Le Nez du Terroir

The trend may have passed you by, but dirt tastings are becoming increasingly popular.  Yes, really!  Punters are invited to smell and taste soil along with the produce of that soil, and the astute taster will spot the ways in which the produce relates to the earth in which it is grown. Here are videos of a couple of dirt tastings to show you what goes on:

To really understand why your Burgundy tastes of farmyard, I am sure you can’t wait to get the soil of your favourite terroirs in your mouth.  Indeed there are an increasing number of producers that will let you do just that, encouraging you to taste their soil. But be careful of those vineyards where nasty chemicals are used.  It is probably best to stick to organic and biodynamic vineyards in which only manure and copper sulphate are used.

Seriously now, please don’t put any soil whatsoever into your mouth – I will not be responsible for any ensuing medical problems.  I suggest you sniff only, and the simplest way is to do it is to use the latest addition to the Nez du Vin range – Terroirs.


This is one of their smaller collections of aromas, but nevertheless it makes a stirling effort to cover a wide selection of terroirs from around the world. They include both great terroirs and lesser ones, enabling you to understand the influence on wine quality.

1. Bourgogne
2. Romanée-Conti
3. Montrachet
4. Bordeaux
5. Château Latour
6. Château d’Yquem
7. Liebfraumilch
8. Bernkasteler Doctor
9. California
10. Screaming Eagle
11. South Eastern Australia
12. Grange

Nez du Vin do not specify exactly how they transform the soil into a form that can be appreciated on the nose, but I understand that that the Romanée-Conti sample is processed on root days, and stirred with clockwise and anti-clockwise vortices.  A good representative sample of soils is used, which is of particular importance for the larger areas covered.  Thus, just as the wines of South Eastern Australia may be a blend from all over the region, so is the soil in number 11.

Prices vary, so it is worth googling for the best deal, but as with all Nez du Vin kits of this size be prepared to pay around £50 or more. For what is essentially soil extract, is it worth it?  I think you get out of the kit what you put in in terms of effort.  I had to return my loan kit after 7 days, and in that time I couldn’t really distinguish between many soils.  Someone on the left hand video above commented that one soil was ”quite subtle”, while another was ”very subtle”, and I have to say that pretty much sums up the range of smells I could distinguish.  Having said that, after a lot of practice you could probably learn to recognise each of the 12 soils, and impress any friends you might have left at that point.  It probably helps if you have glasses of Blue Nun and Romanée-Conti to hand while you are sniffing the terroirs.  In fact a good idea for Nez du Vin’s next project would be to sell a set of bottles containing the corresponding wines, so you have all you need in two smart-looking boxes.

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The Gourmet Diet

I thought of calling it the Eat What You Want Diet, but I that name might be misleading even if it is in a sense correct.  You can very much eat what you like, but possibly not as much as you like.  The point however is to consider what you really want to eat, and focus on that.

Please do not get too hung up on the word gourmet.  It doesn’t mean you have to eat sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar all the time; merely that you should be picky about what you want to eat.  You decide.  The fundamental principle of the diet is to figure out what you really enjoy about food – what you like to eat, and when and how you want to eat it.  Try to become more aware of when you stuff food into your face out of habit or boredom, but do not particularly enjoy it.  You do not have to do all this analysis up front.  It is probably better if it evolves over a period of time.

When you know what food you really enjoy, do not even think of giving it up.  Figure out ways of enhancing that enjoyment.  Seek out the best quality.  Learn to cook it yourself.  Go to excellent restaurants to experience it.  Hopefully, for many if not all foods, this search for quality will naturally lead a reduction in consumption, out of budgetary constraints and availability issues if nothing else.  But if it doesn’t, don’t worry too much.  It is life-enhancing, takes the emphasis away from the negativity of dieting, and is only part of the Gourmet Diet.

The other part is learning to stop eating food you do not particularly enjoy.  If you are not sure how much you like something, go ahead and try it when the opportunity arises, and ask yourself if it was worth it.  If not, don’t do it again.  If you are honest with yourself, I think you will find that even food items you thought you liked turn out not to be so great after all.  Find out which foods are particularly calorific, and be particularly discerning with those.  On the other hand, encourage yourself to eat fruit and vegetables.  Realise that you do not die if you remain hungry for a few hours, and that food tastes even better if you delay gratification.

