The wine is truly spectacular and I am working out how to break in to my friend's flat to steal back the wine I gave him. I have never been moved to comment on a bottle of wine by email. Thank you for the spectacular experience. Another 6 please. I won't be as generous with the next lot!"

- regular (anonymous) Perth customer [who ultimately bought another 12]

In case you missed it reaching this page, here's our article on the Decanter review and this wine.

We also highly recommend the Gran Reserva's two younger relatives, the 2015 Reserva and the 2016 Crianza.

Bodegas Olarra was created in 1973. Situated on the outskirts of the city of Logroño in Rioja Alta, their winery – a Y-shaped building designed to make optimum use of the space for both production and ageing of the wine – is known as “the Cathedral of La Rioja”. From the beginning, the winery has known how to combine the traditional methods of production and ageing with the most advanced modern techniques of viticulture and vinification. A favourable geographic location, gives the vineyards all the ingredients to produce good fruits. Indeed the clay and chalky soil is watered by the rain and the Ebro river. This area also benefits from warm sunshine and the influence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. In 1978, Bodegas Olarra achieved their first Gold medal for a Cerro Añon wine in the tenth International Wines and Spirits Competition in the UK. Numerous awards followed from then on, proof of the outstanding quality of their wines.

Grapes for the Gran Reserva are drawn solely from Olarra vineyards; these are located primarily in Rioja Alta, but also in Rioja Alavesa to a lesser extent. Vines in these vineyards are all grown in the traditional way. The average age of the vines is over 30 years. Most of the vineyards sit on a clay-rich soil in Rioja Alta and on limestone-clay soils in Rioja Alavesa.

Harvests took place later than usual in 2010, well into late October, when the fruit was considered to have reached full ripeness; this slower, steadier ripening accounts for much of the quality of this harvest (generally) and the 2010 Gran Reserva (in the specific). Subsequent selection ensured that only grapes in healthy shape made it through to the vinification process. 2010 was a great year in the history of the quality of grapes on the Olarra estate. 

Tempranillo 80%, Mazuelo 10%, Garnacha 5%, Graciano 5%.

Fermentation and maceration lasted for a total of 19 days and were performed in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature of 28ºC. Later on, the wine was racked into new French (Allier) oak, 225-litre casks/barricas where the malolactic fermentation took place, followed by a stay on the lees for a little over two months, with regular batonnage.

By the end of that winter, the wine was already being racked into new oak barrels, where it remained for a further six months. After this, the rest of the oak ageing - up to the total 27 months - was conducted in different barrels again: Allier and American (Missouri) oak, all with a medium toast, and with different ages spanning from brand new to 5 years. After fining with egg whites, the wine was bottled and stored in Olarra's bottle cellar for 45 months, before it started to be released.

The Gran Reserva 2010 shows a deep red colour with shades of ruby on the rim of the glass. On the nose, at the time of original release, it revealed a delicate balance between ripe red berry aromas and those of spices and smokiness. Over time, this developmental bouquet has grown more complex, showing aromas of leather, tobacco, coffee beans and raisins. On the palate, it is full and round, thanks to its long period in the bottle. Mouthfeel is as firm, elegant and smooth as one should expect from a great Rioja Gran Reserva, with a surprisingly long and fresh finish.

£14.95

Reserva Rioja Finca Nueva 2010 (1x75cl)

** Available in two different label formats - the wine is identical! Currently on purple label at the moment! **

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).

Finca Nueva Reserva Rioja 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

Awarded a Gold Medal and 95 points at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details - but note that the price stated there is vastly incorrect!).

For other 2018 DWWA winners, click here.

The region of La Rioja lends its name to Spain`s most widely recognised wines. Much Rioja is blended from three districts; Alta and Alavesa to the north and the hot dry Baja district to the south, and uses Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo red grape varieties and the diminishing influence of extended ageing in oak barrels.

