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Italy, Spain and Portugal

By region, in alphabetical order by producer. Reds before whites.


Fattoria d'Ailoa, Chianti Classico Riserva 1990
Bought this at the vineyard - tasted better there! A little bit disappointing for the vintage. Well made wine, with no obvious faults. Totally drinkable but not memorable. (06/96)

Piero Antinori, Chianti Classico Riserva "Baddia a Passignano" 1990
Stunning. Vibrant plummy colour and exotic nose of earth, spices, cherries. Medium bodied, tobacco and leather notes, with mouth filling, soft tannins and a long finish which stays very focussed. Very complex and profound. Excellent. (03/96) This has closed down over the last 2 years. A very firm impression now, but over the evening the very fine structure revealed itself displaying briary, old polished wood scents and dark fruits. On the palate it has massive, deep cherry fruit and fine, ripe tannins. A real squirt of lemony acidity highlights the finish and tremendous concentration and length. Stunning wine. I'll cellar my remaining bottles for 3 or 4 years more. (03/98) Powerful cherry and liquorice nose that harnesses such a tightly-wound seam of rich, black, concentrated fruit. There are subtle notes of tobacco and pencil-shavings, but pure fruit with a tart, racy edge is the dominant influence. On the palate very grippy. Fine tannins coat the palate. Medium bodied, there is lovely cherry and blackberry fruit and a leathery toughness here. The wine is chewy and structured, revealing glimpses of briary wood, citrus and leafy blackcurrant. The finish is once again very long and focused with great definition. Previous note said "cellar for 3 to 4 years". Not only did I open this too soon, but I clearly under-estimated this profound wine that should easily cellar for another decade. (09/00)
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Banfi, "Summus" 1993
Not tasted.

Bindella, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 1992
Colour is garnet red, thin to medium density. A really lovely nose of bright cherry fruit along with animal notes, leather and tobacco. Could be Burgundy. On the palate very forward red cherry fruit carries through with a delicious plum-skin, sour edge. Lots of American oaky spice in the finish, but not overdone. Good chewy texture from well judged acidity and mellow tannins. Lovely finish stays balanced and pure. Very impressed by this classy, careful wine-making. (12/97)
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Podere La Brancaia (Tuscany) Brancaia 1997
Here's a bit of a well-kept secret: a blue-blooded, super-premium Super Tuscan at a down to earth price. OK, £20 ($30US) is still a lot of money, but with the Sassacaias and Tignanellos of this world now commanding at least double on release, something of a bargain. Awarded "Tri Bicchieri" by Gambero Rosso, this Sangiovesi/Cabernet blend has an immediately impressive and seductive nose, wafting concentrated aromas of blackcurrant and ripe cherry, tobacco, cedar, vanilla and dark, chocolaty plum. There's an impression of claret-like structure on the palate, the black fruit flavours are edged with fine tannic grip and are tightly-focused, only opening in the mouth as the wine is swirled around the tongue. That savoury quality is backed up by quite subtle oak and an earthy depth, with moderate acidity. The wine is concentrated and rich, yet retains a lot of elegance and balance into a long finish. Drinking well, but would surely benefit from eight to twelve years more cellaring (11/00)
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The 1998 vintage of this wine is available at time of writing from Chandos Deli.

