’The Gastriad’ (my V3 notes)

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    ’The Gastriad’ (my V3 notes)

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    THE GASTRIAD (60+ TNs)

    This is “The Gastriad,” a chronicle of a sleepless weekend in Valencia, full of glasses and long pours…generally from the hands of the winemakers themselves!
    It was a brutal joy to hear Josep Lluis Pérez (the father of modern Priorat, and of Sara Pérez ;^)) defending traditional varieties, the sherry table was full of big names, the Tempranillo round table was an unprecedented luxury in this country: Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, Agustín Santolaya (of Roda), Chus Madrazo (of Contino), Mª José López de Heredia (of LdH-Viña Tondonia), and Juan Carlos López de la Calle (of Artadi). Considering that Telmo Rodríguez was there too—accepting the prize for wine personality of the year—there was a bunch of Riojans in that room like I’d never seen before in my life.
    Friday evening was SHERRY and Montilla, followed by dinner and “sobaquillo” (‘bring your own bottles’ party). Saturday morning brutal breakfast, two lectures, tasting, three-course lunch and siesta (which we used to go out and buy wine from Valencia wineshops). Saturday evening was Rioja roundtable and tasting, followed by closing dinner and galactic sobaquillo. Survivors had an excellent Sunday lunch at the Albufera with local rice dishes and more BYO. After that we returned by train via Madrid on Sunday evening, carrying back some precious buys.
    These are the sketchy TNs almost alphabetically; many of the wines not yet out there, a few still in barrel, hence the tentativeness of some of the scores and the abundance of ‘+’s. Most TNs come from Riedel Wine Riesling/Chianti stems (488/15, methinks):

    AALTO PS 2000
    Poured by Javier Zaccagnini. The wine is intensely purplish in color and my usual Aalto descriptor of ‘blue-ish’ fruit applies here too. Sweetish nose of black berries and ink, superb body and balance, with pleasantly integrated French oak notes and admirable persistence. In the (though very modern) Riojan context it was tried it struck me –naturally—as ‘different’ but the quality is evident. My first PS did not disappoint me (I own a bottle of the 99 but I’m keeping it for a duel against the 00 to be provided by Choche and MA). 92+

    Agustí Torelló Rosé
    Not being fond of Rosé Cava, I had this as a palate cleanser in between Priorats and was pleasantly surprised. 83-84

    Agustí Torelló Barrica
    By far one of the most reliable producers in Spain (not just in regularity, he also prints disgorgement dates) Torelló the man was behind the table and poured this barrel-fermented version for us. We also had opportunity to retry it at one of the meals (Saturday lunch, methinks). Decidedly fuller-bodied than the average cava, this is an apt match for heavier dishes (turbot comes to mind). With fresh apple notes in the nose, the oak/body is noticeable but not obtrusive. 87+

    Altos de Lanzaga 2001
    Wow, this was a surprise, though not because I expect less than the best from Telmo’s top wines. I had tried the regular Lanzaga and it was a good Crianza-styled modern Rioja. This is something far more serious: openly modern-Riojan but also showing off the spicy warmth in an otherwise fruit-forward style. Structured and long. A wine to keep an eye on. 91++

    Alvear PX Reserva 1998
    If you have followed my praise for the 1998 PX of Alvear’s young vintage sticky (the one that got 95 Parker points for the 2000 vintage) you’ll now see what I meant. They made a Reserva version from the 98 and here it is now. A vintage PX from Montilla that’s ridiculously sweet, superbly balanced, extremely unctuous and long, retailing for about $20 (about to hit the shelves in weeks). 91-93

    Amontillado Viejísimo Hidalgo
    Poured by Javier Hidalgo. Much as I like the PX sweetness I must take off my hat to this beauty. Very dry in a way that’s just short of admirable-but-at-a-distance, extremely complex, so nutty, so deep, soooo long. It was a real privilege to be able to retaste this wine. For a moment I wondered who all those noisy people were, I wanted to be left alone with this wine.

