Saturday 20 April 2024

Valencia to Malaga (via Cordoba), February 2024.

Valencia is Spain's third largest city and largest port. In the 1950s a disastrous flood of the river Turia in 1957 (the 75th since the 14th Century),with more than 80 dead and many buildings destroyed resulted its diversion, leaving the massive river bed that extended through the city dry, Decades later the authorities spent 1.3 billion  Euros on creating attractions along a huge stretch to bring tourists to Valencia in the way the Ghery/Guggenheim has to Bilbao.

Santiago Calatrava designed the Museu de les Ciencias Principe Felipe (1998), the Agora which is used for sports and other activities and the Hemisferic  exhibition centre (2002). One of the world's largest aquariums, the Oceanografic (2003) designed by Felix Candela fits into that complex. There are also beautiful gardens to walk along.

Valencia Opera House

The Opera House (Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia) was clearly designed, built and dropped in by friendly Martians to complete the complex (2005). The whole development has succeeded sensationally bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year including us.

A good thing too as Valencia is very well worth visiting with a wonderful historic centre, excellent beaches, amazing market, galleries and interesting restaurants. It is after all the birthplace of Paella.

The wines of Valencia province are overlooked but as usual in these situations, unjustly. If you order a house wine in a restaurant it is as likely to be a Malvasia or a Semillon as a Rueda/Verdejo. Monastrell (Mourverdre) prevents Tempranillo having a monopoly of the reds.

Valencia's best wine shop is the venerable Baviera. They know their stuff there but in reply to the question of wine made from a rare grape variety we were shown two bottles of red. One was named with a synonym for Trepat we discovered after a bit of frantic googling but the other appeared to be a genuine rarity, Miguel de Arcos is the name of the grape.

Later it appeared this may be none other than Moristel but we like Moristel in any case so might have bought it anyway.

As we have often remarked, the Spaniards keep their treasures well concealed so if this is not Moristel it will have been a real find.

We found these entries on Miguel de Arco. There are none in 'Wine Grapes either under that name or under Moristel. Galet has an entry on Miguel de Arcos with no mention of Moristel. He mentions a grape called Arcas but that comes from Romania.

Wine Australia:

Miguel de Arco is a medium ripening black grape from Spain. It has a medium growing season with low yield potential. Vitis vinifera, the selected clone for data analysis was Miguel de Arco ex VRS Rutherglen. The prime name of this variety is Cadrete.

Wein Plus Lexikon:

The red grape variety (also Miguel de Arco de Aragon) originates from Spain. The parentage is unknown. It must not be confused with the Cadrete variety (with synonym Miguel de Arco). The variety is mainly cultivated in the region of Aragon In 2010, 468 hectares were recorded, but there was no more stock in 2016 (Kym Anderson).


Moristel is also known as Concejón, Juán Ibáñez, Miguel de Arcos and Miguel del Arco (or Miguel d'Arco).

Typical view of vineyards with olive trees from the train between Valencia and Cordoba

Next to Malaga via Codoba. We had time to stop over and visit the Mezquita (Mosque) with the church inside and the little Synagogue past the statue of Maimonides round the corner. We also had a fine lunch in one of the restaurants alongside the Mezquita with a delicious glass of a local white wine which could have been Pedro Ximenez, Layrén (Airen), Baladí (!) Moscatel or Torrontés but wasn't. Cordoba is part of the Montilla Morales appellation. We once has a terrific Montillo Morales Sherry which has put Montillo Morales in our good books ever since. As soon as we remember the grape of that delicious wine we drank at lunch we'll be sure to let you know. Meanwhile, you could drink lots of M.M wines yourselves to test our theory.

Food in Spain can be wonderful although on this trip we were appalled to find Russian Salad of all things on many menus. We wondered what was going on so actually ordered a portion. It was basically mayonnaise in huge quantities with bits of potato in it and not much else as far as we could see. None of the peas and bits of carrot which solicit the question 'Are you about to eat that or have you just eaten it?'

Having flown into Malaga countless times en route to places down the Costa del Sol towards Marbella we had practically never set foot inside the city apart from a couple of pilgrimages to the Museu del Vino reported a long time ago in these pages. 

Malaga has had a renaissance as well as Valencia. No interplanetary assistance was needed - just converting the historic centre into a pedestrianised zone. It's amazing how that alone seems to have transformed it. 

Wine-wise we are in PX and Moscatel - land. Even the dry wines are made with sweet grapes. At the Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest Bodega in Malaga, we entered another universe. 

