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Exploring Sherry #4: Lustau Amontillado del Puerto

I continue my exploration of Sherry with another gem from Lustau now. Lustau was the first Sherry bodega that I really got to know, my very basic knowledge helped along by a Lustau tasting dinner featuring many of their wines, ending in the delightful Old East India Solera Reserva, at the Don Pepe restaurant in Liverpool. That must have been at least a decade ago now.

This wine is another from the excellent Almacenista range.

Lustau Almacenista José Luis González Obregón Amontillado del Puerto

José Luis González Obregón was once a cellar-master for a large bodega, but he decided to retire in order to establish, in 1989, a family bodega. The business then passed into the hands of his nephew, Manuel González Verano. There are a large number of soleras here, but one in particular – the Amontillado del Puerto, a tiny solera of just ten butts – is taken off their hands by Lustau. Tasting it, that seems like a pretty smart decision on Lustau’s part.

The Lustau Almacenista José Luis González Obregón Amontillado del Puerto has a rich hue in the glass, a burnished orange-gold. The nose is remarkable, all dried wood and baked earth at first, the dry and dusty suggestion of baking sun on terracotta pan tiles, then suddenly there are notes of orange oil, mint, and liquorice root too. It is, quite literally, fascinating. There follows a glorious texture to the palate, all vinous and savoury, with a dry and spicy-peppery energy. There is flavour complexity to eclipse the nose here, vanilla brûlée, toasty and rich yet dry and energetic. And in the finish, it is very, very long. This is cracking stuff. 17.5/20 (September 2014)

Exploring Sherry #3: Lustau Puerto Fino

Time to check out another Sherry now, and after the wonderful Leonor Palo Cortado from Gonzalez Byass it is time for a shift in style, back to Fino. I think I prefer the haunting complexity of a palo cortado or amontillado to the fresh and tangy bite of a fino, but it’s not really exploring if you stick to what you know and like, is it?

Lustau Puerto Fino

This particular fino, from Lustau, is aged in a solera system in the town of El Puerto de Sainta Maria (on the coast near Jerez, south of Sanlúcar de Barrameda), hence Puerto Fino. The wine, 100% Palomino (nothing unusual there, I just thought I would mention the Sherry grape at least once), is aged in a solera for at least five years before release. It is classically fino in style, having spent its life protected from oxidation by the flor. The cooler coastal climate is said to engender a thicker layer of the yeast than is found elsewhere, and thus a more delicate wine.

This particular half-bottle of the Lustau Puerto Fino is labelled as Lot 3275. In keeping with the fino style it has a pale, fresh, clean hue. There follows an interesting nose, showing first some forward notes of toasted almond, and then there is some good flor character coming in behind. The palate is full, fresh, with a nutty edge, and it shows a very dry character despite the twist of texture it possesses. The spicy citrus nuance running underneath it all, sliding into a peppery finish and a little length, is not without some appeal. A good wine, with a little persistence in the finish. 15/20 (August 2014)

Exploring Sherry #2: Leonor

Back to Sherry now, and the world of Palo Cortado. As proper Sherry buffs (i.e. not me) know, the palo cortado style traditionally originates with wayward behaviour in a fino solera. With fino, the wine in each barrel has a coating of flor, the layer of yeast that protects the wine from oxidation (and yet, confusing to my palate, laces it with acetaldehyde, adding an aroma that is otherwise a firm feature of oxidation, while the wine remains pale, pure and fresh).

In the occasional barrel the flor would die before its time, exposing the wine to oxygen, and thereby altering how it aged. In this case the cellar master (could you use the word almacenista here? …. probably) would remove the barrel bearing its palo, a downward mark indicating it belonged to the fino solera. This would then be crossed (or cortado) with a second mark to identify the barrel, which is now palo cortado.

Gonzalez Byass Leonor

These days I suspect the production of palo cortado is left less to chance than the traditional description above. It is a very popular style (well, I adore it, anyway) and it seems fairly widely available, often at a good price. As with many sherries I drink, even fino, I find the wine is never at its best on the first day; a day or two open seems to bring it all together with a greater sense of harmony. This was certainly the case here.

