Sherry – book review

sherry julian jeffsThis is a review of the 6th Edition of Sherry by Julian Jeffs. I have a review copy of the paperback, published by Infinite Ideas earlier this year with an RRP of £30.00. I think the hardback version of this edition came out a couple of years ago. It has 262 pages and, like other books in this Classic Wine Library series, the general design and physical impression is good. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the book, including a map of the Sherry region. There is also a small collection of colour plates bound together in the middle of the book.

I already owned the 5th edition, and my first comment would be that the updates are relatively minor, so I wouldn’t recommend buying the 6th edition if you already have the 5th. In addition to making the book look a lot more modern and a number of editorial changes, the updates I spotted are: Equipo Navazos gets a few lines, as do a few other newer bodegas, and the Brandy de Jerez chapter has been ditched. Beware though, as The Twentieth Century chapter has been renamed The Twentieth Century and Beyond, but it doesn’t go very much “beyond” at all. While very limited, the updates are all welcome, and make the book generally more attractive. Regarding the mapping though, two very hard-to-read maps in an antiquated style have been replaced by one modern map that is even harder to read. Map regions are indicated by shading in white and four shades of grey, for three soil types, where the vineyards are, and something else. My issues are a) I cannot always tell which shade of grey is which, b) I have no idea what the “something else” is, but can only presume it is not relevant to Sherry, and worst of all c) the apples-and-pears colouring scheme makes it impossible to know what soils the vineyards are on, which is what you are most likely to want to know from such a map. Sometimes I despair – maps are meant to convey information, not act merely as decoration. Rant over.

On the positive side, I must say that this is probably the best specialist (as opposed to The Oxford Companion, for example) wine book I have read. It is a true classic of The Classic Wine Library. It is written well, and oozes authority that is backed up by a comprehensive section of sources and bibliography. Apart from the appendices and a section that gives a paragraph on each of the shippers, the book is roughly evenly split between history and production methods. There is no space given to tasting notes, which you may or may not see as an advantage. Whichever side of the fence you take, it is probably something that has allowed the book to work well across several editions.

But what about the excitement felt for Sherry by contemporary wine lovers? You cannot find it in Jeffs’ book. Even in the provincial North of England, where Sherry bars have not yet made much of an in-road, there are many enthused drinkers of Sherry in my circle of wine buddies. It is common to kick off an evening with a glass of Sherry, and sometimes to drink it at some point in the meal. Also perhaps a few sentences on en rama Sherry, currently gaining in popularity, would have been a good idea. Rama has an entry in the glossary (in the 5th edition too), where it is defined as wine bottled from the cask without further treatment. But that is the only mention I noticed and, even if strictly speaking the definition is correct, it is not necessarily what you always get if en rama is on the label. But maybe all this trendy stuff is a mere blip in the world of Sherry, and the weight of history, and large body of conservative imbibers, justifies its omission. If so, then there is definitely room for another more ephemeral Sherry book.

Arribes de Ventonia Redux – bottle variation?

Following my very enthusiastic review of Arribes de Ventonia 2011, I snapped up the remaining bottles I could find, and also bought a few from the 2013 vintage, which was a slightly different cépage.

I tried the 2013 first, and it was not a patch on my previous experience. Fruit and oak, but none of the complexity of the 2011. Ah, well – it was after all a different wine. But last night I tried one of the more-recently-bought 2011 wines, and it reminded me more of the 2013 than my previous experience with the 2011. For both recent bottles, it was a *** rating rather than *****. Still not bad for a £9.00 bottle of wine, but not something to make me want to dash out for more.

Bottle variation or taster variation? Under most circumstances I would be very willing to accept that I am the most likely cause of inconsistency. But in this case the differences were so marked that I am leaning much more towards the bottle variation explanation. Maybe the 2011 wines were from different batches, or the storage conditions differed before the wines reached me? Not that I am suggesting there was any heat damage or similar – just that they happened to be not so good for these particular wines. The closure was not natural cork BTW, so a dodgy cork would not be an explanation.

What can we learn from this?

  1. This is the way things are for wine that are more interesting. We have to accept it.
  2. When I highlight a single wine in a blog post, it will be one I have tried on multiple occasions or one I have both tasted and drunk at least half a bottle of, with food where appropriate. Maybe I need to hold back on my opinions even more. Not that I feel guilty over this incident – I rarely review freebie bottles, and in this case I put my money where my mouth was to the extent that I doubt anyone else had chance to buy any.
  3. As a consumer of tasting notes, I shall be even more sceptical. And I recommend that attitude to you too.