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    Ánima Negra 2001
    Poured by Miquel Ángel. Callet and C-S. It has all the tarry, mineral character of previous vintages, but—much like the 2000—the fruit is better-focused, more forward, and overall plusher in the mouth even at this early stage, with a flowery touch now usually found only in modern Rioja and Bierzo. Awfully original like no other Spanish wine, the 2000 is more polished now but this is another promising vintage for these guys in the Balearic island of Mallorca. 90-91

    Ánima Negra Fogoneu 2003 (*) Barrel sample at 3m
    Wow, they don’t even know whether to release a varietal Fogoneu bottling or not. If you ask me…DO IT (at a reasonable price, please!). This is truly a remarkable wine after only three months in barrel. It could become a real object of desire in a few years (due not only to rarity but out of sheer quality). It has much of the soil quality of the AN with that old-style unfocused fruit. 90+ (?)

    Artadi Grandes Añadas 1998
    You should have seen my face when I realised that the vintage was not 2001 but a totally unexpected and far more accessible 1998! This was even an unfair contender, and a great marketing decision on the part of Artadi. As Cirsion 2001 was elected Wine of the Year they refused to play the 2001 game and brought a maturing 1998. Well, let me tell you something… Thank You! Boy was this gorgeous! Very fine mineral nose, excellent fruit of perfect ripeness with just enough oak to be perceived as needing 2-4 years before climaxing out of the charts. Superb integration already for my infanticidal taste, and extraordinary length. 94-96

    Barbadillo Saca de Invierno
    I liked the Spring saca much better, to tell the truth. This was as good and typically fresher than most, but it was not the venue to discern nuances in younger sherry. 86

    Barbadillo Amontillado Príncipe
    Very impressive and amazing QPR. Awfuly deep nose with nutty character and good solera notes of very old wine, great complexity and good round palate. An excellent middle-aged palate that I can swallow comfortably. 88-89 (+)

    Barbadillo PX La Cilla
    A middle weight that’s considerably fresher than most PX in the thicker style, this was very pleasant and—while not unforgettable—certainly a great QPR candidate to consider for future buys. 87

    Barón de Chirel 1999
    This was totally out of place among the Mediterranean bunch (Saturday morning) and the austerity of the style was doubly penalized here: the oak was far too present and its integration is expected no sooner than 2007+. True, it becomes a really interesting Rioja with some age, but right now I didn’t know what to do with it. 88-90

    Böllinger Grande Année 1996
    One of our contributions to the Saturday night sobaquillo. Since my friends kindly allowed me to do the (consensuated) picking, I opted for truly bold wines that could impress our palates even after such a glorious Saturday, so the wines we contributed were real gems in raw state: this was amazing and exactly the sort of thing that could wake you up with just a sip. Oddly enough it was immensely pleasurable already; I mean we didn’t write “Enormous promise” but rather a semi proper note. Of course, give this 6 years and then ask me to try it again… Very powerful nose of raw champagne, with apple, flower petals, berry, and dough, and a still slightly disjointed palate, upfront carbonic, and a very long finish. This is the sort of stuff you’d decant if home alone. Drunk from Spiegelau Authentis Bordeaux glass (which somehow makes for interestingly long pours…) 93+++

    Möet Brut Vintage 1998
    The 1998 vintage was being officially presented at the event, so house reps were present and took every care to ensure proper service. Raw blanc de blancs nose with everything there but a certain lack of finesse. May reasonably improve with bottle age. We sampled this at the tasting and enjoyed full glasses to open Saturday dinner. Nowhere near poor, but the company was truly galactic and the Möets resented it. 87-88


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    Cillar de Silos Crianza 1999
    Yep, we were crazy enough to have this at the train cafeteria on our way to Valencia on Friday afternoon. We produced our own stemware and MariaAngeles (aka ‘Packet’) opened a mystery bag with this bottle and three superb baguettes with Ibérico ham.
    The wine is a good midprice Ribera crianza now more mature than I’d want for a standing-room-only situation on a train, but the polished palate matched beautifully the Ibérico character. 85-86