The palo cortado style is rather vaguely described as half-amontillado (wines which age protected by flor, initially at least) and half-oloroso (wines which age without flor, i.e. oxidatively). I find it often has a very elegant, poised precision which can be missing from other styles, yet it has the same haunting scent complexity. This bottle, the latest in my Sherry adventures, is a fairly recently-introduced wine from Gonzalez Byass, a palo cortado aged (on average, it will be a blend of different wines) at least twelve years.

The wine, christened Leonor, has a very fine, convincing, toasty hue, with a golden rim. The aromatics seem fairly full on at first, as if they are all jostling for attention, but after some air – by which I really mean a few days of stoppered rest – this really comes together to show a much greater sense of harmony. The nose is one of baked earth, dried citrus zest, white raisins and pepper, with a fine, nutty seam underneath. The palate now feels polished, certainly harmonious, textured with a supple substance, and a dry and complex middle. Importantly, there is great energy to it, with evident zip on the finish. This is long and punchy, and just lovely to drink. 16.5/20 (July 2014)

Exploring Sherry #1: Lustau Papirusa

I have dabbled with Sherry for a long time now, but for many years never really ‘getting’ it, if you see what I mean. But over the last couple of years I have really fallen in love with these wines, with their sometimes haunting aromas and their fantastically complex characters.

Sherry remains undervalued, and is therefore underpriced on the shelves. This brings many benefits for consumers, one of which is that here, in the UK, the big supermarkets can source their wines from some of the very best names in the region. Many own-label supermarket wines are made by Lustau, which is a little like having you own-label claret made by Denis Durantou, or your own-label Sancerre made by François Cotat.

I have been drinking some of these own-label wines, and will continue to do so, but I thought I should also branch out and try some other names, and other styles. First up, Manzanilla.

Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa

Manzanilla comes from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which lies a short distance along the coast from Jerez, the beating heart of the Sherry landscape. The town sits at the mouth of the Rio Guadalquivir, as I discussed in this write up of a Lebrija, from González Palacios. The style is traditionally bright and breezy, and that certainly comes across in this wine.

The Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa is aged 4-5 years in an American oak solera before bottling, and it seems like a very good example of the style. This appears to be, according to the back label, Lot 3333. A pale and bright hue here. The nose is very appealing, showing a salty sea breeze intertwined with the pungency of flor. It has a very dry palate, nevertheless it also has a full and substantial presence, with crisp, defining acidity. It shows breadth and yet remains light footed, a sensation reinforced by a dry, tingling energy on the finish. There are touches of citrus leaf and blanched almond to complete the picture. A good start to this Sherry exploration. 15.5/20

A footnote: I couldn’t help wondering where the term papirusa came from. It seems to be a Spanish word meaning “beautiful woman”; it is derived from papiros, the word for cigarette, but it took on a new meaning when many beautiful, chain-smoking Polish immigrants arrived in Spain. They became known by the papiros they smoked, and eventually this evolved into papirusa. So this wine is a “beautiful lady”. Of course, this could all be apocryphal, so any Spanish speakers who want to put me straight, feel free to get in touch.

2013 Reflections: Other Great Wines

In all honesty, beyond the Loire and Bordeaux, so focused is my attention on these two regions, the list of truly ‘great’ wines from other regions is rather short. Some wines do stick in my mind though, usually for the different experiences they offered. The 2008 World’s End Crossfire is one good example of this; I taste and drink very little from California, if indeed anything at all, so any bottles that come my way are bound to be of interest. This particular wine was all the more noteworthy for being a Jonathan Maltus wine, and I think there were traits within that I also see in his wines from closer to home, in St Emilion.

The 1998 Domaine Tempier Bandol La Tourtine I encountered a month or two ago was also fairly smart, but without a doubt the best non-Loire non-Bordeaux red wine experience of 2013 was the 1983 Chave Hermitage, which I drank at dinner with Jim Budd, Claude Papin, Vincent Ogereau and Yves Guégniard (it was Jim that brought the wine to dinner). Not only was this an excellent example of Hermitage (and it’s not that long since I last visited this particular part of the Rhône – was it 2012?) but it also brought back lots of memories of Chester Claret Club, a tasting group I once frequented, one where I learnt a lot from some very knowledgeable palates. This was just the sort of wine that would have cropped up in a Chester tasting. This bottle was in excellent nick, and was certainly one of my top reds of the year, full-stop.