Arribes de Vettonia Rufete Bodegas Arribes del Duero 2011

arribes_de_ventoniaTime for a little light relief on winenous I think. So here is a wine I was drinking yesterday that I thought was remarkably good, and even better value for money.

Arribes DO follows the Spanish bank of the Duero as it runs South along the border with Portugal. I had just about heard of the Arribes region (as the subject of a documentary by Zev Robinson) but had no idea it was also a DO until I saw this bottle for sale. A quick google reveals there is also an Arribes national park, with some of the most stunningly spectacular river landscapes you can imagine. The grape is Rufete, which is mainly used in Portugal. You might know it better as Tinta Pinheira. No? Me neither. It was made by Bodegas Arribes del Duero, the local coop, who certainly seem to know what they are doing. Oh, and it’s 14.5% ABV, and was aged in barriques for 5 months.

Beautiful medium intense ruby colour. Intense dark fruit on the nose, and aromatically spicy. The aromas were mirrored on palate, where there was also a good solid structure – good acidity, and quite strong tannins. Quite bracing. As the wine warmed up, maybe from 13 to 16ºC, I also got some smoky treacle notes, and a little bitter chocolate. Later in the evening, when probably a bit over 20ºC, the wine got a bit soupy and the alcohol and acidity seemed to dominate – something I find with most wines, so not really a criticism. Elegant and subtle it isn’t, but there is lot a going on in the wine, and it made an excellent accompaniment to robust food. I hope that does not sound like faint praise – it is not meant to be. It was sold to me as something to drink by 2016, but I say it is not going to die anytime soon. Would it improve? I really don’t know – it is pretty damned good now *****.

Sadly out of stock now at The Daily Drinker where I bought mine, but Kudos them for finding it and selling me a bottle for excellent price of £9.00. Red Squirrel Wine are still offering it for sale at the same price, and maybe will have a few bottles left after I have placed my order for a case.

Update: See also Arribes de Ventonia Redux – bottle variation?

Three varietal wines of Majorca

majorquin varietals

When staying in Palma de Mallorca last year, we visited José L Ferrer in Binnisalem where we picked up three varietal wines, each of a different variety grown only on the island. As varieties, they are not (with one exception) particularly rare, but you do not usually find them sold as single-variety wines. Unlike other wines from Ferrer’s cellar, they were fermented in 500 li oak barrels. The labels carry a drawing of a Ferreret, a toad native to Majorca – by analogy to the grape varieties presumably, and with a name that is not to be confused with that of the producer.

Last weekend, I tasted these wines, and then drank them with food. Below, are description of the varieties according to Wine Grapes, followed by my tasting notes.

Ferreret, Mantonegro, Jose L Ferrer, 2014, 13.5% – €18
Also spelled as two words: Manto Negro. 320 ha of vineyards, and often found in Majorquin blends. Wines are generally soft, light coloured and high in alcohol. Younger vines tend to produce red fruit flavours, while older vines with low yields give more concentrated black fruit. Its tendency to oxidise means the wines do not age well.

Pale garnet. Some oak. Fresh red fruit – raspberry and cherry. Sweet and spirity. Medium high acid. Intense aromas. Low but detectable tannin. Perfumed and fragrant. Sweet ripe fruit. Excellent length. Drink now ****

With food, this was the most enjoyable of the three ****

Ferreret, Gorgollassa, Jose L Ferrer, 2014, 13.0% – €18
Only 4 ha of vineyards, but the area is increasing. Produces wines that are dry and elegant, but with a tendency to oxidation. Typically gives wines with strawberry and violet flavours, fairly low acidity, moderate alcohol and soft tannins.

Medium pale garnet. Intense. Lightly aromatic oak – rather pleasant. Red fruit. Medium high acid. Intense aromas. Sweet red fruit. Medium low tannin. Nice structure. Excellent length. Refreshing finish. Drink now. Better than the Mantonegro ****

With food, this was one of the less enjoyable of the three, the pleasant oakiness failing to come through ***

Ferreret, Callet, Jose L Ferrer, 2014, 14.0% – €18
143 ha of vineyards. Traditionally rather rustic, light red or rosé, and low in alcohol. Increasing trend towards higher quality, finer tannins and moderate alcohol. Usually moderate acidity, but enough to give balance and freshness. Minerally, food friendly, typically red fruit aromas and sometimes violet scented.

