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Spanish wines

by Nerval

This report on 100 Spanish wines available at various UK retail outlets is from a tasting organised by the Wines from Spain agency. Wines are organised for the report by retailer, although I tasted all the whites first, followed by all the reds, though in the order given. I also skipped some basic wines due to the sheer amount of things to taste.

Ratings range from * (not good) to ***** (outstanding). It is possible that one or two vintages may have moved on in stores, but prices are up to date.

A truly excellent range, with some brilliant reds and several rarities, as the Herminia Graciano or the Valdepusa Syrah. Another fine showing for Waitrose.

Torres DO Penedés Viña Sol 2000
100% Parellada, steel-fermented. Herbal, quite fresh and clean nose, waxy texture, rather short and vague on the palate, but correct. £4.49. **

Barón de Furnilos DO Rias Baixas Albariño Pazo de Sevano 2000
Sligtly vague, herbal nose; in mouth this shows muscatey, off-dry, with a touch of grapefruit and unripe pear. Medium length. Too vegetal and not really my style of white. £7.99. **

Bodegas de Crianza DO Rueda Palacio de Bornos 2000
90% Verdejo, 10% Viura. Lots of ripe gooseberry and industrial yeast on the nose. Juicy gooseberry fruit in mouth. Good. £4.69. **(*)

San José VdM de Estremadura Viña Dorana Pardina 2000
Nose of butter, sage and other herbs. Very clean in mouth, with some fermenting vat aromas left. Very reasonable price. £3.29. **(*)

Bodegas Pirineos DO Somontano Espiral 2000
Macabeo and Chardonnay. Nose of new oak, with some grapefruit peel notes and good depth. Very good. £3.99. ***(*)

CVNE DO Rioja Blanco Monopol 1999
100% Viura. A buttery style of Rioja with lots of herbs, especially parsley, on the nose. Quite fat and voluminous in mouth, with the oak covering the herbal freshness. The wood stays a bit disjointed from the fruit. Quite bitter finish. Serious wine, but lacks balance. £5.99. ***

Mas Igneus DO Priorat Vinyes de Costers Igneus 1999
68% Garnacha, 22% Cariñena, 10% Cabernet, aged 6 months in old Allier oak. .Very closed on the nose, soupy and oily on the palate, without much interest in mouth apart from some strawberry flavours. Tannic finish. Lacks fruit. £10.99. **(*)

Soc. Coop. Crianzas y Viñedos Santo Cristo Ainzón DO Campo de Borja Gran López NV
From the 2000 vintage, though not indicated on the label. A blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Tempranillo, made by Alistair Maling. A nose of coloured chalk and strawberry, with hints of strawberry ice-cream on the palate. Not a bad wine, but lacks some character. £3.49. **(*)

Marqués de Griñon Dominio de Valdepusa VdM Syrah 1998
Bottle no. 13,724 of 39,000; 12 months of mixed oak. Excellent nose which is much better than the slightly dirty and disjointed previous vintages: notes of meat jus, lead pencil and beaten eggs. Lacks some intensity in mouth but has a decent array of strawberry and meat flavours. Quite typical of the grape and very good. £10.99. ~****

Torres DO Penedés Gran Sangre de Toro Selectas 1998
65% Garnacha, 35% Cariñena, 15 months of oak. This used to be labelled as a Reserva. Medium purple in the glass. Rather muted nose with superficial notes of barrique and strawberry ice-cream, but surprisingly intense and long in mouth, if slightly too aggressive on the finish. Could turn excellent with bottle age. £6.99. ***+

Bodegas Palacio DO Rioja Cosme Palacio y Hermanos 1998
Medium ruby. Elegant chalky nose, good juiciness of intense strawberry and cherry on the palate; lacks some intensity and a touch of inspiration. Finish redolent of chalk and cinnamon. Good basic Rioja. £6.99. ***

Viña Herminia DO Rioja Crianza 1998
85% Garnacha, 15% Tempranillo, 14 months of new mixed origin oak. Pure medium to dark ruby. Harmonious nose of red fruit and a touch of American oak. Juicy, soft palate dominated by strawberry. Very good. £5.99. ***(*)

Viña Herminia DO Rioja Reserva Graciano 1995
100% Graciano, allegedly the first Graciano reserva ever. Quite dark purple colour which is far darker than any Riojan Tempranillo. Good nose in the juicy register, with notes of dried currant and some chocolate. Slightly soupy in mouth, but intense and well-defined, with medium tannins and excellent length. Flavours of black cherry and some raspberry, balsamic note on the finish. Brilliant wine. Great value at £7.99. Almost *****

Bodegas Muga DO Rioja Reserva Especial 1995
70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% between Mazuelo and Graciano, 30 months in new and one-year-old barriques. Quite dark ruby colour. Lots of brett on the nose initially, followed by some cow milk and red fruit. Juicy and long, rather soft and accessible and quite convincing, though not greatly intense; a rather subdued wine which will not go above ****. £15.99.