2013 Reflections: Other Great Wines

Interestingly, the Rhône also yielded a very memorable white this year, the 2012 Pierre Gaillard Condrieu (above), a wine which spoke more of minerality and precision than most Viogniers could dream of doing. And Alsace also did fairly well, as I really enjoyed the 1993 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Émile – proof that Riesling really is immortal, regardless of whether or not the wine has residual sugar, as well as the 1998 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg. Not even one of Olivier Humbrecht’s top wines, this was a lovely example of why this domaine is so famous.

Some white wines for which I had high hopes managed to disappoint, including two from a trio from Domaine Cauhapé from the 2003 vintage. Only the 2003 Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Noblesse du Temps really impressed, although even here I would have enjoyed more acidity I think. Well, that’s 2003 for you (I keeping saying this, I know).

2013 Reflections: Other Great Wines

Alright, so there are some decent wines here, but if there is one vinous theme I will forever associate with 2013 it is fortified wine, especially a burgeoning appreciation of Sherry, as well as some great fortified wine discoveries in Madeira. From Spain, the Cayetano del Pino (above) wines impressed greatly, especially the Palo Cortado. Being honest, I actually wrote about this wine on New Year’s Eve 2012, so I mush have drank it before 2013 began, but I’m including it here anyway. Well, why not? Also pretty good was the Osborne Sibarita Very Old Rare Oloroso, a rather full-on style for a 30-year old wine, but pretty good with it.

Things got really serious with Madeira this year when I visited the island during the summer. I was besotted with the Barbeito Madeira Colheita Canteiro Verdelho 1996, which I have since added to the cellar, but was blown away by the Barbeito Madeira Sercial 1910, closely followed by the Barbeito Madeira Malvasia 1834 (below). These wines have such fabulous vigour and life, it was impossible tasting them to believe they were 103 and 179 years old respectively. And from Blandy’s there were other memorable wines, including the Blandy’s Madeira Colheita Verdelho 1995 and particular the Blandy’s Madeira Bual 1968. None could match the Barbeito wines though. Getting an appointment at Blandy’s was pretty difficult, and eventually their UK importer set one up for me. This was more successful than my appointment at Henriques & Henriques, which I arranged myself, only to be stood up when I turned up on time, hence the absence of a Henriques & Henriques report after my return. Did somebody say the Madeira producers were struggling?

2013 Reflections: Other Great Wines

Returning to Spain for a moment, I discovered a new region named Lebrija thanks to UK wine merchant Warren Edwardes. Lebrija lies next-door to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and seems – in my limited experience, admittedly – to have the potential for top quality wines which are apparently sold at rock-bottom prices. The González Palacios Lebrija Old Oloroso was my favourite of the two wines I tried. I know the wines of the Douro far better than I know any of these aforementioned regions, and yet I have had few memorable Ports this year, the only noteworthy bottle being the 1983 Warre’s Vintage Port. To be honest though, although this was a very fine bottle – 1983 was a good vintage, but not a remarkable one – I don’t think I would regard it as truly ‘great’, although the older Madeiras described above certainly were. I have, perhaps, been converted.

That’s enough looking back at 2013 I think. Tomorrow I will publish my disclosure sheet for the year, then it’s on with 2014. I can think of plenty of other Sherries I want to try.

A Fine Fina from Lebrija

I mentioned in my report on the Lebrija Old Oloroso from González Palacios, published at the start of last week, that I also tasted the M. Fina Flor de Lebrija, also from González Palacios, another sample sent by Hyde Park Wines. It’s very good, and deserves writing up.

As I explained in that post, the Lebrija DO is newly created, largely thanks to the efforts of González Palacios. Previously, fruit harvested in this region would have been destined for the bodegas of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. But the winemakers of Lebrija did not get it all their own way, as they have been prevented from describing their wines as Manzanilla, the wine associated with the latter of these two wine towns. This is what, unofficially of course, the M. in M. Fina stands for.

