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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



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.


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.


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.


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).


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).


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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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.

100% Garnacha/Grenache.

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. 

ABV = 15.0%.


Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2018 (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.

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