Medium pale ruby garnet. Medium intense fruit. Raspberry maybe, but moving towards the black fruit end of the spectrum. Blueberry I think. More muted, and possibly more serious. Impressive legs. Medium high acid. Medium low tannin. Aromas as nose, but actually not very interesting. Excellent length. Disappointing on finish. Drink now ***

With food, this was one of the less enjoyable of the three ***

In summary, all three wines were good, lightly structured quaffing wines, rather than wines to sip quietly over the course of an evening: nothing wrong with that if you are in the mood for a good quaff, as I was.

Wineing and La Bodeguilla-ing in Palma

Recently we spent a week in Palma de Mallorca. It’s a beautiful city that is easily accessible by air from the UK, and certainly worthy of a long weekend at the very least. There are plenty of interesting places to eat and drink, and I would like to draw your attention to a couple of centrally located venues that should be of particular interest to wine lovers. They were both good enough for us to visit twice on our trip.

Wineing

Wineing (sic) is a great place for wine-lovers to geek out. Even normal people who want to grab something to eat with a couple of glasses of wine will not be disappointed, but if you want to taste local wines, it is the place to go. Here is a panoramic image of the enomatic machines available there – click to enlarge.

wineing

From left to right, there are two machines loaded with non-Majorcan Spanish reds, followed by one with white and rosé wines from anywhere in the world, one with non-Spanish reds, and then, fading into the distant darkness in the image, are the two machines I concentrated most on: the Majorcan reds. The emphasis on red wine reflects production on the island, but seemed inappropriate in a wine-bar-cum-restaurant setting. Nevertheless, it suited me.

winening_labelOn both visits we were served by a Swedish waitress with excellent English who was friendly and helpful, and very much set the tone of the place. One of the nice features of Wineing was the flexibility. The place was not very busy, so we could sit where we wanted, and it is possible to just drink, or eat as little or as much as you want. The menu included tapas, but you could also put together a full meal with dessert – a lot more wine-friendly than a cheese or ham platter. For our first visit we were not very hungry, but shared bread, one tapas dish, one steak and a portion of chips. The second time we ordered a few different tapas dishes.

The wine choices were even more flexible. Depending on where you chose to sit, there may have been a glass at your table, but regardless there was a stash of decent quality glasses on a table between two enomatic machines for you to help yourself to. From the machines you could take pours of size “tasting”, “half glass” or “full glass”, or buy bottles, at the prices indicated on the enomatic labels. To give you some idea of the range, the Majorcan wines I tried were: Ánima Negra, Án and ÁN/2; Miguel Oliver, Aía; 4 Kilos, 12 Volts and Gallinas y Focas; Oliver Moragues, OM; Son Bordils, Syrah; Xaloc, El Colmo; Castell Miguel, Shiraz Stairway to Heaven.

La Bodeguilla

La Bodeguilla was also excellent, but in a very different way. The food at Wineing is good, but at La Bodeguilla it is outstanding, and there was also an excellent wine list. It is never going to be a Michelin starred restaurant for reasons mentioned below, but in my opinion it whupped Simply Fosh (a 1 star restaurant in Palma) on sheer quality of food.

But be aware that, although it does serve both tapas and restaurant-style courses, at heart it is an up-market tapas bar, with small tables and less-than-comfortable seating. There are two areas: in the more tapas part you are provided with stools, while in the restaurant part the chairs are ridiculously low. The table heights were in proportion to the chairs, but if you are tallish like me you finish up almost sitting cross-legged. If I were a cynic (actually I am in this case), I would suggest that the seating was designed to encourage people not to linger so they can cram more covers in. At the very least, a Michelin star does ensure more comfortable seating!

Another slight negative for us was the more formal, though not always well-organised, service. To be fair, this may have partly been due to the language barrier, but nevertheless it made a marked contrast to the service at Wineing.

la_bodeguillaThe wine list in tangible form is illustrated above. You do get a paper version too, unprompted if you are seated in the restaurant area, but apparently only on request in the tapas area. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass. Nowhere near as comprehensive as the enomatic-powered Wineing, but very nicely selected. For example, the Sherries offered were, to quote the by-the-glass card verbatim: Tio Pepe Rama, Manzanilla la Goya Rama, Palo Cortado AB Leonor, Amontillado Tresillo, and Uno Palma.