Finca Nueva was bought by Miguel Angel de Gregorio in 2004. He is also the owner and winemaker of the renowned Finca Allende. The vines for Finca Nueva are planted on limestone rich soils which brings a finesse and mineral character to the wines. They use sustainable viticulture practices in the vineyard as Miguel says "we do not govern the terroir, the terroir governs us". They do not use any kind of herbicide or synthetic chemicals and keep carbon emissions low.

This intense and concentrated Reserva spends 24 months in French oak barrels. Deep ruby in colour with a pronounced nose of black cherries and cedar wood. The palate is rich with notes of ripe blackberries, cherries and plums combined with dark chocolate, coffee and graphite. Characterised by soft tannins and a very long finish.

£16.10

Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva Rioja 2011 (1x75cl)

The 2010 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).

Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

The 2010 vintage was also awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2017 edition review of Premium Rioja (see blue link below).

Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 - March 2017 Decanter review

Exel note: it's worth saying that, for all the fame of the 2010 harvest, 2011 was also regarded as a wonderful year: rated Excellent by the Rioja Consejo Regulador and rated 93/100 by Wine Enthusiast. The 2011 has only recently been released and has yet to come under test in the UK. Both the 2010 and 2011 scored 91 with Spain's leading reviewer, Penin.

Established in 1924 and based in Haro, Ramón Bilbao has 180 vineyards spread across Rioja. Today, it is the fastest growing winery in the region and has firmly established itself as one of Spain’s most exciting and innovative producers. Born and bred in the region chief winemaker Rodolfo Bastida is a man who likes to push the boundaries and believes the future lies in trial and exploration.

To see an excellent fiche technique for this wine from the winemakers at Ramon Bilbao, please click on the blue link below.

Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva Rioja 2011 - fiche technique

£22.25

La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2009 (1x75cl)

** WE HOLD LIMITED STOCK OF THE ARDANZA, AND LARGER ORDERS, ALTHOUGH ROUTINE, ARE AD HOC. PLEASE CALL (01738 493535) OR EMAIL (orders@exelwines.co.uk) US IF YOU'D LIKE TO ORDER MORE THAN THE QUANTITY AVAILABLE **

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in May 2018 (see blue link below).

La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2009 - May 2018 Decanter review

"Ardanza is a classic, pan-regional Rioja, blending Tempranillo from the Rioja Alta with 20% Garnacha from Tudelilla in the Rioja Oriental. It’s a richer, plusher wine than the 2008, reflecting the warmer vintage, but it’s not remotely ponderous. Floral, fine and very complete with fennel and sweet Asian spices, tangy acidity and deftly handled American oak. Drink 2018-26"95 Points, Tim Atkin MW

Quality, elegance, innovation, evolution... They are the pillars on which the five founding families erected La Rioja Alta winery in 1890 and built a way of living, feeling and producing wines of the highest quality that continue to evolve subtly, perfectly adapting to new tastes. This is how the permanent pursuit of excellence started; a pursuit that continues into the 21st century with identical enthusiasm. They draw the best from their winemaking tradition and wisdom — their own cooperage, manual racking, long ageing periods, etc — and combine it with the most modern winemaking technology. Today, La Rioja Alta wines are an international exemplar of the great wines of Rioja.

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at La Rioja Alta.

La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza 2009 - fiche technique

The current vintage of one of the flagship wines from La Rioja Alta is the 2009 Vina Ardanza Reserva, the second year it has contained 20% Garnacha grapes from their estate vineyards in La Pedriza in the village ofTudelilla in Rioja Baja.

Medium-intensity, dark cherry-red; clean and bright. To the nose it stands out for its fresh, spicy character, with hints of sweet cherries and blackcurrant chocolate, assembled with notes of black pepper, tobacco, nutmeg, coffee, mocha and cinnamon. Pleasant and well-balanced in the mouth. Tasty, with a soft freshness, nice structure, and delicately elegant tannins. Silky finish, with a lovely aftertaste, where liqueur-like notes of cherries and blackcurrants intermingle with toasty notes and sweet spices turning this especial edition of Viña Ardanza into a fine, elegant wine.

£23.50

Abadia Retuerta Pago Negralada 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Best Northwest Spanish Red) at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2017 DWWA supplement (see blue link below)...

