The Iberian Collection
Looking out of the shop window, it's hard to see anything other than the rain pouring down today. The phrase, “The rain in Spain... falls mainly in Solihull”, comes to mind! The thought of a large glass of Rioja, with some chorizo tapas to nibble, is gnawing at the back of my mind. But work has still to be done, so it's time to launch our autumn feature wines from both Spain and Portugal. Keeping to an earlier theme, let's call it the “Iberian Collection”.
In terms of land planted under vine, Spain leads the world and is also the third largest producer of wine after Italy and France. Portugal, on the other hand, is tiny in comparison, with its volume being only about 13% that of Spain, which puts it just into the “Top 10” world ranking. Spain also has the world's most widely grown grape variety, the white Airen (with too many synonyms to list!). Never heard of it, never tried it? Don't worry, most people probably haven't, but the mighty red grape of Rioja, Tempranillo (also known as: Tinto Fino/Tinta del Pais/Cencibel/Ull de Llebre & Tinta Roriz), now that's another matter altogether. You'll be struggling to find Spanish regions where it's not considered to be the most important quality variety. Garnacha is probably the second most valued, while Monastrell, Bobal and Mencia are all much more limited, but, in the right hands, these too, can make great wines that are definitely worth trying if you come across them and they're often very good value when compared to the best known wines from the most highly reputed growers and bodegas. As for the whites, Albarino, Godello and Viura/Maccabeo are now widely seen on the shelf and on restaurant lists. Portuguese grape varieties are almost all unknown anywhere else! Give them a try, it's all still wine.
Both countries do produce some stunning wines, with well known Spanish examples including top reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Galicia for fresh whites, Cava for sparkling, and Sherry (which used to be reserved for your granny, but is now the must have drink for any London “hipster”... how times change!). From Portugal, particularly for the UK market (with Christmas approaching), Port is still king, but reds from the Dao, Douro and Alentejano are widely available and whites, including Vinho Verde are now very popular as more tourists venture out to sample the wine producing regions, rather than just dipping their toes in their Mediterranean holiday villa's swimming pool for two weeks during the summer. Just don't mention the “M” word... Mateus! Yes, it is straight out of the 1970s, but it's still being exported to this day and, if you need some, you'll have to search for it elsewhere on the internet. The Portuguese do like to drink a vast amount of their own wine, hence the reason most of the small grower wines stay hidden away in Portugal. On a day like today, a direct flight to the Algarve is tempting... Birmingham to Faro; cheaper to go from Luton, but you have to get there... side-tracked again... back to the wines. Another forgotten one is Madeira. It should be as popular as Port, but hardly anyone lists Madeira these days. As you would expect, Connolly's are different, having all types ranging from the dry, tangy Sercial to the lusciously sweet Malmsey/Malvasia style. Look out for Madeira houses such as Blandy's, Henriques & Henriques and even some old vintage bottles from D' Oliveira. If you need to experience these fabulous, complex wines dating from as far back as the sixties/seventies/eighties, head over to Arch 13 wine bar in Livery Street (Birmingham), where they're all available by the glass, alongside some delicious snacks. Now I'm thinking about food again!
The Iberian Collection
Our favourite half dozen...
Since 2003, “The Flying Scotsman”, Norrel Robertson MW, has used grapes from incredibly low yielding (20 ha/hl), 30-50 year old bush-vine Garnacha, grown in the Ribota Valley close to Zaragoza in the north-east corner of Spain, to produce great value, fruit-driven reds. For such a low price you really get good concentration and depth of flavour; there's an abundance of raspberry, cherry and prune along with earth, leather and white pepper notes. Norrel's 'secret' is that he ages the wines on their lees for 22 months in concrete vats, which helps keep acidity and soft tannins (there's no oak used). Highly reputed critics have consistently scored “La Multa” very highly, being just short of 'outstanding'. If you like southern Rhone and Chateauneuf wines from France, this is a superb Spanish alternative.