Every tapas dish on the two occasions we ate there was exquisite: crab terrine, tuna tartare, aubergine and smoked cod, and a mini steak and foie gras burger with skinny chips. The main course we both ordered was suckling lamb shoulder, which turned out to be a whole shoulder and front leg. This was no doubt correctly cooked and presented, but I do tend to prefer the meat of more fully grown animals. So why did I order it? Well, there was not a lot of choice for the main courses, and three of the dishes were suckling something-or-other. On return I shall stick to the tapas.

This place is not cheap, and it does apparently get full very easily, but I recommend it highly for the quality of the tapas and wine.

La Bobal Revisited – film review

No, this is not just a revisiting of the topic of Bobal, but a bit more about Zev Robinson‘s documentary film La Bobal Revisited.  Take a look at the trailer below.  It gives a pretty good impression of the full documentary, but is I think more fast-paced.

The actual documentary is relaxed in many ways.  It is not stuffed with neatly organised facts, but rather provides a voice for the wine people of Utiel Requena and Manchuela, the region in Eastern Spain where Bobal is grown.  The people talk, and seem united even if their views do sometimes diverge, and we are shown a series of scenes from the region in general, and of vine cultivation and winemaking in particular.  Most scenes, while often incorporating movement, seem to have something of the character of a still image, short-lasting and with a dynamic composition that demands attention.  The net effect is the feeling of simultaneous events in many places, and at many levels of detail, and thus the picture of life there is constructed.  The great pleasure is hearing people talking about things that mean a lot to them, and in their own voices.

If you are interested in seeing the documentary, get in touch with Zev by email zevrobinson@gmail.com, and I am sure he will be able to sell you a DVD and/or keep you posted about future screenings.  Finally, I should declare the fact that I know Zev personally, but the only motivation I have in writing this post is to give well-deserved exposure to an excellent documentary, and an excellent grape variety.

Cien y Pico En Vaso Bobal 2011

en_vaso_bobalFirst, an explanation of the words on the label.  Bobal is the grape variety, Manchuela the region in Spain that gives its name to the Denominación de Origen,  Cien y Pico is the producer, and En Vaso the name of the wine.  En Vaso actually refers to a vine pruning technique, but you’ll have to ask the Cien y Pico marketing people what the exclamation marks and ellipsis signify.

I discovered Cien y Pico En Vaso on the shelves of D Byrne in Clitheroe, and grabbed a bottle because I wanted to learn more about Bobal.  My interest in the grape had been piqued a few years ago by Zev Robinson’s documentary La Bobal y otras historias del vino, recently reworked as La Bobal Revisited, but you do not see a lot of it around in the UK.  I enjoyed the first bottle so much that I ordered another half case, from Byrne’s again as their price of £9.60 seems to be the best in the country.  Now, after three bottles, I feel I at least understand this particular wine quite well.

As with my last post, about Paparuda Pinot Noir, I am strongly recommending this wine, but again it comes with a caveat because I don’t think it will suit everyone.  It is a very different wine to the Pinot Noir, so if that does not appeal this one might.  Here’s the tasting note…

Intense ruby red with hints of purple.  Intense nose, with lots of interesting stuff going on, to the extent that my notes I keep differ quite a bit.  Take your pick: treacly, farmyard, and maybe some smoke from one bottle, or volatile, slightly vegetal, and dark fruit from another.  But on both occasions I had a heavy, rustic wine, quite possibly technically faulty, but nevertheless attractive.  On the palate, high acidity, and big but nicely structured tannins.  Intense ripe dark fruit, but in the presence of the acidity and tannin it has a good refreshing character.  Hints of cocoa and orange on one bottle.  Excellent length.  This is a brute of a wine – big on everything except elegance and subtlety.  Good for drinking now with a big juicy steak or chili con carne, but I imagine it will improve with time *****

Here are other reviews from Jamie Goode, Tom Cannavan and Olly Smith.

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.

casa_del_vino_press

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…

casa_del_vino_white

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…

casa_del_vino_red

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 bit of a bruiser, but still 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.