It was thronged with people and had something of the atmosphere of a den of iniquity. Unbelievable that after so many visits to Andalucia we hadn't come across this joint before. 

Founded in 1840 the Antica Casa has a greater quantity of Solera barrels than anywhere else in the city. 

Pajarete Solera 1908

Malaga’s wines were at their greatest then: there were about 112,000 hectares of vineyards and the wines were exported halfway around the world from the port of Malaga. It was even the usual drink among nobs and gentry including the first presidents of the United States apparently. Phylloxera ruined all that but if the scene at the Antigua Casa de Guardia was anything to go by, there may be a revival afoot. 

The wines included

  • Pajarete 1908
  • Málaga Garijo
  • Pedro Ximén 1908
  • Verdiales con arte
  • Verdiales Cream
  • Verdiales Seco
  • Isabel II
  • Moscatel Guardia
  • El Chavea
  • Moscatel Guinda
  • Vermut Clásico
  • Vermut Especial 
  • We didn't try all of these of course. Verdiales we gather means young wine. Parajete is the term for a sweet wine which has been bolstered by some of it being concentrated by boiling and then added back to the base wine. It is a historical beverage and we were keen to try it. 

    Pajarete or Paxarette was popular as a straight dessert wine in England in the 18th century. It gets its name from a monastery and vineyards near Arcos de la Frontera in the province of Cadiz. It is made generally with Pedro Ximenez or Moscahel de Alejandria. The essence referred to above is produced by boiling the must down to a third or a fifth. It certainly was sweet and in a good way.

    The Verdiales Seco was a very pleasant dry version of Pedro Ximenez such as is to be found quite often these days,

    An amusing idiosyncrasy was the use of chalk on the bar to tot up the bill for the numerous shots the customer had drunk. 

    Over to the Museu del Vino, still going - perhaps strong in the tourist season but not so much that February day.

    We were offered a free tasting of this gorgeous Malaga Dulce. That reminded us that neither this nor any of the wines at the Antigua Casa de Guardia were fortified. 

    By great fortune, the shop at the Museu was still selling Bodega Schatz's Rosado made from Moscatel Negro. This is positively our favourite rose wine in all the world. Or at least one of them. 

    Malaga is also home to the Picasso Museum and the house where he was born and where he lived up to the age of 8. Don't miss the birth house! It packs an emotional punch that will remain with you; 

    'The models my father hired for me were my reward. After that I made my whole family pose for me. Then my father handed over to me his brushes an palette. At the time I didn't understand why. I was too young... but it made me very happy. It was not until much later that I came to understand the full significance of his gesture,'

    'My mother said to me, "If you are a soldier, you will be a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope." Instead, I was a painter, and I became Picasso.'

    At another museum, the Museo Carmen Thyssen, a wonderful discovery from Zurbaran;

    St. Marina, patron saint of the kidneys.

    Wednesday 17 April 2024

    All good beer


    A year ago we stumbled on this quirky winemerchant called 'All Good Beer.' 

    We call it a winemerchant because, ignoring the beer (we especially liked the one called 'Bayreuther Hell'), they sell some amazing wines. 

    Our link to this cute and friendly operation was a search for more Roig Boig by La Salada, the Catalan light red we had enjoyed so much previously. It's a blend of 25% Cannonau, 25% Mandó, 15% Mònica, 15% Turbat, 10% Sumoll, 10% Xarel·lo if you please.

    As well as this we bought a Blauer Sylvaner - an oddity from Wuerzburg, a Portugieser by Brand and a delicious Beaujolais from Domaine du Chateau de Grand Pre.

    You can also get wines by Brendan Tracey and Kelley Fox. Amazing really. Altogether a joy.


    Back labels: Ingredients, Nutrition, Allergens?


    Just thinking.

    Not for the first time have we wondered why wine has no obligation to list contents on the back. After all there are 200 additives  permitted and some of us might like to know what we are ingesting.

    Wine America reports that this will be the subject of consultations - again not for the first time:

    1. Ingredient Labeling: What will need to be listed? What is an ingredient?

    2. Nutrition Information and Serving Facts: The biggest question here is if there will be a product testing requirement...

    3. Allergen Labelling. The biggest question here is what will be required to be disclosed. Will it be anything used in the process of making the wine, or will it just be what is detectable in the finished product? 


      Here is our post on the matter in 2014 with a handy list of permitted additives - in Spanish (!)