Monitor your weight.  If you have stopped losing weight at any point and are still overweight, tweak your diet appropriately.

Does it work?  Anecdotal evidence suggests it does.  That evidence comes from the inventors of the diet – me and a couple of mates.  I lost weight and kept it down for a decade or so, which was pretty good going, but now I admit I need to refocus.  Apart from this veritable wealth of evidence, it is also very well established that if you cut your calorie intake sufficiently you will lose weight. In that sense, the successful application of the Gourmet Diet is a special case of the Eat Less Diet, and it is easier to eat less when  you enjoy food more.  That’s how it worked for me anyway.

And what has all this got to do with wine?  It wasn’t my main motivation for writing this, but wine is calorific too and the same principles apply.  Wine enthusiasts are usually very much aware of the idea of drinking less and better quality to keep alcohol content in check.  It works for wine calories  as well as alcohol.

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Blandy’s Bual 1954

blandys_bual_1954I was recently at John Dickinson’s 60th birthday celebration in Maxwell’s Café and Delicatessen, and having a great time.  The dinner was accompanied by 17 wines, most of which were generously provided by our host. Let me try to put the quality of the wines into some sort of perspective.  We kicked off with Krug Grand Cuvée, and then the wines got better.  They included Palmer 1996, Talbot 1985 and Quinta do Noval 1966.

But for me they were all eclipsed by the final bottle: Blandy’s Bual 1954.  I say “for me” because only 3 of the 15 or so present voted for it as wine-of-the-night, and most people sitting by me were rather underwhelmed.  Indeed, I had to be quick to intercept a glass on its way to the spittoon.

I can understand how it divided opinion.  It was searingly acidic.  And despite Bual usually being one of the sweetest styles of Madeira it came over as off- or medium-dry, so by the standards of most sweet wines it had little by way of balancing sugar.  The flavours were hugely intense, and everyone within ear shot of me seemed to agree about their profile – varnish, French polish, eucalyptus, camphor.  In other words, it was weirdly volatile.  The only point of disagreement was how desirable the flavours were.

Albeit to a lesser extent, I have experienced that sort of volatility in other old Madeiras, though by no means all, and I regard it as a positive thing.  It is also present in some Colheita Ports, and I sense it is often referred to as complexity.  But in most styles of wine, of course those flavours would of course be totally unacceptable.  Faulty or not, I enjoyed this wine tremendously.  It would be sad if we all liked the same thing.

Blandy’s Bual 1954 gets ******.  Cheers, John, and here’s to the next ten!

(And thanks to John for providing the photos, as well as the wine itself.)

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Neurogastronomy – book review

neurogastronomyThe full title of the book is Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, it is by Gordon M Shepherd, and the Amazon price is currently around £17.

The first thing I would point out is that this book is written by an expert in the field, and that sets the tone of the book.  There is no breathless prose interspersed with misunderstandings, which you can get when a journalist presents a subject,  but the down-side is that some of the language and concepts may be beyond the intelligent layperson, who is presumably the intended reader.  They were certainly beyond me.  That is not to say I got nothing out of the book.  Once I had learned to not get to hung up on the tricky bits, I found it interesting and rewarding.

Shepherd’s main theme is that a lot of what we call flavour comes from the sense of smell, and that we humans are actually a lot better at smelling things than many give us credit for.  Other animals may be better at detecting low concentrations of air-borne smells, but the human anatomy is better geared up for detecting smells retro-nasally, i.e. through the passage between the back of our nose and the mouth.  It is the retro-nasal smells that help create the flavour of our food and drink.  The other big advantage humans have when it comes to our sense of smell is brain size, which allows us to better use the information we get from the nose.