Bodegas Chivite DO Navarra Sin Trüego 'Colección 125' Reserva 1996
70% Tempranillo, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet, 19 months of new Allier oak. Dark ruby. Nose of dried currants, some meat and horse sweat, with lots of brett emerging after a while in the glass. Palate has relatively pure and juicy currant fruit, however, with a lengthy finish. The substance is there, although great distinction is not. £14.59. ~****

Emilio Lustau DO Jérez (?) Moscatel de Chipiona Las Cruces
15% alc., this is the unfortified moelleux version. Medium orange colour. Nose is muscatey and bready, with minor orange flower and marmalade character, served much too warm for proper analysis, but rather bland on the palate, without depth nor acidic structure. A disappointment for Lustau. £4.49. **(*)

Virgin Wines

Parxet DO Cava Brut NV
Buttery and stinky on the nose. Fresh, but non-descript fruit on the palate, aggressive mousse. Well-made, but rather neutral. £7.99. **

Cuevas de Castilla DO Rueda Con Class Sauvignon Blanc 2000
Lots of gooseberry and laboratory yeast on the nose, while on the palate the wine is a bit absent, with again gooseberry and chemical flavours of some intensity. Bitter finish. Anonymous. £5.99. **. But I retasted this wine recently and it has developed well in the bottle. The equally successful 2001 vintage deserves ***+ and a mention for the lower price of £4.99.

Campo Viejo Dominio de Montalvo DO Rioja Blanco Limited Edition 2000
100% Viura, 30,000 bottles made. Strange nose of dark butter as of beurre noir, apparently quite oaked, but with an intensity of musk and cognac aromas to balance it. Very intense, aggressive and bitter in mouth, quite good length. Not too charming now, but might turn quite interesting with bottle age. £5.99. ***+

Albet i Noya DO Penedés Lignum 1999
Garnacha, Cariñena and Cabernet grown at 350 m above sea level, aged for 6 months in Tennessee oak barriques. Pure medium ruby colour. Intense, thick nose of currant and lead pencil, with some top notes of chalk dustiness. Very tannic and quite meaty on the palate, huge structure here but a lacks a bit of filling. £7.49. ***?

Bodegas Ondarre DO Rioja Reserva 1996
Shy, rather fruitless nose and juicy but shortish palate. Quite odd showing, because normally a wine and a bodega I like a lot. £7.99.**(*)

Campo Viejo Dominio de Montalvo DO Rioja Gran Reserva 1994
80% new oak. Medium ruby with a light orange rim. Very typical, gently perfumed but dusty nose with some aromas of cooked fruit and sherry-like solera. Dense, highly intense, truly excellent palate with however tuoches of dilution on the, admittedly quite long, finish. Interesting, slightly oxidised style with fine intensity and good definition. £9.99. ~****

Manuel de Argüeso DO Jérez Pale Cream
The most dreadful type of sherry if you ask me. This brand was recently taken over by Valdespino. 17.5% alc. Strange light yellow colour. Nose of fino pungency combined with stale butter; palate is salty yet fat and slightly aggressive, especially on the finish. Why do this to an apparently fine fino? £7.49. **

Manuel de ArgüesoDO Jérez Oloroso Viejo
20.5% alc. Medium brown, with minor red hues. Quite sweet nose with a dominant note of walnuts, followed by some old wood, chocolate, and a slightly volatile but aristocratic note of old solera. Also hints of pungent flor character despite the sheer age. On the palate a very smooth sherry, with again that dry walnutty character. Medium long, with good refreshing acidity on the finish. Overall quite sweet and balsamic for an oloroso of an undoubtedly venerable age. Excellent. A case buy at £12.99. *****


Tesco DO Cava Vintage 1997
From Marqués de Monistrol. Lots of yeast and fermentation aromas, aggressive in mouth with very high acidity. Pear and gooseberry flavours. Drinkable, though not extremely sophisticated. £6.49. **(*)

Cuevas de Castilla DO Rueda Con Class Selección Especial 1999
Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. Stinky fermentation vat aromas, much in the line of so many Spanish wines, I thought. Neutral, inexpressive, lacking focus in mouth. Not recommended. £3.99. *(*)

Pazo de Barrantes DO Rias Baixas Albariño 2000
A more perfumed style of Albariño than the Pazo de Sevano above, with lots of grey fruit and a herbaceous, gooseberrish edge to the standard industrial yeastiness. Intense, with quite high acidity, but seemingly even more chemical in mouth than on the nose. The grapefruity or pineappley acidity is the wine's best part. Overpriced at £9.99, as many Albariños are. **(*)