A Spring in Majorca – but only one week

Once again I decided there are more beautiful things in life than wine bottles to show pictures of, so here is the Gran Hotel in Palma, designed by Domènech i Montaner who was also responsible for Modernista buildings in Barcelona.

Palma is a fine city, but we were staying in Sóller, at the other end of the scenic railway, and just over the mountains on the North West side of the island. So most of the restaurants mentioned below are in Sóller, though there are a couple we visited for lunch on day trips.

Generally speaking I was a little surprised at how similar the restaurants we tried were in terms of price, menu choice and quality of food.  It seemed to be pretty standard to offer a number of local Mallorcan dishes, along with some with a somewhat more international flavour which normally came with shredded lettuce and other inappropriate bits of salad.  Generally speaking the quality was pretty good, but never much better than that.  Here are the restaurants, together with the wines taken at each place.  The prices are estimated Spanish retail prices for 75cl bottles, converted at current rates.  Don’t take them too seriously, but it will give you some idea the relative prices.

La Vila, Sóller
We had our first evening meal in our hotel restaurant.  Good atmosphere and service. The food was OK, but on the relatively pricey side and unnecessarily complicated.  Scallops were a bit chewy, and the selection of cheeses boring.  Nicely cooked magret of duck in a good orange sauce, but lots of additional faffy bits, and apples with so much cinnamon flavour they overpowered the rest of the dish.

Jean Leon, Petit Chardonnay, Penedés DO, 2009, £9.50
Intense and ripe tropical fruit.  Pineapple, and something with a bitter edge – maybe Seville oranges ***

Ses Nines, La Vila Hotel Sóller Edició Limitada, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Tianna Negre, 2009, £13.50
This was a supposedly a special cuvée for the restaurant.  Intense and brambly, with quite a bit of tannin and a bitter finish.  Good now, but I’d expect it to improve in the next 5 years or so.  A good ***

Es Canyis, Port de Sóller
Had a late lunch here, sharing a starter of grilled sardines and a main of arròs negre.  Simple but very good – probably the best meal of the holiday.  Nice relaxed restaurant and good service too.

Blanc de Blancs, Maciá Batle, Binissalem Mallorca DO, 2010, £5.30
Intense tropical fruit again.  This time pineapple and melon I thought.  Bitter and cloying finish ***

El Guia, Sóller
The most remarkable thing about this place was the service.  Slow and ponderous silver service, with wine top ups every few minutes until they got a bit busier, and a waiter who keeps repeating the order to himself as he returns to the kitchen.  The fish soup  was full of mushy fibres of fish.  Maybe that is how it is done locally, but it wasn’t to my taste.  But I enjoyed very much the local dish llom amb col – pork wrapped in cabbage leaves and slow cooked.

José L Ferrer, Crianza, Binissalem Mallorca DO (Mantonegro), Spain, 2008, £9.00
Sweet sickly dark fruit on the nose – rather unpleasant I thought.  Slightly sweet, slightly oxidised, and quite tannic *

Son Tomas, Banyalbufar
Just had a main course for lunch here – a disappointingly tough grilled monkfish.  My wife’s Mallorcan fish was better cooked, so maybe I was just unlucky. A nice terrace location though.

Alba Flor, Blanco, Prensal Muscat, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Vins Nadal, 2009, £7.50
Another oxidised one.  Lemon, sherry and apples.  Maybe I should have been sending these back, but I quite liked this one.  More interesting than tropical fruit! ***

Cipriani, Sóller
This was not the Don Cipriani you may have read about elsewhere.  It seems that has now folded.  This was a restaurant on the main square.  The food was very good.  I had the sopes mallorquines, which was actually a meal in itself (I had forgotten that sopes was not soup), and the equally local slow cooked shoulder of lamb.  Decent service, and a good outside location.

Ses Nines, Manto Negre Cab Sauv Callet Sirah, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Tianna Negre, 2010, £9.00
Blackberry.   Jammy, and with a certain edge.  Quite tannic, bitter finish.  Not unpleasant.  Despite the same star rating, it did not appeal as much as La Vila’s version of Ses Nines ***

Sa Cova, Sóller
Had a couple of meals here.  Service is a bit rough around the edges but acceptable, and outside tables small with little space around them.  Had battered squid rings as a starter twice.  The first time was fantastic – light and crispy coating with melt-in-the-mouth squid.  Next time was sadly more greasy and chewy.  Had the magret of duck here too to compare.  This time it was in PX sauce.  Bigger portion, also well cooked and tasty, but cheaper and less faff.  This one also came with cinnamon apples, which were more subtly spiced.