Carpineto (Tuscany), Dogajolo 1996
A "super Tuscan" at a bargain price, this is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese from within the Chianti region. Dark, dense, ruby colour. Herbal nose of tobacco and red fruits with an overlay of sweet vanilla. Punchy strawberry and raspberry fruit on the palate, bright and forward, hints of toffee richness. Noticeable tannins and citrus acidity in the finish. Very nice. (10/98)
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Garofoli (Marches), "Grosso Agontano" Rosso Conero Riserva 1994
Garofoli is the top red wine producer in this predominantly white wine region. Deep ruby-purple just fading at rim. Nose is muted, but with coaxing there is plummy fruit, cherries and a nicely rustic, barnyard aroma. Quite full-bodied and smooth on the palate the wine is subtly delicious, with plenty of blackcurrant and bitter-cherry fruit, an earthy, gamy meatiness and good framework of supporting tannins. Not too acidic, it is well-balanced though displaying just a little old-woody dryness on the finish. Lovely stuff for drinking within a couple of years. (02/99)
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Masi (Italy) Campofiorin Ripasso 1994
This is a quality Valpolicella. It is a dark, nut-brown/red colour. Intense nose of raisins, prunes and stewed-fruit compote, hints of earl-grey tea and flowers. On the palate the wine is surprisingly cool, smooth and pure, with ethereal flavours of rose-hips, bitter cherries, nuts and damsons. The finish has good plummy acidity and there is good length. Fine stuff, and the best Ripasso I've tasted (12/98)
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San Felice, Chianti Classico Riserva Poggio Rosso 1988
Not tasted.

Taurino, "Notarpanaro" Rosso di Salento 1988
Deep purple/black colour with a wonderful nose of roasted spices, tar, prunes, cherries. Full bodied with soft tannins and a lovely dusty, mellow, even baked character. Loads of fruit and chewy texture. (09/96). updated A couple of recent bottles tasted as if they were drying up, but this lastest one was back to its glorious best - brambles, smoke and leather (04/97). updated The last bottle of a couple of cases of a wine that for me, like many others, was one of the wine bargains of the last decade. The colour is now ruby and of medium hue. The nose has wood-bark, spice and leather, but now older, fading notes of roses and dried leaves. There is still some berry and baked plummy fruit, but this is faded. On the palate fruit is definitely being overtaken by acidity and drying tannins, but I was pleasantly surprised by its relative life and balance - there's still a lot of pleasure in this wine. Certainly time to drink-up on this evidence if you're still clinging to a few bottles. (02/00)
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Terre del Barolo (Piedmont), Barolo Riserva "Monvigliero" 1990
Not tasted.

Zenato, Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa 1995
Ripasso wines are fermented with the skins of Amarone grapes (grapes which have been dried on mats to increase their sweetness). In theory this adds extra complexity and depth to the finished wine. This example is a deep, bright, ruby colour. It has an inviting nose of caramel, smoke, tobacco and some dark, sweet, violet-scented fruit. Very juicy on the palate: sour black cherries, currants and bitter almonds. Biting tannins and tart acidity rather steal the show in the finish unfortunately. (09/98)
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Spain & Portugal

Bodegas Berberana, Rioja Gran Reserva 1982
Vibrant ruby red - could have been bottled yesterday. Quite understated, classy nose without the expected flamboyant vanillin new oak. Again, velvety smooth and well balanced, more like a very good, slightly reserved claret. Long, lingering finish with clove and pepper notes. Excellent. (05/97). Very pale ruby/amber. Sherryish nose, quite sweet with lifted red fruits, tea, dried-leaves and vanilla. Palate is old-woody and has quite high acidity, but there is plenty of cherry fruit with a nicely herbal edge, some depth of leather and game and an overall sense of balance. Good length. Spotted by almost all the tasters as a ringer in a claret tasting, but good enough to earn one vote as most enjoyable wine of the night. (08/99)

Bodegas Campo Viejo, Rioja Gran Reserva 1985
Slightly disappointed. Good vibrant colour, just browning at edges. Nice but underpowered nose. Lacking a little character with pleasant fruit and a rather short finish. Not a star. (11/96)

Dominio de Pingus, "Flor de Pingus" Ribera del Duero 1996
The second wine of this much-vaunted (and much Parker-ised) bodega, also fetching premium prices on the back of rave reviews. Very dense, dark, purple/black. Beautiful sweetness on the nose with little rose-hip and violet nuances. There is blackcurrant, pepper and some briary undertones. On the palate it is very firm, with grippy tannins and a liquorice edge. There is a coffee-bean and tobacco depth lurking there as well as more juicy blackcurrant. It has a long, smooth, concentrated finish. Needs a few years, but an excellent wine of considerable power and finesse. (01/00)
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UK visitors: available at time of writing from Corney & Barrow for £28.00