Vicente Gandia DO Utiel-Requena Marques de Chive Reserva 1995
Very light ruby. Nose reminiscent of Tokáji in a note of quince and minor sherry oxidation, but there is also some champagney praline here. The palate is perhaps a tad short, but with a touch of admirably authentic fresh strawberry. Very good indeed. ***(*)

Artadi DO Rioja Orobio 1999
100% Tempranillo. Medium purple. A slightly glassy, but quite deep and elegant nose with some hints of currant soup; on the palate some dry wood is noticeable, especially on the mouth-drying finish. Nothing very special. £4.99. ***

Bodegas Campillo DO Rioja Reserva 1995
A 100% Tempranillo wine with a medium ruby colour, an elegant, deep, most typical nose of dried currant, lead pencil and intense woman's perfume, a juicy and mouthfilling palate and a shortish finish, a minor hollow character at mid-palate, but overall quite a classy and typical Rioja package which deserves a ~****. £10.99.


Morrisons DO Cava Vintage 1998
Made by Agustí Torelló. Very Champagne-like nose with butter, brioche and vanilla sweetness. Very long, consistent palate. Not overtly complex but delicious. Wonderful value, by far the best glass of fizz I've had at £5.49. Brilliant sourcing. ****

Codorníu DO Cava Rosé Pinot Noir NV
A nw iwne from Codorníu. Pale pink with a strawberry, quite pale hues. Nose of raspberry liqueur with a bitter edge, some herbs and yeasts, perhaps a whiff of wet wool. A bit too simple and lean on the palate to my tastes, but not bad at all. £7.99. ***(*)

Coop. San Antonio Abante DO Rueda (?) Viura Alteza 2000
Some aromas of boiled rice, parsley and grass, but lacking any particular focus. Glassy, low-key palate. Very vague. £3.99. **

Cuevas de Castilla VdM de Castilla y León Poema 2000
100% Sauvignon. Again, nose dominated by a mix of ripe gooseberry and industrial yeast, but this time intense and quite nicely delineated, with perhaps a touch of fried onion-like overripeness. On the palate also pleasantly fruity, if rather artificial due to the yeasty dominance. £4.99. ***

De Muller DO Tarragona Reus 2000
A rosé of 100% Merlot. Pale pink with some yellow. Butter and popcorn in mouth (do they now us new oak for rosé?), some boiled rice flavours. Not great. £4.99. *(*)

Bodegas Navajas Rioja 2000
Packed as Morrison's own label Rioja. Very light ruby. Juicy and pure, but slightly hollow and neutral red, much in the Beaujolais register. Very drinkable at £3.99. **

Joán Miló Vall de Baldomar DO Costers del Segre Selecció 1999
Blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Tempranillo and a little Bobal, 4 months of barrique. Medium ruby with minor but intense rim. Lots of chalk here, with overtones of dried currant; a perfumed and pungent nose. Excellent intensity in mouth with dried cherry and fresh strawberry fruit. Medium long. Very good indeed. £4.99. ***(*)+

De Muller DO Tarragona Terramar Crianza 1998
60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, 15 months of mixed oak. Less intense nose of chalk and bell pepper, with hints of lead pencil. Quite integrated flavours, if lacking cut and volume after the Baldomar. £4.99. ~***

Bodegas Navajas DO Rioja El Navarrete Crianza 1998
90% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano. Very light ruby. Airy and light nose of fresh orange peel and pith, with some mushrooms. Similar impressions in mouth, with juicy red cherry character and an attractive orange drive. Lacks some focus, but overall a nice lunchtime wine. £5.49?. ***(*)

Bodegas Navajas DO Rioja Reserva 1995
Same colour as above, with perhaps a larger rim. Nose is denser and meatier, if still quite elegant, with again that distinctive fresh orange note and some cinnamon to top it up. Tannic, quite vegetable-like in register, a bit redolent of boiled cabbage (not a bad thing). Quite long and juicy palate. Quite good. £8.99. ***(*)+


Marqués de Riscal DO Rueda 2000
85% Verdejo, 15% Viura. Nice, soft and quite fresh on the nose. Quite intense, with some butter on the finish. Lacks some definition, slightly too low in acids I think, but good. £5.49. ***

Comercial Eula SA Rias Biaxas Albariño Vionta 2000
Excellent nose with hints of apricot, candied orange peel, butter or butter-parsley sauce as in escargots bourguignonne. Excellent acidity and intensity in mouth, slightly cooked character perhaps, and lacking a bit of class, but very good indeed. One of the most convincing whites of the tasting. £8.99. ***(*)+

Bodegas Muga DO Rioja Blanco 2000
90% Viura, 10% Malvasia, barrel-fermented with 12 hours' skin contact. Some public toilet scents with a buttery top note, hugely oaked and unforgivingly bitter in mouth. Odd. £6.99. **

Marqués de Riscal DO Rioja Reserva 1997
See TN below.