“Marro” wines are made by Domeco de Jarauta who, prior to 1995, were only grape growers. With the new winery established, all the fruit used is hand-picked from 100 ha of their own vineyards. No grapes are sourced from other growers. The winery is located in the village of Aldeanuevo de Ebro at the very eastern end of the Rioja Baja region (now known as 'Rioja Oriental') which is traditionally the area known for its production of Garnacha vines. However, Tempranillo and Graciano are the varieties associated with the range of 'Reserva' and 'Gran Reserva' red wines and the new, white wine, “Zeledonia”, uses Garnacha Blanca and Viura. For years, the 'Reserva' has been a particular shop favourite at Connolly's, and it has many fans! Two years of ageing, in a combination of both French and American barrels, gives all the vanilla, coconut and toasty oak notes that you could ever want, coupled with a soft, really ripe, black-cherry fruit flavour and a rich, soy and balsamic finish. Classic, aged Rioja!
The north-west of Spain is actually 'green'! Galicia faces the full brunt of Atlantic storms and sees plenty of rain and the vineyards in Ribeiro, which are just inland from the Spanish/Potuguese border, are no different. Nearby Santiago de Compostela has been attracting pilgrims for centuries; no doubt the good wine helps! Coto de Gomariz produce exciting, mineral-led wines that, even with their “Flower & The Bee” range, offer exceptional value. However, “Gomariz, Dende o Seculo X” is truly outstanding! It has a beautifully textured feel with an almost salty finish. The wine shows the character of the granite and schist soils of the area and the unusual blend consisting of mainly Treixadura, with Godello, Albarino and Loureira, has aromas of white flowers and a full-bodied, intensely concentrated palate. And it's a Biodynamic wine. What more could you want?
Taste that rock! Schist and granite... it's tough out there. The vineyards are situated on very steep, terraced slopes clinging to the side of the spectacular Pinhao valley in the Douro. Unusually, back in the late 19th century, the original vineyards at Quinta do Portal were not affected by the ravages of the root-munching Phylloxera bug which destroyed many other vines in the surrounding area and devastated crops across much of Europe. “Portal d'Ouro” is a blend of 40% Tinta Roriz (Spain's Tempranillo), 40% Touriga Franca and 20% Tinta Barocca made by Quinta do Portal who, normally, use the same varieties for making an extensive range of top-quality Port wines. The family have been in the Port business for over 100 years and can trace their history in the Douro region back as far as 1477! Viticulture at the property is now done in a 'sustainable' manner, with many organic practises being utilised, to give unadulterated grapes true to their specific location.
Many of their wines (both Ports and unfortified styles) have been reviewed, and awarded very high ratings, by the likes of Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) and the International Wine Challenge (IWC). That's a lot of wine being tasted...
As for the wine itself, it's definitely not a 'blockbuster'. Quite a cool and elegant feel, with an almost opaque, ruby red colour. Blackberries, blueberries and cassis on the nose with a gamey/leathery note. On the palate you get more blackberries, plum and a slight mintiness, with plenty of tannic structure that will make the wine work well with food.
The Portuguese island of Madeira is located in the Atlantic some 400 miles west of Morocco and around 250 miles north of the Canary Islands. Basically, it's the top of a large volcano! Founded in 1850, Henriques & Henriques are now one of the few remaining companies still making wine on Madeira and the only producer on the island that owns vineyards. All the others source fruit from over a thousand growers. Madeira is an oxidised wine and, once opened, will keep almost indefinitely. The Henriques 'Full Rich' is 90% Tinta Negra Mole and a 10% dash of Malmsey (the grape variety used in the 'classic' sweet style). If you enjoy a LBV or vintage port, you'll certainly find this to your taste. After completing the 90 day 'Estufagem' heating/cooling process that replicates the old, long, slow maritime crossing of the equator that 'improved' the quality of wines being exported from the island the, now fortified, wine is given three year's ageing in oak. Enough geography and history... how does it taste, you ask?
The wine has aromas of cream, nuts, dried fruits and the typical burnt caramel character. A sweet, raisiny palate, but still tasting fresh, with tangy citrus fruit and a walnut finish. The perfect end to a meal.
First, in 1865, Wiese & Krohn was set up by two Norwegians, then the company was British controlled, then it evolved to become wholly Portuguese and, finally, in 2013, it was taken over by the 'Fladgate Partnership' (Taylor's & Fonseca). Krohn is based in the Rio Torte valley; a tributary of the Douro. The company is mainly renowned for its superb 'Colheita', vintage-dated tawny ports, but a full range of excellent wines are made.
Everyone loves a glass/bottle of 'vintage' or 'tawny' during the traditional Christmas celebrations, but there is another way of drinking port that makes it ideal for the (slightly) warmer months; “Porto Tonico”!