Abadia Retuerta Negralada 2014 - 2017 DWWA Decanter review

...and was awarded 93+ points by Wine Advocate (click here).

In their single vineyard wines Abadia Retuerto seek to bring out, above all, the true character of the terroir. Pago Negralada comes from a plot of Tempranillo, the noblest Spanish grape variety. The vines are planted in deep gravel soils intermixed with sand at the surface, and produce wines with a distinctive firm, tannic character.

To see an excellent information sheet/tasting note for this wine by the team at Abadia Retuerta, please click on the blue link below.

Abadia Retuerta Pago Negralada 2014 - fiche technique

£62.25

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2009 (1x75cl)

** WE HOLD LIMITED STOCK OF THE 904, AND LARGER ORDERS, ALTHOUGH ROUTINE, ARE AD HOC. PLEASE CALL (01738 493535) OR EMAIL (orders@exelwines.co.uk) US IF YOU'D LIKE TO ORDER MORE THAN THE QUANTITY AVAILABLE **

Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their March 2019 edition article on the Top 40 Tempranillos (see blue link below).

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2009 - March 2019 Decanter review

Quality, elegance, innovation, evolution... They are the pillars on which the five founding families erected La Rioja Alta winery in 1890 and built a way of living, feeling and producing wines of the highest quality that continue to evolve subtly, perfectly adapting to new tastes. This is how the permanent pursuit of excellence started; a pursuit that continues into the 21st century with identical enthusiasm. They draw the best from their winemaking tradition and wisdom — their own cooperage, manual racking, long ageing periods, etc — and combine it with the most modern winemaking technology. Today, La Rioja Alta wines are an international exemplar of the great wines of Rioja.

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at La Rioja Alta.

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2009 - fiche technique

Rioja Alta’s Gran Reserva 904 stands out for its remarkable complexity and outstanding ageing potential. It is a classic Rioja which is released in exceptional vintage. The 2009 reveals a bouquet of great aromatic complexity.

Cassis and wild berry characters give way to delicate spices and sweet balsamic notes. The palate builds on the expansive aromas with concentrated sweet cherry flavours and notes of smoky tobacco and cedar spice balanced by refreshing acidity and silky smooth tannins. A blend of 90% Tempranillo with a seasoning of Graciano, this beautifully complex wine was matured in barrels for four years followed by a further three years in bottle. Although delicious for drinking now, it has the capacity to age for another twenty years or more.

£39.95

Rioja Reserva, Sierra Cantabria 2012 (1x75cl)

The 2010 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below). The 2010 is categorically depleted in the UK!

Rioja Reserva, Sierra Cantabria 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

Founded in 1957 by Guillermo Eguren, Sierra Cantabria is nestled in the heart of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, a town of great winemaking tradition, situated in a unique location between the River Ebro and the Sierra Cantabria mountain range. The Sierra Cantabria mountain range (1,200 m. of altitude) and the river Ebro (350 m.), create a special microclimate with Mediterranean and Continental characteristics - providing mild winters and gentle summers- unique for vine cultivation. On the other hand, the summer thermal jump (intense heat during the day with fresh night temperatures) creates an increase in the level of polyphenols, normally associated with excellent quality wines.

Tempranillo (100%) from vineyards over 30 years old. Tradition harvesting with 100% destemming. Fermentation for 8 days with native yeasts and under temperature control between 28ºC and 30ºC. Maceration sfter fermentation on the skins for 14 days. Racking twice a day until fermentation is finished. 

Ageing: In French (50%) and American (50%) oak barrels of 225 litres (barriques) for 18 months in barrels that are 20% new, 80% used (these, never more than 3 uses previously). Bottled unfiltered.

Intense cherry and toasty nose of oak with light traces of fine reduction with aromas of tobacco and cedar. Ripe fruit with varietal expression and light floral traces (petals). Dense, sweet and polished, this is a beautifully nuanced wine with very fine tannins. 

£19.45

Bodegas Lan Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 (1x75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).