Viña Extremeña, Palacio de Monsalud, Tierra de Barros 1988
Rather dark, brackish colour. On the nose, some sweet, custardy, vanilla and earthy, dark fruit. The palate does have some dark cherry fruit and a likeable roughness, but it is quickly spoiled by rather dried-out, woody tannin and astringency. (06/98)

Bodegas Faustino Martínez, Rioja Reserva "Faustino V" 1990
A very pleasant old-style Rioja with a warm and inviting, silky, vanilla nose hinting at dark, clove and nutmeg flavours. Medium weight on the palate with plenty of strawberry fruit that is fully mature without being over-the-hill. Hints of roses and exotic spice. Decent length and a nice creamy finish. Fairly straightforward, a bit old fashioned, but enjoyable. (06/98).
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Alejandro Fernández (Ribera del Duero) Pesquera Gran Reserva 1990
The nose is massively aromatic and ripe with sweet kirsch, cherry and thick black fruit tinged with earth, woodsmoke, vanilla and tobacco. Truly delicious. On the palate one can't help but veer towards a Parkeresque "great gobs of fruit": it is just so loaded with sweet, fat, dense black fruits and beautifully integrated tannins and acidity that present a seamless purity. Great length too. I thought this was drinking very well but would cellar 10 years more. (09/00)

Bodegas Alejandro Fernández (Ribera del Duero) "Pesquera" 1993
Glossy, dark ruby colour. Enticing nose of sweet cassis fruit and vanilla. On the palate very creamy and fat with loads of sweet, almost minty blackberry fruit. There are no edges to this wine, with soft tannins and expansive acidity giving support to all the fruit. There are some less obvious flower and mineral nuances too, but really it is all deliciously ripe blackberries and plums in the mouth. Good length. A few months ago I tasted the
'85 which had a very similar profile and was still drinking well, so this should have several more years ahead of it. (02/99)

Bodegas Alejandro Fernández (Ribera del Duero) "Pesquera" 1994
Not tasted.

Bodegas Alejandro Fernández (Ribera del Duero) "Condado de Haza" 1995
Not tasted.

Bodegas La Rioja Alta, Rioja Reserva "Ardanza" 1987
updatedlovely deep colour starting to brown. The nose offers up a blanket of spicy, smokey, vanillin oak with warm berry fruits beneath. On the palate it is a really velvety wine with cloves, mulberries and christmas cake flavours. A nice composty note too and some acidity to bolster the now completely soft tannins and mature fruit. Finish is simple but very pleasant. A gorgeous, mature wine, perhaps lacking a little finesse, but a real treat on a wintery Scottish night. (10/97)

Bodegas La Rioja Alta, Rioja Reserva "Ardanza" 1989
Good deep ruby colour, fairly understated nose but hints of brambles, cloves, spice. Lovely weight in the mouth with nice background oak and lots of supple fruit. Classy, balanced wine with considerable length and a very smooth finish. A very good wine. (03/97)

Bodegas Lagunilla, Rioja Reserva 1985
No extensive notes. Over oaked and rather one dimensional. (03/96)

Marqués de Murrieta, Rioja "Castillo Ygay" 1987
Not tasted.

