Conde Valdemar Rioja Rosé 2018

Rosé is just right for these hot summer days. Here’s another one, this time a blend of garnacha (aka grenache) (70%) and viura (a white wine grape commonly known as macabeo outside of Rioja) (30%). This rosé is an easy to appreciate with a full bodied and dry expression of strawberries, some refreshing acidity and no oak. An on trend salmon pink in colour. Ready to drink now. Rating: Acceptable to Good. Abv: 12.5%. Price: $16. Website: Reviewed: December 2019.

Finca el Encinal Ribera del Duero Roble 2016

First post for the new year!  I’ve been tasting a battery of different styles in preparation for the Master of Wine exams, and will now up the posting.  This is a sound tempranillo from producer Bodegas Valparaiso and the Ribera del Duero appellation.  Deeply coloured in the glass, its aroma is restrained and savoury, reminding of cedar and spice.  The palate is full bodied with ripe fruit, tannins and chocolatey overtones and some heat through it.  Overall, this is a good value Ribera del Duero that is typical in its style.  Rating: Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $20+. Website:

Viñedos Real Rubio Crianza Rioja 2010

There’s a lot of value to be had in red Rioja. This Rioja crianza is 8 years old and an 80/20 blend of tempranillo and graciano. It saw 18 months in barrel and is from an organic vineyard. In the glass, there are aromas of game, cedar, leather, spice and red fruits. The tannins are softening, the length is good, and this wine is entering its best drinking window. A lot for $30. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $30.50. Source: Sample. Read more:

Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2013

A second Spanish wine review, also from the same producer. I wasn’t initially entirely taken by this wine – a Rioja Reserva. That said, drinking it now a couple of days after opening, I am enjoying it. For this reason, I would suggest a long decant. It has a caramel and cedar driven nose, with a mid range intensity of colour. On day 2, it is more spicy. The palate is between medium and full bodied with sour cherries and a dark chocolate overtone. Pleasant drinking. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%. Price: $30.

Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Rueda 2016

This wine is from Rueda in Spain, and the grape variety is verdejo. Not verdelho, which for the English speaker, is close enough to be confusing. In the glass, this is a lovely wine, with saline aromatics that remind of florals and stones. The palate is fuller bodied with soft but still fresh acidity, and that mineral, saline note carrying through. Enjoyable current drinking at only $15. Rating: Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $15.

Pazo Barrantes Rias Baixas Albariño 2016

This is an enjoyable albariño from Pazo Barrantes in Rias Baixas. Neither the name of this appellation (Rias Baixas) nor even the grape variety are particularly accessible to the English speaker, but the wine style is fresh, saline and worth seeking out. Yellow gold in the glass, the 2016 vintage has aromas of minerals, stones sea salt and some florals. It sits between medium and full bodied on the palate, with high acid, mid range length on the finish and no discernible oak. Refreshing drinking. Rating: Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: <$20.

D Ventura Vina do Burato Ribeira Sacra 2012

A by the glass purchase.  Since my encounter with this Palacios wine from Bierzo (see here), I have taken the charms of mencia more seriously.  Ribeira Sacra is its own appellation and specialises in reds, and mencia in particular.  Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra are neighbouring regions in Galicia in the wet north western part of Spain.  The “Vina do Burato” is D Ventura’s entry level wine, but it is still tasty.  Aromas of red berries and earth.  Good length on the palate in a balanced, medium bodied style with chirpy acidity.  Enjoyable drinking.   (Region: Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain, Rating: Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? Yes, Drink: now, Tasted: July, 2017)

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Other vintages reviewed:

Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2013

You can’t tell I’ve started tasting (for MW studies) from some lesser known (in Australia) regions can you?  First, a Stellenbosch pinotage (reviewed here), now a garnacha from Campo de Borja in Aragon (inland, behind Catalonia).  This wine is a 100% garnacha (grenache) and is not of shy bearing.  Purple in the glass, with a deep intensity and obvious tears, it has aromatics of cherry, leaf, pepper and cedar.  The palate is dry with low acidity and is a full bodied, intense version of grenache with flavours reminding of prunes, mulberries and liqueur.  This is a good wine if “full on”, and stylistically reminds of a full throttle Barossa shiraz.  (Alc: 15%, Region: Camp de Borja, Aragon, Spain, Rating: Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? It has its place, Drink: now to 2025, Tasted: June, 2017)

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Other vintages reviewed:

An outstanding Spanish wine tasting – part 2 (Ribera del Duero)

Ribera del Duero is perhaps best known for being the home of Vega Sicilia, Spain’s first growth equivalent.  South of Rioja, and on the river Duero, it has for a couple of decades challenged Rioja as Spain’s leading red wine producing region.  It sits between 700 to 850 metres above sea level, with a short growing season and very hot summers.  In my experience, the wines of Ribera del Duero tend to be bigger and darker than Rioja wines.  In this particular tasting however, only Rioja wines from great vintages were presented (for my notes on the Rioja component see here), and so the Ribera were more difficult to tell apart (tasted blind, that is).  Ribera reds are predominantly tempranillo, called tinto fino in these parts.

To follow are notes on three benchmark wines from the region.

Vega Sicilia Tinto Valbeuna 5o Ribera del Duero 2001
Vega Sicilia’s “Valbeuna” is a 5 year old vintage dated wine aged in American oak, and is a blend of tempranillo and merlot.  It presented with aromatics of earth, tobacco, licorice, meats and soy, and an evident complexity.  The palate is full bodied with long length, and has reminders of coffee and lactic characters.  (Tasted blind) it finishes with that first growth style exquisite balance; you know it when taste it.  Rating: Outstanding

Alion Ribera del Duero 2001
You might think of “Alion” as the cousin of Vega Sicilia, but equally well to do.  In 1991, Bodegas Vega Sicilia acquired the nearby Liceo winery and created the Alion wine, which unlike the Valbeuna is 100% tempranillo and aged in French oak.  This wine also presented deliciously, but has a different expression – more primary and structured than the Valbeuna, but no less complex.  It has aromas of blackberry, licorice, stones and cedar and a crunchy character to it.  The palate is earthy with good length, acidity and a structural well being that suggests a long life ahead.  Joyous drinking.  Rating: Outstanding

Hacienda Monasterio Reserva Ribera del Duero 2009
This wine has a story too.  From what I read, Pingus in Ribera del Duero was established in 1995 by Peter Sisseck as a garagiste cult style operation, with a focus on old vine tempranillo.   Hacienda Monasterio was founded earlier in 2001 and has a Pingus connection with Peter Sisseck as its winemaker.  The Reserva is a blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon.  The 2009 vintage sits at a heady 15%, and has intense aromatics of licorice, earth, raisins, clove and pepper.  The palate is savoury, with an earthy structure and good length.  This is a powerful wine that may worry some, but equally, it seems a valid and correct expression of its terroir.  Rating: Very Good

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Descendientes de J Palacios Las Lamas Corullón Bierzo 2009

I haven’t been entirely convinced by the mencia wines of Bierzo in north western Spain, thinking them neither one thing nor another.  This wine promptly puts an end to that sort of thinking; it is resolutely stunning.  From a 0.54 hectare vineyard consisting of 60 to 100 year old vines, it has aromas of blackberry, well integrated cedar, violets and florals.  The palate is earthy with wonderful length and structure.  An emphatic yes from me.  Rating: Outstanding