The book largely deals with the “how the brain create flavour” bit of its subtitle, and does that well.  I found it especially intriguing that smell and taste receptors are connected to the brain cortex via completely different routes, finish up in parts of the cortex that are greatly separated, and yet the brain still manages to integrate these senses to create a unified impression of flavour.  From this book, it is clear to me that we know so much about how this works, and how the process is affected by genetic differences, that it is impossible to continue to argue that flavour is a property of the food (or wine) put into our mouth.  And yet Charles Spence, in his detailed review of the same book, thinks it is still up for discussion.  Do read that review, though – I have great respect for his writing.

I was particularly looking forward to the “why it matters” bit.  But I was disappointed.  I was told how important flavour is, and how craving for food involves some (but not all) bits of the brain that have to do with drug addiction.  But I did not see any support for the claim that neurogastronomy should inform policy making.  Certainly a good case was made for the importance of flavour in determining how we eat, that that could be demonstrated without reference to neurogastronomy.

Wine was referred to a few times in the book, but for me the most relevant observation was that smell objects are represented in the brain in a very similar way to faces.  In fact Shepherd is more precise – he likens them pointillist images of faces, where each type of odour receptor represents a dot, but seen at a distance the dots combine to create smell equivalents of colour and shade.  He goes on to observe that familiar smells, like faces, are easy to recognise but very difficult to describe.

Finally, there was a suggestion supported by limited experiments that the more you are exposed to a smell in the long term, the more sensitive to it you become.  So if you want to improve your sensitivity to the different aromas in wine, the answer seems to be to increase your exposure to them.  Even if that fails to improve your sensitivity, it must help recognition mustn’t it?  It works for faces at least.

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Wildflower J Lohr Monterey Valdiguié 2011

lohrIt’s not often that I devote a whole blog post to a single wine, but I thought that this one was unusual, interesting and good enough to make an exception for.

The grape variety is Valdiguié, and the wine is from Monterey California.  It is made by J Lohr, who gave it the name Wildflower and describe it on an informative page on their website. In the UK you can get it from various merchants from £11 to £15.  I first tried a glass at a Turton Wines’ stand at a wine tasting, bought a bottle from them at £13.00, and then recently bought almost a case from The Daily Drinker for the sale price of £5.63 per bottle.  That is the ideal way to discover and buy a wine that is new to you :)

Valdiguié used to be widely planted in Southern France, for its virtues of high yields and resistance to powdery mildew rather than the quality of its wine.  Little remains.  A similar story applies in California, where the grape was known as Napa Gamay.  The tannins are slightly astringent, which some Californian producers counter by using carbonic maceration.  This particular wine and vintage is 26% carbonic, which presumably gives rise to the boiled sweet flavours and Beaujolais comparisons mentioned below.

In appearance, this wine is slightly on the pale side of medium, and tinged with violet.  The nose is refreshing, soft and delicate, with boiled sweet fruit flavours.  Maybe a little cheesy on the nose too, but not unpleasantly so and it does not seem to translate to the palate.  The light delicate fruit flavours were very much in evidence on the palate, soft and gentle.  So far I could be describing a decent quality Beaujolais Villages, but this wine has more structure, and it is this aspect that adds interest for me.  Considering the structural aspect, perhaps a better comparison is a Freisa from Piemonte.  I do not agree with Lohr who suggest similarities to better cru Beaujolais.  This wine has good acidity, and an astringency that is noticeable though nevertheless quite low.  These elements make the wine refreshing, a little edgy and good with food.  There is a some residual sugar on the palate, but it not excessive and nicely balanced by the acidity.  This wine has an excellent length – my mouth has a pleasant aftertaste of raspberry 10 minutes and more after a few sips.  It is recommended that you drink it chilled.  It is good chilled, but also works well for me at normal red wine temperature.  At warmer temperature, the fruit really increases a couple of notches in volume, and the acidity also becomes more marked.  This is one of those rare wines that is both be a crowd-pleaser and holds interest for more serious wine-lovers.  Is it good value for money?  I think the normal price is about fair, and at £5.63 it is a bargain ****

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Farewell to Artur Barros e Sousa Lda

It was only last week that I learned in the UK Wine Forum of the demise of the smallest Madeira shipper Artur Barros e Sousa Lda (ABSL).  Well, they will not totally disappear off the face of the earth, but the business was sold to their next door neighbours Pereira d’Oliveira in November 2013.  Apparently stock already bottled will keep its ABSL label, and is already becoming something of a collector’s item, but the stock in barrel will probably be sold under the d’Oliveira name.  It seems d’Oliveira plan to use the ABSL canteiro as a tourist centre.  I suppose d’Oliveira is the obvious choice as new owner.  Not only it is literally right next door, but there has been a good relationship between the two shippers, and d’Oliveira has been pressing ABSL’s grapes for some time.