Bodegas Lan Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

Winemaking at LAN follows a principle: "extreme respect for our grapes, preserving the vineyard’s distinctive features in each of the stages of fermentation and ageing, both in the barrel and in the bottle. We manage each tank individually, based on the destination it has been assigned. Such respect implies preparation, manual selection, creativity, tradition and modernity -all these elements play a part in endeavour to outdue ourselves every day. A painstaking oak selection along with malolactic fermentation in new barrels transform our estate’s musts into pleasant, unctuous and round wines."

The Bodegas Lan Gran Reserva is made using 90% Tempranillo from a selection of the best grapes coming from 30 year-old, low yielding bush vines in the Rioja Alta and 10% Mazuelo from the Viña Lanciano vineyard.

The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 30º C. The wine was then macerated for 3 weeks, over-pumping the must daily to favour higher extraction of colour and aromas. It was aged for 24 months in American oak and French oak barrels, followed by a minimum of 36 months in the bottle.

This wine is garnet in colour with ruby hues. Aromas of ripe red fruits combined with spicy notes from the aging in oak (Vanilla, cinnamon, fennel, liquorice root) and tertiary aromas (Leather, cigar box…) from its prolonged bottle ageing. Full bodied and round, its mouthfeel is elegant and very well balanced.

A wine for a special occasion. Recommended to pair with roasted meats, lamb, hearty stews and cured cheeses.

£20.30

Cuatro Pasos Black Bierzo Mencia 2016 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of Spanish Mencía (see blue link below).

Cuatro Pasos Black Bierzo 2016 - March 2019 Decanter review

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Cuatro Pasos Black Bierzo Mencía 2016 - fiche technique

As well as their work in pioneering the whites of Galicia, Luciano Amoedo and Katia Álvarez of Martín Códax also make this red wine in Bierzo. The Bierzo DO lies further inland from Rías Baixas, with a slightly warmer climate where Mencía is the native variety.

The discovery of four bear footprints in a magnificent vineyard in the highest areas of the Bierzo inspired the name of this wine - Cuatro Pasos or Four Steps. It is a 100% Mencía from grapes chosen from the over 80 year old vines found in vineyards located in the high areas of the Bierzo region. Yields are 35 hectolitres per hectare.

2016 surpassed expectations, having started with rain and potential issues with mildew during flowering, it improved with spectacular weather in August. Hot, sunny days allowed grapes to ripen well and a healthy harvest was produced.

Grapes were picked by hand in 20 kilogram crates and then selected from a sorting table. They were then destemmed and crushed. Pre-fermentative maceration took place at 12ºC and alcoholic fermentation at 24-26ºC. The wine spent an extended period on the skins post-fermentation and was then aged for 6-7 months in French oak (75%) and American oak (25%) before filtering and bottling.

This wine is intense morello cherry red in colour with a wide rim. It has an excellent blend of red fruit notes, toasted spicy and smoked notes. It is full-bodied and balanced, with well-integrated tannins and a mineral finish.

£15.15

Cuatro Pasos Mencía DO Bierzo 2016 (1 x 75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of Spanish Mencía.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Cuatro Pasos Mencía DO Bierzo 2016 - fiche technique

As well as their work in pioneering the whites of Galicia, Luciano Amoedo and Katia Álvarez of Martín Códax also make this red wine in Bierzo. The Bierzo DO lies further inland from Rías Baixas, with a slightly warmer climate where Mencía is the native variety.

The discovery of four bear footprints in a magnificent vineyard in the highest areas of the Bierzo inspired the name of this wine - Cuatro Pasos or Four Steps. The wine is made from 100% Mencía grapes that are chosen from old vines (over 80 years of age), planted in slate soils.

2016 surpassed expectations, having started with rain and potential issues with mildew during flowering, it improved with spectacular weather in August. Hot, sunny days allowed grapes to ripen well and a healthy harvest was produced.

After destemming and crushing, the grapes were macerated at 12ºC before being fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel vats at 24-26ºC. After vinification the wine was matured for two to three months in oak barrels (75% French, 25% American).