    Cims de Porrera 2000
    At the Cims table there was a guy whose face resembled the Pérez family beyond any possible coincidence. Most likely a son of José Luis. Cims de Porrera now has merely 50% of Cariñena in the blend, but it still shows well above the rest of the coupage (most likely a good injection of Bordelais blend for structure?). The 2000 Cims was going through a very shyish moment, sort of clumsy, with good Cariñena character, mineral and sweetish, but I’m sure this underperformed. 90

    Cims de Porrera 2001
    This one was a totally different story. Much better focused fruit, sweetish leathery nose of Cariñena touched with mineral and balsamic warmth, smoky French oak, equally robust palate, and longer finish. 92+

    Cirsion 2001 Magnum
    Undoubtedly one of the superstars of the event, I must confess I had my doubts as to the availability of this wine. I was humbled to silence at the sight of no less than six magnums and no shy pours. Relatively closed at the beginning, with impressive modern Rioja purity: flowery but highly mineral with graphite notes (pencil chewing). Excellent ripeness but not overdone at all. After an hour (I managed to put a glass away) it was fuller in the palate, mouthcoating, very long with only slightly drying tannin incapable of ruining this glorious infanticide (the wine merely spends 8 months in oak). Wait 4-6 years for the truly galactic experience. 94++

    Clos Manyetes 2001
    Poured by René Barbier Jr, this was more open and attractive at this moment than the Mogador. So much so that I marked this for a future buy. “Black! Closed-toasty à la Mogador but far more approachable. Sweetish nose sooooo mineral and deep, very drinkable in the palate. Reminds me of the Clos Figueres 2001.” 93+

    Clos Mogador 2001
    Suffered comparatively. Impossibly closed (just opened and decanted, and going FAST). It’s easy nonetheless to perceive an amazing (hidden) fruit under the core of toasty and mineral complexity wanting integration very badly. For the long future or prolonged decanting. Even more so than the 2000 at this stage. 93+ as of now

    Clos Nelin 2002
    Mogador white. I loved several bottle of the 2001 consumed last summer after 4 hours of aeration. Poured from the bottle, all my TN says about the 2002 is “Aniseed”. Not a clue on what to rate this one.

    Contino El Olivo 2001
    Good heavens! This was another little Riojan beauty with such a gorgeous nose. The fact is that I had a bottle of the 99 in Xmas and though the nose was truly superb the palate was still pretty tough, so I feared the 2001 would be very much the same. Not at all. This was perfectly enjoyable in both nose and palate, with all the flowery nuances of modern Rioja against the backdrop of classical spiciness and excellent body. Smoky oak notes just add to the whole. It was by far the meanest pour I got in the entire weekend (though not from Chus himself, I must say) but it certainly left me wanting to try a full bottle. To begin with I’ll buy the 2001 Crianza while I wait for the release of the “El Olivo”. 92+

    Contino ‘Graciano’ 2000
    One of the very rare varietal Gracianos (and certainly the first, the label dating back to 1994, IIRC). The color is as purplish as any 2001 Tempranillo around, but the nose still needs to develop a good deal. Smoky oak and great body, with marginally drying finish; the palate is yet unformed, needing a good 3-4 years before the Graciano shows its stuff. Right now it’s perceived as a good Rioja but the distinctiveness will come with time.

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    Muscadet ...de S.et M. … sur lie Domaine de L’Ecu Expression de Gneiss 2002 (Bossard)
    Poured during Sunday lunch, this came after the champagnes and showed hermetic reticence in the nose. Good balance—fairly lean in the mouth with excellent acidity—in spite of the almost totally muted nose. By the time it opened there was a good hint of mineral potential but it was a pity to have it somewhat wasted in the event. I think I will wait before I open my Orthogneiss… 88?

    Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas 2001 Magnum
    This is one I ignored during the tasting (so affordable and such a must-buy that I didn’t want to bother my palate with another wine) but Mags turned up at Saturday lunch anyway. I gave it a tentative rating of 89 and no formal note due to the somewhat too high temperature of the dining room (and the impossibility of chilling the mags in the crowded ice bucket). Will certainly retry anyway.

