Tasting October 2021

October 21 2021  Hotel MR Les Rotes Denia

Bordeaux Blends made in Spain.

Hosted by Neville Richardson and Tim Fawle who deputised for our invited speaker John Davies from London who was unable to attend.

Neville Richardson presenting wines

Neville Richardson

Tim Fawle






As the Bordeaux vines developed with great success and after WW2 exports increased worldwide expanding to new regions and then new countries  winemakers in many countries were keen to experiment with these vines on their own soils and over the years with improved viticultural techniques white wines could be made and kept sound, even in hot climates.

Not designed to replicate Bordeaux in a new country.  Styles dictated by climate more than by vine species, but success and knowledge from Bordeaux proved a blueprint for many regions & countries.

This tasting will explore some of those grape blends produced in Spain


Vega de Ribes Blanc Seleccio ECO  2017 – Penedes – Sauv Blanc + MALVASIA de SITGES €6.92 p/b 13%

White Bordeaux blends favour Sauv Blanc with degrees of Semillon and Muscadelle – from steely wines of Graves and Pessac to the lush styles of Sauternes & Barsac. Malvasia’s most distinctive examples come from maritime environments.  Malvasia’s low acidity means it adds body weight and texture to a blend.  By the 1930s, Malvasia de Sitges was nearly extinct but for the diplomat and Sitges-resident Manuel Llopis. Señor Llopis owned some 2.5 hectares of vineyard land along the coastal roadway that flanks the iconic beach. Before his death in 1935, he donated all of his land to the local foundation of the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist under the condition that they would continue to cultivate the vines, and they did. The small vineyards are still visible today, though now bisected by homes & businesses.

Though best known as a dessert wine, Malvasia de Sitges is also vinified into dry and sparkling wines so this wine is a blend of Malvasia de Sitges and Sauvignon Blanc.

What style of white wine does sauvignon blanc make? Sauvignon is ubiquitous, & styles vary. In general, sauvignon blanc is used to make dry wines, distinctive for their fresh acidity and beautiful perfume. In cooler climates the wines often have bright citrus and mineral notes combined with a green nettle character (Loire and lesser Bordeaux). In its homeland of the French Loire Valley sauvignon blanc showcases its aromatic character and refreshing acidity at its best in the form of pure, zesty wines

Vega de Ribes is a family-run bodega in Massís del Garraf, a subzone of Penedès. This area gives wines a special marine essence.  Wine production here is documented since the thirteenth century.  The grapes are obtained from the vineyards of the La Serra farm, grown organically, vines integrated with other crops and livestock. The vineyards are arranged on terraces to prevent erosion, surrounded by dry stone walls forming a mosaic with forests and carob trees, characteristic of the traditional landscape of the Penedès marina.

Colour: Straw yellow   Bouquet: Citrus fruits / fresh herb / undergrowth   Palate: Good acidity / saline

Castell D’ Encus Taleia Brisat 2017 2018– Costers del Segre – Sauv Blanc , Semillon  €21.07 p/b 12.5%

 Sémillon, this is one of those grapes like Riesling which tends to be much more appreciated by wine insiders than by the average wine drinker. Were it not for the richness of Semillon with its thin skins and propensity to be nobly affected by botrytis, we would not have the truly great category of wines that is Sauternes and Barsac, amongst the longest-living wines in the world.

In warmer wine regions, Semillon, with its natural low acidity, may need the nerve and crispness provided by Sauvignon Blanc, but, made well, dry Semillon can be an intriguing, full-bodied wine with a satisfying combination of citrus, honey and grassiness

Semillon’s homeland is undoubtedly south-west France. It is an ingredient with Sauvignon Blanc, both major and minor, in both basic Bordeaux Blanc and the great, dry, oaked whites of Graves and Pessac-Léognan – indeed some would say wines such as Châteaux Haut-Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc. These wines are immensely rich yet dry and can last for decades, taking on an extraordinary depth, density and lanolin smoothness with wonderfully lemony acidity, with age.

Semillon is not difficult to grow. In fact, , it is naturally quite productive, and its characteristic bright green leaves earned it the title ‘green grape’ for many years in South Africa

But Semillon is most in demand today with Australian wine drinkers as an important ingredient in the popular wine style, “Sem-Sav”, Semillon blended with Sauvignon Blanc.