I suppose the time it took for the news to reach me reflects the general lack of interest in ABSL shown outside of Madeira and Portugal, which is understandable as they exported little, especially more recently.  Indeed they produced little.  MadeiraWineGuide gives the annual production as 8,000 to 10,000 litres a year, which is about 30 litres a day.  When we wandered around the canteiro in 2007, Edmundo was sitting at a table with some bottles, manually applying the wax seal.  We realised later that the bottles on that table  probably represented the day’s production!

ABSL was a real pleasure to visit.  The door from the street is easy to miss, and I know people have done just that despite being told it is right next door to the very obvious entrance to d’Oliveira’s tasting room.  But when inside, we were warmly welcomed by Artur (pictured below in the blue check shirt) and invited to explore by ourselves. We started in the small courtyard, where a variety of Madeira grapes grow.  Noble ones, such as Terrantez, Malvasia, Boal, Sercial, Verdelho.  Also the less-distinguished Tinta Negra, Carão de Moça, Listrão, Moscatel, Alicante de Málaga, and Bastardo.


Then we climbed two sets of rickety stairs or ladders, noting the barrels on each floor.  It was on the way down we saw Edmundo sealing bottles, and then we moved on to a tasting offered by Artur.  Most of the time we were there, we had the canteiro and tasting room to ourselves; it was only towards the end of our tasting that another couple arrived.


I cannot remember what we tasted, but Artur seemed willing to offer us something from practically any bottle he had if we asked. But considering that we could not carry many bottles home we did not have the cheek to ask for too much.  We bought the Verdelho Reserva Velha for around £27, and the Sercial 1998 for £18 or so.  The Reserva Velha was of uncertain age, but said to be something like 20 years old and from a single vintage.


During my time on the island I discovered I did not like cheaper Madeiras, even wines like Henriques and Henriques 15 year old Verdelho for example, which many seem to rate quite highly.  On the other hand I really enjoyed some of the older vintages - Leacock’s 1959 Sercial was one of the best wines ever to have passed my lips.  I found ABSL’s more recent vintage wines filled the middle ground very nicely, and offered excellent value for money.  I remember the light delicate touch of their wines – nothing too robust and obtrusive.

As many others before have commented the atmosphere in the canteiro was very special.  The building itself was originally a Jesuit house.  But it was taken from them when the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal in 1759, and it eventually passed into the hands of the family who started ABSL.  The barrels, floors and stairs in the canteiro are still obviously very old.  Even the most modern of their technology seemed to date from the 1950s.  That atmosphere is impossible to fake, and also impossible to preserve.  Perhaps that is no bad thing – it is just something to be experienced while you can – a bit like the wine produced there, and indeed wine in general. Let’s just hope that d’Oliveira’s tourist ambitions manage to keep at least some of the canteiro‘s charm.  It must be difficult to resist the urge to over-restore in the creation of a safe and manageable place for tourists.

I cannot help feeling sad about the demise of ABSL, but it is clear that the brothers Artur and Edmundo Olim could not keep running the business for ever, and I wish them a happy retirement.

Acknowledgements, sources and further information: Apart from the sources linked to above, I also got information from an interview with Artur that was published in inews, julho 2013, semestral no 7, a magazine of the Instituto do Vinho do Bordado e do Artesanato de Madeira.  For further information about ABSL, and evocative images,  I can recommend Mad About Madeira.  Also, Alex Liddell’s book Madeira, in the Faber and Faber series, has a good section on the company.  Finally, I should thank my good friends John and Inger, for allowing me to use the photos from their visit in 2013 – unfortunately I did not take any myself in 2007.

