Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
One of the unexpected joys of lockdown has been the explosion of online wine tasting.
As an old stick in the mud technophobe (I emanate an electromagnetic field that disrupt all forms of technology – spellchecker is particularly vulnerable to the effects of this field 🙄), I assumed both home working and online wine tasting would be an unmitigated disaster.
As it happened both have worked rather well (up to a point), although it is fair to say I enjoyed one more than the other – I think you can guess which one (my hate hate relationship with my work laptop continues unabated – with the little b#stard now increasingly taunting me with the blue wheel of death recently, after lulling me into a false sense of security by working for nigh on 6 months during lockdown).
Online tastings have kept the Mystere Wine Club going through lockdown (with Sauternes, Claret, Sherry, Loire Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone tastings and lots more stellar stuff in the pipeline). We have a fabulous Chateau Musar tasting next up.
Picture courtesy of Pip Denton
Also the people at Curado Bar in Cardiff have been absolutely brilliant in terms of online wine events spanning the vinous delights that Spain has to offer.
The level of participation has been really heartening for an old wino like me. Whilst I perhaps atill prefer the interaction of face to face tasting, one of the benefit of an online tasting is it is much easier to get the producer/an expert on the area to participate and I love getting info. straight for the horse’s mouth.
Out of all of these tasting, to date (many more to come during the remainder of the year), I think my favourite has been one that was led by Eric and Laura Burgess of Montilla Moriles Wines UK in conjuction with Curado Bar.
Whilst sherry and Montilla Moriles wines (the latter irritatingly oft confused with those of sherry region, with Montilla Moriles DO affectionately known as the “Other Place”) are made in pretty much the same way, through the use of a solera system, a key differentiating factor (bar from the obvious geograpical one, with Montilla 137 miles from Jerez) is the predominance within the Montilla Moriles DO of the Pedro Ximinez grape (as opposed to the Sherry Triangle where the palamino grape is king).
In Montilla Moriles, Pedro Ximinez is the grape used to make wines from bone dry finos to the super sweet PX wines, whereas in the Sherry Triangle the Pedro Ximinez grape (usually grown in the Montilla Moriles region and then transported to the Sherry Triangle) is only used to make the sweetest of sherry wines.
This use of Pedro Ximenez across the board from bone dry to super sweet styles of wine makes it (to my mind) one the the most versatile grapes (akin to riesling) out there.
Erik and Laura are great and very well respected advocates (when wine people in Montilla Moriles speak about them the affection is plain to see) of the relatively unknown (at least in the UK) Spanish wine region of Montilla Moriles (which sits South of the beautiful city of Córdoba), who ceaselessly bang the drum for the region and its wines.
They got me into the delights of MM wines, sending me a couple of samples to try, encouraging me to visit both Cordoba and Montilla and giving recommends whilst Mrs. SF and I were over there.
As a result it was rather nice to see Erik and Laura collaborating with one of my favourite watering holes in Cardiff, Curado Bar, to bring a sample of the delights of the Montilla Moriles DO to an eager Cardiff audience.
They put together a rather fine selection of the generous wines of the Montilla Moriles DO, which Curado Bar delivered and paired with a selection of nibbles
ranging from almonds to smoked sardines and pungent blue cheese.
One of the many commonalities between sherry and MM wines is their affinity with food. I defy anyone to come up with a dish that a sherry or MM wine won’t pair with.
Traditionally tricky to pair foods like asparagus or artichoke pose no problems for sherry and MM wines.
So to the wines (yes I know it has taken a while), which came in the now familar (to Curado Bar online tasting veterans) format of specimen bottles.
Always looks worryingly like the descent of a heathy person to a very dark (PX) place heath wise indeed I think.
Electrico fino en rama – Bodegas Toro Albala
First up was a wine from one of the few well known (in the UK) Montilla Moriles bodegas in the form of Toro Albala.
Electrico fino is named after the fact that the bodega itself is built in a converted power station in Aquilar de la Frontera.
There are 3 types of Electrico wine made by this bodegas (the Bombillo – comes in a light bulb bottle which is quite fun in a gimmicky way, the en rama – same as the Bombillo I believe bar from packaging – and the del Lagar), with the wine tasted on the night the Electrico en rama.
This is aged under flor (protective layer of yeast that lies atop the wine as it sits in the barrel) for about 5 years (the del Lagar longer at 10 years).
Very light colour in the glass,
with the nose giving off pleasing aromas of almond and citrus (lemon), with a touch of olive brine and iodine in the mix.
On the palate the same almond and citrus mix came through, with the citrus more grapefruit than lemon.
Nice wine, if a touch short on length (didn’t linger much on the palate), but I was surprised a bit it was an en rama wine as it lacked the added complexity and punch of the en ramas I have had.
The suggested food pairing here were the skin on almonds (worked), the manzanilla olives (again worked) and the herpac smoked sardine (didn’t work as it overpowered the fino – at least to my palate). Shellfish (plate of crevettes) would work well with this wine.
Price: £13.95 (75cl)
Fino Capataz – Bodegas Alvear
Next up was an old favourite from my trip to Montilla in the form of a fine aged fino from Bodegas Alvear.
Quite dark in colour for a fino, which is reflective of the 12+ years of ageing of this wine.
At that age the covering flor (yeast cells) gets very thin and oxygen is able to start to interact with the wine.
Huge contract in hue between it and the Electrico, notwithstanding both being finos.