Ageing 9 months in tank and barrel then an addition 9 months in bottle.

We had wanted the 2017 to show here, but there were problems with availablity, so this is 2018 – a cooler year and  less ripe than 2017.  Pale, young, shy and clean yet focused.  This really needs greater bottle aging.  However the palate is vibrant and makes you salivate, always a good sign.  17,700 bottles.

Parker rated this 93, whereas the 2017 was only 92, so don’t feel cheated!

Carlos Valero Trashumante Crianza 2015 – Somontano –Merlot y Cab Sauvignon €8.19 p/b 15%?

Somontano in Aragon, means “under the mountains” – an apt description, as the region sits in the foothills of the central Pyrenees mountains. This lush, green, hilly region lies less than 60km from France. After lobbying hard for a number of years, the local producers were rewarded with DO status in 1984, and Somontano has since become a significant force, offering a wide range of wine styles and types. It has also adopted modern approaches to winemaking, reflected in its technologically advanced wineries and vineyard practices.

Somontano experienced a big jump in demand for its wine after the phylloxera louse devastated vineyards in France. The outbreak there gave Somontano the opportunity to showcase the quality of its wines to French consumers. The establishment in the 1960s of a large cooperative, La Cooperativa Comarcal de Somontano, which unites 200 producers, was crucial in modernising the area’s wine industry.

Unlike the rest of Aragon and much of inland Spain, the Somontano region is greener thanks to higher rainfall (500mm on average each year) and an abundance of rivers and creeks. These waterways influence the soils, which are mostly made up of clay and sandstone.

‘Balanced’ is the word commonly used to describe Somontano’s wines. The harmony of fruit, alcohol and acidity in the wines makes them extremely attractive to modern-day consumers.

Cooperatives are responsible for most of the region’s production, combining old varieties with newly introduced ones in their state-of-the-art wineries.  Bodega Carlos Valero was started in 1993 and now farms 14ha under the guidance of oenologists Jorge Navascués. & Norrel Robertson MW – a maverick winemaker known as theFlying Scotsman.World-renowned, cabernet sauvignon makes some of the world’s finest red wines, working either on its own, or blended with other varieties.  Parentage – Cab Franc & Sauvignon Blanc vines, hence Cab Sauv.

While many grape varieties are known for their friendly fruit aromas, cabernet sauvignon’s success as a fine wine lies in its subtleties: secondary, complex flavours that have the potential to develop deliciously in bottle over time. For this reason, cabernet is often seen as quite a ‘serious’ red wine designed for cellaring and keeping for many years. However, you can certainly find younger, fruitier styles to help you explore the flavours of this iconic grape.

Classic French bottles, famously shown in Bordeaux’s great clarets. They tend to have a brooding character, with robust tannins adding structure and blackcurrant fruit shining through. It’s here that one of the greatest blending partnerships of the wine world were forged – the marriage of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, plus malbec, petit verdot and carmenere.  It is a relationship that has travelled the globe.

Merlot is characterised by its soft texture and easy, fruit-forward character – think ripe plums, summer fruits and touches of vanilla and spice. Brilliantly versatile, it’s the grape behind lots of good-value anyday reds as well as some of the most expensive wines in the whole world. On its own, it produces juicy, soft, plump reds, but also plays this important role in blends, especially with cabernet sauvignon; here merlot’s friendly, fruity flavour counterbalances cabernet’s more obvious tannins and structure.

Merlot is a native of Bordeaux and it is its most widely grown grape. An entry-level claret will have flavours that are unoaked, simple and fruity, drinkable young and very approachable. But merlot can scale the heights too and is the majority grape in most right bank clarets (ie those made on the right bank of the Garonne river) Top wines of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol are majority merlot and among the most expensive, complex, age-worthy and sought-after wines made anywhere.

The weather pattern was atypical for Somontano and kept wine producers on their toes right to the end of harvest. Waves of “African heat” in the early summer advanced vine development but then vines shut down due to the lack of water. Rain finally came and continued during the harvest which required considerable effort to ensure that each variety and vineyard had reached optimum ripeness. Producers have been rewarded with rich flavours and great complexity with each variety showing plenty of character.

