Sunday, 26 April 2009

TasteLive Español (#ttl) from Battersea

Ok, I’m the slow one. I tweet on Twitter (@UltimateWines) and blog here but I don’t do it “on the road”. So, although I attended TasteLive Español (#ttl) Friday night, I wasn’t tweeting my comments in real time (though thanks go to @Ricard67 who was kind enough to immortalize a few of my pithier remarks via his own posts).

Getting set up for Spanish #ttl in London on Twitpic
Getting set up for the tasting © Robert McIntosh 2009

TasteLive is a global phenomenon, driven by some of the wine lovers who regularly post on Twitter. Our Friday night tasting was an opportunity to taste some excellent Spanish wines and to tell the world about them in real time. The goal of the event is to have people tasting the same wines at the same time in different locations and for them to comment on the wines online as they taste. This event was organized by Catavino in Spain and by Robert McIntosh in the UK. There were at least 3 tasting venues (Barcelona and Madrid in Spain), London (specifically Battersea) in the UK, with a few other locations chiming in from time to time.

London Spanish #ttl headquarters on Twitpic
London Spanish HQ © Robert McIntosh 2009

Rogues Gallery of tasters - Robert, Denise, Ricard, Tim & me (I'm too shy to be photoed) © each of the rogues 2009

The London group gathered in the home of @Ricard67 in Battersea (he made it clear it was NOT Clapham Junction, NOT Wandsworth). We were fortunate with the weather on Friday so we were able to conduct our tasting in the garden. Clustered around a picnic table [video courtesy of Robert], surrounded by electric cables to power up all the hardware, were Robert McIntosh (@thirstforwine), Denise Medrano (@thewinesleuth), Tim Dickinson (@timinator), Ricard (@Ricard67) and me (@UltimateWines). Rob, Denise and Ricard all had their computers booted up and online; Tim was wearing out the buttons on his BlackBerry and I was … drinking! To be fair, I was making tasting notes, too, but the others were able to post theirs instantly.

We in London were all ready to go for an 1800 start (1900 in Spain), but some technical hitches, and perhaps some Iberian “mañana time”, kept the Spanish locations just a bit behind. In London we used the delay wisely by filling our glasses (and our noses and palates) with the first wine (Gramona 2004 Imperial Gran Reserva Cava – a blend of 50% Xarel•lo, 40% Macabeo and 10% Chardonnay with 12% alcohol) and noshing on the lovely grilled chorizo and parsnip chips that Ricard provided. Tim enjoyed being a relative wine novice because, as he said, there was no pressure on him. Eventually, we got the nod from Catavino in Barcelona and we were off … . [here’s a photo, courtesy of Denise, of Ricard and me, just starting out.]

Gramona was participating in the tasting live in Barcelona and was kind enough to post a YouTube link to a video about their winery. In fact, all but one of the wineries involved were posting live during the tasting. But the London tasters were frustrated by all the techie-talk and delays in Spain with a paucity of tasting notes. So we just did our own thing.

Despite its relatively grand name, the Gramona Imperial Gran Reserva is only a mid-range cava made by this producer, based near Barcelona. All of the cavas made by Gramona are among the longest aged in Spain (a minimum of 18 months for their basic cava and 3-4 years for the Imperial) so the nose was nice and leesy/yeasty with a bit of citrus and coconut. On the palate it had a soft, creamy mousse, tart acidity, and pleasant ripe white fruit flavours, though it was a bit short on the finish. This isn’t really a cava to write home to mother about but it’s tasty, refreshing and was the perfect start for our evening.

Having started to taste before the Spanish locations, we in London pushed hard to move on to the next wine. Eventually, we received permission (hooray!) and moved on to a real treat, the Pazo de Señorans 2007 Albariño from Rias Baixas in northwest Spain. Albariño is probably the top white grape of Spain and it really showed its true colours in this wine. My first thought was that the nose was orgasmic! – intense ripe peaches, slightly creamy, and a bit of spice. The palate showed rich fruit (a true taste of summer) - peaches and bananas, crisp acidity, with a smooth mouthfeel but, as Ricard said “without the unctuousness of Viognier”, and attractive minerality. This was definitely a hit with all the tasters.

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Denise and the Sauló © Denise Medrano 2009

We were really getting into our stride now and the wines (and tasting notes) were coming more swiftly. Our third wine (and first red) was the Espelt 2007 Sauló (14% alcohol) from the Empordà region in the northern part of Catalonia just south of the Pyrennes (the land of Salvador Dali). This is a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena (a grape variety that gets trashed in Jancis Robinson’s “Oxford Companion to Wine” which says “Its wine is high in everything—acidity, tannins, colour, bitterness—but finesse and charm”, though with the acknowledgement that “the most carefully farmed old vines on well-placed, low-yielding sites can produce Carignan with real character.”). Here’s hoping that the Cariñena in this wine is of the latter variety! Well, as you can see from Denise’s tasting note (below), initial signs weren’t hopeful (“freshly peeled bark of a sugar maple with squirrel carcasses in knotholes”!!). My own notes said “a bit vegetal, woody and shy”. I wasn’t really put off by the nose but it didn’t make me want to dive into the glass. However, the palate was much more promising – zippy acidity with black cherry and plum fruit and mild spices, some leather and grippy but ripe tannins. This is a summer red that can be served slightly chilled and doesn’t finish “hot”, despite the 14% alcohol.

