WOTW: Vinya Carles Priorat Crianza

Now surely what everyone is looking for is a good value red wine for every day drinking. Every few months I check out what Lidl has to offer and pick up a bottle or two if it looks sufficiently interesting. Todays offering was a a “91 point” Priorat – an outrageously high bar to attain for £5.79.  I was drinking my way through this bottle for almost an hour and struggling to write a tasting note – in fact I didn’t write a word . The upshot – this is actually rather good spectacular.

Now why is this supermarket offering making me salivate? The minerality is the answer. There is an article from Jancis Robionson that suggests that Priorat is equivalent to Achleiten for terroir. Given that supermarket wines rarely champion minerality this is something I can well believe on the back of this example. I was so surprised with this wine I sent fellow contributor The Gas Man to pick up a bottle and provide a second opinion.

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Decanting often helps to show a wine at its best

Vinya Carles, Priorat Crianza, Spain, 2011

Cépage: Grenache, Carignan. Alcohol 14%. Purchased from Lidl at £5.79.

Thoughts from The Shrink:

This was pretty heavily oaked on initial tasting with some volatile acidity, it slipped down delightfully and I failed to write any notes. The wine was decanted and left in a cool spot overnight before returning on day 2 determined to write something.

This wine is an intense garnet, tending towards purple with no sign of bricking. Fresh and crunchy blackcurrant lead in to a dry wine of moderate body and tannin. We find notes of coffee, dark chocolate and dried dates fleshing out the mid palate. There is a pretty healthy dose of oak contributing structure but without becoming overpowering. The finish delivers high levels of minerality, holds a moderate length and is kept in focus by a backbone of high acidity.

Conclusions: Surprisingly fresh, crunchy fruit. Given this is a crianza I think it is spot on with the style. An interesting offering and incredible value at £5.79.  I will be purchasing a second bottle to compare further as I am truly shocked by the value of this.

Score: For me this gets a comfortable 90/100 (DT)

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A bargain basement price and a genuine bargain of a red wine.

A Second Opinion from The Gas Man:

What we are presented with, is a bright, clear, deep purple coloured wine. There is no evidence of flocculation in the wine. There is an immediate and quite intense bouquet of baking spices, vanilla, dried red fruit and even some green apple skin like tartness. Even before tasting, the wine doesn’t try to hide the fact that it has been sat in oak barrels for over a year (this is a requirement for the Crianza title).

According to the producer, they use a combination of French and American oak barrels – as the two very different woods produce markedly different aromas and flavours. For French oak, this tends to be subtle spicy flavours, for American, bold, brash, creamy vanilla (sometimes described as cream soda) – imagine the flavours of american bourbon – that epitomises american oak. Its in the skill of the winemaker to blend these two flavours to create a balanced flavour to complement the wine. A really good way to think of the use of oak in wine making, is to think of it as a seasoning. Too much, as with salt to food, ruins a wine (although such practices were seen as rather trendy in the 80s, where body was king). Too little and you don’t really get the effect. It needs to be just right (and of course everyones definition of just right is quite different)! Anyway, I digress…

On the palate, there is a smooth velvety mouth feel courtesy of a generous dose of tannins, a medium acidity, medium body, giving initial red fruit flavours such as red cherries, developing into dried apricots, vanilla and baking spices. As The Shrink pointed out, this wine has a really interesting and distinct minerality that is typical of the region (see my earlier review of another Priorat in Pinxos Party with Casa Rojo). Its almost blood like, from the irony flavour, but not in an unpleasant way. Its quite intriguing, different and you know what? great.

I am a big fan of this wine, especially at this price point. I really struggle to think of a wine that for the money would beat this. To me what lets this down is perhaps a little too much oak, but that is personal preference. In summary, Lidl is open until 8pm weekdays (10pm in some places), get yourself there and grab a bottle or two whilst stocks last!

