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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.

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

Altos de Jose Ignacio Reserva Tannat 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2019 edition panel tasting of Uruguayan Tannat (see blue link below).

Altos De Jose Ignacio Reserva Tannat 2017 - October 2019 Decanter review

Altos de Jose Ignacio is nestled in Uruguay’s Maldonado region, an oasis of magical beaches and small villages on the Atlantic coast. Next to the idyllic fishing town of Jose Ignacio, the vines are tempered by cooling ocean breezes, creating the perfect combination of countryside and ocean. This unique terroir and maritime climate is ideal for making premium wines with a rare freshness and purity.

A small, family-run business, Altos de Jose Ignacio had its first commercial harvest in 2015. In typical Uruguayan fashion, the wines are created without the addition of any chemicals. The characteristics of the terroir display beautifully throughout their range, a source of endless pride for winemaker German Bruzzone.  

For this wine, see the blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Altos de Jose Ignacio Reserva Tannat 2017 - fiche technique

(as can be seen from the data sheet, this wine is 'incredibly similar to' the more expensive Garzon Reserva Tannat...)

This wine is 100% Tannat.

A juicy, full-bodied wine. Rich purple in colour with very fresh aromas reminiscent of red and black fruits such as plums and raspberries, with a delicate spicy nose. In the mouth, it presents a strong personality. Its mature tannins and minerality transform it into a wine with great soil identity.

£14.70

Alvear Palacio Quemado La Zarcita 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article/feature on Spain's Extremadura region (see blue link below).

Alvear Palacio Quemado La Zarcita 2017 - January 2020 Decanter review

Palacio Quemado is located in Extremadura, DO Ribera del Guadiana, in south-western Spain. The winery has 230 acres of 16-year old vines: 50% are Tempranillo and the rest are other varieties well adapted to the area: Garnacha, Syrah, Petit Verdot and local grapes.

In January 2015, Palacio Quemado became part of Grandes Pagos de España, an association of Spanish wine producers dedicated to upholding and promoting very high quality single estate wines. These are wines that faithfully reflect the soils, subsoils and climate from which they hail, each offering an unmistakable personality that can only be drawn from a specific terroir.

Founded in 1999 by the eighth Generation of the Alvear family, this is an estate steeped in tradition, experience, know-how and passion. Since 2010, the Envinate group, a winemaking company that focuses on exploring distinctive parcels mainly in the Atlantic-influenced regions of Ribeira Sacra, Extremadura and the Canary Islands are in charge of Palacio Quemado’s winemaking. Their aim is to make pure and authentic wines that express the terroir of each parcel in a clear and concise manner.

Since 2013, no pesticides are used, only small doses of sulphur and copper, as well as natural plants such as sage, wormwood and cinnamon. 

The winery has different types of soils, calcareous, clay, sandy and rocky, leanding to an exhaustive field work. Each plot of vines is managed and vinified separately, based on its different soils and orientation. Minimum intervention is made in the winery, and only with great care: the grapes enter the winery and tanks almost without crushing, prevented from breaking to preserve the personality of each plot (and of each variety) and the nature of the vintage. Ageing/elevage is carried in second use 500-litres 'super-barriques' to respect the work in the vineyard. This is almost exclusively sourced from France, from different coopers and forests: Allier, Nevers and Vosges.

La Zarcita is one of two wines that Alvear produces in conjunction with Envinate at the Palacio Quemado estate, where the team of Envinate has produced their own label for quite some time. The philosophy of La Zarcita is to blend different indigenous varieties from the single Palacio Quemado estate to produce a young and fresh expression of the terroir of Extremadura. (The philosophy of the second wine - Los Acilates - is to produce an honest and fresh expression of a single plot within the estate, planted with heritage indigenous varieties). La Zarcita is named after a small stream that runs through the vineyards of Palacio Quemado. Ultimately, La Zarcita is a single vineyard wine, and reflects the terroir of the soils and appellation through the use of indigenous Portuguese and Spanish varieties. 

The vineyards for Palacio Quemado extend over 100 hectares, surrounding the bodega. La Zarcita is sourced from sub-plots of this larger vineyard which were selected for their orientation, quality of soil, and grape varieties.