Viña Arisabel DO Rioja 2000
Nose of cinnamon and cedar. Quite an elegant, deep and juicy palate of cherry and especially strawberry fruit. Great purity. Excellent. Incredible value at £3.49. ****

Abadía Retuerta DO Rioja Primicia 1999
60% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, a blend of three different maceration batches (cool, warm and carbonic). Dark and opaque ruby in the glass. Sightly stinky cherry and strawberry notes on the nose, while the palate is lean and short, with hints of strawberry fruit, but very unsubstantial. Lacks definition. £5.99. **(*)

Celler de Capçanes DO Tarragona Zona Falset Mas Collet 1999
A blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cariñena and Cabernet, aged in American and French oak. Medium purple colour. Nose of almost Tokáji-like quince and strawberry, wonderfully pure and intense, with a chocolatey drive emerging. Same notes on palate, with an almost weird intensity and freshness. An original and truly delicious wine. Amazing bargain at £5.99! *****

Bodegas Palacio DO Rioja Castillo 1999
100% Tempranillo. A nose of vanilla and praline, with a bit of very aged pheasant. Dry, tannic, with a bell-peppery character on the palate. Very interesting. £5.99. ~****

Tempranillo Vino de Mesa 1999, selected by Bodegas Riscal, bottled by Vinos Blancos de Castilla
5 months in mixed barriques. Medium ruby. Slightly animal, musky nose with hints of strawberry and a stink as of cow shit. Good acidity, but rather vague in mouth, although dense and typical of Tempranillo in the flavour profile. Very serious for a vino de mesa, with a soft, oaky finish. Impressive. £6.99. ***(*)

Bodegas Casa de la Ermita DO Jumilla 1999
Monastrell, Tempranillo, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, 10 months of barrique. Quite dark purple with a light rim. Slightly vegetal nose with overtones of cow milk and Spanish spiciness. Juicy, but very soft and sweet from the oak. Good substance here, slightly abrupt tannic finish. £6.99. ***

Artadi DO Rioja Viña de Gaín Crianza 1997
100% Tempranillo, 12 months of oak. Medium ruby, light raspberry rim. Typical Rioja nose with chalk and spices, slightly stinky, and lacking some definition. On the palate there is some sour and black cherry but not immense length. A decent standard Rioja. £7.99. ***

Celler de Capçanes DO Tarragona Zona Falset Costers del Gravet 1999
This is a blend of 50% Cabernet, 30% Garnacha and 20% Cariñena aged in new barriques. Dark but not very vivid colour. Nose has again a Tokáji touch of quince, plus discreet chocolatiness. On the palate it is dense but juicy, perhaps a bit too blurred on the finish if compared to the wonderfully pure and razor-sharp Mas Collet. But a fine wine. £8.99. ****

Bodegas Muga DO Rioja Reserva 1997
70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% Mazuelo and Graciano, fermented in 16,000-liter barrels, aged in barriques for 24 months. Dark, faded ruby colour. Nose is typically chalky and dusty, perhaps smoother and more elegant than others, with a juicy and well-integrated palate suffering from minor dilution on the finish. Good acidity, quite long, lacks a bit of personality. £10.99. ~****

Pago de Carraovejas DO Ribera del Duero Crianza 1998
75% Tinta Fina, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 months in Allier and Missouri oak. One of the darkest wines of the tasting. The nose shows a cow milk note of American oak, while the palate has good intensity and juiciness, slightly undermined by the milky character. A bit of alcohol showing as well. Not so exciting. £13.49. ***

La Rioja Alta DO Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva 1995
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha. Broad copper rim to the light ruby colour. Very perfumed, proudly traditional nose of cinnamon, nutmeg, salted sausage, aged beef and some chalk dust which carries on through the palate, rounded off by massive powdery tannins. Huge wine with immense fruit and personality. Wonderful. Well worth the price of £13.99. *****

Bodegas Muga DO Rioja Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1994
80% Tempranillo, with the balance made of Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha, aged in oak for 3 years. Fine nose of dried fruit. Elegant, just a bit soupy in mouth, with minor chalkiness and some softness from the oak. Finishes with papery tannins. Very good indeed but without the aristocracy of the almost Barolo-like Ardanza. £19.99. ****

First Quench

Marqués de Riscal DO Rueda 2000
See TN above.