González Palacios M. Fina

The González Palacios M. Fina is no ordinary Sherry or Manzanilla look-a-like though, as this wine has spent 12 years aging in cask before bottling. Consequently it has a deeply-coloured straw hue. The nose, though, is vibrant, full of flor notes, with scents of oranges, a little nuttiness too, but overall it is fresh and lively. There follows a confident palate, full, fairly rich, certainly very dry in character, with some nice energy to it. This is nutty, honeyed, and integrated, and best of all it shows great harmony and energy. 15.5/20 (September 2013)

A Few from the 1980s

After my recent review of the wines of the ever-popular Barsac estate Château Climens, featuring vintages back to 1981 and 1979, I was reminded that one of the aims of buying and cellaring wine was that, eventually, you’re supposed to retrieve the bottles from those dark and dingy corners of the cellar where they slumber, and drink them. With that in mind I pulled a few more bottles from the 1980s (I’m a bit short on representation from the 1970s, to be honest) in the past few weeks.

Two red wines first, beginning with an old favourite from my early days of wine exploration when I think I probably knew a lot more about the Rhône Valley than I do now. I’ve enjoyed a few bottles of this vintage of Vieux Télégraphe over the years, and happily I have one or two bottles still remaining. This one showed very well, on a par with the very appealing 1989 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial from Marqués de Murrieta. Having said that, I think I would choose the latter over the former on most occasions; there’s just something very special about older Rioja. As for the 1989 Chasse-Spleen, I approached this with caution, as my last bottle had been rather off. This one, however, was just singing.

Three sweet wines follow, again from the 1988 and 1989 vintages. The 1989 Coutet has to be my favourite of the three, although I was very impressed by the 1989 Coteaux du Layon Les Coteaux from Domaine de la Roulerie. The wine over-performed for the appellation I think, even if the style was quite tertiary and unusual. I asked modern-day proprietor Philippe Germain about Les Coteaux and he didn’t have a clue which part of the vineyard it came from. The property was in the hands of the previous owner in 1989, and it doesn’t seem that very good records were kept. The 1988 Quarts de Chaume from Château Bellerive was also showing well, although perhaps not at the level I have experienced with other bottles. Perhaps this vintage is just tiring a little now. Perhaps, being honest, I have changed my expectation of what Quarts de Chaume can and should be. I have a few left; they should perhaps be drunk up, but I think I will keep them for some time yet, as an academic investigation into the plateau and decline of aged Quarts de Chaume if nothing else.

The final wine, from Warre, is still going strong even at over 30 years. It is a long way from the most highly regarded of vintages, but these bottles prove a consistent source of pleasure.

Tasting Notes

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape 1988: For the appellation this has a surprisingly pale hue, showing moderate depth at its core, but fading out to an orange-tawny rim. The nose is evolved and expressive, and more interesting than I recall from previous tastings, with rich black truffle aromas, and sweet leather notes on top. There are faint tinges of game as well, but it is somewhat brighter than this description suggests, as there is also bay leaf and juniper berry to be found here. This is fleshy on the palate, so there is no suggestion that this might be drying out, and there is still quite some grip and spice to it; there is quite some energy here in fact. Long and savoury. Showing a slightly more convincing character than my poor memory tells me it has done before, although looking back at previous notes I said very similar things. A good wine indeed, and clearly very long lived. 17.5/20 (September 2013)

Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1989: My last bottle of this, unless I am mistaken. Still plenty of colour in the decanter and glass, and as we would expect after prolonged wood-aging very little sediment too. The nose is really quite bright and feels a little lean at first, and it takes a couple of hours to really open up. Nice charcoal-tinged and cranberry-cherry fruit character on the nose, with the sweetness of fresh leather, scented with notes of sage, rosemary and black olive. Dark and slightly introverted, and yet defined and bright, like a slightly sour black cherry, to be more precise. Certainly an interesting nose here, captivating now, but with potential still. Some of these elements come through on the palate, with piles of fresh acids, gentle and rather reserved substance and a firm, bright, acid-bound character. A middle-weight wine, still with a savoury extract and substance, and plenty of fresh structure though. Still very good indeed. And very long too. 18/20 (September 2013)