Trincadeira Prieta, Touriga Nacional, Garnacha Tintorera and Syrah are all used, but proportions are not specified by the maker.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. 75% of the wine is aged for eight months in second and third use 500-litre barrels from Allier, Vosges, and Nevers forests. The other 25% is aged in uncoated, concrete tanks.

Cherry red in colour, with nicely balanced floral and fruit notes on the nose and palate. It's very floral and perfumed, with a captivating nose. It's still a straightforward red but with good depth and great freshness. The palate is approachable and soft, with very good acidity.

ABV = 14.0%

£18.20

Amalaya Malbec 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2018 edition expert review of Argentina's Calchaqui Valley  (see blue link below).

Amalaya Malbec 2017 - Oct 2018 Decanter review

The 2016 vintage was Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2018 edition article 30 Great New World Buys under £30 (see blue link below).

Amalaya Malbec 2016 - Feb 2018 Decanter review

Amalaya translates to ‘hope for a miracle’ in the indigenous language of the now extinct tribe, the Calchaquí. The winery is situated in Cafayate, Calchaquí Valley in Salta in the far north of Argentina at nearly 1,828 metres above sea level. It is a part of the Hess Family Estates and is run with the same dedication to quality, sustainability and social responsibility as the other Hess Estates. All of the Amalaya wines are fruit driven in style, with a finesse that unites them. These wines offer incredible value for their quality and truly reflect their ‘sense of place‘.

The estate's vineyards are located in Cafayate in the very heart of the Calchaquí Valley, distinguished for being the highest wine region in the world. The climate is very dry, with just 150 millimetres of rain in an average year and huge temperature fluctuations of around 20°C. The soils here are rocky, poor and sandy so the roots of the vines are forced to dig deep to find the vital nutrients and water they need, which results in fruit with hugely concentrated flavour.

Overall, the Calchaquí Valley enjoyed optimal conditions in 2017, with a perfect balance between quality and quantity. The weather during the growing season was excellent, the lack of spring frost ensuring a good fruit set that resulted in healthy grapes.

After careful sorting by hand at the winery, the grapes underwent four days of cold maceration followed by a slow alcoholic fermentation with maceration on skins lasting around 18-20 days which extracted good levels of colour and tannins. Malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks before 25% of the wine was aged in French oak for a period of 10 months prior to blending and bottling.

85% Malbec, 10% Tannat, 5% Petit Verdot.

Deep ruby red in colour with a purple hue, this wine displays intense fruity red berry aromas of raspberries, floral notes and a touch of spice and chocolate. Well structured, fresh and fruity on the palate with soft, rounded tannins and a velvety long finish.

ABV = 14.0%.

£12.30

Andeluna Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded a Gold medal and 96 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).

Andeluna Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2015 - June 2019 Decanter review

Founded in 2003, Andeluna is a small boutique winery specialising in premium Bordeaux varietals of world class recognition. The vineyard covers 70 hectares in the beautiful Uco Valley near Tupungato, one of the best subregions of Mendoza. By night you can often see the moon illuminating the magnificent Andes Mountains nearby and the winery has been named after this stunning scene. Situated at an altitude of 1,300 metres, the vineyard produces some of the best fruit in Argentina. Winemaker, Manuel Gonzalez (previously Head Winemaker at Pulenta Estate and Chief Oenologist at Trivento) works alongside Andeluna's wine consultant Hans Vinding Diers to make outstanding wines which have propelled this producer into the global spotlight in a very short space of time. Their Pasionado range is only made in exceptional vintages and rivals some of the great wines of the world.

A warm winter was followed by a perfectly cool summer and between 10 to 50 per cent more rain than usual in the early autumn harvest months. In the Andeluna vineyards, the sloped stony soils and phenomenal drainage allowed the rain to have a mostly destressing effect on the vines, resulting in an incredible balance of flavours. The Malbec in parcels with stony and limestone soils were undisputed superstars. Due to the warm winter, the 2015 harvest was between 10 and 15 days earlier than usual.