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How to bring your own wine

If you are taking wine to a BYO restaurant, or to a friend’s place for drinking at the event you are invited to, what is the best way to prepare and carry the wine?   The goal is to get the wine to its destination in good condition.  That implies
     1) Not faulty,
     2) No unpleasant sediment throughout the bottle,
     3) With the correct exposure to air, and
     4) At the correct temperature.
Here is how I suggest you set about achieving it…

The only way to check if a wine is faulty is to open it and check.  Don’t be coy about this – take a sample that is large enough to convince yourself the wine is OK.  Of course, that involves opening the bottle, but the wine is for consumption when you arrive, right?  So it will not be a problem. If it is a problem, then you are not going to be able to be sure your bottle is sound.

Any sediment will get mixed into the whole bottle of wine in transit, so you should get rid of it.  I am not too fussy about the amount of exposure to air wine gets, so my approach is to double decant any red wine – if it’s old it may well have thrown a sediment, and if it’s young it will probably benefit from a bit of air anyway.  Double decanting means that you first pour from the bottle into a jug, carefully leaving the last bit of wine that contains the sediment in the bottle.  I usually stand an electric torch (in place of the traditional candle) below the bottle to help me see the sediment.  Then you rinse the bottle, making sure you get rid of as much water as possible afterwards, and pour the wine back into it.  You can then re-cork the bottle immediately – there is no point leaving the wine to breathe any more because all that sloshing around will have already dissolved a lot of oxygen.

Getting the wine to the table at the correct temperature is the trickiest thing to get right.  Approximately right will probably have to be good enough.  All I can do here is give a few grandmother-egg-sucking-type pointers.  Apart from that, all you need is common sense and experience.

The first thing I’d point out is that the wine will not be consumed the second it gets through the door at your destination.  So in any plans remember to allow for the time between arrival and drinking.  Actually, that time often be put to good use to make adjustments to temperature.  Most places will be happy to stick your bottle in the fridge for example.  Other possibilities are a bucket with iced water or a cooling sleeve from the host’s freezer, or warm water if you need to need to warm the bottle slightly.

Apart from that, the variables you need to consider are wine temperature before you leave, the time it takes you to travel, and the ambient temperature and insulation during your journey.  It is easy to forget about the ambient temperature.  In a UK winter, if you are walking or using public transport, and possibly if your wine is in the boot of a car, you do not need to worry too much about wines arriving too warm.  Conversely, in the summer even your reds may be too warm.  For white wines, I find cooler sleeves  very useful.  If necessary, they can be used to get a white wine down to a very low initial temperature to withstand a long journey – use two one after the other, or a cooler sleeve on a bottle that has already been in the fridge.  But be careful, as it is easy to overdo it.  Note also that a spent cooling sleeve will insulate during the journey.  For journeys of around an hour, I usually get the temperature down to a reasonable drinking temperature using a cooling sleeve, and then just leave the sleeve on until the bottle is ready to be drunk.

So that is how I do it.  If you have a different approach, let me know.

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The new look

You may have found the layout of my blog jumping about a bit over the last day or so, as I was getting to grips with my new Theme. The old one, K2, is no longer being supported so it was only a matter of time before everything fell to pieces if I kept with that one, and the switch to TwentyTen is a pre-emptive measure.

I also took the opportunity to change my header image. It used to be the view from the Schoenenbourg vineyard in Alsace, and we have now have a view from Quinta do Seixo in the Douro. There are really so many stunning views in the Douro, and I chose this over many other possibilities largely because it fitted well into the space available.

There may be a few more tweaks necessary for a few posts, but the major shake-up is now over. Please let me know if you see any problems.

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A few months ago Jamie Goode published his Wine Manifesto.  It did a good job of encapsulating a lot of current thinking about wine.  On the other hand I did not think it would stand the test of time and, more importantly for me, it was very different from the manifesto I would come up with.  So here is my shot at one.  At some point in the future, I might rework it, and it could find its way to my About page.  Or I might just let it slip into obscurity, to be discovered and praised by the historians of the future.

If you don’t like the word manifesto, just think of it as an itemised summary of stuff I have been banging on about in my blog over the last 3 years or so.