Château Chasse-Spleen (Moulis) 1989: The last bottle I had of this, probably about three years ago now (where does the time go?) was obviously not showing well; this wine is absolutely singing on this occasion. The colour in the decanter and glass is confidently dark, with a nicely pigmented although certainly maturing rim. But it is in the nose that the wine truly reassures, with perfumed black fruits laced with hints of violets, and as it evolves in the glass also black tea leaves, bloody iron filings and even a hint of game. The palate shows a lovely harmony, and gentle sweetness, some really appealing grip and substance, and in the finish tangible extract and fresh structure. There’s a little length to it. Hugely convincing despite the wine’s age, with complex tertiary nuances of citrus alongside the more classically evolved character. On the whole, this is quite lovely. 17.5/20 (September 2013)

Château de la Roulerie Coteaux du Layon Les Coteaux 1989: This wine has a gentle, burnished gold. The nose is intriguing, opening out slowly over the course of an hour or so, showing scents of coffee and orange cake, with crunchy fruit. Overall it is fairly intense, with tertiary nuances of baked ham and cigar smoke. Despite this overly evolved character on the nose there is no suggestion that this wine is at the end of its life on the palate. There is still a glorious substance to it, a gently fleshy character with subtle hints of Demerara sugar, coffee, roasted plantain, baked corn and even a touch of sage. This is certainly complex and multi-faceted, although to be fair as the wine is given more time it does seem to tighten down into a lightly chewy, tangerine and peach sweetness, with a gently mellifluous texture. Overall, a lovely wine. 17/20 (September 2013)

Château Bellerive Quarts de Chaume 1988: A moderately rich orange-gold hue. The fruit on the nose is rich although certainly tempered by an organic and savoury edge to it. There is a seam of straw, desiccated fruit, dried apricot and lightly baked oranges. Does this latter element suggest a little oxidation on this particular bottle? The palate has a beautifully polished character, still showing a rich and deep sweetness despite the wine’s age, Very harmonious, with gentle acidity. Certainly no oxidation here, the fruit rich and concentrated, with a firm phenolic substance to the wine giving it a really appealing pithy grip towards the end, finishing up with some spice and a really fine length. Still showing the straw and sweetness of previous bottles, but not the caramel tinges I have noted. Overall, still delicious, but perhaps not at the level I have scored some bottles previously. 17/20 (September 2013)

Château Coutet (Sauternes) 1989: In the glass this has a rich, really quite fabulous orange-golden hue. The aromatics are no less remarkable than its rather radiant appearance, the fruit character redolent of bitter oranges, but this is more than matched by the scents of almonds, hazelnuts and praline also in evidence. It feels very lightly high-toned as well though, a sensation swirled with touches of quince and more of that bitter orange. The palate shows all of these flavours, with roasted botrytis character, carried along by a fabulously sweet, polished texture. There is also a layer of caramel underpinning it all, a great texture and obvious residual sugar. This is still going strong; no rush here. 18/20 (September 2013)

Warre’s Vintage Port 1980: A very fine, pure hue here, still with plenty of pigment and life to it. A very fine, savoury but pure and rather fragrant fruit on the nose, with some slightly sooty notes under the violets, but it is the fragrancy that dominates. This sense of purity comes through on the palate, which is very harmonious at the start and it maintains this character through the middle, and although it has grip and spirit to show here it remains appealing, composed and fresh. A wine of substance and light structure, more perhaps the texture and approachable sweetness is more prominent. There are figs, a fine macerated fruit character, and a firm, spicy backbone. The vintage is not regarded as a great one, but this is still a very fine and approachable wine. 17.5/20 (September 2013)

Sherry from Cayetano del Pino

Further adventures in Sherry now, with two tasting notes for the price of one. The following two wines come from Cayetano del Pino, and are bottled by Romate. Both are under screwcap and – not that it really matters, but I can’t help admiring them – are blessed with the most brilliant labels. The wine inside the bottle is also tip-top of course. Both are available from The Wine Society in the UK, although the links should guide readers outside the UK to their nearest stockists.

