This week’s column looks at a range of interesting wines that have crossed my palate recently. Thanks must go to the organisers of the 25th Wines from Spain exhibition in London, where I tasted a range of wines made from Spain’s indigenous white grapes described in the early part of this article.
Wines from the Basque region in northern Spain are made from a white grape with an unusual name, hondarribi zuri. It accounts for more than 80 per cent of plantings from this region. The grape produces a crisp and light wine with hints of green apple combined with bright acid. These tend to be simple wines which are ideal as an aperitif or with a range of fried Asian foods like dumplings or noodles.
The best place to appreciate the vineyards in this region is around the fishing port of Guetaria, on the Bay of Biscay. I especially enjoyed the 2012 K5 Mahatsondo, which displayed all of the best characteristics of the hondarribi zuri grape. The wine is known as chacoli in Spanish but the Basques call it txakolin.
Whites made with the verdejo grape from the Rueda region, around Castilla y León to the north west of Madrid, the capital, also appealed. A cool climate coupled with modern winemaking technology means fresh and fruity wines. Screw-cap closures reflect the modern approach to winemaking in this region.
Plantings of verdejo have increased significantly over recent years. It is one of Spain’s classic white grapes, and displays lemon and white peach characters on the nose and in the mouth. These wines receive no oak treatment and are meant to be consumed young. They often appear on the market in the spring after the vintage, ready to be enjoyed over the warmer months of the year.
Some of the best I tried were the 2013 Monte Blanco, the 2013 Piedra Blanca from Bodegas Abanico, and the 2013 Hacienda Zorita Vega-Reina. They all displayed the delights of this grape variety. Verdejo is usually harvested at night to retain the grape’s acidity and freshness.
From Italy comes the 2012 Salento Santi Dimitri primitivo. It is a generous wine that gushes with a range of of black fruits like blackberries and blueberries along with warm herbs and spices. The fruit is ripe and attractive and the tannins gentle and soft. In America primitivo is called zinfandel.
This is also a wine to drink now. The use of a composite cork confirms the drink-now intention of the winemaker, Vincenzo Vallone. The wine gives the sensation that one is walking in a field of wild thyme and rosemary. This is the kind of wine I want to drink more of; one glass is never enough.
Santi Dimitri is a family-owned business based in Galatina in Puglia in Italy’s south-east, the region at the end of the heel of the boot that is southern Italy. The estate has grown grapes since the end of the 17th century. In recent years it has moved towards organic farming. The results show in the quality of the fruit. A wine worth pursuing.
The final wine that delighted me was the 2013 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill riesling. The nose offers aromas of papaya, white peach and citrus like tangelo. In the mouth one detects flavours of pink grapefruit, feijoa and green mango plus hints of lemongrass.
Jim Barry purchased the Lodge Hill vineyard in the Clare Valley of South Australia in 1977. Wine has been made in the Clare Valley since 1851. The region is one of Australia’s most prestigious premium wine regions and is famous for its rieslings.
Barry was convinced it would produce some of Australia’s best rieslings. The vineyard is one of the highest in the valley, at an altitude of 480 metres, and it is ideal for producing steely rieslings with a distinctive mineral focus.