The grapes come from vineyards located in Gualtallary in Tupungato at an altitude of 1,300 metres above sea level. The vines are irrigated by a drip-water system that regulates and supplies the exact amount of water that the plant needs. The vineyard soils are alluvial, sandy and permeable.

This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc.

The grapes were hand-picked in the cool of dawn in April, when they had reached full polyphenolic maturity. The berries were manually selected and the best berries underwent cold pre- fermentation maceration. Fermentation took place with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures of 26°C. The wine was aged in used French oak barrels (60% second passage, 40% third passage) for a period of 12 months and then cellared in bottles for a minimum of eight months prior to its release. 

Intense aromas fill the glass, with deep red fruits and a remarkable presence of red bell pepper, fennel, mint, anise, eucalyptus and basil. A structured, full bodied wine, with rounded tannins which result in a pleasant and persistent finish. 

Serve with full bodied meats as steak or lamb. Decant and serve at 16°C.

£31.50

Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Rosso 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage (now depleted) was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2017 edition review of Best Organic & Biodynamic Buys Under £30 (see blue link below).

OcchipintiSP68 - December 2017 Decanter review

Arianna’s home town of Vittoria lies in the far south of Sicily just to the west of Ragusa. It is here that she has been making wine for the past ten years under the tutelage of her uncle, Giusto Occhipinti who owns and runs the famous COS estate.

The grapes are manually harvested before 15 days of maceration on the skins. Indigenous yeast is used for the fermentation after which the wine is aged for 6 months in concrete vats and 1 month in bottle before release, There is no filtration prior to bottling.

70% Frappato, 30% Nero d’Avola. 

Organic (not certified). Suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

Slightly opaque purple/red in the glass showing aromas of wild cherries, plum and mulberry with just a touch of raspberry lift. There are hints of flowers, leather, smoke, spice and herbs with wafts of liquorice, earth and mandarin rind. In the mouth the initial attack of fruit is awash with wild cherry sheathed in tobacco leaf with supporting fruit flavours of dark plum and blackberry. Nice cooling gravelly finish.

£20.00

Betz Family Besoleil Columbia Valley 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Betz Family Besoleil Columbia Valley 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

Betz is a family run winery in Woodinville, Washington, headed up by Bob Betz MW. Their first vintage was in 1998, and today they have an annual production of 5,000 cases, of which two thirds goes to their domestic mailing list customers. The vineyards are located in the Columbia Valley, specifically in the Red Mountain, Horse Haven Hills, Yakima Valley and Snipes Mountain AVAs. Betz works very closely with long term growers that allow them to select specific rows and vines. The climate is sunny and dry, with the Cascade Mountain range acting as a cloud barrier, ensuring cloudless skies 300 days of the year. The vines are planted on their own roots, rather than on rootstocks, because phylloxera is not a problem in Washington State.

Fruit for this wine was grown on the eastern and Mid Yakima Valley, primarily in the ancient riverbed site of Upland Vineyard. This site has the oldest Grenache planting in WA and the oldest own-rooted Grenache planting in North America. At 325 to 450 metres above sea level, the sites are mostly windy with excellent drainage and steep slopes. Soils include Hezel sandy loam, silt loam, Scooteney, some ancient riverbed, volanic pumice and calcite deposits. The area is very dry, with 12 to 16cm of rain annually.

In the vineyards, 2014 marked the third year in a row for an early start for vine growth. Flowering took place under ideal weather conditions. The warm, calm weather resulted in one of the most compressed flowering periods in recent years, and very even berry size. This also meant that a large crop was hanging in the vineyards, which allowed growers to ‘green harvest’, a mid-season dropping of any bunches that were uneven or lagging behind in development. Steady heat continued through July and August, leading to the earliest harvest ever for Betz Family Winery with the first grapes picked on 3rd September. The wines reflect the steady weather and even grape ripeness.

33% Grenache/Garnacha, 24% Counoise, 20% Syrah/Shiraz, 17% Cinsault, 6% Mourvèdre.

The fruit was placed into open top fermenters where it remained for six to eight days. The must then went into a basket press before the wine went into barrel for malolactic fermentation. It was allowed to age for 12 months, primarily in concrete with a small percentage of neutral, large format barrels.