1) Wine is fermented grape juice

You might fairly object that there is more to wine is than just fermented grape juice.  Certainly, there is a lot of skill that goes in making good wine, and various cultures have layered meaning and symbolism on top. But fundamentally it is still a fermented agricultural product, and sometime it is good to remind ourselves of that fact, and even celebrate its simplicity.

2) Flavour is not a property of wine

Wine comprises a mixture of chemicals that we sense in our nose and mouth, and the perception of flavour is created in our brains. Flavour is not a property of wine itself.  There is nothing unusual about this; it is the way all our senses work. To say that a wine is sweet, bitter or sour is nothing more than a useful shorthand to describe our perception of it.

3) Different people perceive the same wine differently

The sensitivity to various aromas varies greatly from person to person, as does the degree to which we find them pleasant.  Research is increasingly showing that these differences are due to physiological differences that are determined by specific genes.  This means that few people experience the same perception when they taste the same wine.  Genetic differences also affect other senses; in vision they cause what we call colour blindness, but it seems that genetic variation in how we smell is a lot more varied and widespread.  In addition to these physiological differences, perception of aromas is also affected by culture and historical exposure to smells and flavours.

4) At different times, the same person perceives the same wine differently

Perception depends on mood, the environment, the glass, what is believed about the wine, and what has been eaten or drunk immediately beforehand. There may also be variation from bottle to bottle, and the contents of the same bottle may change with time after it has been opened.  Under normal circumstances is often difficult to distinguish between variation in the wine itself and variation in our perception of it.

5) Wine is regarded and judged according to cultural norms and fashions

Despite tendencies towards globalisation in wine taste, the value placed on various wine styles varies from culture to culture.  For example oxidised wines are much more likely to be regarded as acceptable in Georgia.  Also brett, and petrol notes in Riesling, are more likely to be regarded as faults in new world wine growing countries than Europe.  As for fashion, a lot of us have witnessed the rise and fall of Chardonnay and Merlot in the early 21st century.  But the fall from grace of sweet German wines in the late 20th century was a lot more significant.

6) Wine tasting notes are not objective or definitive

It follows from items 2) to 5) above, that objectivity cannot be summoned up by particularly skilled and ethical wine critics.   It simply does not exist, as flavour is essentially a subjective experience.  The best you can hope for in a critic is that they try to be commercially unbiased, and that they are aware that not everyone perceives wine the same way as they do.

7) Wine tasting notes are useful as a personal record, and as the starting point for discussion

Just because tasting notes and scores are subjective, does not mean to say that they are totally without value. As a personal record I find them useful for jogging my memory.  They can also act as the starting point for a discussion, and can lead to interesting and useful insights.

8) Wine is interesting

There are many different aspect to wine that can be explored, e.g.  geography, history, culture, viticulture, winemaking, gastronomy, philosophy, science.  These can add significantly to wine’s enjoyment.

9 Wine is fun, and tastes nice

This is what wine is mainly about, though it is easy for wine geeks to forget.

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Tenerife revisited

We were back on Tenerife a few weeks ago, and of course trying out local wines again.  In this post you will find a few references to last time.  You do not need to, but if you want to better understand the full significance of last time, a description is available here.


Unlike last time I cannot now resist giving you the picture of the old wine press at Casa del Vino la Baranda.  I was actually taken in 2010, but could as well have been a few weeks ago as the weather was the same – uncharacteristically wet.

All the prices listed below for the wines are intended to be retail prices on the island converted to GBP, but quite a few of them were estimates based on very little evidence so please do not take them too seriously.  Most of the wines I saw for sale were in quite a narrow price band, so knowing the precise prices is perhaps not so important.  The only wines mentioned below that stood out as being more expensive were the Can and Cráter wines.