Campo Viejo DO Rioja Barrel-fermented Viura 1999
The oak here is of the very roasted, buttery kind, akin to the wheat flour wafers sold by street vendors in Spain. In mouth it is too soft and buttery to be really exciting, with a slightly burnt, cooked character again. Finishes quite intense. An interesting white, but I wonder where's the fruit in here? £5.99. ***(*)

Bodegas y Viñedos del Jalón DO Calatayud Marqués de Aragon Garnacha 2000
Light ruby colour. Strange, very intense nose of fruit soup and chalk dust, perhaps some red fruit ratafia and medicinal pills. Very juicy on the palate, with red currant and blackcurrant flavours. Slightly cooked in style, but wonderfully intense. £3.99. ****

Campo Viejo Dominio de Montalvo DO Rioja Crianza 1999
Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha. Medium ruby with a copper hue. More elegant, quite deep chalky nose, very typical and well-focused. Juicy, slightly short but interesting, if lacking definition. £6.99. ***

Conde de Valdemar DO Rioja Crianza 1998
85% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 16 months in wood. Medium ruby colour. A whiff of Champagney vanilla on the nose, sour cherry and chalk dust on the palate. Quite good Rioja. £6.99. ***(*)

Conde de Valdemar DO Rioja Reserva 1996
80% Tempranillo, 20% Mazuelo from 20-year-old vines; 24 months in American oak. Quite dark colour, verging a bit on brown. Lots of barnyard and vanilla on the nose, clearly betraying the American oak component, with some praline notes as well. Juicy, good integration, quite long, not superbly defined but very convincing. Interesting Champagne-like notes on the nose. £9.99. ****(+?)

Campo Viejo DO Rioja Reserva 1995
Lightish ruby with a wide rim. Some barnyard on the nose, strawberry jam, juicy, slightly burnt fruity notes on the palate, with hints of dried fruit. Pleasant, if not particularly complex or refined. £8.49. ***(*)

Raimat DO Costers del Segre Merlot 1997
Includes 15% of Cabernet. Medium purple with a wide rim. Lots of fresh and dried green bell pepper on the nose here, some quid ink and dried fruit notes. Very intense and blocky in mouth, quite tannic, and pepper-dominated here as well. Very inky texture at present. A typical Merlot which needs time to mellow. £7.99. ***+

Raimat DO Costers del Segre Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
Includes 15% of Merlot; matured for 24 months in American oak. Very dark purple with some rim. Pepper, lead pencil, cooked fruit, as typical as the above, but much more intense and inky, especially on the palate, with some powdery, chalky tannins intervening at the end. Brilliant intensity on the palate, but tannins are too powerful at the moment. Give it time. £7.99. ***(*)+

Marqués de Vitoria DO Rioja Crianza 1998
100% Tempranillo, 12 months of new American oak. Light ruby, with a faded hue, a Spanish colour, I thought. More elegant than the two Bordeaux-ish brutes above, with a spicy character of Rioja underpinned by milkiness from the crianza. A bit too soft for my tastes, especially on the finish. Very chalky character in mouth. A traditional Rioja with some appeal. £7.99. ***(*)

Marqués de Riscal DO Rioja Reserva 1997
24 months of oak. A typical colour similar to the above. Light, airy, perfumed and typical Rioja nose of chalk and spice, while the palate adds some bell pepper notes to this. Again too soft, in a feminine, quite dusty style. Good. £9.99. ***(*)

Baron de Ley DO Rioja Reserva 1997
12 months in new barriques. A nose of barrique and some barnyard, much more closed than the assertive noses above, with juicy cherry and strawberry on the palate, smoother, more 'international' whatever that means, without the powdery texture of traditional Rioja. Also less profound and a bit shorter than either the Vitoria or Riscal IMO. ***

Campo Viejo DO Rioja Gran Reserva 1994
Nose of custard, chalk, praline and vanilla wafers. Powerful and thick in mouth, if slightly watery on finish. Hints of green bell pepper, as if from a Cabernet component. Not giving much at the moment; needs time. £10.99. ****?

Finca Valpiedra DO Rioja Reserva 1996
The modern, French barrique-aged offshoot of Conde Valdemar. Medium to light ruby. Similar to the above, with vanilla and praline scents, but much more stinky, with notes of sheep's milk and raw fish. Thick and inky on the palate, betraying its ageing in new oak, if quite balanced. Will certainly improve with time, but nothing great IMO. Way overpriced at £19.99. ***

Torres DO Penedés Gran Coronas Reserva 1997
Medium ruby with no éclat. Nose of chalk and bell pepper, but smoother, fruitier than the Riojas; on the palate a nicely balanced wine which however is on the short side, and very austere at the moment. Again, a nice glass but nothing exceptional. £9.99. ***

Marqués de Griñon Dominio de Valdepusa VdM de Toledo Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
85,000 bottles made, of which this is no. 17,837. Quite dark. Nose starts with cornichon and opens up with notes of Chinese five spices, balsamic oak, and dried fruit. On the palate one of the most intense Spanish wines tasted on the occasion, especially on the second half of the palate and on the very long finish. Very typical Cabernet. Still a bit green, and needs a lot of time, but should prove outstanding. £12.99. ****+

Alvaro Palacios, Gratallops, DO Priorat Les Terrasses 1998
13.7% alc., labelled as coming from Vinya de las Deras de la Roca Pizarros. Consistent dark cherry colour. Very intense nose of praline, X.O. armagnac, dried rose hips and some macerated fruit. Beautiful intensity on the palate, consistent with the nose, with a majestic finish of mouth-puckering, old wood-like tannins. Superb. My favourite wine of the tasting, since it is both more approachable and three times cheaper than the Finca Dofi. £19.99. *****!

