Wednesday, 24 July 2013


When I travelled the length of Spain recently, I was surprised not to see a single vineyard – just acres and acres (or more correctly hectares) of olive groves.  I don’t think I was even aware that Spain produced quite so much olive oil.  Anyway, the Rioja region is of course somewhere else, so, if I want to see the vines, I’ll have to look elsewhere next time.  But we can still enjoy the Rioja here.  Tasting notes for Rioja often say ‘goes with chorizo’ or patatas bravas.  Of course it does – they’re all Spanish!  But it so often means that the wine is big and bold and that you can still taste it even if drinking it with big, bold food.  That doesn’t always  mean it’s delicious to drink.  One of the dishes I like to eat here, rather than chorizo, (and occasionally make myself!) is duck roasted on a bed of plums sprinkled with star anise.  It is a wonderful fruity, aromatic concoction with plenty of oomph from the meaty duck, but still not as in your face as chorizo and considerably more subtle than patatas bravas.  This was what I thought of when I tasted this Viña Eguia Rioja (Reserva 2006).


It’s had plenty of maturing, so it also has depth, but it has become so velvety, I could almost drink it all in one go without the dinner.  You can taste the red fruit and there is plenty of spicy wood about it too.  And since we’ve been enjoying barbecues in the garden this last week or so, this red turns out to be a more sophisticated accompaniment than cheap plonk.  Yummy!

But, now that summer has arrived, the season is all about sitting out in the garden with a chilled glass of something.  When I was in South Africa, friends would often say to me that certain wines were too cheap or not so well-structured to waste my money on.  Of course, now that I am living in a country where at least half the price of the bottle is tax and duty, the cheaper wines suddenly look more attractive (and the more expensive ones I drank regularly out there have become less affordable).  Robertson’s Chenin Blanc 2012 is just one such.

Chenin Blanc is a typically South African grape and, even here, when offered ‘South African white’ in a pub, it will more often than not be a Chenin, but I usually find them too sharp and shallow to enjoy as a patio drinking wine.  This Robertson’s is an exception.  It is fresh, with lots of the usual tart green fruits, but not actually so sharp that you can’t enjoy it on its own on the patio.  I don’t know how purist you are about mint sauce only with lamb or apple sauce only with pork, but I tend to be a little iconoclastic in my eating habits (I sometimes have 6 of my 5 a day for example or maybe occasionally only 4!) and I find apple sauce is a great match for cold chicken.  So think apple sauce on cold chicken and you have the taste of this nice, unassuming, gluggable white.  Glug!

Yesterday we also tried a bottle of this Parcel Series Sauvignon Blanc 2011.


It is from the eminently reliable Marlborough Estate in New Zealand, most of whose whites are excellent and delicious.  But I have to say that I didn’t like this one much. It’s a rare vintage of grapes from a small, selected parcel of lands, intended to produce the Marlborough taste - with a bit of individuality.  It’s a Sauvignon Blanc which makes it more complex than the light Chenin, and it is described as ‘Quintessentially Marlborough’, which I guess it is with the usual herbaceous fruity depth to it, but it has a distinct taste of passion fruit which I’m not sure was quite right.  It’s a bit like eating warm ham and fresh pineapple - they go together, almost.  Anyway it’s not the right sort of taste for me to relax with on my patio.  Others, I might add, finished it off with much lip smacking, so what do I know?  Hmmm.


  1. Do you know what? I have never taken any of your Wine Wednesday recommendations on board Neil. How utterly wasteful of me. So I will bookmark this and make it my objective to seek all the out in the next month... or at least the first two. Do any of the major supermarkets stock them?

  2. I'm afraid some of the finer points here are wasted on me. I'm more of a beer drinker. Call me a heathen.