      Permitted additives

      At London's RAW Wine Fair recently our eye was caught by this page lying on the table of a Spanish Natural Wine producer, Esencia Rural. It is a list of additives permitted in winemaking. Esencia Rural proudly proclaims that their wine is made only with grapes. The list is in Spanish but the gist is plain enough to cause queasiness in anyone - especially those who denigrate natural winemaking, we would have thought.

      Levaduras, Fosfato de diamonio y sulfato de amonia, Bisulfato de amonia, Diclorhidrato de tiamina, Anhidrido sulferoso, Bisulfito de potasio, Metabisulfato de potasio, Carbones, Gelatina, Cola de Pescado, Caseina, Caseinatos de potasio, Albumina de huevo, Bentonita, Dioxido de silicio, Caolin, Tanino, Enzinas pectoliticas, Prepardos enzimaticos de la betaglucanasa, acido tartarica, Acido malico, Acido lactica, Tartrato neutro de potasio, bicarbanato de potasio, Carbonato de calcio, Resina de pino carrasco, Preparados de paredes celulares de leveduras polivinilpirrolidona, Bacterias lacticas, Lisozima, Acido ascorbico, Resinas de intercambio idrico, Acido citrico, Acido metatartarico, Goma arabica, Tartrato, Acido de potasio, Tartrato de calcio, Sulfato de cobre, Citrato de cobre, Carmelo, Dicarbonato de dimetilo, Manoproteinas, Tratamiento por electrolisis, Ureata, Alginato de calcio, Alginato de potasio, Copolimeros depolivilimidazoi-polivinilpirrolidona, Carborimeticelulose, Tratimento con intercambiadores de cationes, Oxigeno gaseoso, Perlita, La tierra diatomeceous, Nitrogena, Dioxido de carbona, Di-fosfate de amonia, Tiamina clorhidrata, Bisulfito de potasio o metabisulfito, Las proteinas vegetales de trigo o de guisante, Bicarbonate de potasio, Resina de pinos halepensis, Metatartarico, Citrato coprico, Virutas de roble, Alginato de potasio.

      Ingredientes: solo uva/only grapes

    Friday 5 April 2024

    Dutch resistance



    Colonjes Knapse Witte Helios and Riesel. Beschermde Geografische Aanduiding Gelderland. 2022. 13%




    Domein Hof te Dieren. Johanniter. Landwein uit Gelderland. NV. 12%



    Aan de Breede Beek. Muscaris. Beschermde Geografische Aanduiding Gelderland. 2022. 12%



    Smaak van Bilderhof, Dordrecht. Souvignier Gris. Nederlands Product. 2020. 11.5%


    Smaak van Bilderhof, Dordrecht. Dordts Rood. Bolero. Wijn van Nederland. NV. 12.5%



    Sent in recompense for missing-label bottle below

    Hof van Baarle Cabernet Cantor. Beschermde Geografische Aanduiding Noord-Brabant. 2022. 11%



    Wijngaard & Boerderijwinkel Maronesse Polder Passie rood. Cabernet Cortis. Marknesse, Flevoland. 2019. 12.5% NO LABEL!

    Avondrood. Celtic Fields. Cabernet Noir. Matendijk, Wekerom (Gelderland). 2019. 12%



    Wijngoed Wilgenhorst. Zomer Rood. Cabaret Noir. Zeewolde. Beschermde geografische aanduiding Flevoland (NL). 2022. 12.5%



    Wijngaard Dassemus. Wilde Rode. Rondo, Cabernet Cortis, Baron. Beschermde Geografische Aanduiding Noord-Brabant. 20+21. 8.5%.

    Achterhoekse Oorsprong. Regent. Gelderse Landwijn uit de Achterhoek. 2019. 12.5%

    When you enter a Dutch wine shop and ask to buy Dutch wine they laugh and say Dutch wine is sour and expensive. 

    That hasn't been our experience in the past and indeed we formed a theory that Dutch still wine was better than English and Welsh  non-sparkling. wine. The theory was based on the climate being on average 1 degree Celsius warmer and the Dutch having longer experience in winemaking that we do. 

    At a wine festival in Groesbeek a while ago we tasted quite a few Dutch wines from vinifera grapes but our interest was more in those made with PIWI varieties which the Dutch seem to have embraced on a wider scale than here. Maybe this has something to do with the fact in comparison with the UK, hardly any sparkling wine is made in the Netherlands.