It's not just gin that needs a tonic. Try a measure (or 2) of white port in a Hi-ball glass filled with ice, and top up with your favourite tonic and a slice of orange. So simple, yet only the Portuguese seem to consume port in this manner. Go on, you might just make having a 'Lagrima' the new 'Gin'!
In English, the name, 'Lagrima', means 'tears', and is a rarely seen, but really sweet style of white port. It's made from a blend of the local Codega, Verdelho and Rabigato white grape varieties. Even though most 'Lagrima' white ports are found in Portugal, Connolly's, as you would expect, stock some by Krohn. There's nothing wrong with wanting to drink the wine 'straight' and, once poured, eight year's ageing in cask will reward you with an aroma of almonds and hazelnuts, an unctuous palate of caramel, honey, nuts, eucalyptus and pine with a cleansing acidity that keeps it from becoming cloying. Serve chilled as an aperitif, or pair with fruit-based desserts, milk chocolate (my kind of match!), or macaroons. It'll even work with foie gras as a substitute for Sauternes.
Bodegas Domeco de Jarauta produce some excellent value wines under the “Vina Marro” label and what could be better than “free” wine?
Here's your chance to win a selection of each style of Rioja by Vina Marro.
Five different reds, ranging from the fruity, young “Joven”, right up to the top of the range “Gran Reserva”, along with one white wine, the “Zeledonia”. Worth nearly £70!
This prize is open to both shop customers and those buying online.
All you have to do is to buy 6, or more, bottles of ANY Rioja (in one purchase) from Connolly's list. You may chose a mixed selection, or six of the same wine, it just has to be Rioja!
If you're buying online, we'll use your contact details (the prize will go to the purchaser).
Please let us know if you don't want to be entered into the draw.
For shop customers, we'll take your details at the time of purchase.
The prize will be drawn on 1/12/18.
Take note - November Rioja Tastings at Dovehouse
Autumn is a time for plenty of warming,“comfort food” and an accompanying glass of richly flavoured wine. Rioja fits the bill perfectly for this.
Each Saturday afternoon during November we'll be opening lots of lovely Rioja for you to sample... free!
Just turn up at the Dovehouse Parade store and we'll provide the wine; the food, we'll leave to your imagination...
Manzanos Tempranillo (£8.95) A great quaffer and a popular seller
& Tempranillo Blanco (£10.55)
Vina Marro Reserva (£13.96) A long time customer favourite
& Zeledonia Blanco (£8.29)
Marques de Murrieta Reserva (£19.99) A real classic “old-school” red with lots of vanilla oak
& Murrieta “Capellania” Viura Reserva [oaked white] (£22.96)
Remelluri Reserva [organic] (£29.89)
& Roda Reserva (£32.50) Just brilliant!
And there's more!
As an added incentive to buy some excellent Spanish/Portuguese wines in the shops, Connolly's are doing some deals on bottles over £10 each!!
You've found some favourites, so you want a good price?
Buy any 3, Save £3 … (That's £1 off each bottle. Equates to a 10% saving using £10 bottles)
You've found something you really like and you want an amazing deal?
Buy any 6, Save £9 … (That's £1.50 off each bottle. Equates to a 15% saving using £10 bottles)
Unfortunately, that's as good as it gets, there isn't a Deal #3!
As we make our way through another dreary, if unseasonably warm, January it’s always nice to have something to look forward to, so we wanted to throw some beer-related joy your way.
Currently making its way across Europe to us we have a selection of carefully chosen beers from one of Eastern Europe’s most exciting breweries, Mad Scientist!
Founded in Budapest as recently as 2016 Mad Scientist has already, and some might say greedily, nabbed three spots on Untappd’s top 10 of Hungary’s best breweries between their main brewery and its specialist offshoots (MadX which specialises in alternative fermentation and long maturation, and Mead Scientist their ode to honey and fruit).
If Connolly's made a TV advert for “The Italian Collection”, what would it be like?
Hollywood stars? Yes!
And the best director? Let's go for Francis Ford Coppola.
(He also happens to own a well known vineyard in California. Are you getting the theme?)
What film style? Action? With “Mini” car chases? Romantic? Musical? Italian food & drink?
I think I have the answer to the dilemma...