A tasting at Casa del Vino la Baranda

We visited Casa del Vino again, and we were better prepared.  We avoided the locals’ weekend quaffing hour that we hit last time, and apart from a few German tasters we had the tasting room to ourselves.  Without the pressure of fighting for attention this time, we announced our intention to drink our way through all the wines on offer, and without prompting it was suggested that we could have half glass pours.  A shared half glass was still quite a generous pour for two people, one of which was driving, so we really needed a spittoon.  The English word for the device was not understood, but a rather unsavoury mime of wine being expelled from my mouth did the trick, and we were set up with a spittoon and two flights in largish glasses arranged in front of a line of bottles.  Excellent, and a vast improvement on last time.  The per-glass prices varied between EUR 1.50 and 2.50, and the total price for our half-glass tasting of 13 wines and some crunchy bread nibbles came to around EUR 8 in total – not at all bad for two people.  Our pourer obviously felt more comfortable with German than English, so he spent most time chatting to others, which was sad in a way as I would have liked more information.  On the other hand it did leave us in peace to concentrate on tasting the wines, and let us discuss more frankly between ourselves.

Unlike last time, there were clear differences apparent between all of the wines.  Having so many wines lined up at the same time probably helped bring out the differences, and I also suspect that Casa del Vino chose the wines on show to illustrate the variety of styles.  To put it mildly, I enjoyed some styles more than others.  Most of the sweeter wines (we didn’t taste any properly sweet dessert wines) were pretty awful in my opinion, and not just because of the sweetness.  But I have a sneaky suspicion that they sell at least as well as the drier ones, and who am I to judge? Well, OK, if you are reading this you probably know who I am, and I am guessing your tastes are probably closer to mine than those who regularly drink those wines, so I suggest you stick to the ones with three or more stars.

Quite a few of the reds, not just the ones at Casa del Vino, had traits that suggested carbonic maceration.  I have used the word “confected” a few times in my notes.  Unlike some writers I do not regard this a being necessarily negative – for me it is just a descriptor of wines that have probably undergone carbonic maceration.   I certainly would not want every wine to taste like that, but in the right context it is fine.

The whites and rosé…


Morra Guanche, Tenerife Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, Seco, 100% Listán Blanco, 2012, 12.0%, £5.80 Watery pale. Vaguely fresh. Herbal and floral maybe. Low acidity. Dry. Quite neutral, but pleasant enough. Drink now ***

El Borujo, Blanco, Tenerife Valle de Güimar DO, Seco, 40% Listán Blanco, 30% Albillo, 20% Moscatel, 10% Vijariego, 2012, 12.5%, £7.00 Pale straw. Intense, aromatic. Big nose. Floral. Rose maybe? Medium low acid. Powerful finish. Dry. A much bigger wine in terms of flavour than the Morra Guanche. Drink now ****

Viñátigo, Vijariego, Tenerife Ycoden-Daute-Isora DO, 100% Vijariego, 6 months in Barrique, 2012, 12.5%, £8.20 Medium pale greeny gold. Intense oaky nose. Medium low acid. Oaky on palate too but quite pleasant. Lime and lemon. Dry. Only consider you are happy with oaky wines. Drink now, or try keeping a few years ****

Brumas de Ayosa, Espumoso Afrutada, Tenerife Valle de Güímar DO, Semiseco, 100% Listán Blanco, 2012, 11.5%, £7.00 Medium pale gold. Intense citrus. Lime perhaps? Medium low acid. Medium sweet. Ugh. Vaguely corky but I don’t think it was corked *

Flor de Chasna Sensación, Tenerife Abona DO, Semidulce, 100% Listán Blanco, 2013, 11.5%, £7.00 Pale straw. Huge nose. Sweet cat pee. Medium low acid. Medium sweet. Sweetness almost clobbers flavour completely. Drink now ***

Marba, Blanco Afrutado, Tenerife Tacorente-Acentejo DO, Bodegas Marba, 2012, 11.5%, £8.10 Very pale gold. Intense, weird, scented cleaning fluid. Sweet *

Pagos, Reverón, Afrutado, Tenerife Abona DO, 60% Listán Negro, 25% Tempranilla, 15% Syrah, 2013, £7.00 Deepish violet pink. Intense sweet confected red fruit. Strawberry. Cat pee. Sweet *

The reds…


Bodegas de Miranda, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava DO, 100% Listán Negro, 2012, 13.5%, £7.00 Medium intense purple ruby. Confected sweet red fruit. Medium low acid. Rather hard edges. Drink now **

