One of the most anticipated tastings of the new season is the “Wines from Spain” Trade Fair that takes place each March in the Old Billingsgate Market in London. Hundreds of  producers exhibit their wines and hundreds of buyers attend to find the latest additions to their list. The new vintages of old favourites will be tasted, whilst offerings from new Bodegas in up and coming regions will be scrutinised and assessed.

The traditional wines of Rioja, Cava, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, La Mancha, Rias Baixas and Sherry are of course well represented. However, less well known regions such as Calatayud, Carinena, Bierzo, Costers del Segre and Monstant also appear giving a tremendous broad appeal to this tasting.

As a Wine Merchant you cannot fail to be inspired by these  most interesting wines and of course wish to add them to your list. New wines containing Monastrell, Mazuelo, Mencia and Godello will be making their way to our shelves very soon!

Our monthly tasting held on the last Thursday and Friday of March will be of Wines from Spain and will feature Sherry, Cava, Rioja and lots more. The Spanish influence to this month will culminate in our Spanish weekend on 30th/31st March. Wines from Spain will be available to taste in our Wine Store in Bridport and a 10% discount on all Spanish wine will be offered.

As they say in Spain, Viva Espania!

Mark

ONE OF the best aspects of the wine trade is the opportunity to taste and to travel, as well as to re-acquaint friendships with other merchants across the country. So, a few weeks ago I was very excited indeed to make my first journey to La Rioja, to sample the famous hospitality, tapas and wonderful wines. My ultimate destination was to Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta in Haro, but I first made my way to a bar in Stansted Airport to meet up with the other dozen or so merchants who had teamed up to put their own personal resolutions and diets to one side and venture forward to taste and eat all that Rioja has to offer in the name of their customers!

Once arrived in the town of Haro in Rioja Alavesa, we made our way to the outskirts of the town to the new site of Bodgeas Martinez Lacuseta. The Bodegas had recently moved from the historic cellars of “Ventilla 71” in the centre of the oldest part of Haro, to a modern purpose built facility that acts as a visitor centre, winery and cellars. It is extremely impressive. We were met by Company Principal Luis Martinez Lacuesta and Export Manager Alvaro Gutierrez, who showed us around this wonderful bodega and led us to the much awaited tasting room.

The next few hours were spent in the wonderful pursuit of Rioja Wines. We tasted through all the wines that the Bodega had to offer. The Martinez Lacuesta Rioja Blanco was a delicious 100% Viura and the Martinez Lacuesta Rose had soft red fruit with a vibrant citrus freshness.

The Campeador Crianza 2005 is an outstanding wine, a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha that spends 18 months in French oak. The “Ventilla 71” Reserva was produced to mark the relocation of the Bodega and has wonderful fragrant flavours of cherry, chocolate and new wood.

However, the star was the Martinez Lacuesta Gran Reserva 2001, a magnificent blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo. It had a wonderful fragrant nose with an elegant powerful palate of fruit cake fruit. Everything a Gran Reserva should be.

After this marathon tasting a local dish of potatoes and chorizo cooked in a beef stock was served. This hearty and delicious lunch was washed down with the excellent Crianza 2006. Feeling suitably refreshed, we then raced off for a vineyard tour before returning to our hotel. Our next appointment was in Logrogno to experience the famous tour of the tapas bars that are found in the narrow streets of that town. After a quick glass of Martinez Lacuesta Barrel Fermented White Rioja 2009, the tour began in earnest and we slurped, munched, gulped and nibbled are way from bar to bar. As the evening wore on, a decision had to be made whether to return home to Haro or continue to explore the delights of Logrogno. I bravely decided to continue and all in the name of our customers.

Mark Banham
Buyer
Palmers Wine Store

www.palmerswinestore.com

I’M A KEEN history buff. There’s nothing I like better than political coups, hard won battles and ancient religious festivals. And no matter how tenuous the connection, I can always find a reason to wax lyrical about wine!

Take for example, the wonderful Piemonte wines from the province of Piedmont in the north western corner of Italy, beneath the Alps. In 1744, the battle of Madonna dell’Olmo took place, also known as the Battle of Cuneo, which was an important Piedmont-Sardinian garrison. These days, Cuneo is an important town at the heart of the Piemonte wine growing region – so you can see that I’m forced to talk about history and wine together.

France’s aim in the battle of Madonna dell’Olmo was to humble Piedmont-Sardinia and make her drop out of the war of the Austrian Succession. The town of Cuneo under siege, Charles Emmanuel, the King of Sardinia forged a brilliant plan to save the garrison and distract his enemies, whilst waiting for winter to draw in and cut off them off, literally at the pass (the Alps).

To cut a long story short, the French won, but the King of Sardinia saved his garrison and made life awkward for the French, who finally retreated on 19 November to escape the dreaded Alpine snows, notorious for causing heavy casualties.

The very next day after the French retreat, it began to snow. I like to think of Charles Emmanuel enjoying a glass or two of local wine, surveying the wintry scene and thinking with satisfaction of his enemies struggling through freezing blizzards and across blocked mountain passes. In the days before TV, that must have been great entertainment.

Great wine, great cuisine

Did Charles Emmanuel select a Barola or a Barbaresco wine? Both are world famous red wines, taking their names from local villages, produced from the Nebbiolo grape. For a white wine, in my opinion, he could do no better than the Timorasso, the best of the Piemontese white wines. These days, produced in very small quantities by a handful of producers it’s beautifully balanced, crisp and non acidic. I’m also a big fan of Gavi di Gavi a dry crisp white. If he’d won the battle, he would surely have cracked open a bottle of Asti Spumanti from Asti in the heart of this region.

Of course, great wine needs great cuisine and luckily Piedmont is also home to wonderful food. There are a number of Piemontese delicacies that are on my list of culinary delights to try before I die. Number one is the Alba white truffle (reputedly the best in the world), plus the region’s artisanal cheeses and cured meats. I’m also reliably assured that no chef should miss the chance to try Piedmontese herbs.

Piemonte dessert wines are a perfect match for the typical dessert of fresh seasonal fruits. Brachetto d’Acqui is the local dessert wine of Acqui Terme and you simply pour it cold over the fruits. I tried it with peaches and strawberries – truly delicious.

If you’d like to visit Piedmont, October to December is the best time to enjoy truffles and the wine harvest. If you do happen to find yourself there, please try a glass of Moscato served with the local Robiola di Roccaverano goat cheese which is a sensational combination.

I’d like to finish with a toast to Charles Emmanuel, King of Sardinia, who was a splendid tactician (even though he did lose).

Ciao, Luke

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