Score: 90/100 (MI)

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Pinxos Party with Casa Rojo

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As some readers may already know, I recently celebrated my birthday. As a special treat, my better half arranged for us to attend a Pinxos party, pared with wines from the Spanish producer Casa Rojo at the superb and independent TNQ restaurant, located in the heart of Manchester’s bustling Northern Quarter. Its Kitchen headed up by chef Anthony Fielden, TNQ has established itself as a leading light in the area for locally sourced fine dining with a modern Manchester twist. Introducing the wines was David Kelly from Matthew Clark and credit must go to him for a most interesting description of the wines.

What are Pinxos you say? That is a very good question, and I will admit, prior to the evenings events, I had never come across the term before. It is in fact a Basque term that comes from the word “pinchar” which means “to pierce”. Indeed the phrase came about as Pinxos were traditionally served on the end of a cocktail stick. For this evening however, the humble snack food was elevated to a whole new level, with some truly stunning morsels, but more on that later. The scene was completed by a Spanish guitarist and with beautiful accompanying Spanish wines; you could imagine yourself transported to a sunny terrace in the Spanish countryside.

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Some of the team at Casa Rojo

Casa Rojo is a relatively small producer, tracing its roots back to José Rojo’s first wine in 1920. Casa Rojo offers a range of eight different wines from eight denominations within Spain. The youthful and dynamic team assembled has a simple ethos at its core: showcase the very best of each grape by meticulous attention to detail as well as real passion for the wine, something apparent in abundance even before opening a bottle. Each wine – and indeed each vintage thereof, has a unique label created by local artists to reflect the nature of the wine. The end result are bottles that not only look inviting and fun, but actually do bear real semblance to the wine therein as well as reaffirming the commitment of Casa Rojo to the individuals and local folks involved with the growing of the grapes.

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Casa Rojo’s current lineup

Wines Tasted: Moltó Negre Cava, El Gordo (del circo) Rueda, La Marimorena Rías Baixas, Maquinon Priorat, Macho Man Monastrell Jumilla

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Bodegas Roda, Rioja, Spain

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I continue my series on travel to Rioja with another modern powerhouse of Rioja: Bodegas Roda.  We visited the Roda Wine Bar in the station district of Haro, a short stumble along the road from R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia, La Rioja Alta and Gomez Cruzado.

The station district in Haro boasts a ridiculous density of top flight wineries – if you only have time to make one stop in Rioja this should be it.

Bodega Roda is really the new boy on the block in Haro’s station district – founded in 1987. Roda keeps things simple making only red wines. The entry level red Roda Sela is already of a phenomenal standard and this is followed up with a pair of fascinating reservas: Roda and Roda I.  The reservas are blended on the basis of the fruit characteristics of each barrel, creating the red fruit dominant Roda Reserva and the black fruit dominant Roda I Reserva.  Forming the vanguard is the flagship Cirsion which unfortunately was not available for tasting.

The tasting room at Roda is a modern affair, serving the wines by the glass and very reasonably priced plates of local cheese and charcuterie. Rounding this off with some bread and their superb olive oil makes a delicious snack or even lunch depending on your appetite. Under the tasting room lies a 19th century cellar and this environment is the perfect place to finish off any remaining wine sheltered from the midday sun.

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The wines of Roda and a light lunch of Charcuterie, Bread, Oil and Cheese

Wines Tasted: Roda Sela 2012, Roda Reserva 2010, Roda I Reserva 2007, 2008

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Bodega Contador, Rioja, Spain

Bodega Contador is located in the town of Sin Vincente de la Sonsierra.  The bodega is most famous for the flagship Contador, one of the most expensive wines from Rioja, and the first Spanish wines to be awarded 100 points by Robert Parker. Benjamin Romeo of Contador began production in a rock hewn cellar under the castle of San Vincente although production has now moved to a modern winery in view of the castle. Contador makes modern Rioja with an methodical and rigourous approach to winemaking, as proudly shown by the data sheets provided on their website.

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Rock-hewn Cellar under San Vincente Castle

Visits to the Contador winery are by appointment and can be tailored to suit your needs. Alternatively for those on a tighter schedule La Tercera Estacion wine bar in the town of San Vincente sells the lower half of the range by the glass, and the rest of the range by the bottle. We opted for the latter option as a break for lunch due to the large number of visits we had planned for the day. I have included some brief tasting notes below.

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