Viña Orlara, Tenerife Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, 40% Listán Negro, 40% Negramoll, 10% Rubí Cabernet, 10% Castellana and Merlot, 2012, 13.5%, £5.40 Medium intense purple ruby. Intense pencil box claret-like nose. Medium acid. As nose. Medium low tannin. Light, but more serious than the last red wine. Drink now or keep a little ***

Viña Sur, Tenerife Ycoden-Daute-Isora DO, 100% Negramoll, 2012, 13.5%, £7.50 The first pour we were offered was oxidised, probably because the bottle had been open for too long – you can see the level in the image above – but this was replaced with a pour from a newly opened bottle when I pointed this out.  Medium pale purple ruby. Intense confected red fruit. Medium low acid. As nose. Medium tannin. Like a decent Beaujolais perhaps. Drink now, or keep a little ****

Viña Riquelas Negramoll, Tenerife Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, 100% Negramoll, 2012, 13.0%, £7.30 Medium intense ruby. Intense pleasant red fruit. Raspberry and strawberry. Medium low acidity. Medium low tannin. Palate more restrained than nose. Drink now ***

7 Fuentes, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava DO, Bodegas Soagranorte, 90% Listán Negro, 10% Tintilla, 8 months in barrique, 2012, 13.0%, £7.10 Medium pale purple ruby. Oaky reductive notes. Medium low acid. Medium high tannin. Better on palate – no reductive notes. Suspect will improve with aging ***

Cráter, Tenerife Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, Listán Negrol and Negramoll. New French oak barriques for 6 months, 2011, 13.5%, £14.30 Medium ruby garnet. Medium pencil box Claret. Medium acidity. Smooth. Medium tannin. Good now, and will improve. Note that this was the wine that impressed most in 2010, when we drank a 2006 wine at  Solana in Santa Cruz ****

Wines we drank in restaurants

Viña Norte, Tinto Joven, Listán Negro y Negramoll, Tenerife Tacoronte Acentejo DO, 2012, 13.5%, £8.00 Intense purple ruby. Intense, slightly sickly, dark fruit Medium low acid. Boiled sweets carbonic maceration. Cherry. Sweet aromatics that were sickly on the nose are more pleasant on the palate. Also lifted by eucalyptus notes. Low tannin. Drink now ***

Tajinaste, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava DO, Tinto Tradicional, 2012, 13.0%, £8.00 Intense purple ruby. Fresh boiled dark fruit drops. Medium low acidity. Low tannin.  Cab mac again. I tried two bottles on two consecutive evenings. The second night it seemed lighter and less cloying, but still not outstanding. Drink now ***

Can, Listán Negro y Vijariego, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava DO, Finca La Araucaria. Bodega Tajinaste, 9 months in French oak barrels, 2011, 13.5%, £15.00 Intense purple. Maybe some ruby, but poor light. Intense dark fruit and oak. Medium low acid. Smooth. Understated – certainly compared to expectation from the nose.  Velvety, medium low tannin. Toffee flavours from the oak, but nothing indicating oxidation. Good now. I tried two bottles on two consecutive evenings. The second evening, I was not sure how understated it was on the palate. It was a still a bit of a bruiser, but without the sweetness of fruit that often comes with such wines.  Good now, but no hurry ****

Tajinaste, Blanco Seco, Vino de Calidad de las Islas Canarias DO, Listán Blanco, Albillo Criollo, 2012, 12.5%, £7.50 Pale greenish straw Intense, fresh and herbal. But not like Sauvignon Blanc. More heavy aromatic mediterranean herbs. Sage? Medium acid. Dry. Viscous. Stone fruit finish, as viognier but still aromatically herbal. Drink now.  Yet another wine we had two bottles of! ****

In summary

Interesting wines, and I am glad I tried them – they are definitely worth exploring if you find yourself on Tenerife.  Back in the UK, if I happened to stumble across them I’d be happy to pick up a bottle of the ones I enjoyed more.  But I don’t think I’d seek them out, and doubt very much I would drink multiple bottles when they have so much more competition here.

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