Marqués de Murrieta, Rioja "Castillo Ygay" 1989
There's a definite whiff of volatility about the nose that could be a little off-putting if it wasn't for the fact that the 1970 Ygay that followed had an identical aroma, yet was 30 years old, balanced and quite delicious! There is a massive layering of smoky and sweet, mainly fruity aromas beneath that initial volatility however, with kirsch, minerals and a warm tobacco note. The palate is medium-bodied, the fruit quite light, though not dilute, and the finish showing some fine tannins and good acidity. This wine is powerful yet quite svelte, and should age gracefully. (03/00)

Marqués de Murrieta, Rioja Gran Reserva 1990
This modestly priced wine has been in my cellar since the mid-90's, and still exhibits a very youthful, vivid crimson colour. The nose is dominated by a slightly volatile, high, plasticene component, that is mostly the result of new American oak and ripeness of fruit. There is plenty going on besides, with a lovely, typical mature Riojan sense of dank woodland and forest floor, truffle and warm autumnal berries. On the palate it has a rich seem of red fruit, with quite a crisp cherry and raspberry character, but

Marqués de Murietta, Rioja "Castillo Ygay" Blanco 1986
Deep burnished gold, almost coppery. Fantastic, deep, wax and herbal nose with butter, quince, toffee, straw and pear. deep vegetal aromas too and a sweet overlay of coconut. Dry, waxy palate with beautiful acidity and an array of non-fruit nuances of straw, minerals, herbs and nuttiness. Sensational stuff in a love it or hate it style. (12/01)

Bodegas Montecillo Viña Cumbrero, Rioja Crianza 1995
Exceptional crianza Rioja. Vibrant ruby colour of medium density. Wonderfully inviting nose of raspberry and cherry fruit. There is lovely vanilla too with a darker, earthier note emerging. Smooth and rounded on the palate. Medium bodied, with lots of up-front, youthful fruit that is juicy, chewy and savoury but there is also a much deeper, bittersweet coffee bean and tobacco character. The finish is fine and long with fine tannins and more concentrated, dark chocolate richness. Oak is beautifully integrated. The whole package has great depth of interest but it's still easy and lovely to drink. A tremendous value for money wine. (04/98).
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Viña Real Rioja Gran Reserva 1964
Wonderfully inviting, lush, velvetty nose of deep, fruite compote and plums, highlighted with floral notes and raspberry, as well as tobacco, leather and truffle. The palate is filled with ripe, mellow fruit and a smoky, sweet background of oak and ripe, soft old tannins. Medium-bodied and well-balanced by generous background acidity, this is drinking beautifully and is a real treat. Very good indeed/excellent. (02/02)

Señorio de Nava, Ribera del Duero Reserva 1989
Quite a deep, plummy/purple colour. The nose is laden with vanillin new oak and rich berry scents. On the palate, fairly light-bodied, with good grippy tannin and plenty more smooth, spicy oak masking earthy, plummy fruit. Maybe a touch woody, but nice sour acidity in the longish finish. Good rather than great. (12/97)

Miguel Torres, Gran Sangre de Toro 1989
Cellaring a £5/$8 wine for 5 years isn't something I'd normally recommend, but when I tasted this back in around 1993 I thought it had all the ingredients to improve for a few years at least so stuck a bottle away. Colour is a medium-density ruby with a broad, pale, mahogany rim. Nose is high and estery, suggesting volatile acidity. There is a toffee sweetness beneath, and some cherry fruit. The palate confirms the problem with the acidity. This is a shame, because there are vestiges of solid, damson and blackberry fruit and a nice chewy, licquorice and spice component. This might be a poor bottle, but it probably should have deen drunk a couple of years back. (07/98)
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Bodegas Valduero, Ribera Del Duero Crianza 1995
Not tasted.

Vega Sicilia (Spain, Ribero del Duero) "Unico" 1970
Deep, glossy ruby colour just lightening on rim. Classic claret nose. Serious, complex aromas of cedar and blackcurrant, pencil-shavings, vanillin and spice. The fruit is rich and very sweet, and there's a tobacco note too. Very attractive. There is ripe berry fruit on the palate. Beautifully silky and medium-bodied this has superb balance with lovely rich cassis fruit and sweet oaky tannins. Fantastic ripeness of fruit. It is very, very long and focused with a tremendous sense of harmony and purity. I'm pretty sure this is classy Pauillac from a great, ripe year, maybe 1990 or '85. Guess: Lynch-Bages 1990? (07/99) - served blind