Cayetano del Pino labels

Cayetano del Pino Fino Perdido 1/15: Under screwcap. Helpfully described as a “lost fino“, which gives a good clue as to the story behind this wine. Having begun life as a fino, covered in a protective layer of flor, this wine was left for eight years before bottling. This is much longer than would be the norm with the fino style, which would usually be bottled early, and then shipped and consumed within as short a time as possible. Here, during the eight years of repose, the flor died, and the wine took on some oxidative character. The colour has deepened, but only to a rich golden hue, and nothing darker, despite other reports I have seen and despite the wine having been described in some quarters as a fino-amontillado, which it definitely isn’t. The nose is very pungent at first, rich with acetylaldehyde which may of course reflect the work of the flor, or of oxygen. It feels like dry wood at first, but later shows some leesy-cheesy richness from the flor, and also some sour-fruit character. The palate has a very good presence, with the woody oxidative notes quite prominent at first, but they soon fade leaving more appealing nutty elements, and hints of green olive and pepper. It has a good harmony, is fleshy but dry, with good acids, and it really rounds off in the finish in a harmonious fashion. Overall this is long and appealing, especially returning to it for subsequent glasses when the woody character subsided further. 16/20 (March 2013)

Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Viejísimo 1/5: From a half bottle, under screwcap. The first obvious feature worth noting here is in the colour, which is an impressively concentrated golden-amber hue, with a faint greenish tinge at the rim. The nose is immediately enthralling, rich and expressive. There are scents of vanilla, coffee, caramel, roasted oranges and sandalwood, along with a subtle vein of acetylaldehyde which runs very much in the background. It has a full and confident character, and this is confirmed on the palate which has a wonderful, weighty substance for a palo cortado, and yet it retains a sense of the silky elegance that can be found in this style. It maintains a very fine cottony texture through the middle, with very polished edges and a fine frame of acidity. Suddenly on the end of the palate this all wells up, giving the wine an exciting, turbo-charged finish, flavoursome but more importantly full of energy and vigour. The vanilla and peppercorn notes sound like a trumpet, slowly fading, as the finish goes on and on. Just a little note of dry wood here disrupts the overall harmony, but otherwise this is an impressive show indeed. Truly excellent. 18/20 (March 2013)

More on Pompaelo

Emilio Valerio, the man behind the wine that featured in my account of some unusual PR from a company called Pompaelo Wines, has written (as a comment on the original post – I have reproduced it here):

I am writing from Navarra,
this is Emilio Valerio,
I was amazed when a friend of mine showed me this article in this bloq.
I am writing to tell the reason they couldn´t send a sample.
The reason is they are completly unauthorized to send samples or sell our wine.
They are not working with our wines, so It was very unpleasant to find this on the internet.

My reply, posted below his comment, but reproduced here…..

Hi Emilio,

Thanks for your contribution to this discussion – I’m sorry if the activities of this company in Germany have thrown any bad light on your name. I think I can be quite clear – as per the title of my post – that the issue here was with the behaviour exhibited by Pompaelo Wines, not Emilio Valerio.

Do you think this company ever had any intention of sending samples to anybody? Or was there something more malicious going on? Have I unwittingly taken part in some sort of smear campaign?

Whatever has gone here, I’m deeply sorry that I haven’t had a taste of this wine. Fortunately it looks as though Emilio and his team will be able to put that right. Watch this space!

PR from Pompaelo Wines

A very recent unsolicited email I received touted the wonders of the 2005 Viñas de Amburza from Emilio Valerio in Navarra, a biodynamic wine, allegedly the first such wine from the region. The email came from somebody called Björn Steinemann of Pompaelo Wines:

We are proud to introduce the first biodynamic wine from Navarra

Let us surprise you by a different taste that will take you back to the roots of winemaking Emilio Valerio is a family company and a group of people engaged in an agriculture project to produce biodynamic wines and oils in the hills south of historic Montejurra. We grow over 50 small plots of vineyards around the township Dicastillo in Tierra Estella, in Central Navarra region in northern Spain. Conserving Biodiversity and nature unique for each of our valleys. We Understand wine as a cultural product intrinsically linked to people and land. Viñas de Amburza 2005 truly represents a loyal reflection of a vintage, a terroir and a way of understanding agriculture. This wine is a rich blend of Garnacha, Graciano, Cabernet S. and Merlot. made according to the principles of byodinamic viticulture including hand harvesting and a respectful vinification. The wine was aged for 11 month in french oak barrels. For sampels, logistic and further informations please contact:

Pompaelo Wines
Office Düsseldorf
Björn Steinemann

I receive a lot of unsolicited requests to look at samples, but this one piqued my interest, principally because of my findings when I attended the UK Wines of Navarra tasting last year. There were, in short, a lot of disappointing wines there, and it was a disheartening introduction to the region. As I wrote at the time, the whites “tended to lack impact, many displaying soft, diffuse, perfumed, feminine aromas”, the rosados and sweet wines were “uninspiring”. The reds, from the likes of Chivite, Ochoa, Inurrieta, Camilo Montecristo, in many cases showed “a lack of freshness to the fruit profile, with many of the wines displaying a rather muted fruit character very often with furry, feral, animalistic scents alongside”. It was an honest write-up.

