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Events, Bargains & Seriously Rare Mencia From Telmo Rodríguez

Hello Vino Vultures,

Here’s what’s been happening in the world of Songbird Wines

Events

It has been a real pleasure over the last few weeks to actually express my passion of wine to people in person. The last week I joint hosted a wine dinner at Chapmans of Canterbury with the TV chef Tony Singh MBE who curated and cooked a superb northern Indian infused menu. Pairing Indian food with wine is never easy but I think I just about pulled it off with delights such as 2018 Carrolcoba Albarino, 2018 Moulin-a-Vent ‘La Rochelle’ and, the star of the show for many, 2018 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ‘La Fontaine’, Domaine Grand Veneur.

On November the 4th there will be another wine evening at Chapmans featuring a guest chef, this time Yoko Nakada, founder of Makes Miso Hungry, one of the UK’s leading on-line retailers of Japanese recipe boxes. This will be another exciting evening that gives me an opportunity to pair some of my more esoteric wines with exceptionally appetising food. Tickets are £59 per head and the restaurant is taking reservations from now.

This month sees the return of wine tastings at the Long Pond in Eltham on the 11th and 25th of October. Although both events are sold out there is always the chance there can be last minute cancelleations so if you are local to the SE9 postcode and would like to get on the reserve list then do let me know.

Finally, if you’re keen on organising your own wine tasting event then please let me know and we can discuss a bespoke package that suits you.

New Listings

Anyway, that’s enough about events that you can’t attend, let’s talk about WINE! In the first couple of weeks of September I managed to venture to five trade tastings, a couple of which scored very highly on both their event management (spacious venue with limited attendees) and quality of wines on show. These made up for the other tastings that were organised by someone that must have spent the last 18 months on the moon – small room, unlimited numbers whilst people were spitting wine? Hmmmm.

Here’s a taster of what really tickled my fancy –

Whites

2019 Shadow Point Chardonnay, Monterey, USA – RRP £11.25       Offer Price £9.75

A totally delicious Chardonnay that dispels the myth that decent Californian wine has to be expensive. This is from the central coast region from a vineyard separated from the Pacific by a chain of hills. These hills create cooler evenings that give the grapes excellent balance and freshness. After fermentation the wine is aged for 6 months in a mixture of old and new French oak. This is a wine that will appeal to all lovers of quality Chardonnay with its toasty, nutty aroma. It has a wonderful freshness on the palate and a lovely mineral finish. I couldn’t believe the price when I tasted it and almost fainted when I saw the offer price. This has been earmarked for this year’s Christmas Offer but I have feeling it may not last that long.

2020 Ilercavonia Garnacha Blanca, Altavins, DO Terra Alta, Catalunya – £15.25

This is a super fresh and aromatic Garnacha Blanca from one of Terra Alta’s most exciting new producers. Altavins was founded in 2001 with a simple philosophy of identity, honesty and Mediterranean spirit to produce wines of minimum intervention. They are based in the striking landscape of the Terra Alta, a region that is home to 1/3 of the entire world’s white Grenache. There is little rain and the days are hot however the nights are cooler and there are breezes from both the coast and inland which help cool the grapes. In the winery they use the cold maceration technique which helps extract more flavour from the skins to the juice before fermentation. Before fermentation ends, 25% of the must is transferred to 300l oak barrels and then the entire wine is aged on lees for 6 months. The result is a complex but refreshing white with flavours of apple and pear initially and then  more complex flavours of stone fruit and mango. Despite this complexity it is a wine of elegance and understatement but intriguingly moreish.

Reds

2018 Morgon ‘Les Charmes’, Domaine de Laithevalle, Beaujolais, France – RRP £15.95   Offer Price £12.95

BARGAIN ALERT!! If you are a lover of the Gamay grape then I suggest you order a case or two of this fast – and even if you have yet to be charmed by the red grape of the Beaujolais region then this could well be the wine that ignites this. Morgon is one of the ten Crus of the Beaujolais and is situated pretty much in the heart of the region. The wines from here are a bit more muscular as a rule and this is more than a little indebted to the decomposing volcanic soil known as Roche Pourrie (rotten rock) which assist in feeding the vines’ roots with minerals. There are several Lieux Dits (single vineyards) in Morgon, the two most prestigious being Côte de Py and Les Charmes, the latter being the most elevated. Domaine de Laithevalle own 10 hectares of vines on this hallowed ground aged between 35 and 60 years old and on mainly south east facing slopes – the perfect terroir. In the winery the grapes are fermented in concrete vats using natural yeasts then aged for 6 months before bottling and what you get in the glass is just gorgeous. An opulent aroma of black cherry, a touch of blackcurrant and star anise. On the palate there so much concentrated fruit, nicely ripe tannins with good structure and balance. There’s good ageing potential here and well worth squirreling away a of bottle or two at this price. Great with heartier autumn dishes like Coq-au-vin, Beef Bourguignon and well, anything else you’ll expect to find in a French Auberge. Don’t forget your red and white checked tablecloth. This is such a lovely wine and I have no idea why its going so cheap. But I’m not complaining…