Alvaro Palacios DO Priorat Finca Dofí 1996
Slightly lighter colour than the Les Terrasses, with some rim. Nose is perhaps a bit more profound, but difficult to grasp at this stage, with some lead pencil, chalk minerality, thick and dense substance in a very dry context. Great personality. I kept swirling it in the glass and some orange rind and abundantly salted and peppered beef notes emerged, while in mouth it showed highly juicy, very intense, but slightly opaque and, I fear, less interesting at this stage than its younger brother. Slightly soupy, although very dry, with no easy glyceric concentration, and immensely intense. A touch of acidity on the finish secures a long future. Less immediately appealing today than the Les Terrasses, but great nonetheless. I dare not even think of what L'Ermita tastes like. £59.95. *****


Bodegas Proquita DO Pla de Bages Campo Lindo 2000
62% Chardonnay, 23% Moscatel, 15% Gewürztraminer. Nice nose of grapes and lemon peel, in mouth quite intense, even too much so, although the balance is good. Slightly artificial but a decent bottle of white at a very low £2.99. ***

Bodegas Proquita Campo Lindo DO Rioja Crianza 1997
70% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 months of American barrique. Medium ruby with brown reflexes. Some old barrel scents here, with a strong cherry character. Very round in mouth, though the tannins are powerful fro a crianza. Some vegetal flavours. An OK wine. £2.99. ***


Marqués de Monistrol DO Penedés 2000
Tempranillo and Garnacha. Light purple in the glass. Vaguely spicy nose with chalk and stemmy aromas. Palate has juicy light cherry wrapped in fresh paint, good intensity, and a slightly tannic finish. Perhaps a bit too woody and hollow. £3.79. ***

Bodegas Berberana Sierra del Sol DO Aragón Tempranillo 1999
Light ruby; slightly fresher than the above, with fried and fresh porcini mushrooms, red cherry and some chalk. Slightly bitter, very tannic finish. A light, easy-drinking wine. Not bad. Fairly priced at £3.99. ***

Cooperativa Campo San Gregorio DO Calatayud Viña Sardana Tempranillo 1999
Made by Alistair Maling. Good colour extract here: medium to dark ruby with a large rim. Less immediate on the nose than the two preceding: some chalk, red cherry, some soupy, gamey scents. On the palate it is again somewhat meaty, but with the fruit now firmly in the ripe black cherry register. Very well-made. Very good indeed. Great value at £3.99. ***(*)

Bodegas Piedemonte DO Navarra Merlot - Cabernet 1998
Same winemaker as above. Slightly deeper nose of cherry and blueberry, much in the fresh fruit section in any case, with good definition and length, although lacking some depth. Drinking well. £4.49. ***(*)

Bodegas Berberana DO Rioja Tempranillo 1999
Typical, completely transparent medium ruby. The nose shows some new oak in a hint of not aggressive butteriness, while the palate is juicy and reasonably intense. Minor soupiness and perhaps lacking any distinction, but a very well-focused red. £5.49. ***(*)

Félix Solís Valdepeñas Viña Albali 1999
Made by New Zealander Telly Hilley. 90% Tempranillo, 5% Cabernet, 5% Garnacha. Very ripe fruit on the nose here, with notes of dried currants, butter, tea leaves, some spiciness and stems. Strong tannins on the palate. Ver good indeed. £4.99. ***(*)

Palacio de la Vega DO Navarra Palacio de la Vega Cabernet - Tempranillo Crianza 1998
Aged for 12 months in French and American oak. Light ruby with some brown. Cabernet-driven, quite pungent nose of green bell pepper and some meat, with a juicy palate of cranberry and red currant, rounded off by chalky, quite powerful tannins. Well-made. £5.99. ***(*)+

some other retailers

After the tasting I received a list of retailers who did not attend, and called all of them asking for samples to complete the article. Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and Selfridges refused, saying that importers, and not retailers, should supply samples for such tasting, which I find sensible. I have decided not to review Oddbins range since I worked part-time at one of their branches. I have received no answer whatsoever from Asda and Safeway, despite numerous efforts to contact them. The following wines are from retailers who did send bottles; wines were tasted at home in various circumstances, most often with food and over several days. Red wines were decanted where indicated. All wines (including the cava) tasted from Riedel Overture tasting glass.