    Dominio de Tares Bembibre 2002
    After the superb—if somewhat overtly toasty—Bembibre 2001, this producer’s “P3” was the object of desire and interest of most of the participants. Much as it stood up to the expectations (see note below) the real gem for me was surprisingly the 2002 vintage of Bembibre. So fine and elegant, exquisitely scented with flowery notes and mineral echoes, with such restrained though sweetish red berries, less toasty than the 2001…When I asked the owner whether this was one of those “weak vintage, strict selection, moderate oak” successes he merely “smiled the question away” but I wrote BUY next to this wine. 93+

    Dominio de Tares “P3” 2001
    Not an inch less impressive than expected, this was certainly thicker and more dramatic than the charming Bembibre 2002. Toastier it sure was, but superbly balanced, full bodied, almost chewy, with notes of Bierzo elegance (petals, wet earth and warm stone) but also other “more robust” connotations (milk chocolate). Very deep and long. Must retry in peace. 93+

    Dom Perignon 1993 Jeroboam
    Since Möet reps were present during the Saturday tasting, and since the Saturday was opened with bottles of the 1998 vintage Brut and Rosé, one of the original founders of Verema produced a Jeroboam of this. It was possibly undergoing a difficult moment between youth and maturity, but I didn’t enjoy this half as much as I had anticipated. A bottle of the 95 no long ago proved amazingly better—if too primary of course—and I assume this 1993 (especially in this format) had not yet reached the complexity and serenity of proper age. Anyway, we were most surprised and grateful for this rare treat. 91

    Don P. X. 1975
    As I’ve said before…grab all the 72s you can. This 75 is a pretty decent PX and a good QPR, but I was spoilt beyond remedy growing up under the spell of the magnificent 1972. This one’s fresher than most, with good acidity, but lacks the decadent unctuousness and sweetness of the 1972. 86-87

    Finca Dofí 2001
    Pretty accessible vs the tougher Mogador, this is another elegant Dofí to add to Palacios’s impressive streak of great vintages. Great warm, sweetish fruit (heavy with Garnacha) in the profound nose, with mineral hints all over, excellent weight in the mouth and superb persistence.
    Ever the Dofí hunter, I enjoyed this a great deal at the tasting (in the now customary 93/93+ rating that I seem to have carved for all the Dofís I’ve tried) and as we were leaving for lunch I asked the guy for a second pour so that I could carry a glass upstairs and enjoy it calmly with the meal. And so I did, at least until Raul swapped my glass for Idus de Vall Llach and even claimed that “the fruit is now more forward”. I could have killed him when he told me but he’s taller…and younger ;^)

    Idus 2001
    This is a new middle range bottling between Embruix and Vall-Llach. Solid effort around 90 points, somewhat rustic in its resemblance to Embruix, and somewhat disappointing for its price. 89-90

    Larmandier-Bernier (Vertus)
    This appeared at Sunday lunch and proved a fascinating—if austere—bott

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    López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva 1954
    Never too late to learn, I suppose! This is what I used to regard as a “Camblorada”! This was tried only thanks to different generosities simultaneously at play. Suffice to say that during Saturday lunch MaJesus brought me to her table and got me a good-sized pour of some mysterious liquid eventually identified as older than my parents. This was eye-opening to say the least. It boasted an amazing nose of leathery, marmalady fruit that seemed nowhere near the point of decay; rather on the contrary we agreed that the acidity would be better integrated in a few years! Merely 12% and with decent medium body, it showed complexity in spades and a long satisfying finish. 91+ and what a surprise… (in fact merely the first of many, for that same night the whites of Viña Tondonia would follow with even more dramatic results).