2019 Parajes de Bierzo, Cesar Marquez, Bierzo, Spain – £19.75

Another beautiful wine made from the Mencia grape (and a little Garnacha) in what is becoming Spain’s most exciting wine region. Cesar Marquez is a young man in his late 20s but has the Bierzo region in his blood as he is the nephew of wine of the region’s pioneers Raul Perez who produces some of Bierzo’s most sought after wines. It seems that Cesar is keen to follow in his uncle’s footsteps as he is producing a number of cuvées that are a must buy for the growing fans of this region. Parajes de Bierzo is produced using a selection of grapes from some of Bierzos finest villages (Parajes translates as villages or places) so soils and altitudes vary, however some of the fruit comes from bush vines that are over 100 years old. The blend is 85% Mencia, 7% Alicante Bouschet and the remaining 8% indigenous white varieties. All grapes are hand harvested and each plot is vinified separately in open barrels of 225-300 litres. After one year in oak barrels (not new oak) the plots are blended without fining nor filtration. This wine is starting to open up splendidly. I was decanting a bottle for a tasting last week and as I poured it a lovely aroma of dark fruit filled the room. Being from the north of Spain there is a freshness and elegance here but good complexity too with layers of red and black fruit touches of liquorice.

Exciting Times For Northern Spain

I had planned to finish writing now but I feel compelled to say more about Bierzo and its wonderful wines. Over the past few months I have been discovering more about the region and there is something special happening there right now. Such is the realisation about the quality of wine coming from the area that villages (or Parajes) that produce the best wines are being added to the labels of wines produced there. There are also plans to elevate certain vineyards to a ‘Premier Cru’ like status if they can produce exceptional wines over the course of five years. If they can continue for another five years then a ‘Grand Cru’ classification will be awarded. If this system sounds familiar to you then you are correct, they are using Burgundy as a template.

Northeast Spain seems to be attracting some of Spain’s top winemaking talent to produce something special from the old vines and exceptional terroir. In a previous newsletter I have mentioned Alvaro Palacios’ project ‘Decendientes de J Palacios’ that produces the lovely Petalos and of course brother Rafael’s exceptional Godellos need no introduction to you.  However another of Spain’s superstar winemakers, Telmo Rodrgíuez, is making some very special reds from the Mencia grape in Valdeorras.  I remember tasting his single vineyard offering A Falcoeira “A Capilla” in February last year and couldn’t believe I wasn’t tasting Grand Cru Burgundy. It wasn’t long after that the world changed and this wine went to the back of my mind but I think this was the moment when I realised that this part of Spain was offering something quite exceptional when it came to red wine. And why am I telling you this? Well, this week a limited amount of Telmo’s wines came on to the market including 18 bottles of the very same 2016 A Falcoeira “A Capilla” (from a production of just 2,643 bottles). Needless to say I snapped them up and details of the wine are below.

2016 A Falcoeira “A Capilla”, Ladereiras DO XIL, Telmo Rodríguez, Valdeorras @ £49 per bottle

A blend of Mencia, Brancellao, Sousón and Garnacha from an ancient reclaimed vineyard pointed out to Telmo as the best place to grow vines in Valdeorras by the old winemakers in the region. The terraces of vines form an amphitheatre around the Bibei river which itself creates a cooler microclimate. The soils are granite and the elevation is between 400 – 600m. All vines are hand harvested in to small boxes and further selection is made at the winery. Fermentation happens naturally through native yeasts and the wine is aged for one year in foudres (large oak barrels). Falcoeira is probably the richest of Telmo’s Ladereiras single vineyard reds and I think it is this richness that captivated me 18 months ago. My notes also mention delicate, pretty fruit, intense spice and ripe (but not overpowering) tannins. I cannot wait to taste this wine again and almost danced a jig when the smart wooden cases were delivered on Friday. The wine scores highly with both Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Guia Peñín, Spain’s most prestigious wine reviewer.

So there are just 18 bottles of this available (probably 17 at the time of sending as I’m feeling thirsty) on a first come first serve basis.

Whilst reading about these winemakers travelling North and rediscovering old vineyards I am reminded of the story of Priorat when a similar thing happened in the late 1980s and early 90s. They say history doesn’t repeat itself but sometimes rhymes and what is happening in Northeast Spain really is the stuff of poetry.

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