Spain was late to the party when it comes to the reputation of her wines on these shores. Having spent more time and energy exploring the rest of the world it was not until the late 19th Century that anything approaching our current expectations of wines known as Rioja and Cava established themselves. Even then little wine left the shores of Spain most wine outside of Rioja was stored in animal skins and not Oak Barrels making it unsuited to international travel or taste.
It was the Fortified wines of Jerez that first gained an international reputation but these wines were often produced by Irish Ex-Pats escaping the English and Starvation at home. Our Retail Chief Executive Martha is also our resident Sherry Expert and delights in extolling the virtues of a fine Fino or alluring Amontillado. One of the current stories of Spanish wine is the coolness of Sherry and the movement towards popular recognition of the unique flavours of these wines. Our Micaela range from the exemplary bodegas Baron is the perfect introduction.
Perhaps it was the explosion in foreign travel of the baby boomers meant Sangria and Sunshine became Holiday highlights and wine bottles trapped in wire cages from Rioja became a restaurant staple at every Bernie Inn. For Rioja this was a time of rapid change the desire to replicate the great wines of Bordeaux which had inspired the founding fathers of the region gave way to the commercial tug of American tastes. The move to dark Tempranillo fuelled wines saw less fashionable Grenache and Graciano vines ripped up in many vineyards.
The forward thinking Bodegas Manzanos retained some of their Graciano and so now make an old vine wine called Voche from this irresistibly fragrant grape. Their purple labelled Graciano has been a staff favourite for a few years now and represents a subtle twist on the familiar for Rioja lovers with a thirst for adventure. At only 10.99 it will liven up even a modest Wednesday evening with its black bramble juiciness perfect with herby Sausages.
For a weekend treat with a good juicy steak we are going to head away from the familiar world of Rioja to the badlands of revolutionary winemaking in Campo de Borja. 2001 saw a new Millenium and the beginning of a collaboration between Australian winemaker Chris Ringland, who was responsible for cult wine Three Rivers, and Jose Luis Chueca of Borsao. After a number of projects the 2017 Syrah we’ve all been waiting for finally arrived in A&H last year. The 2018 vintage is if anything even better opening with aromas of smoky vanilla and blackberry this inky wine announces itself immediately as a thing of heft and power. The palate doesn’t shy away intense dark fresh espresso coffee fruitiness dominates but there is a balance and plumpness that stops it being overpowering. All this for less than £20 you can’t say fairer than that!