Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Alvarelhao/Brancellao - the sequel

Our onward journey from Porto involved an early flight to Madrid and a connection by one of those marvelous Spanish fast trains that seem to have sprung up while we in the UK have just been dreaming of such things. This left us free to take a look at some important wine shops in the capital and we were not disappointed.

Madrid has Lavinia of course. Smaller than the one in Paris but in the same style. Lavinia is fine but it shows the signs of having pulled in its horns and re-trenched since the heady days of stocking wines from as many types and origins as possible. There is a bold sign for Hungarian wines for example but none on show.

Of Spanish wines, all the regions may be represented but the choice from Galicia for example only seemed to prove that you had to go there to find anything out of the ordinary.

Burdeos, not such a new region.
From the rest of the world, the selection seemed similar to what may be found in the Boulevard de la Madeleine but for a moment we thought we had found a new region altogether called 'Burdeos',

Our weird grape detector did pick up one extreme rarity however. Mando. Never heard of it? Perhaps in its alternative form - Mandon? No? Spain has the ability to surprise but as we always say, it is kept well under wraps. This rarity of rarities originally comes from guess where: North West Spain, Bierzo in fact. Its origins are still shrouded in mystery despite DNA testing. Graciano seems to be one of its parents and the finger is pointing at Heben, an almost extinct Andalucian variety as the other. 'Wine Grapes' helpfully informs us that this would make Mando/Mandon a half-sibling of Gorgollasa from Mallorca and Macabeo from Catalunya.

In 2008 statistics showed only 1 hectare in Castilla la Mancha but amazingly there have been new plantings in an attempt to halt its disappearance. This example from Valencia by Costera del Alta seems to be the only one using Mando other than in a blend. Their back label refers to it as 'relic of our ancestors'. Hats off to everyone concerned especially the unnamed persons responsible for the new plantings just so as to halt Mando's disappearance.

Enoteca Barolo, Calle del Principe de Vergara 211, Madrid
Looking a bit like Daniel Barenboim, Angel is the maestro of Enoteca Barolo. He has a large repertoire and knows each bottle thoroughly. He is also an enthusiastic evangelist for everything he thinks might interest you.



His stock is as varied as it is wide-ranging. Why 'Barolo'? Only because his colleague who founded the shop is a Barolo enthusiast. Just goes to show there are people in Spain with tastes in wine beyond Rioja.

An hour with Angel was indeed like a term at wine school. If it wasn't for the fact we were already weighed down with bottles from the Minho and Galicia we could have found a dozen equally interesting and rare wines to take with us. Enoteca Barolo alone would be worth anyone's trip to Madrid.

As it was we did fall for a couple of bottles including this Rufete from La tierra de Castilla y Leon. Rufete is in fact a Portuguese variety from the central eastern part of the country.'Wine Grapes' points out Rufete's connections with Touriga Nacional from the neighbouring Dao region and a grape called Puesto Mayor from Rueda and Prieto Picudo from Tierra de Leon in Spain. Whereas we assumed that such far-flung ancestry or relationships would be due to deliberate breeding by human hand. 'Wine Grapes' says 'These geographically distant relatives suggest that Rufete is a very old variety that spread out from Central Portugal to Spain a long time ago.' Perhaps this goes for Mando too?

Rufete is not as rare as some grapes (there are over 2,700 hectares in Portugal alone) but it is not often to be found. Winesearcher suggests it is about as frequently available as Vinhao for example.

and another fantastic blend of uber-obscure varieties. This time Brancellao, Ferrol (aka. Ferron), Caino Longo and Caino Redondo.
We also bought this blend from Ribeiro. Now at the risk of overly exciting some and rendering others catatonic, we have to say that one of the constituents, Caino Redondo is none other than Camaraou Noir. Camaraou Noir we hear you exclaim. yes, nothing else but the red variety originally from the Basses Pyrenees, (like Manseng Noir above). 'Wine Grapes' (what a marvelous book that is) adds that Camaraou Noir is not a mutation of Camaraou Blanc just in case you were wondering. It's something else altogether.

Jose Vouillamoz, the walking Swiss encyclopedia, is able to tell us further that 'Quite unexpectedly, comparison of the DNA profiles of Caino Redondo and Espadeiro in Galicia, Spain (distinct from the true Espadeiro in Portugal), shows they are identical to Camaraou Noir. Not being scientists, we ask if that means we can say this Caino Redondo is Spanish Espadeiro?

As a PS, we should add that it is quite common for people in one area to claim that their version of whatever variety is different from that in another region. We thought this was just a bit of chauvinism but maybe not.

Of Caino Longo, there is no mention in 'Wine Grapes'.

Enoteca Barolo also has an excellent website. Go see!

Vinoteca La Tintoreria, Calle Gurtubay 4, Madrid.
There was time to take in one more Bodega. La Tintoreria seemed interesting and so it was. Unknown to us it is something of a specialist in Galicia.

This section was devoted to North West Spain and was full of fascinating stuff. Again, we could have walked or rather stumbled out with a case without too much trouble in the selection.

this one looked familiar
La Tintoreria has a representative selection from elsewhere in Spain and abroad despite having a much smaller stock (237 wines) than Enoteca Barolo (1789) or Lavinia (2055). Nonetheless, size isn't everything and La Tintoreria is to be commended on having the interest and diversity of a much larger shop. It is a relatively new venture set up by young people with noble intentions to source genuine wines from small producers, sustain the environment and do well by doing good. We wish them well and will return here next time without doubt.

We can't leave La Tintoreria without mentioning that there was a bottle of 100% Merenzao there. Merenzao was nominated as one of the Cepas Galegos on the poster in the Vitivinicola Ribeiro we visited at Rivadavia (see previous post) but is none other than Trousseau, aka. Bastardo. For that matter, Mouraton is Juan Garcia. We just thought you might need to know that one day because some of the wines we had been collecting on our quest for Alvarelhao/Brancellao were not cheap and some of the bottles of the 'naughty' kind to quote Jancis Robinson (i.e. heavy) so a mistake could be costly as well as weighty.

And so we concluded our enquiries into the vinous  hot-spot of the Minho/Galicia for the moment. No doubt it could repay a lifetime's study. Where to next? The rest of Portugal offers limitless possibilities. As for Spain, Catalunya might be our next area for investigation but as mentioned gems are lurking beneath the surface in so many areas, just waiting for Slotovino to uncover them. You have been warned.

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