    López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva 1981
    I got a pour from María José López de Heredia in the small tasting glass I found available (this was Saturday evening and all the big Riojas were around, so it became impossible to steal another 488/15 stem after just three minutes). Even in such small glass the nose was truly captivating. The color alone is an impressive young-looking yellow, only showing a hint of those 20+ years at the rim. A five-year-old conventional release of albariño usually looks older than this. The nose is excellent with buttery-waxy notes of white fruit and loads of complexity, the lively acidity is of a citrusy sort (a tad too obviously lemony, perhaps), and the mouth is firmly dry. Quite a revelation. 91++

    Three weeks later I’ve already bought the Blanco Reserva 1985 (for 5,10€ !) and the Blanco Reserva 1987 (for 12€). The white Gran Reservas are available but only from the producer, I think.

    López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva 1964
    This one I didn’t even ask for (such was the success of Mª Josés wines that I feared I’d have to queue for ever while she opened another fragile-looking bottle of the 64, which seemed to be too many of the attendants’ birthyear). But ever-helpful-and-generous Thurston and MaJesús came to my rescue, so I nosed Thurston’s glass and tasted MaJesús’s. Not a very academic procedure, perhaps, but equally satisfying: the 64 looks only marginally older than the 81, with very much the same acidity (yet transmitting a similar overall warmth that’s hard to explain, as the wine is only 12%) and liveliness. I guess at a certain moment there’s little complexity that an extra 17 years can impart and that one could appreciate… with a blue nose… in a small glass. 91+ too for lack of reference, but certainly ignoring the merits of ageing so darned fine!

    Marboré 2001
    I received Marboré 99 very enthusiastically as excellent news and rated it somewhere around 91 in its day. The wine is delicious, modern, and impeccably made. But I find it totally soulless. Since then I’ve always punished it with an 89. Maybe it’s me who’s wrong, but among the Veremeros there’s quite a following for this wine that I cannot share. And while the QPR is excellent at 18€ I still think they give points for value. Anyway I’ll give it another try. The 2001 made exactly the same impression on me as the 2000 had made a year ago: “Pretty solid effort, very drinkable already and a good food partner (somewhat too tamed already?), true-to-type but wanting distinction”…89

    Mas d’en Compte Tinto 2000
    This is one of my blurriest recollections from Saturday night sobaquillo. Good Priorat (and apparently not yet priced as such) with excellent fruit and soil expression. Possibly not dramatic enough for such a late hour (maybe 4 am) after such a blockbuster day. Retrying can do no harm. Around 89-90.

    Mauro 2001
    On Saturday evening there was only one table offering Riberas and I then realised (how lucid for Saturday evening!) that this was all the Ribera we had tried since the train. In fact Javier Zaccagnini was pouring Aalto and Maur

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    Mauro Vendimia Seleccionada 1998
    All right. Six hours later we were standing in the Negresco with Spiegelau Authentis Bordeaux stems and salivating over the mere concept of having finally laid our hands on a bottle of this (darned RP rated it 94 or 95 and it simply disappeared overnight). This was one of our contributions to the sobaquillo and to me it certainly proved the stellar red of the night, a worthy contender among the star of the event. Textbook Vendimia Seleccionada nose (yeah, well, nobody ever tried to get away with such a vague descriptor and succeeded, but I mean it), that is a Mauro on steroids but nowhere near overdone: just the cherry, ink, wet earth, smoky oak, and lead pencil…boosted to the ^3 in perfect balance, even elegance. What a treat, what a mouthful, what a whoppingly looong finish. 93++ and on par with ANY wine tried that glorious weekend.

    Mira 2001
    We had just tried the 2000 (the one that’s 15,5% alcohol) and found it intensely plummy with monstrous body that became enjoyable only after 18 hours of air. The 2001 came as a sample that Choche brought to our table from God-knows-where. The alcohol is a mere 13,5% and the whole thing seems much more approachable though still unformed. Tentatively 89.