Secondly, the project itself sounds interesting. Fifty small biodynamic plots, producing wine and oils? It sounds rather like Thierry Puzelat’s (profile coming soon) work in the Loire rescuing backyard plots of vines from destruction when their owners become too old or ill to continue tending them. He maintains these micro-plots of often indigenous varieties, 7 hectares in all, important parts of the Loire’s viticultural heritage, and from them he produces a not-for-profit cuvée.

So here perhaps was a wine to buck the trend perhaps, from a small producer, perhaps a trail-blazing one in view of their novel (for the region) biodynamic stance. Yes, I was interested. My reply:

Hello

Thanks for your message. If you wish to send a sample please do so:
(address included)

Chris Kissack
www.thewinedoctor.com

Simple enough. Here’s the reply though – remember that this was an unsolicited PR email offering an opportunity to taste and learn more about this wine:

dear chris,

we decided not to send sampels, cause we still are not represented at the uk market.
i furthermore have the impression that you are not abel to value conumer wines from non- known or smaller companies (ochoa- who needs that? chivite- noone is interested in another tasting note- they are covered with metro group! inurrieta- they are very good, but sold at the next kiosk…cvne- very interesting up to the year 1998…montecristo- take a look at their reputation in navarra…)

if you are interested in something unique you can take a closer look at out own projects- we are just three friends and have worked for the “big” ones in navarra and other regions in spain&argentina:
www.pompaelo.com
www.polosurwines.com

kind regards,

björn
düsseldorf

Umm…isn’t that what I was trying to do – to “take a closer look” at their project – by taking up their offer of a sample? It seems he has changed his mind. I’m not sure why, as although Björn clearly doesn’t rate the wineries that attended the UK Wines of Navarra tasting, my write-up was hardly glowing! Has he noted the producers, but not read the reviews? Or does he think the wine will be tarred with the same brush. Surely not – the title of his original email boasted 91 points from José Peñín, a respected critic of Iberian wine, and Björn seems pretty confident. But what a waste of my time! I’m not impressed:

What a bizarre response.

You are withdrawing the unsolicited offer of a sample to taste this wine because you don’t rate the producers I have met at the UK Wines of Navarra tasting last year, and you have only decided that after I expressed interest in your wine? Do I understand that correctly? I thought you wanted to “surprise you by a different taste”?

Perhaps you should have taken a closer look at my site before sending out your spam.

Best regards

Chris Kissack
www.thewinedoctor.com

And now Björn explains his reasoning:

dear chris,

sorry for any inconvenience- my fault.

i don´t see any advantage to get rated at your website, for ratings in uk we have natasha huges, rebecca gibb, susan hulme david lindsay and others.
you are not on the buyer`s side, so we won`t spent money for nothing.
i deleated you from our list.

kind regards,

björn

So there we have it. I am not on the buyer’s side apparently, as judged by Björn in Düsseldorf, I think because I tasted wines that don’t meet with his approval at an official Navarra tasting in Edinburgh in November 2008 (the tasting toured, also visiting Manchester and London). And perhaps because Björn no longer rates CVNE very highly. So I am not suitable to review his wine, although he only realised that after he asked me if I would like to taste it. It beggars belief.

So, I am sorry to all, but there will be no forthcoming review of the wines of Emilio Valerio, and I will have to return to my regular work of reviewing big-brand wines such as Pierre Jacques Druet’s Rosé (as mentioned in yesterday’s post), La Ferme de la Sansonnière’s Rosé d’un Jour and others. For more esoteric wines such as those under the Emilio Valerio label, readers must look to the aforementioned writers for suitably independent opinion.

Any comments?