    So with a trip to Amsterdam in the offing last year we decided to avoid the winemerchants' mockery and buy our Dutch wine online and have it delivered to our hotel. Our selection concentrated on PIWI wines especially those including less well known varieties sUch as Bolero, Helios, Riesel and so forth.

    Standouts were the red of Smaak van Bilderhof of Dordrecht which is interesting because Dordrecht is not in the normal wine-growing region of The Netherlands. In fact it is just half an hour south of Rotterdam. The variety was Bolero which we were tasting for the first time. Very promising. They also made a passable Souvignier Gris.

    The best white was the Muscaris of Aan de Breede Beek of Gelderland, also not the main winegrowing area. Breede Beek is 30 minutes east of Hilversum. Muscaris is something we have planted ourselves and have a further 25 vines on order for filling gaps this year. Aan de Breede Beek's Muscaris was also popular at a post-tasting dinner.

    While not exceptional but yet enjoyable, the Dassemus blend of Rondo, Cabernet Cortis and Baron went down easily as did the Avondrood Cabrenet Noir (a couple of days after opening), the Colonjes Helios and Riesel and the Maronesse Polder Passie Cabernet Cortis if that is what it was ('NO LABEL').

    So the takeaway could be said to be that Dutch wine from PIWI varieties is a mixed bag sometimes benefitting from drinking after a really good airing (two days or more). That geographical area appears not to be critical and that it is not sour or particularly expensive. The difference between English and Welsh wine and Dutch wine is that 60% of UK wine is sparkling whereas only a very small proportion of Dutch wine is. The choice of grapes is also rather different with the Dutch going for more PIWI kinds coming from Germany and Switzerland with our varieties more likely to be the old German and French ones like Madeleine Angevine, Schonberger and Reichensteiner with a lot of Bacchus and purely vinifera types. 

    Why did we want to taste Dutch PIWI wines? Partly because we have long thought Dutch still wine is better than English and partly because we are always on the lookout for a PIWI wine to disprove Jose Vouillamoz's contention that there are no great wines from PIWI or resistant vines. We think English wines have now caught up with Dutch ones but we have still to find a wine good enough to propose to Dr. Vouillamoz.

    They also make vinifira wines.


    Wednesday 13 March 2024

    Penedes Tasting


    The fewer the tasters the better, you could say. No standing behind huge blokes like up against a pub bar. We hope the organisers achieved their goals because Penedes is a fantastic appellation and they deserve every success.

    There were any number of Xarel-lo wines on show - all good. This together with its pink mutation Xarel-lo Vermell are wonderfully reliable and sometimes really terrific. It has been said that Xarel-lo might be related to Macabeo but Slotovino considers Xarel-lo to be superior.

    Sumarroca, Gramona, Loxarel and other luminaries were there but for our purposes it was Torres who held the greatest attraction since they had brought some of their 'Varietats Recuperadas' from their 'Projecte de recuperacio de varietals autoctons ancestrals.'

    Forcada 100%?

    the first was Forcada 2019

    Forcada with Xarel-lo

    Then Forcada 2022. On the back label is written 'More than forty years ago, Familia Torres embarked on a project to recover ancestral varieties in an act of archaeology that aims to restore a shared heritage, and among its fruit is Cos Ancestral . Forcada is the first recovered white pre-phylloxera variety to be vinified and combined with Xarel-lo, it endows the wine with an incomparable authenticity.'

    and Moneu, a red, albeit in a blend with Tempranillo and Garnacha Tinta,

    On the back label is written 'Castell de la Bleda, in the heart of the Penedes, our homeland, has been a winegrowing area for over 2000 years. There we have found Iberian and Roman vestiges, from the Middle Ages and from the time just before phylloxera when ancestral varieties like Moneu thrived in the vineyards. It took us years of research to recover this variety, which is why we are thrilled to include it in the blend for Clos Ancestral...'

    We had hear about the Torres programme to revive almost extinct varieties and had always wanted to taste some of the wine made with them. They have counted more than 50 such varieties. After Forcada and Moneu there is Garró, Querol and Pirene.This was a great opportunity to get an idea of the programme not least because bottles of these wines are made in very small quantities so far and are very expensive. 

    From tasting we half understood why Forcada and Moneu have been placed in blends. The 2019 Forcada (which we presume is in purezza) was not very approachable.

    It is early days and if anyone can find the best way to present these rescue varieties, Torres will.