    Molino Real 2001
    While not on par (perhaps simply “not yet”) with the superb 2000 we had just retried the week before, this was such a pleasant surprise at Saturday lunch dessert time! It’s rare enough and far from cheap (30€ for a 50cl). The 2000 is the best European-styled dessert wine in Spain, period. Much as I like Chivite’s Moscatel Vendimia Tardía Colección 125, this Molino Real is another gem coming from Telmo Rodríguez, this time from the Axarquía in Málaga. The 2001 is delicately pale (though barrel fermented with a short period in new French oak) and it sports excellent acidity as well as sweet mouthcoating unctuousness. Exquisitely perfumed with telltale Muscat nose of orange blossom, grapeskin, and musk, this wine always gives complex mineral notes from the slate hills in the mountains where the vines are grown. Available only in 50 cl bottles, this is a wine to dream of by the magnum. When a second bottle hit our table…heaven. 91++

    Osborne PX 1827
    Excellent QPR for this medium weight that’s appropriately raisiny and dense without stepping decidedly in the constellation of the great. Good toffee notes and excellent persistence in this convincing example. 88

    Pegaso Barrancos de Pizarra 1999
    Again another heavily mineral wine from Telmo Rodríguez, in this case a 15% alcohol (a figure totally impossible to guess from tasting) Garnacha from old vines in the obscure province of Ávila. Being a 99 it was possibly more mature than most of the other wines offered on Saturday morning, but even if I was tricked into a higher rating by a deliciously fragrant nose…I’d gladly plead guilty!
    “Excellent fine nose, all subtlety, though no shy of power. Perfect expression of red berry+cherry fruit deftly touched by oak and considerably enriched by mineral notes.” 92

    Pirineos Rosado 2003
    You know I’m no rosé drinker… 85

    Remírez de Ganuza 1999
    Almost as good as previous releases (save for the excellent 98, which I decidedly prefer right now). I was surprised not to see this at the Remírez table, but it appeared at dinner. Surprisingly approachable for a 99, especially considering that previous R. de Ganuza releases have wanted lots of bottle+air. This was nicely open for a meal, showing less wildness. 90-91

    Salon 1995
    Picture this: Gastro enter the Negresco on Saturday night and Greg ‘Gregoctopus’ (named after his ability to hold three different glasses during the tastings) hands him a Spiegelau Authentis Bordeaux glass with a decent pour of white wine. After casually nosing it the conclusion is “Darned good but brutally young champagne” (not a bad guess, I unashamedly congratulated myself). Turned out to be Salon 1995. There was not enough room to fall on my knees but you can imagine the respect<

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    Trasnocho 2001
    One to buy, were it not for the 50€ tag. This is the new jewel in the Remírez de Ganuza portfolio. “Outrageously deep opaque purple. Sweet jammy fruit nose, fruit forward unlike most other 2001 Riojas tonight [except perhaps for Contino’s El Olivo]. Also warmer than most, with a balsamic note vs the minerality of the Cirsion. Robust and raw-looking but immnensely pleasurable already. Amazing length.” 93++

    With my blind businessman instinct I treasured a second glass of this to take upstairs to dinner…where it was planned to be served anyway!

    Enrique Mendoza Reserva Santa Rosa 1999
    This was so good that by the time I’m writing this I’ve already bought and polished off a bottle...for under 18€…
    In fact I wrote no TN but “BUY” (and I’m good at following my own advice). Experience says (after the equally excellent 96 and 98) that this wine gets otherworldly by Xmas, but try to keep your hands off it now if you can!
    TN from my bottle in Galicia: “Raw-ish by all standards but soooo approachable already; this has all the votes to become a worthy successor to the otherworldly 98: excellent ripe berry nose with warm balsamic notes, gorgeous French oak (just a smoky note), heavy Cabernet percentage shows but touched by warmer, fleshy company. Amazing length.” 93

    Terra d’Hom 2000
    Another blurry memory from a smoky sobaquillo sessions (Friday). It’s true you can’t serve two gods: one can be a master of wine, but merely a slave to tobacco!! I could have killed them (yes, even Raul and Packet)…
    Good fruit and palate, little detail that I can remember, possibly because it was unremarkable? Rating says 87-88 which is sort of mean on my part, but I’m not tempted to shell out the greens to retaste…

    Toro Albalá Fino “Eléctrico” del Lagar
    If this is truly the 10 year old version it’s a most remarkable feat. This retains a lot of fruit (apple to be precise) as well as the inland character of Montilla finos (less pungent, less salty, more gastronomic perhaps for the non initiated, like a good white…only it’s high in (natural) alcohol (around 15% perhaps) and unusually long. 89

    Torre Muga 2000
    Doomed by its style to perform just above correctness (just like the Barón de Chirel this is a style that needs time to show its stuff) this was pleasantly forward for my expectations. “More difficult right now than most 2001s, though confidently hitting 90/90+. This clearly needs time. Good Rioja profile in a no-nonsense attitude. Palate is much better integrated in the Rioja style, but the nose must yet develop.”