This wine is morello cherry red in colour with violet hues. The varietal aromas of red fruits dominate the bouquet with subtle hints of vanilla from the oak. On the palate, it is elegant and well-balanced, with a fruit driven finish.

£10.95

Alfredo Maestro Tejero El Marciano 2017 (1x 75cl)

The 2016 vintage of this wine (now very hard to find - we can't) was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition article on Discovery/New Wave Spain (see blue link below).

Alfredo Maestro Tejero El Marciano 2016 - March 2019 Decanter review

Alfredo Maestro Tejero’s vineyards are located within the Ribera del Duero D.O., but Alfredo has decided not to participate in the D.O., so his wines are classed as Vino de la Tierra de Castillo y León. They are completely natural wines, with no sulphur added in the vineyard or the winery. All vineyard treatments are natural and biodynamic practices are followed.

The isolated Gredos mountain range which lies 70 kilometres west of Madrid is home to a mosaic of tiny old-vine vineyards planted mainly to Grenache. El Marciano comes from one such 70-year-old granitic site lying at a staggering 1,150 metres elevation. The grapes are mainly destemmed, 20% whole bunches were retained and fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel vat of 2000 litres with daily stirrings. The wine undergoes no filtration or fining and has no added sulphur.

This gorgeous wine typifies Alfredo’s delicate touch and respect for his land. It is juicy and flavoursome, laden with spicy blackberry aromas as well as raspberry, liquorice and a fresh earth scented palate. The texture is rock-sculpted (the granite bedrock of the site lies just a few inched below the surface) and the acidity is thrillingly bright, drawing all corners together.

The label is a representation of the remote and barren granite-ridden landscape that make up this wine’s terroir. It depicts Alfredo directing two martian vineyard workers who are clearly not comfortable in their endeavours. El Marciano translates from Spanish as The Martian. 

£15.20

Ramon Bilbao Edicion Limitada Lias Verdejo 2017 (1x75cl)

** UK STOCKS ARE CURRENTLY LOW - MORE AVAILABLE IN LATE APRIL**

The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of Rueda (see blue link below).

Ramon Bilbao Edicion Limitada Lias Verdejo 2016 - March 2019 Decanter review

Established in 1924 and based in Haro, Ramón Bilbao has 180 vineyards spread across Rioja. Today, it is the fastest growing winery in the region and has firmly established itself as one of Spain’s most exciting and innovative producers. Born and bred in the region chief winemaker Rodolfo Bastida is a man who likes to push the boundaries and believes the future lies in trial and exploration.

To see an excellent information and tasting sheet for this wine (albeit 2016 vintage, 2017 sheet expected imminently) produced by the team at Ramón Bilbao, please click on the blue link below.

Ramon Bilbao Edicion Limitada Lias Verdejo 2016 - fiche technique

£13.55

Bodegas Protos Rueda Verdejo 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of Rueda (see blue link below).

Bodegas Protos Rueda Verdejo 2017 - March 2019 Decanter review

The guiding philosophy of Protos is "Quality above all". For this reason, the whole process leading to the production of their wine undergoes an in-depth analysis. The vineyards are controlled exhaustively by both technicians and experts throughout the growth cycle, yielding a production of the highest quality. This also gives them in-depth information about all the grapes to be used before they reach the winery.

Harvesting for this wine is done at night, is 100% manual and the production was gathered in 20-kilo boxes; the grapes are then spread over sorting tables. This allows them to guarantee that only completely healthy, whole grapes reach the fermentation tanks. After fermentation this wine spends a further 3 months resting on its fine lees (indeed, this new 2017 vintage is now labelled, as per the photo, as a sobre lias).

This wine has a greenish straw colour and is bright and clean. The Protos Verdejo is powerful yet fruity with green apple, citrus and tropical fruit aromas as well as white blossoms, fragant herbs and fennel hints. The flavours are very fresh, with good acidity,  fruity, well balanced flavours. It is a complex wine, with a long finish.

£11.50

Barbadillo Mirabras 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their March 2019 edition article: Revolutionary Road which covers sherry country's quiet revolution (see blue link below).