"Coleccion Vivanco" in quite an unusual squat bottle

Our last wine (before adjourning to dinner) was the Dinastía Vivanco 2005 “Coleccion Vivanco” Rioja “4 Varietales”(14.5% alcohol). This is a blend of 4 grapes – 70% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano, 10% Garnacha and 5% Mazuelo. Robert explained that each of the varieties is vinified separately, with malolactic fermentation and maturation for 24 months taking place in new French oak barrels, then the winemaker blends the varieties together. In the glass the wine is a inky blackberry colour, almost black. The nose is exceptional – a spicy, sexy range of black fruits with a backbone of minerality, some vanilla from the oak, a bit of licorice and cinnamon. All of this carried onto the palate. Despite the 14.5% alcohol, the result was controlled and elegant with blackberries, Bing cherries and Damsons dominating, some new leather, silky smooth tannins and a LONG jammy finish. Quite impressive! The wine was even better an hour or so after the bottle had been opened when the different flavours had more time to open up and integrate.

Now it was time for dinner (we adjourned to the house as the temperature was dropping in the garden). Ricard prepared a lovely spread with pa amb tomàquet (an amazing whole grain bread toasted and rubbed with fresh tomato), white anchovy and hearts of artichoke salad, cold hickory and muscovado sugar-smoked salmon, and a cheese plate that included manchego, Picos de Europa, and Lincolnshire Poacher. Tim's tweet about the salmon probably summed up our reaction to it "That smoked salmon was the 3rd best thing I've ever put in my mouth. #Norwegiansalmonporn " - from Northcote Fisheries in Battersea. None of us wanted to ask what things #1 and #2 were - LOL!

Northcote Fisheries in Battersea © The Local Data Company

I supplied an Ondarre 1995 Rioja Gran Reserva “Ursa Maior” (12.5% alcohol) to go with dinner. The wine was perfectly aged and was drinking beautifully. Its nose was of leather, forest mushrooms and hints of balsamic vinegar yet with fresh ripe red fruits supporting all of this. Despite its age, the fruit was still vibrant and juicy. All of this was present on the palate with velvety tannins and a structure, complexity and elegance that left all the tasters fighting over the bottle.

Finally, Ricard raided his cellar and produced a Bodegas Vizcarra 2005 "Torralvo" Ribera del Duero (14.5%). Quite a contrast to the Ondarre because this wine was still a baby, yet was much more assertive. A vivid purple in the glass, the nose was still quite shy with some saddle leather and chocolate-covered cherries. Tim, for reasons known ONLY to himself, said “it smells faintly of Bulgaria”! There were grippy but ripe tannins on the palate (to be expected in a wine so young) with jammy plums and damson fruit, espresso, cocoa and cloves. Quite a nice end to our evening. [oh, and deserving a mention were the hazelnut chocolate truffles that appeared as we were winding down.]


Denise provided some of the funniest and best tasting notes on the night. Here is some of her best work –
About the Gramona cava –
• #ttl I've got big bubbles, coconuts on the nose
• #ttl don't think i should eating chorizo with this
About the Albariño –
• #ttl this albarino is amazing peachy nose, @ulitmatewines is making obscene noises and doing the cabbage patch
• #ttl lovely green flecks, this is like ripe peaches that have just fallen off the tree, a stunning albarino!
About the Saulo – photo
• #ttl bit vegetal, we think it's like freshly peeled bark of a sugar maple with squirrel carcasses in knotholes
• @Timinator LOL , no squirrels were harmed in these tweets! #ttl
• #ttl tasting much better then it smells, great spice and black cherry, chocolatey, fab tannins!
About the Vivanco –
• #ttl 4 different aromatic varietals coming together, fresh black fruits and lovely spice, just want to suck this up my nose!
• #ttl full and intense, great black &orange chocolate in there with black cherries, smooth and silky, round smooth tannins
And about the Ondarre 1995 Rioja Gran Reserva “Ursa Maior” with dinner –
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Ondarre 1995 Rioja Gran Reserva "Ursa Maior" © Denise Medrano 2009
• muscovado smoked salmon with a delicate 95 gran reserva rioja is a match made in heaven!!#ttl


Robert McIntosh said...

wonderful wrap-up. I remember it all now that you mention it, but would have been hard-pressed to remember the evening in such detail myself.

Thanks so much for this, and for coming along and helping to make it a most entertaining evening.

More soon!

UltimateWines said...

Thanks for that, Robert. It was a really fun evening. I'm really glad that I trucked all the way to Battersea to enjoy it. And to meet more wine twitterers, too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rob, great write up! And you remembered everything! If I hadn't had my camcorder (and twitter), the evening would have been but an alcoholic haze. Thanks for jogging my memory!

UltimateWines said...

Thanks for the kind words, Denise. It was lots of fun. NOT tweeting at the same time allowed me to sit back and take it all in. Maybe these events need a "designated non-tweeter" to absorb the occasion.

Anonymous said...

Excellent!! Hilarious and very accurate. A great read. Great tasting notes.

But it looks like I need to clarify AGAIN. Battersea is IN Wandsworth. Battersea is SW11, which is in the London Borough of Wandsworth, as is, in fact, Clapham Junction. Clapham Junction is NOT in Clapham, but is in Battersea, which is in Wandsworth. Clapham is an entirely different neighbourhood, and postcode (SW4) and is in the London Borough of Lambeth. Half of Clapham Common (the west half) is geographically in the Borough of Wandsworth, but through some mysterious arrangement is Lambeth's responsibility. Thankfully, the whole of Wandsworth Common is in Wandsworth. It sounds complicated, but there is only one culprit here, and that's Clapham Junction, which "infects" Battersea with a name that confuses EVERYONE. Very unhelpful. But I will never give up fighting for truth and clarity!!

Thanks for your company on Friday night, and for this great and detailed summary of the evening.

UltimateWines said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Ricard.

Sorry I'm a bit geographically challenged. It's just too complicated. And I didn't try to re-create the pronounciation, a la Hyacinth Bucket, of Battersea (Ba-TER-sea-ah). Too funny.