CVNE, Monopole Barrel Fermented white Rioja 1993
Lovely pale golden colour. Yeasty, buttery, tropical fruit nose and good weight on the palate with luscious fruit, buttery oak and hints of cinnamon spice. Finish is very pure and quite long. Tastes like a decent white burgundy. Very good. (03/96). updatedStill drinking very well indeed. Gloriously complex, bready, minerally, non-fruit characteristics evolving. Must try the latest vintage. (12/97).
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CVNE, Monopole Barrel Fermented Rioja 1994
Pale to medium straw/gold colour. The nose is very lemony fresh, with notes of bread, butter and vanilla. On the palate the wine is also fresh with a lot of citrus fruit, some ripe, tropical lushness and a good balance of acidity. Medium-bodied with more spicy oak in the finish, though not at all overblown. Though not quite as complex as the superb '93 and seemingly made in a slightly lighter style, it is still a very good wine with plenty of interest. (08/98) Nose has developed extra complexity with notes of liquorice and herbs on top of sweet, buttery, oak. Palate still full of lemon fruit, ripe pear and apple and plenty of acidity. Chewy and round, warm and spicy, it reminds me of a decent Californian Chardonnay. Very nice. (03/99)

Quinta da Lagoalva (Ribatejo) 1994
Delicious stuff. A blend of native periquita and cabernet sauvigon, this wine is a deep, dense, dark ruby colour. On the nose there is a very claret-like impression of blackcurrant, smoke, tobacco and cedar. Quite full and rich on the palate, there is more punchy blackcurrant fruit, but also a succulent, chewy depth of damsons and black fruit and plenty of tannins and acidity, though these are well integrated. Some nice influence from new oak (Portugeuse) adds further depth. Good finish too, if not great length. (08/98)
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fortified wines

Don Zoilo Very Old Cream Sherry
Dark tawny brown. Nose is intensley figgy, with dark aromas of burnt brown sugar. On the palate there is considerable weight and lovely sweetness, but all the time the darker character and a lemony acidity keep the wine quite savoury in character. Excellent length, becoming walnutty and graceful as it finishes. Very good. (12/98) Label image.

González Byass, Amontillado del Duque NV
Consistently my favourite sherry and one of the world's great wines. Glowing tawny colour. Stunning nose of walnuts, sultanas, rich sticky toffee pudding. Medium body and absolutely packed with harmonius flavours of toasted nuts, caramel and something with an edge - minerals? Absolutely bone dry. Extraordinary finish (50 seconds easily) evolving all the time with warm, toffee and chocolate nuances. Stunning. (12/96)

González Byass, Apostoles Dry Oloroso NV
A brilliant example of a rich, full, Christmas cake wine. Just as complex as the Amontillado, rather too sweet for my palate, but glorious. (12/96)

Cockburn's Quinta dos Canais Vintage Port 1992
Not tasted.

Graham's Vintage Port 1970
Very serious black fruit and incense nose, blackcurranty and spicy. On the palate still a powerhouse structure of tannin and acidity. There's a toffee/fudge richness to the sweet black fruits and a smooth texture, but then also a firm edge adding complexity. Huge concentration and very long. This needs time and is a profound wine. Try again in 8-10 years (07/99)

Graham's Vintage Port 1977
Not tasted.

Taylor's Quinta de Terra Feita Single Quinta Port 1982
This port has a medium, rather dull ruby colour. On the nose it is spirity, with light summer-fruits. The palate has some deep, chocolate notes, but overall it is rather blunt and lacking charm, with alcohol and tannin to the fore and a rather scrawny feel to the fruit and body. Not recommended. (10/98)
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Taylor's Vintage Port 1983
Not tasted.

Warre's Vintage Port 1983
Not tasted.

Warre's Vintage Port 1985
Rich colour and sweet, sweet nose of red berries. Lovely and easy to drink with a dark chocolate richness, mouth coating tannin, yet medium body. Vibrantly fruity and very long. (07/97)