A finely layered yet deep and brooding blend, with creamy black raspberry, wild dried strawberry, dried herbs and floral notes. This year’s blend represents the highest proportion of Counoise in Bésoleil to date (24%) and reflects the success of the variety in 2014. The typical ruby-red colour of Bésoleil is deepened by the vibrant blue of Counoise, which also imparts notes of white and black pepper alongside an earthy, dusty expression reminiscent of the southern Rhône

ABV = 14.0%.

£45.85

Betz Family La Cote Rousse Syrah 2014 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their January 2020 edition article, Top Washington (State) Buys (see blue link below).

Betz Family La Cote Rousse Syrah 2014 - January 2020 Decanter review

Betz is a family run winery in Woodinville, Washington, headed up by Bob Betz MW. Their first vintage was in 1998, and today they have an annual production of 5,000 cases, of which two thirds goes to their domestic mailing list customers. The vineyards are located in the Columbia Valley, specifically in the Red Mountain, Horse Haven Hills, Yakima Valley and Snipes Mountain AVAs. Betz works very closely with long term growers that allow them to select specific rows and vines. The climate is sunny and dry, with the Cascade Mountain range acting as a cloud barrier, ensuring cloudless skies 300 days of the year. The vines are planted on their own roots, rather than on rootstocks, because phylloxera is not a problem in Washington State.

Fruit for this wine comes from the Red Mountain site in the Eastern Yakima Valley, planted at 325 to 420 metres, receiving an average of 12cm of rainfall per year. Soils are composed of Hezel sandy loam, shallow warden loam over scooteney, and some ancient riverbeds. This is the hottest of the three Betz Family Winery Syrah sites.

In the vineyards, 2014 marked the third year in a row for an early start for vine growth. Flowering took place under ideal weather conditions. The warm, calm weather resulted in one of the most compressed flowering periods in recent years, and very even berry size. This also meant that a large crop was hanging in the vineyards, which allowed growers to ‘green harvest’, a mid-season dropping of any bunches that were uneven or lagging behind in development. Steady heat continued through July and August, leading to the earliest harvest ever for Betz Family Winery with the first grapes picked on 3rd September. The wines reflect the steady weather and even grape ripeness.

The fruit was placed into open top fermenters where it remained for six to eight days. It was then transferred into a basket press before the wine went into barrel for malolactic fermentation. It was allowed to age for 12 months in 50% new French oak.

100% Syrah.

The 2014 La Côte Rousse displays the youthful, brooding, dark character expected from these Red Mountain sites. The superb ripening conditions are evident in its deep core of blue and black fruits. The use of whole cluster fermentation has added additional spicy aromatics along with smoked meats, crushed herbs and wood spice.

ABV = 14.2%.

£52.60

Blank Canvas Hawkes Bay Syrah 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their July 2019 tasting/review of carbonic maceration reds (see blue link below).

Blank Canvas Hawkes Bay Syrah 2015 - July 2019 Decanter review

Matt Thomson has worked over forty vintages in numerous wine regions around the world. "Blank Canvas represents my story as a winemaker. It is an endeavour that is entirely my own expression of winemaking, is from my own funding, and is exclusively my risk". The 'Blank Canvas' is the vineyard and the variety, the winery the brush and palette (no pun intended) at the winemaker's disposal, all the while defined by the scientific grounding Matt laid at university and has built upon over the past 23 years. With partner Sophie Parker-Thomson, the aim is to break some rules with the Blank Canvas wines, but they feel in order to break the rules, you need to know them. This is what sets the Blank Canvas wines apart.

A parcel of special Syrah fruit was sourced from a single vineyard run by a good friend in Hawkes Bay’s famous Gimblett Gravels sub-region. The vineyard is over 15 years old with very low-yielding vines. The freedraining nature of the Gimblett Gravel soils with vineyards being situated on an historic riverbed facilitate this. The vines are VSP trained and cane-pruned on a single fruiting wire with high density planting.

The 2015 vintage in Hawkes Bay enabled a good fruit set in the Gimblett Gravels sub-region with a dry summer. The few rain events during early autumn were followed by cool windy periods which dried out the canopies and allowed the red varieties to continue to ripen. The 2015 was one of the earliest and driest in recent years.

