Wine classics tasting in whirlwind of fizz and flint

In the space of two hours I tripped lightly across the globe; from Italy to South Africa, then France, southwards to Argentina and then moments later a short hop to south Australia.

Not in reality of course. I doubt even Richard Branson’s galactic gadgets could succeed in such a speedy earth-spinning trip.

Nope. I was nestled in a corner of Vinea at Albert Dock in Liverpool for the latest wine classics tasting session in my Classic Regions Wine Course. By coincidence, not by design, two styles of wines we tasted were already reclining, expectantly, in my wine rack at home and I’ll tell you about them here.

First up, Prosecco.

This is a fresh sparkling wine from Italy and, since 2009, only sparkling wine in certain areas around Veneto can be called Prosecco.

What that means, as Vinea’s Dan Harwood explained, is that production of Prosecco will reduce – in the sense that fewer places can legally label it as such – and so the price will eventually go up.

It is made in steel tanks, which means that the wine to yeast ratio is low. The steel brings in no flavour at all and when bottled under pressure all the yeast is filtered out. This leaves a pure, fresh wine full of aromas of the glera grape.

At Vinea we tasted Azienda Agricola Bellenda Prosecco 2011 (£14.99, www.vinealiverpool.co.uk) which displayed all the distinctive notes of Prosecco; hints of pear and apple and slightly floral. It was well-balanced. Not too light, not too acidic but with a decent finish.

At home I opened La Gioiosa Prosecco Spumante DOC Treviso (£5.99, Tesco) which was great value, with pear on the nose, a good sparkle but a light finish. (By the way, spumante is fully sparkling; frizzante is lightly sparkling).

Now. To South Africa, and Stellenbosch to be more specific, which is east of Cape Town.

I’m not a massive fan of oaked chardonnay; I like my chardonnay crisp and flinty like a good Chablis. First aromas of the golden, viscous, Radford Dale 2009 Chardonnay (£17.49, Vinea) were of burnt toast, but I was surprised that on the palate hints of flint and mineral cut a seam through the creamy tropical stone fruit; so I liked it.Meerlust Chardonnay review

Back home and to Meerlust Chardonnay 2009 (£15, from www.thewinesociety.com) produced on an estate owned by the same family since 1756.

Only five miles from the sea, the vineyards are cooled by ocean breezes allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and develop deep full-bodied fruit flavours. With a complex fruity but mildly toasty nose, it is rich, full and creamy with lots of tropical fruit and again, a slight hint of minerality.

Also in my glass this week … at Vinea, I had a glass of rosé from Provence – where rosé accounts for more than half of its production.

The 2010 Chateaux D’Ollieres Coteaux De Varoux, (£11.49, Vinea) had hints of pale raspberry but was understated, crisp and elegant in the style of a white. I closed my eyes and didn’t think I was drinking rosé at all.

Details of Vinea’s courses can be found at www.vinealiverpool.co.uk

Also on my plate this week … we had a Spanish-themed lunch of chorizo, olives and cheese and I couldn’t resist opening The Best Vina Eneldo Reserva Rioja (reduced to £6 from £9.49 until March 25 at Morrisons). Soft with lots of cherries and some vanilla, it’s a decent buy – if you hurry up. Another Morrison’s deal is Berberana Seleccion d’Oro (down to £4.49 from £8.99 until April 1) which I’m saving for National Paella Day on March 27.

First published in the Liverpool Post on March 22 2012

Spanish wine flavour flamenco heralds paella celebration

Fillaboa Albarino 2010

YOU can put away the bunting now. National Paella Day is over for another year.

If you didn’t celebrate on Tuesday don’t fret; I’m sure the food police won’t be a nuisance should you decide to enjoy the Spanish national dish on another day.

Here are a few Spanish wine ideas to pair with your rice repast when the time comes.

The paella I cooked included chorizo, prawns, chicken, red pepper, peas and leek. With a flick of turmeric and home-made chicken stock. The mix of rustic flavours, from delicate seafood through to spicy chorizo, did not give my paella an obvious wine partner.

Fillaboa Albarino 2010 review
Fillaboa Albarino 2010

But top of my list is Fillaboa Albarino 2010 (£14.99, M&S online and selected independents). This comes from the Rias Baixas DO wine region in northern Spain, where the growing albarino grapes are cooled by Atlantic breezes. It partners well with seafood but also has the strength and depth to stand up to chorizo.

Fillaboa is bright, and full of stone fruit with a long finish. After a forkful of paella I was surprised as a pineapple layer sprang into life.

Franck Massard Herbis Verdejo Viura 2010 (£8.99 www.nakedwines.com or £6.49 if you’re an investing angel supporting wine growers). is a blend of two classic Spanish grapes. Viura, also known as macebeo, is one of the three main grapes in cava. If this white was being mixed for you in a cocktail bar you’d wink at the barman and say ‘easy on the lemon’.

I’m all for citrus flavours but not when they are all you can taste. Ok with a chorizo-packed plate of paella but this wine has a lot of growing up to do.

Segura Viudas Torre Galimany Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava 2007 (£10.99, www.sohowine.co.uk) is a revelation with paella. This rich cava was one of the first with oak barrel aging on the market and it has a great complex character. Its plentiful, fine, bubbles and aroma of honey, toast and fruit cake, were surprisingly delightful with the rustic platter.

Emina Pasión, Ribera del Duero 2009 (£12.99, Ocado) comes from one of Spain’s most highly-rated areas and is 100 per cent tempranillo grape. It is medium-bodied and fruity with cherries with an overture of blackcurrant ice cream. (I know, I know.) I enjoyed Pasión on its own, as the seafood was overpowered by its rich flamenco of flavours.

Beronia Dos Maderas Crianza 2008 (down to £6.99 from £13.99 as an introductory offer from Ocado) is also made from 100 per cent tempranillo, from the award-winning Beronia winery in Rioja Alta. It is oaked in barrels in two types of oak; American oak staves add a vanilla undertone and French barrelheads give the wine a spicy edge. Smooth tannins with a decent finish, the Beronia had a softness which matched the paella comfortably.

Carlos Rodriguez Rioja Joven 2010 (up to £8.49 www.nakedwines.com) is one of the new style, lighter riojas, lighter and a tad too fresh at first encounter.

However it’s with food that this sprightly senor comes into its own. The strong paella flavours compete beautifully. This wine is more fiesta than siesta but well worth uncorking.

Finally, Berberana Seleccion d’Oro 2008 (Morrison’s down to £4.49 from £8.99 until April 1) from the Vino de la Tierra, part of the Castile region of Spain. It is rich, firm, but vibrant with an aroma of red fruits and a layer of vanilla.

It was lovely with the spicy chorizo and red peppers.

First published  in the Liverpool Post on March 29 2012