ÁN/2, VdT Mallorca, Falanis, Ánima Negre, 2008, £11.60
This is the cheapest of the Ánima Negre red range.  Nicely delineated aromas, vanilla oak, and blackcurrant fruit. Intense and quite tannic.  Spicy, especially on the finish.  Excellent length.  At last we had stopped messing about with wines on this holiday.  Would be even better after another 5 years ****

Victoria, Alcúdia
This has an excellent location on the peninsula beyond Alcúdia – a terrace with fine views.  I had a tuna salad to start with, which turned out to be tinned tuna on a salad you might well get in the UK.  Pleasant enough, but I expected something more exciting.  This was followed by frit mallorquí, a local offal fry-up, which was good.

Bach, Extrísmo, Seco, Penedes DO (Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Chardonnay), Spain, 2009,  £5.00
Citrusy, orange I think, and pineapple.  Good value ***

Café Sóller, Sóller
As suggested by the name, this was less of a restaurant and more of a café that serves food. A rare fillet steak here, correctly cooked.  The place seems to specialise in inappropriate garnishes, so my steak had a huge piece of white asparagus lying across the plate.  My wife’s mozzarella and tomato salad came with a strawberry, and I saw pasta being served with slices of orange and kiwi.

Án, Felanis, Ánima negra, VdT de los Illes Balears, 2001, £50.00
This is the middling priced wine of the Ánima negra range.  Intense mature spicy red fruit. Cinnamon, I think.  Sweet ripe fruit. Dusty tannins. Fantastic length with a bitter finish.  Drink now or keep up to another 10 years.  Easily the best wine of the holiday *****

Bizarrely, in our experience of Sóller, the less fancy the restaurant and the poorer the quality of the wine glasses, the better the wines that were available.  Sa Cova and Café Sóller were the only places to serve anything of the level of ÁN/2, and Café Sóller was the only place to have Án on their list.  Café Sóller also deserves special mention for the reasonable markups on the Án.  They charged €41 for the 2001 and €58 for the 2000 – less than the retail prices I saw for similar vintages.

A week of Tenerife wine and food

Recently back from my hols on Tenerife. The focus of the holiday was by no means wine, but of course I was keen to try the local wines, and as there seems to be so little written about them I thought you might be interested in my experiences there. I am not going to give a factual summary here of the DOs and grape varieties, but if you are interested in such things you could do worse than looking here.

Casa del Vino

First stop, almost literally, was Casa del Vino de Baranda. Here is a wine museum, a tasting room, bar and restaurant. The museum was full of information about Tenerife wines, actually too much information for me, and the obligatory old bits and bobs of wine making in days gone by. The casa was an old farm house that produced wine, and as such came with a huge lever wine press that now forms part of the museum. You almost got a picture of that at the top of this page, but then I decided Mount Teide was prettier.

The most interesting thing I learned was about the local traditional method of training vines. It is a variant on the cordon system, with several branches braided together and laid out horizontally to grow up to around 3m long. The braided branches are allowed to rest on the ground during winter, but propped up by 50cm or so in the spring. These days a variety of training systems are used, but I did spot one or two vineyards that still used the traditional method.

We hit the ground running in the tasting room, which turned out to be more of a wine bar for locals, than a venue for (ahem) serious wine enthusiasts like us. There was a changing menu of something like 10 wines, which were served with bread and cheese, in proper wine glass sized portions, for 1-2 euros each. We did manage to negotiate half pours, but they were still large for tasting samples, and not a spittoon in sight. If I went again, I would avoid pre-Sunday-lunch drinking time with the locals, make sure no one was driving, and schedule plenty of time and liver capacity to enjoy the wine. Anyway, we finished up sharing 4 half-glass tasters, and then a bottle over lunch from the restaurant.

The wines

For some reason, in restaurants the most commonly recommended wine was Rueda. OK, it is not a bad choice but there are other white wines in the world, including quite a few from Tenerife. We succumbed once and had a couple of glasses, but otherwise stuck to wines from the island. Dry wines only. I understand Tenerife produces very good sweet Malvasias, but we did not seek these out, and none presented themselves in a very obvious way.