In an unprecedented approach, Matt has co-fermented a select parcel of Syrah fruit with 7.5% Gruner Veltliner skins. This is a similar technique to what is done in Northern Rhone but with Austria’s hallmark white variety instead of France’s Viognier. Matt specifically chose Gruner so the finished wine would benefit from its white pepper note. 60% whole bunches were fermentated. The wine was hand-plunged and fermented by cultured and wild yeasts. Maturation of 10 months in new and seasoned French oak was carried out before the wine was blended and bottled unfiltered in March 2015.

100% Syrah (the Gruner skins above aside!).

Rich, powerful and brooding, the Blank Canvas Syrah is a world first for its inclusion of a unique co-fermentation partner, Gruner Veltliner. Black and red plum and boysenberry perufmes sit alongside savoury notes, particularly bacon. The black pepper and juniper of Syrah complement the white pepper notes of Gruner Veltliner. It has a velvet-like texture, fine tannins and acidity that only a cool-climate can deliver. It is incredibly dense and dark, yet hauntingly perfumed and elegant.

£23.50

Bodega Garzon Balasto 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).

Bodega Garzon Balasto 2016 - June 2019 Decanter review

When Alejandro Bulgheroni and his wife Bettina discovered Garzón, they had a family dream came true: to have the most emblematic winery of modern viticulture in Uruguay and premium wines with an intense personality and a deep sense of belonging to the land. With the advice of international enologist Alberto Antonini, they apply their philosophy which is focused on producing wines that are a true expression of their origins.

Located 11 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the estate has more than 1,000 small vineyard blocks covering hillside slopes, which benefit from varying microclimates, different levels of humidity and an intense canopy management. Well-draining granitic soils and cooling Atlantic breezes allow the grapes to ripen steadily. The vineyards are surrounded by lush forests, palm trees, rocky soils and granite boulders. Grapes for Balasto are grown on soils made up of decomposed granite rock, which provides excellent drainage and minerality. This is the key to giving this iconic Uruguayan wine its complexity, energy and vibrancy.

Balasto is one of the most sought-after wines from South America and is made only in the best years. Winter was rainy, meaning underground water reserves were replenished throughout the season, ahead of spring and summer. Spring then saw a cold start, which delayed bud burst and flowering by 10 days. The summer months were dry, but thanks to the water reserves and some occasional rains towards late December, veraison began normally. The dry conditions also reduced disease pressure in the vineyard. The dry weather continued into March until the second half of harvest, and therefore drip irrigation was necessary to obtain sufficient colour and maturity. 2016 yielded perfectly mature grapes without excessive levels of sugar. The resulting wines have excellent acidity and demonstrate freshness and elegance.

The hand-harvested grapes were macerated for five days before fermentation in 80 hectolitre cement tanks, at 26-28ºC for one week with twice daily pump overs. The wine was then transferred to a mix of 25 and 50 hectolitre untoasted French oak barrels (fourth use) for 20 months ageing before being bottled unfiltered.

45% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot, 12% Marselan.

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Garzon and click here for a video on this icon wine.

Bodega Garzon Balasto 2016 - fiche technique

On the nose, this wine is rich with complex aromas of fresh red and black fruits, liquorice, spice and a hint of tobacco. Textural, full bodied and very elegant, the fruit is framed by juicy, vibrant tannins resulting in a wine of real vitality and expression.

ABV = 14.5%.

£65.95

Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Tannat 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2019 edition panel tasting of Uruguayan Tannat (see blue link below).

Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Tannat 2017 - October 2019 Decanter review

The 2016 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2018 edition article on the Maldonado region of Uruguay (see blue link below).

Bodega Garzón Single Vineyard Tannat 2016 - October 2019 Decanter review

Bodega Garzón is a family owned winery in Maldonado on the Atlantic coast in southern Uruguay. They pioneered viticulture in this area over 10 years ago, and have since become the standard-bearer for premium wines from Uruguay. In November 2018, their pioneering status was recognised by Wine Enthusiast with the ‘New World Winery of the Year’ award. The vineyards at Bodega Garzón are a patchwork quilt of 1,150 individual plots of around 0.2 hectares in size, each plot carefully chosen for a specific variety according to its soil and microclimate. The winery is specially designed to operate as sustainably as possible, and is the first winery outside North America to pursue LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Built on natural terraces, the winery uses cutting-edge technology and operates using a gravity system to ensure quality and energy efficiency at every stage of production.