    Vaillant Domaine Les Grandes Vignes SGN 1997
    Brutally good Loire, with notes of botrytis all over the place and juicy acidity to keep it for…well, for as long as you can keep your hands off it! As I said before I remain “bitterly resented” against whoever introduces me into yet another geographic area that I had remained immune to/blissfully ignorant about. Now you’ve wrecked my determination, Gregoctopus! (Thanks!) 91++

    Vicente Gandía 1ª Generación 2001
    This was poured blind during Friday dinner. Once the initial smokiness whisked off there were pleasant notes of telltale Garnacha. Then the wine took the wrong turn and got lost for the rest of the evening. Once disclosed it happens to be a blend that includes garnacha, as well as the indigenous Bobal (this is from Valencia). First 88, then 82.

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    Viñas del Vero Clarión 2002
    I had not tried this Somontano white for at least five or six vintages. It’s a “secret blend” that I usually find pleasant but somewhat devoid of real character or distinction. This case was no exception, but it proved very pleasant and very apt for the table.

    Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2002
    This Garnacha from the Somontano has been IMHO the most authentic and exciting new project in the last five years. The inaugural vintage was 2001 and it came out a little too tight and less fragrant than other examples from the area (the area here being the whole of Aragón, not Somontano, where it remains the only example). Promising nonetheless.
    The 2002 vintage, however, was disappointing. Too warm, medicinally, with good sweetish fruit but lacking structure, odd. 87

    Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Herrenweg de Turkheim 2000
    Another of our contributions to the Negresco sobaquillo. A bold and muscular Gewürz with excellent body, ripeness and intoxicating fragrance. Exactly what we needed to fight the dangerously approaching smoke cloud and the fatigued palates. Not unforgettable the way a Goldert, Hengst or Windsbuhl would have been, but certainly a textbook example of the variety in a good vintage. 90+

    Of course, thanks awfully to all the Verema gang for putting the whole thing together, to all the bodegas attending and the winemakers who went out of their way to pour their wines for us (some even delayed their arrival at Prowein to be with us).
    BTW I must also thank the management at the Negresco (a cozy pub in Valencia with over too-many-hundred-whisky references) for allowing us to invade them. The sobaquillo party on Saturday night was soooo much fun. Imagine just so many impossibly good bottles being poured, Gaspar slicing a whole piece of ham like few professionals, and the rest of his gang chain-producing pa amb tomaquet … The only sad aspect of the night was Choche’s singing inside the taxi that drove us back to the hotel ;^)
    Yep, the shower that Saturday night at the hotel was one of the most restoring experiences I’ve had, too, at about 6:15 am…

    PD: How funny, as I write this I realize that a grown-up can easily polish off a bottle of Drappier Grande Sendrée 1996 (disgorged April 2003) in the course of three typing hours. From a Spiegelau Authentis Champagne Stem (not the flute), and Sinatra with me all the time:
    Superb flowery and ripe apple nose from the very soft ‘pop’ with a slightly sweetish brioche note. A certain residual sugar abuse detracts from the global impression. Excellent moderate bubble, especially given the ‘one drinker only’ rhythm. Excellent mouthfeel (volume and weight) and structure, with fine persistence. As the bottle progresses its way down, the (indeed very ripe) nose evolves from gorgeous fruit that could be more complex and less upfront to a pleasantly balanced plateau where everything is in place…except for that excess of RS that clearly recalls Cattier’s Clos du Moulin…at half the price (36€ +1€ p&p from Lavinia, laid down for about 45 days)! 92.

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