Maybe it was the just me, or the wines we tried, but I found the whites all a bit samey. Sweet tropical fruit aromas, mainly pineapple I think, almost pungent, fair acidity, maybe a tad astringent, and with a slightly cloying finish that seemed to be due to the aromatic profile rather than residual sugar. I hope it does not sound condescending – I don’t mean it to be – but I’d say they were characterful and rustic rather then smooth and sophisticated. All pretty solid *** wines, but I was tiring of them by the end of the week. Here are the white wines we tried, with actual or estimated retail prices converted to pounds at current exchange rates:
Marba, Blanco Barrica, Tenerife Tacoronte Acentejo DO, 2009, 12.5%, £7.60
Viñátigo, Gual, Tenerife, Ycoden Daute Isora DO, 2008, 13.0%, £7.40
Viñátigo, Verdello, Tenerife Ycoden Daute Isora DO, 2007, 13.0%, £10.30
Viñátigo, Blanco, Tenerife Ycoden Daute Isora DO, Spain, 2009, half bottle, £3.00
Viñátigo, Marmajuelo, Tenerife Ycoden Daute Isora DO, 2009, 13.0%, £8.70
Viña Zanata, Tenerife Daute Isora DO, Viña La Guancha, 2009, 12.5%, £9.00
So that’s one tasting note for 6 wines – no messing about on winenous! Three of these are of the varieties Gual, Verdello and Marmajuelo, as mentioned in the list above. I don’t know about the Viña Zanata, but the remaining two are mainly Listán Blanco – another name for the Palomino Fino of Sherry fame. There is also a Listrão Branco on Madeira, which I assume is the same variety.

I found more variation in the reds – both in style and quality.
Tajinaste, Tenerife Valle de la Ortava DO, 2008, 13.0%, £7.80
Tintilla, Tenerife Ycoden Daute Isora DO, Tágara, 2006, 13.5%, £10.30
Tanganillo, Tinto, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava DO, 2008, 13.5%, £6.50
Arautava, Tinto, Tenerife Valle dela Orotava DO, 2009, 13.0%, £8.40
Monje, Tradicional, Tinto, Tenerife Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, 2008, 13.0%, £9.50
Crater, Tenerife Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, Bodegas Buten, 2006, 13.5%, £14.00
In these names, it is only Tintilla that is the grape variety. All the others are dominated by Listán Negro. In addition to Listán Negro, the Crater has Negramoll and la Hollera blended in, and the Monje has Negramoll. Negramoll is the same as Tinta Negra Mole of Maderia, so together with Verdello and Listán Blanco, we are now up to three varieties in common with that island. All the reds were low on tannin. According to Jancis Robinson in her “Guide to Wine Grapes”, Listán Negro is usually vinified using carbonic maceration, so that could explain the low tannins, and also some of the flavour profiles.

I found the Tanaganillo to be rather dumb and short, tasting mainly of boiled blackcurrant sweets **. The Tintilla was oxidised, but have no idea if it was the wine itself, or if the bottle had just been left open too long. The oxidative notes were of the type I have noticed others liking, but they give me no pleasure, so *. The Tajinaste and Arautava were simple but good fruity blackcurrant wines, with some licorice noted on the finish of the Arautava, ***. The Monje and the Crater were a step up in quality I thought. Maybe it was the DO, which I understand was the first one on the island, or the other grapes blended in with the Listán. The Monje was also blackcurrant fruit dominated, but was more elegant, with a slight green edge, and aromatics that reminded me a bit of Syrah – but still only *** I think. The Crater, was maybe a tad bretty, and in that phase of development where it was starting to develop mature notes whilst still retaining some youthful dark fruitiness – all good things in my book. I may have been partly swayed by the environment where we drank the wine, but I think this scraped ****.

Restaurants – bad, ugly and good

Let’s start by getting some of the bad and ugly out of the way. If you are at the Teide Portillo Visitors’ Centre, don’t be tempted to eat at the nearby restaurant. There we had a soggy spag with packet bol, and a tough Spanish omelette, presumably warmed up out of a packet, and was the worst restaurant meal I can remember. We had lunch another day just up the road, which was better – but to be honest we may just have got lucky by choosing better from the menu – we went for soup at that place.