Located 11 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the estate has more than 1,000 small vineyard blocks covering hillside slopes, which benefit from varying microclimates, different levels of humidity and an intense canopy management. Well-draining granitic soils and cooling Atlantic breezes allow the grapes to ripen steadily. The vineyards are surrounded by lush forests, palm trees, rocky soils and granite boulders. This single vineyard Tannat comes from a site which is cooler than the other blocks on the estate, with steep slopes, thin soils and excellent drainage thanks to the predominance of ballast in the upper layers.

Average seasonal temperatures meant bud burst and fruit set occurred between September and December. However, strong spring winds meant work had to be undertaken in the vineyard to tie the shoots to their trellises to prevent damage. The hard work continued as rains between December and January threatened the vines and careful canopy management became necessary. Summer was dry and hot, and drip irrigation was necessary. The leaves were left untrimmed to serve as sun protection for the grapes. Late rains at the end of March brought forward the end of harvest. The wines from 2017 are characterised by elegant acidity and freshness.

The hand-harvested grapes were macerated for five days before fermentation in 80 hectolitre cement tanks, at 26-28ºC for one week with twice daily pump overs. The wine was then aged on lees for 12-18 months in 25 hectolitre French oak casks for added complexity. The oak used was untoasted and fourth use.

This wine is 100% Tannat.

Deep purple in colour, this powerful Tannat has an elegant nose with aromas of cherries, strawberries and black plums with hints of smoky tobacco and dark chocolate. Full bodied, with fresh acidity and firm tannins complementing the spicy black fruit on a long, intense finish.

ABV = 14.5%.

£25.20

Bodegas Benito Urbina Urbina Gran Reserva Especial 1994 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2018 edition review of Mature Rioja (see blue link below).

Bodegas Benito Urbina Gran Reserva 1994 - March 2018 Decanter review

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).

Bodegas Benito Urbina Gran Reserva 1994 - March 2017 Decanter review

... and awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2016 edition review of best-buy Rioja (see blue link below).

Bodegas Benito Urbina Gran Reserva 1994 - March 2016 Decanter review

Bodegas Urbina is a family run winery with four generations of dedication to grape growing and winemaking since 1870. The present winery was designed, built and run by the family Urbina since 1986 and has been created solely to facilitate the production of fine wines. Commercial winemaking within the DOC Rioja dates from 1870 and takes place in ancient underground Cuzcurrita drafts.

This wine comes from the best grapes grown on the Estate and it is made using grapes from vines that are all more than 20 years old. It is fermented at a controlled temperature of 28°C and is macerated for the final 28 days, followed by at least 36 months in oak and a further 48 months ageing in bottle.

This wine was made using 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo.

The Urbina Gran Reserva 1994 is a dark ruby colour with a thin mahogany rim. It has a complex nose, showing splendid maturity, with mineral aromas, ripe fruit, figs, cherries, plums, tomato jam and dried apricots, cigar box, cherry blossom, harmonious and well defined spicy hints of cinnamon, vanilla and clove. Some leather, snuff leaves and nutmeg. There is also a hint of musk, incense and kola nut.  it has a base of toffee candy, and balsamic notes, so is both fresh and elegant. On the palate, the flavours are harmonious and balanced, with oak and fruit tannins, showing great elegance and velvety softness, as well as a wonderful length.

ABV = 14.0%.

£28.90

Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Pomal Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 (1x75cl)

The 2010 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2018 edition review of Mature Rioja (see blue link below).

Vina Pomal Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 - March 2018 Decanter review

Their vineyards are located close to the winery, in the municipality of Haro. 250 hectares of vines make it the largest property in the area, and the Reserva and Gran Reserva are a true reflection of the area. With an average vine age in excess of 25 years, they endeavour to make wines with the utmost balance. The Tempranillo is enhanced with the addition of Graciano, which only matures in great vintages. Those are the vintages when they make Gran Reserva, as it is not made every year.