Barbadillo Mirabras 2016 - March 2019 Decanter review

This wine is inspired by the age-old methods of vinification of the Sherry district. The grapes come from Barbadillo’s ‘Cerro de Leyes’ vineyard in the Santa Lucía estate from Palomino vines planted in 1972.

Before being pressed, the grapes are prepared in a very traditional way known as ‘Soleo’ where the picked grape bunches are left in the sun to increase the sugar concentration. Manzanilla butts are then used for a traditional cask fermentation using the natural yeasts from the vineyard. The young wine is then transferred to stainless steel and cement tanks for 18 months, under a veil of ‘flor’ before bottling with minimal fining. The result is something unique and represents a journey back in time in termsof aromas and flavours; ones that might have been more familiar in the 19th century.

The wine has remarkable character for a Palomino white; pale golden colour, dry with good acidity, toasted maize and honeyed nose with an unctuous sensation on the palate, revealing flavours of yeast, bread crust and a hint of old oak.

£19.50

Cota 45 Ube Miraflores 2017 (1x 75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their March 2019 edition article: Revolutionary Road which covers sherry country's quiet revolution (see blue link below).

Cota 45 Ube Miraflores 2015 - March 2019 Decanter review

Quite a local legend in Sanlúcar, Ramiro Ibáñez Espinar, is a restless and talented winemaker who, with experience in Bordeaux and Australia as well as his native Sanlúcar, runs a winemakeing consultancy under the name GL Cero used by various bodegas in the Marco de Jerez. He is s hugely enthusiastic about the potential of albariza soil and the recovery of traditional local grape varieties, many of which are all but lost, and which are no longer permitted in the Consejo regulations. He makes all sorts of interesting wines to demonstrate the terroir and personality of each vineyard and grape variety without letting too much flor obscure it.

Ramiro was a founder member of Manifiesto 119, a group of like-minded local wine producers who want to experiment with the old varieties and winemaking techniques, make unfortified sherry and give more importance to the grapes and the vineyard, not to mention restoring casas de viña. They chose this name after the 119 grape varieties (40 of them in Cádiz) catalogued in Andalucía in 1807 by the first Spanish ampelographer, Simón de Rojas Clemente. Like Ramiro the group makes table wines as well as Sherry, and while few of them carry the DO they are still sought after and hard to obtain due to the small quantities made. One of these projects is Ube and focuses on old vine Palomino from different clones fermented in an old Manzanilla butt without flor. After fermenting in sherry butts, it is then aged for 8 months in selected butts (under flor during the final 2 months).

UBE Miraflores uses old clones of Palomino and is mix of three different albarizas (chalky soil with high fossil content): lentejuelas (grainy); tosca cerrada (lower chalk content, harder) and lustrillo (chalky with iron) The grapes derive from five different vineyards of the Pago Miraflores area in Sanlúcar – the largest and most heterogeneous vineyard area of Sanlúcar. This blend of different albariza soils and vineyard gives the equivalent of a “village” Sanlúcar wine. 

This wine is tasty and easy to drink. The flowery aromas stand out, with notes of very ripe white fruit and fresh yeast. In the mouth it is clean and balanced, with a salty character that one always expects from this area. 

£17.65

Hidalgo Las 30 del Cuadrado 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their March 2019 edition article: Revolutionary Road (which covers sherry country's quiet revolution) (see blue link below).

Hidalgo Las 30 del Cuadrado 2015 - March 2019 Decanter review

Established in 1792, Bodegas Hidalgo is one of the oldest Sherry producers in existence. It is widely regarded as the definitive Manzanilla house. Passing down from generation to generation, continuity and quality have always been the most important themes for the company, which today uses only grapes from their own vineyards in Jérez Superior.

The Las 30 del Cuadrado (a still, unfortified white wine, please note, despite this being from Hidalgo) pays homage to a unique 30-acre plot of old vine Palomino that are found inside the sought after district of Balbaina Alta.

To see information and tasting notes for this wine from the UK importer, please click on the blue link below.