Marks & Spencer

Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez Rueda Las Mulas 2000
100% Verdejo. Perhaps a tad darker than the Palacio de Menade below. Much the same nose of gooseberry and lemon, but more organic, with the yeastiness evident and slightly naked. Some melon and fresh grass notes as well, a bit of green lettuce, quite typical for Verdejo as I understand it. Creamy texture in mouth, very well 'constructed' so to speak, less clean and polished than the Palacio but nonetheless interesting. Lots of sweet melon fruit on the finish. Where this differs substantially from the Palacio is in texture: although the mid-palate is dominated by yeast and winemaking flavours, the finish is convincingly crisp, fruity-citrusy, if not extremely long. There's a minor obtrusive greenness in the whole package but overall a good white. On the next day it shows slightly cooked, with that lettucey note again, but sweeter, creamier fruit than before, and quite convincing on the palate as well. £4.99. ***(*?)

Vibra Monastrell-Garnacha 2000
From a big co-op in Catalunya comes this staggering bargain oozing juicy strawberry fruit and sheer vibrancy indeed! Only two or three flavours ere, but very precise and clean, with great definition. Two bottles of this were consumed in no time at dinner. the orange label is a bit offensive but the wine has nothing spooky about it. Fabulous value for £3.49. ****!

Marqués de Costal Conca de Barberá Cabernet Sauvignon Crianza 1995
Tasted alongside 1998 Château La Pointe, which is not really a fair comparison. A very chalky and bell-peppery kind of Cabernet, quite green on the palate as well, with a milky, lettucey finish. Well-made and clean enough, but that's not enough to excite me. But other people at the dining table liked it quite a lot, and when tasting it on the following day, I had to admit this had focus and character. £6.99. ***


Cuevas de Castilla DO Rueda Palacio de Menade 2000
Winemaker Ricardo Sanz. Pale gold in the glass. Nose is full of relatively fresh gooseberry, slightly stale lemon peel and cork rind, at first seemingly not corked, but later with a growing whiff of TCA. On the palate there's quite juicy orange and lemon peel again, some gooseberry notes and altogether quite consistent with the nose. Medium length, not too much impact, but a decent glass of white. Unfortunately the corkiness becomes quite evident with a degree or two higher in temperature. Not rated. But on the following morning, retasted alongside the Rodríguez Verdejo and the Albariño below, this showed intense gooseberry and peachy, still rather yeasty, but now with no cork rind anywhere which is why I decided not to replace it. A nice wine, rather simple on the palate, but enjoyable. Almost ***

Bodegas Bleda DO Jumilla Montesinos 2000
Monastrell and Tempranillo. Deep, but not too dark purple violet. Ashy, almost gravelly cherry fruit and candy on the nose, with something slightly murky, cork rind-like which turns into medicinal notes with some time. In mouth candy-like in its sweetness, but watery and not entirely clean I think; bitterish, metallic, vaguely lead-pencilly finish. Something unpleasant, wet towel-like here, although the finish is convincingly tannic, especially on the next day, when the whole drinks marginally better than upon opening. But not really good. *(*)

Bodegas Ramón Ramos DO Toro Monte Toro 2000
Dark purple-garnet. Meaty nose with hints of processed fruit, mainly black cherry, and lots of chicken aromas reminiscent of roasted chicken skin and soaked kitchen board. On the palate there is soft black fruit and a slightly milky texture; a bit metallic on the finish, which is medium long. Nothing special here, but a decent, drinkable red. **(*)

Bodegas Primicia DO Rioja Crianza 1998
Light ruby with a slightly oxidative tendency. Very animal nose of musk, brett and rotten eggs over slightly spicy cherry and cranberry fruit. In mouth again animal to the point on being excremental really, thick and creamy in texture and with a very good intensity of fruit. Mouthfilling, juicy, soft; slightly milky American oak touch which is not too subtle, but not obtrusive either; some cedar on finish, which is OK in length. Very traditional style of Rioja, with admittedly organic-oriented fruit, to put mildly, but for those open-minded no doubt a very good wine. Shows slightly green and unpleasant after 12 hours. ***

The Wine Society

I called the Wine Society asking for samples and was sent their catalogue so that I could choose the bottles myself. This no doubt affected my judgment of the entire range, since I went for those wines which I knew would be most interesting to me. But the richness and class of the Wine Society selection should not be underestimated; I found the range of Spanish but also German and Italian carefully selected, diverse and exciting. Wines are available by mail order to members only (lifetime membership costs £40).