On the nose it gave off rich vanilla and tobacco (pipe) aromas and a lovely butteriness. Really complex stuff.
On the palate, it was bone dry but gave off hazelnuts and butteriness. Good length to this wine, with the hazelnuts really lingering.
On the verge of an amontillado in character I thought.
Cracking wine and an absolute bargain – serious bang for your bucks with this wine.
In terms of the suggested pairings (olives, breadsticks and almonds) they all worked well, but to me this is a wine built for more substantial food.
A piece of hake in green sauce with asparagus or bacalao al pil pil perhaps.
Price: £12.95 (37.5cl).
Carlos VII Amontillado – Bodegas Alvear
First time trying this wine and boy have I been missing out.
Unlike the first two finos, as an amontillado (which means ” Of Montilla”) this wine has been subject to both biological and oxidative ageing processes with it ageing both under flor and then for a time without its protective veil.
Lovely dark golden almost bronzed colour,
it had a fabulous nose, with brown butter morphing into caramel and then cooked (in sugar and butter) apples.
On the palate it was bone dry with toasted hazelnuts and, as it sat in the mouth, buttered popcorn. Glorious stuff this.
Big hitter alcohol wise at 19°, but it bore this heavy ABV with remarkable poise.
On the food pairings, this worked a treat with the suggested aged manchego. I would pair it with Basque chicken, a meat based paella or even albóndigas.
The Córdoba delicacy of caracoles (in a spicy sauce)
would also work a treat I think.
Price: £15.95 (37.5cl)
Piedra Luengo Oloroso – Bodegas Robles
Bodegas Robles is a fully certified organic winery, which has really embraced the limited intervention mantra.
This was the first of the wines of the night which had been aged totally in the absence of any flor, so fully oxidative ageing.
I love a good oloroso, which I regard as the great deceiver.
The nose tricks your brain in expecting a sweetness of taste and you are temporarily bamboozled by the dryness your tend get on the palate.
Lovely polished walnut wood colour to this wine,
which was to my mind quite atypical of an oloroso.
On the nose, it was rather delicate, lacking much of the trademark sweetness of many olorosos, with aromas of burnt orange and apple juice and the more raisony notes sitting in the background.
On the palate it felt very light of touch for an oloroso, with an almost silky feel in the mouth. Very smooth, with grapiness to the fore, its ABV is quite low (at 16°) for an oloroso (usually 20° plus).
Very interesting wine this and one I will look out for in the future.
On the food pairing this was very good with the manchego. I would pair it with a meaty dish like pork or beef cheeks (use the oloroso in the cooking process if you are feeling flush).
Price: £15.95 (50cl).
Piedra Luengo PX – Bodegas Robles
On to the PX wines, which can be super sweet, black in colour and the consistency of engine oil.
This number from Bodegas Robles, was surprisingly light in colour, being quite amber and lacking the depth of colour of the Robles oloroso that preceded it.
It gave off aromas of manuka honey and tinned peaches – all very enticing.
On the palate it was not as sweet as I was expecting, with a decent amount of acidity and a spicy (cinnamon and vanilla) finish. A surprising PX, but a rather nice one I thought.
Pairing wise the saltiness of the perazola (an Asturias blue cheese) was the ying to the PX’s sweet yang.
The next day I pair this with Mrs SF’s burnt Basque cheesecake.
Worked a treat, have to say, with the old adage of the dessert needing to not be sweeter than the sweet wine serving me very well here.
Price: £14.95 (50cl)
Don PX Cosecha – Bodegas Toro Albala
Toro Albala’s PXs are world famous and can be aged for an eternity. The Toro Albali Don PX Convento Selection 1946 (still drinking beautiful it seems and with loads left in the tank) goes for serious money (got 100 points from Mr. Parker).
Here we were looking at a much, much, younger wine (the most recent bottling), with a significantly darker hue to it than the previous Robles PX. Real mahogany colour to this.
On the nose, it was liquid Christmas cake with bag loads of figginess, molasses and sweet spice.
On the palate, I got allspice, clove and traces of sandlewood as well as loads of fig roll. Lovely stuff.
Again the suggested pairing of a blue cheese (perazola) worked very well, as did Mrs. SF’s burnt Basque cheesecake.
Price: £14.95 (37.5cl).
Really enjoyable tasting with Laura and Erik (whose passion for the MM region, its people and its wines really shone through) and the people at Curado Bar which showcased the delights on offer from the PX grape and the Montilla Moriles wine region.
Some great wine and food pairings and all the above for a mere £20.
Tricky to pick a wine of the night as there were some really good wines on display, but on balance I would say my favourite was the Bodegas Alvear Carlos VII Amontillado – cracking wine with so much character.
Bravo to Ultracomida/Curado for stocking these wines, which are otherwise hardly known in the UK.
They are well worth trying if you haven’t had the pleasue to date. Curado even has a MM fino on draft (very nice it is too).
All the wines are available from Curado Bar/Ultracomida – in the bars or online:
Even though Curado Bar is now open to visit (planning visit sooner rather than later) the virtual tastings are going to continue for a while.
The list of forthcoming tastings are as follows:
Tickets are available to purchase on the Ultracomida website or to purchase in store (I think) a few weeks before each tasting.
In the interim, best thing to do is visit the now open Curado Bar and take advantage of their excellent booze and food offering (including until the end of August the Eat Out to Help Out initiative).
Why not try an MM wine whilst you are there 😁.