Hidalgo Las 30 del Cuadrado 2016 - fiche technique

£16.25

Vetus Toro 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition (sponsored) review of the Toro region (see blue link below).

Vetus 2015 - March 2019 Decanter review

The Vetus estate comprises 10 hectares of old Tinta de Toro (the local name for Tempranillo) vines, located in Villabuena del Puente in the region of Morales de Toro. It is a project which was started by the owners of Izadi in the Toro DO, with their first vintage in 2003. A recent addition to the range, is the Flor de Vetus Verdejo, a crisp, fresh style of Verdejo from Rueda DO where the Izadi family also own vineyards.

The vineyards are 30 years old, located in Villabuena del Puente, and cover 10 hectares of south-facing sites, with sandy and clay soils. They are planted with Tinta de Toro, thought to be Tempranillo which has adapted to the climate of this area. The climate is continental, with long, hot and often very dry summers and quite cold winters. Temperatures may drop to -10°C in winter, and rainfall varies between 30mm in the north of the region and 400mm in the south. Frost is also a danger between October and the first week of May and vineyards located in the flattest area are liable to be hit by strong winds.

100% Tempranillo (Tinto de Toro).

The grapes were handpicked in the first week of October. The grapes were then destemmed and partially crushed. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and lasted 28 days, during which frequent gentle pumping over of the must took place to extract ripe tannins and good colour. After 12 months in new oak, 100% French, the final blend was assembled.

This wine is deep cherry in colour and an expressive aroma of ripe fruit with a subtle touch of sweet spices. On the palate, it is a well structured and perfectly balanced wine with an exquisite aftertaste, ripe tannins and good acidity.

£17.10

Vetus Flor De Vetus Toro 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage (not yet UK-available) of this wine was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 (sponsored) review of the Toro region (see blue link below).

Flor de Vetus 2016 - March 2019 Decanter review

The Vetus estate comprises 10 hectares of old Tinta de Toro (the local name for Tempranillo) vines, located in Villabuena del Puente in the region of Morales de Toro. It is a project which was started by the owners of Izadi in the Toro DO, with their first vintage in 2003. A recent addition to the range, is the Flor de Vetus Verdejo, a crisp, fresh style of Verdejo from Rueda DO where the Izadi family also own vineyards.

The vineyards are 30 years old and cover 20 hectares of south-facing sites, with sandy and clay soils. The climate is continental with long, hot and often very dry summers and quite cold winters. At this altitude of 700 metres above sea level, temperatures may drop to 10°C in winter. Frost is also a danger between October and the first week of May and vineyards located in the flattest area are liable to be hit by strong winds. Yields are naturally low at around five tonnes per hectare on average.

Budbreak arrived early in the spring of 2015. During the flowering stage, a change in weather conditions brought rain and wind and produced significant coulure which meant a 30% reduction in production. The summer was very dry and warm, helping the remaining grapes to ripen fully. The vintage started quite early with ideal conditions for harvesting high quality grapes.

100% Tempranillo (Tinto de Toro).

The grapes were handpicked into small, 15 kilogram boxes in the first week of October. Flor de Vetus was fermented in stainless steel vats at 28ºC and aged in 50% French (Taransaud & Cadus) and 50% American (Demptos & Canton) oak barrels (50% new, 50% second use) for nine months before bottling.

Deep black cherry in colour, this wine has expressive aromas of fresh red and black berry fruit. On the palate, it is a well-balanced and structured wine with a medium to full body and a pleasant, succulent finish.

£14.45

De Wetshof Estate Bateleur Chardonnay 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition's Spurrier's Fine Wine World (see blue link below).

De Wetshof Estate Bateleur Chardonnay 2016 - March 2019 Decanter review

The name De Wetshof has been synonymous with the production of fine wines in South Africa since the 1970’s. As the first registered wine estate in the Robertson Wine Valley, De Wetshof has become known internationally as South Africa’s eminent Chardonnay House due to the pioneering role it played in introducing this noble Burgundian grape to the country. The De Wet family’s winemaking heritage can, however, be traced back to 1694 when the first De Wets arrived at the Cape and immediately made a mark on the South African wine industry. Today, De Wetshof is one of the few third generation wine estates in South Africa. Here Danie de Wet, proprietor and cellarmaster, is assisted by sons Johann (viticulture and marketing) and Peter (winemaker). 

