GOOD OLD COUNTRY COMFORTS
An organic wine tasting of Big Bodied Iberian Reds
Friday 27th February
£15 in advance / £20 on the door
(price includes organic tapas)
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich NR2 1NR
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire.” A lovely list indeed from Edith Sitwell. And just a little lovelier with the addition of a glass of full-bodied red wine…
For a country with a climate conducive to producing sparkling and white wines, we drink a lot of red. Obtuse, perhaps, but understandable. We spend much of the year fending off cold and damp, and in such conditions the fridge holds little comfort.
So instead we turn to warmer climes, and what better conduit for an internal journey to a different landscape than a bottle of wine, recreating, as it does, summers past. Many modern wine drinkers turn to the Iberian Peninsula. Often, to Spain; and progressively, to Portugal.
Wine drinkers will have noticed the increased value for money on offer in Spain. Most shops have supplanted budget “Rouges” and “Rossos” with “Tintos”. The warm and dry Spanish climate and the relative affordability of large areas of land are conducive to producing wine in large volumes. The climate also reduces the vulnerability of vines to damp, mildew and disease. So although Spain was slow off the mark in producing certified organic wine, it has become a major player in the organic realm.
Spain has also undergone a stylistic and aesthetic revolution in its wine making. Historically, the wines were big, tannic, and heavily oaked. And although oak ageing still heavily influences its wines, Spain produces a variety of styles, including lots of supple and pliable wines, influenced by New World wine making, and suitable for drinking young.
Most wine drinkers turn by default to Rioja. There’s plenty of it around, in a variety of styles, and the region has a reputation for quality. So we, too, shall begin our tasting here. But there are many emergent wine regions in Spain, too. The Albarinos of Rias Baixas, or the Verdejos of Rueda are quality, zesty whites. But we will stay in the realms of red, and move from Rioja to neighbouring Navarra, before heading south to Jumilla, where the Monastrell grape is King – but where Merlot is pretty good too. The two wines we’ll be sampling from Casa de La Ermita were both decorated at Mundus Vini Biofach 2014, an international organic wine competition
And then for something entirely different. Portuguese wines are acquiring their own global reputation – and market. And though they share some grape varieties with Spain, their reputation is being built on indigenous varieties. We will be featuring the two most prominent – Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca (or Francesca). The former provides a sturdy backbone to any blend, whilst the latter has a softer, more herbaceous character. Jancis Robinson has likened them to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc respectively.
Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca are recommended grape varieties in the making of Port, Portugal’s fortified vinous export. Port production has made the Douro valley world-famous, though recently attention there has shifted to the quality of its dry, non-fortified wines.
The Douro Valley is home to Casal dos Jordões, and many Greenhouse regulars will be familiar with their Quinta da Esteveira Reserva, a long-standing favourite; new to most, however, will be their Grande Reserva, which has seen extra oak-ageing, and is even more full-bodied, with a mighty 16% alcohol. There is a little residual sweetness to the wine, as well – we’re on the road to Port, though this wine is a destination in itself.
If you’re new to wine tasting, we make our evenings informal but informative, and sociable, seating people in small groups. There will be some organic tapas intended to complement the flavours of the wine – and the effects of the alcohol. Spitoons are provided, but often remain dry. After all, “Winter is the time for comfort”…
The evening’s wines in full:
Rioja Joven, Usoa de Bagordi, DOC, 2013.
(Rioja, Spain. 13.5% vol. Shop price £8.85.
Grape varieties: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano.)
Iberum Crianza, Bodegas Escalera, DO, 2007
(Navarra, Spain. 14%. £8.95
Grape varieties: Tempranillo, Merlot, Garnacha.)
Monastrell Crianza, Casa de la Ermita, Bodegas Y Viňedos, DO, 2010
(Jumilla, Spain. 14%. £12.50)
Merlot, Casa de la Ermita, Bodegas Y Viňedos, DO, 2012
(Jumilla, Spain. 15%. £8.65)
Reserva, Quinta da Esteveira, Casal dos Jordões, DOC, 2010
(Douro, Portugal. 14%. £10.25
Grape varieties: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz.)
Grande Reserva, Casal dos Jordões, DOC, 2010
(Douro, Portugal. 16%. £15.95
Grape varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca.)
Feedback from recent Greenhouse organic wine tastings:
‘Very enjoyable -social and informative’
‘Entertaining & well-paced’