Also avoid Pomadoro in Puerto de la Cruz – there we had rather unsavoury squid (cooked in bad oil perhaps), tough rabbit, and a tough and overcooked fillet steak. The views overlooking the sea are great, but you can get the same experience next door at Rustica, where the fish dishes were a lot more acceptable, if not particularly great. Also be prepared to be serenaded by a dodgy guitar player, who will then come round asking for money.

The best place we found in Puerto de la Cruz was Régulo – we went there twice. It is what I would call a proper restaurant. Their customers were mainly foreigners like us, but providing tourist troughing did not seem to be its raison d’etre, unlike Pomadoro, Rustica and many other places we saw in Puerto. I had the excellent value fish soup on both occasions, and everything else we tried was tasty and nicely cooked. Huge portions though! I think there is something about Tenerife “entrées” that does not translate properly – they seem to be main course size. And my shoulder of lamb was a whole shoulder (maybe I exaggerate) that even I could not finish. Good wine recommendations there – the Arautava, and the Monje.

We had only dinners in Puerto de la Cruz, and lunches elsewhere on those days. An honourable mention for lunch must go to Casa del Vino, where we had a good but not very exciting meal. To be fair though, we did go for the el-cheapo lunch option for something like EUR12 per head for 3 courses, so we cannot complain too much. And another honourable mention to El Burgado at Playa las Arenas, near Buenavista del Norte in the North-West corner of the island. There we shared a paella, which was OK, but the best thing about the restaurant was the friendly service and the quiet and beautiful location by the sea.

All other meals were dinners, and taken in Santa Cruz. The first night we went to a place close to our hotel that we had a personal recommendation for – Meson El Portón, Calle Dr Guigou 18. I give the address because I saw it in no guide books or similar places you look for recommendations. I noted it was very full at lunchtime, which I took to be a good sign, and we returned for dinner. The place was nearly empty but we were welcomed warmly. No menu was presented, but we were lead to a display of raw fish and meat and, with pidgin English, pidgin Spanish and much finger pointing, we made our choice, – a whole pampona (a local fish) for 2, and we accepted the offer of a salad “para picar”. Wine negotiations followed a similar pattern. The salad – various things including tuna – was good, and the pampona was even better – huge, cooked perfectly and seasoned with not a little garlic. On leaving, we discovered there was an English menu outside, with one intriguing item: “ham broke black woman”. But don’t worry, the Spanish version was “jamon pata negra”. All in all, an excellent and reasonably priced evening!

On the third evening in Santa Cruz we ate at Clavijo 38. We both went for the “local fish”, which turned out to be hake. We had huge portions, a half fish each effectively, and it was nicely cooked. But expensive. Too expensive I think.

But it was the second evening that was the gastronomic highlight of the holiday. We went to Solana. I discovered it recommended on a Spanish wine website, where it seemed to stand out in Santa Cruz in terms of the large number of people willing to rate it highly. No mention in guide books or on trip advisor though. It is a small restaurant with 34 covers, run by Nacho Solana, chef, and his wife Erika Sanz, sommelier and all things front-of-house. There was no evidence of any other staff at all, and the personal touch added a lot to the dining experience. Nacho took it upon himself to explain the whole menu to us in detail, and was clearly truly passionate about his food. Everything sounded great and it was difficult to decide, but it helped that we were allowed to split dishes to allow us to taste more of them. The food was good, but to me not all dishes were equally successful – a personal thing no doubt, as my wife did not always agree with my likes and dislikes. We started with a fois gras mille-feuilles – no pastry, but very thin layers of fois gras and apple. I chose that, but was a little disappointed. The other half-starter though was perhaps my favourite dish – scallops with artichokes on a bed of mushrooms. It sounded like an unlikely combination, and still does, but it worked fantastically. We then moved on to two half-dishes of pork – one from a fully grown pata negra pig, and one with meat from a suckling pig cooked over two or three days. The suckling pig literally melted in the mouth, but I preferred the firmer texture and fuller flavour of the grown-up pig. And for dessert, two half portions of chocolate soufflé and tarte tartin. We asked for wine recommendations.  Erika thought artichoke was too difficult to match, but suggested glasses of Rueda with the fois gras. It didn’t work at all. Maybe it was one of the few white wines they had by the glass?  The local red wine sugestion though was a hit – that was the Crater.  Total bill for all of the above plus a coffee was under EUR130 for two. Another excellent and reasonably priced evening. If you are in Santa Cruz, go there!

(Update: see here for my vinous report on a 2013 trip to Tenerife.)