This wine is a reflection of Danie de Wet`s personal taste combining great depth and length of flavour with elegance and finesse. An in depth knowledge of his specific vineyard plots allows him, in conjunction with barrel selection, to craft one of the best Chardonnays made in South Africa. Full spectrum of Chardonnay flavours explode in the mouth, with tropical and stone fruit flavours tempered with fresh zingy lime acidity and a creamy textured finish.

To see more detailed information on this wine from De Wetshof themselves, please click on the blue link below.

De Wetshof Estate Bataleur Chardonnay 2016 - fiche technique

£29.35

Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2017 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their March 2019 edition article: Older vines, better wines? (see blue link below).

Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Vieilles Vignes - March 2019 Decanter review

The 2015 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their June 2017 edition review of "Everyday Wines" (under £25) (see blue link below).

Jean-Claude Lapalu, Brouilly 2015 - June 2017 Decanter review

Jean-Claude Lapalu assumed control of just under 30 acres of Gamay from his father in 1996, and made his first commercial wines in 2000. His eight parcels of east and southeast facing vines are scattered from Mont Brouilly south through the rolling hills of Odenas and his hometown of Saint-Etienne-la-Varenne.

Jean-Claude’s most significant early influence came from the writings of Jules Chauvet, France’s Father of Natural Winemaking. He is committed to a strict organic regimen and employs several tenets of biodynamic viticulture. The domaine received its organic certification from Ecocert with the 2010 vintage but he has no interest in seeking any further bureaucratic validation.

The wine is made using whole cluster fermentation (without crushing). Carbonic maceration is used for the Brouilly Vieilles Vignes. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Bottling happens in early April after a brief six-month élevage. Jean-Claude only uses indigenous yeasts and doesn’t use any sulphur during vinification (some is added at bottling in very small quantities: 2gr/hl)

Very fragrant and expressive, it displays aromas of violet and juicy red berry. Fresh and very much alive on the palate, it has depth and plenty of dark berry and spice character.

£21.10

Akarua Brut NV (1x 75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition Weekday Wines feature (see blue link below).

Akarua Brut NV - March 2019 Decanter review

The Skeggs family were among the first people to buy and plant vineyard land in Central Otago in the mid 1990s, so were lucky enough to acquire a superb north-facing site in Bannockburn. Planted in 1996, this 50-hectare site has since provided the backbone of the Akarua wines. Due to the short growing season in Central Otago, site selection is one of the key elements in making a great wine, and Akarua have a site that is among the very best. Akarua was re-introduced after many years to Liberty Wines by Tony Jordan, who makes their sparkling wines. Tony built Domaine Chandon in Australia, and is one of the world's leading experts in sparkling wine production. He has been convinced of the potential for Central Otago to make top quality fizz for quite a while, and is now doing so with Akarua.

All the grapes are harvested from Akarua's 50 hectare estate on Cairnmuir Road, Bannockburn which lies at 270 metres above sea level. The soils are fine and sandy with loam topsoil overlaying schist. Vine age is 12 years.

67% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from several blocks on the vineyard were hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. All batches were kept separate. Juices were settled and racked to yeast fermentation in old oak barriques and stainless steel tanks. Once malolactic fermentation was complete, the base wines, together with up to 15% of reserve wines were blended to produce the Akarua Brut NV. The blend was transferred to bottle with yeast and a precise amount of sugar to undergo the secondary sparkling fermentation. The wine was then aged for a minimum of 18 months on yeast before riddling, disgorging and labelling.

Akarua Brut NV is a fresh aperitif style with floral perfumes and savoury bread dough aromas. With lovely balance and complexity, the palate is clean, has a creamy middle and a long, crisp finish.

£22.45
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