Agustí Torelló DO Cava Mata Reserva 1998
Aged 2 years sur lie, disgorged April 2001. 11.5% alc. Quite pale colour. Fine but modest perlage. Fruity, focused nose with quince, peach and sweet apple notes. Quite mineral on the palate, definitely on the light side and without the depth I came to expect from sparkling wine (too much exposure to fine Champagne, I guess). A hint of sweet almonds on the palate, while the whole gets quite liqueury, toasted, with notes of pistacchio oil. In fact after an hour or two from opening it becomes quite a convincing wine, much in the quincy-apricotty register and with good length. A satisfying drink for the money, although I believe cava gets (slightly) better than this (and indeed Torelló's extravagantly packaged Kripta is). £8.45. ***(*)

Pazo de Señorans DO Rias Baixas Albariño 2000
Coming in an elegant bottle, this is one of Spain's hottest whites at the moment. Strange, almost fluorescent gold-green colour. Nose starts with creamy oak notes, followed by lemon custard, slightly stale lemon peel again, lots of green lettuce and other scents strongly reminding me of my favourite Verdicchio. Huge intensity in mouth, wonderful sweetness and creaminess here, in fact almost frothy and exuberant, but the heady Albariño fruit seems partly tamed by oak, or at least it is much unlike any Albariño I've had previously. The finish is slightly less intense and reveals a faint vagueness to the fruit. Good acid, but covered by the texture at present. On the second day the nose is a vegetable market of zucchini, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, while the palate is vegetabley and brothy, with good acidity and quite intense fruit, if still too much on the soft side for my tastes. Otherwise pretty much unchanged. £10.95. ~****

Marqués de Murrieta Ygay DO Rioja Blanco Capellanía 1995
A blend of Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca from a 9.5 ha single vineyard. 45,000 bottles made. Deep medium golden colour. Mildly oxidised nose of pear peel, quince, hay, walnut or pine nut oil, opening up with some reine claude prune (what's the English word?) and perhaps calvados or cider. Quite fresh and zesty for what it is, I thought. Very mouthfilling and very long, with again that lemony freshness which is far above any cool-fermented and steel-aged Spanish white I've had. Oily texture, but indeed plenty of fresh juicy fruit, particularly green apple. Could use more intensity of fruit at mid-palate. A style I am very fond of, but within it, probably upper middle class only. If left to warm in the glass this gets softer, lighter and fruitier, with less of that sharp acidity I liked. Consistent, juicy, very good indeed, if lacking ultimate cut. **** and a huge bargain at £8.75.

Celler de Capcanes DO Tarragona Zona Falset Mas Donís 1999
80% Garnacha, 20% Syrah. Medium cherry ruby, not too dark. Peppery red fruit on the nose and palate here, with some cranberry or strawberry gelee and nice juiciness on the palate. Quite pure and concentrated strawberry in a light, highly quaffable register. Good value at. A third convincing red form this brilliant co-op. Lots of sediment in the bottle, so I assume this sees no kind of filtration and / or fining. £5.25. ***(*)

Laderas de Pinaso DO Alicante El Sequé 1999
A blend of Monastrell with some Cabernet and Syrah, 14 months of barrique. Dark blood red / purple with some rim. The nose is a bowl of forest berries, dried currants, some lead pencil and dark spice; eminently Spanish, rich and focused, but in fact quite elegant, and mercifully free of any oak scents. The palate is beautifully made as well, intense but not overpowering, focused but fused, with juicy, acidic fruit. The rather creamy texture is the only evidence of oak ageing. Quite long, mildly tannic on finish but still rather focused on the cherry flavours than raw power. Brilliant wine. My note on the second day: some bacony oak appears, together with airy spices and mineral notes. Very intense on the palate, where it is also somewhat spicy. Good orangey acidity. Overall ****(*). Very cheap at £9.95.

Bodegas Ismael Arroyo DO Ribera del Duero Val Sotillo Crianza 1997
No Reserva made in this vintage. Beautiful medium purple with some pink hues. Deep, brooding cherry and meat nose with hints of roasted duck skin, orange flowers and minor barnyard. Thick as ink in mouth, but not at all heavy, perhaps a bit vague, with a bit of spiciness (mainly cinnamon and allspice) on the finish. Lacks focus and grip when tasted straight from the bottle. Decanted overnight and tasted at various stages: the barnyard blows off and there's quite pure, if uncomplicated red cherry and red currant fruit, a bit fruitcake-like in fact, with perhaps some green notes and a soupy texture. Seems to need two or three years to mature and become the elegant Ribera one expects from this producer. After 24 hours in the decanter the components have integrated and there's a nice, if not mindblowingly intense nose of mixed red berries and mulled wine spices, with some discreet cedary oak. On the palate this finally shows finally a bit of acidic uplift on the finish, which is longer than previously. Good wine, but as problematically priced as all Riberas nowadays at £14.95; *** in the context of the DO.

  Wojciech Bokowski prefers to write under the pen name "Nerval". He got the wine bug around 1998, after drinking a bottle of cheap 1995 Médoc. He has now co-written the first Polish wine guide, to be published later this year. He has travelled extensively throughout Europe, spending the last year in London to gain first-hand experience of the wine trade and taste thousands of wines for his book. His special interests include Italy, Portugal, Sherry, Champagne, sweet wines and Eastern Europe.