2011 was a year marked by a dry winter and a rainy spring which favoured vine growth. Fruit setting was irregular due to the rains in May and June. The harvest was characterised by a lack of rain and it commenced early on. A very dry summer with high temperatures speeded up final ripening. In some cases we detected a great deal of vine stress due to drought with a slight imbalance between alcoholic and phenolic ripening. On the other hand, vineyards that usually present more vigour ripened very well this year, yielding good berry quality, Vine health was practically perfect. With proper aging, in order to soften their structure, the wines show a great deal of intensity and cellaring potential.

Viña Pomal Gran Reserva is made following traditional vinification methods. The grapes are selected manually in the vineyards. At the winery, they are destemmed and crushed before undergoing a moderately long maceration in tanks. After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wines are racked and aged in 225 litre Bordeaux barrels, traditionally American oak. After ageing in barrels for one year, the wine is racked back to tanks. This is when the blend for the Gran Reserva is determined, and 10% Graciano, a minority Rioja variety, is added to the Tempranillo. The wine is fined with egg whites and put in barrels again for another year to complete its two years’ ageing in oak. After its stay in barrels, the wine spends a further year in oak vats, where the natural cleaning and assembly process concludes. After ageing for another three years in the bottle, the vinification of this unique Rioja wine is complete.

Garnet and cherry hues introduce this bright Gran Reserva with light orange reflections on the rim. The unique vinification process of this Gran Reserva provides a complex, elegant nose with notes of liquorice and red fruit, typical of the Tempranillo, along with hints of spices subtly added by the Graciano. During bottle ageing, all of this is assembled with toasty and balsamic aromas (vanilla, pepper, tobacco) contributed by the barrels. As the wine airs in the glass, it discloses its full range of nuances and complex aromas. In the mouth, it reflects our surroundings, with a mild entry and a sense of elegance and balance, ending in long persistence, denoting the craft of barrel ageing and the assemblage provided by a long stay in the bottle.

The winemaker does not consider that it is necessary to decant this wine which is ready to drink now and over the next ten years.

£26.15

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

Founded in 1972, Bodegas LAN lies in the heart of Rioja Alta. The name LAN comes from the initials of the three provinces of the Rioja Designation of Origin: Logroño, Álava and Navarra. María Barua has been the head winemaker and technical director since 2002, and brings both scientific expertise (with an academic background in chemistry in addition to her oenology degree) and local knowledge (having been born and raised in Rioja). Together with her young and energetic team, María focuses on using the latest advances in winemaking to ‘express the virtues of the land’.

The Tempranillo grapes are selected from 30-year-old, low yielding bush vines in the Rioja Alta region, while the Mazuelo comes from Bodegas LAN's stunning Viña Lanciano vineyard, located on a meander of the Ebro river, where the soils are poor and stony. Proximity to the river helps to regulate the warm temperatures often present in Rioja.

Like many parts of Western Europe, Spain experienced a cool growing season in 2010. But since the country is one of the hottest and driest in Europe, the cool weather was a boon, allowing fruit to ripen gradually. In Rioja, rainstorms during flowering reduced yields. Summer was dry and warm with great diurnal temperature ranges continuing through to harvest, resulting in wines with excellent flavour profiles.

The grapes for this Gran Reserva were destemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of 30ºC. The wine was then macerated for three weeks, pumping over the must daily to favour higher extraction of colour and aromas. The wine was aged for 24 months in American oak and French oak barrels, followed by a minimum of 36 months in the bottle.

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."

94% Tempranillo , 6% Mazuelo.

On the nose, aromas of ripe red fruits combine with dried fruits and spicy vanilla, cinnamon and liquorice root notes, which are a result of the extended oak ageing. This wine is full bodied and round Rioja that is elegant, balanced and superbly layered on the palate.

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

ABV = 13.5%.

£20.30

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

** BACK IN STOCK!! **

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.

ABV = 14.0% (NB: the figure stated in the Decanter review is incorrect, based on the value stated on the bottle).

£14.95
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