Cherry red cherry, with violet trim, good layer. Picota cherry red / intense / garnet glints

Nose: Pleasant on the nose, where initially appear the aromas that wood brings us, such as coffee, in the form of liquor, and vanilla. Subsequently, ripe, fleshy red fruits, emerge. Highly aromatic / complex / ageing notes / wood / toasty notes / spicy notes / cinnamon We finish with licorice notes.

Mouth: it is perceived fruity, sweet, broad.  Full / silky / structured / flavoursome / persistent

Overall, the extra aging has allows the constituent parts to blend well.  The whole object of blending different varieties is to draw the best elements from those different parts.  Achieved here?

Paras Bata Mas Elena 2015 – Penedes – Cab Sauv 71%, Merlot 20%, Cab Franc 9%  €9.98 p/b 14.5%

Cabernet Franc might be described as the feminine side of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is subtly fragrant and gently flirtatious rather than massively muscular and tough in its youth. Because Cabernet Sauvignon has so much more of everything – body, tannin, alcohol, colour – it is often supposed to be superior, but I have a very soft spot indeed for this more charming and more aromatic relative.

In 1997 it was shown by pioneers of applying DNA analysis to grapevines that Cabernet Sauvignon is the progeny of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, so in fact Cabernet Franc, whose origins seem to lie in Basque country in the western Pyrenees, must predate Cabernet Sauvignon by quite a while.

As a vine and a wine, Cabernet Franc is more precocious than Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc buds and ripens at least a week before Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes it particularly useful in Bordeaux’s cooler vintages when the more famous Cabernet may not reach full ripeness at all.  In fact, underripe Cabernet Sauvignon can smell remarkably like fully ripe Cabernet Franc, both of them exhibiting a certain leafy, currant bush aroma. But fully ripe Cabernet Franc has a lovely lightness of touch, lighter and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon so that the wines can mature several years ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the same vineyard.  Tarragon, Musk, Minerals, PENCIL SHAVINGS

In practice the two varieties are often grown together and blended. This is certainly true of the Médoc and Graves in Bordeaux, where Cabernet Franc, and the plumper but in many ways quite similar Merlot, are grown as a sort of insurance policy against Cabernet Sauvignon’s not ripening properly. And they can also provide usefully softening blending material in this temperate climate which rarely produces Cabernet Sauvignon so ripe for well balanced 100% varietal wine.

While Cabernet Franc was as widely grown in Bordeaux as Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1960s, it was considerably displaced by the more fashionable Merlot in the late 20th century. Merlot is now susceptible to hot summers, with potential alcohol levels going through the roof Cabernet, chiefly because Cabernet Sauvignon was believed by growers to be difficult to ripen on the cool soils so far inland until the recent spate of heatwave summers. The other French wine region dominated by Penedès reported higher quality in 2015 compared to 2014 with a modest decrease in the overall volume of 3.3%. Alcohol levels are around half a degree higher for all varieties: Merlot 13.5 ̊ and Cabernet Sauvignon 13.9 ̊. Overall quality is described as “excellent”. Paras winery was founded in 1790 and has been family owned since. The wines are made in the 5 farms in the area of ​​Pacs del Penedès, on land ranging from 170 to 750 m altitude, each producing wines with clear differences in style. Blending is all important.  The winery produces two distinct lines of wines: microcuvées and those of classic range. The microcuvées are wines that are not produced every year, of very limited production (in some cases less than 500 bottles), and that come from land with very characteristic microclimates – worth seeking out. They are wines with character, elegant, that express to the maximum the personality of the individual terroir. The classic range, like this one, consists of wines that are produced every year, though there are still vintage differences.  In 2004 they received the certification of organic farming.  Vinification material: Wood Ageing period: 8 months in used French oak   Tasting: Colour: Picota cherry red / intense / bluish glints

Bouquet: Fruit aromas / red fruit / spicy notes / liquorice.Palate: Elegant / fresh / fleshy / structured / toasty

Overall – this is the same year as #3 admittedly from the larger region of Penedes.  But how do these two compare?  Does the Cab Franc play a significant role in the final product?  Does it lift #4 above the Somontano?  How does it compare to a claret of a similar price-point?

Cellar Petit Duran Mercès Criança 2016 – Costers del Segre – Merlot, Cab Sauv  €13.95 p/b 13.5%

Costers del Segre is a DO wine region located in north-eastern Catalonia. The name means ‘Banks of the Segre’ – a river which originates in the Pyrenees mountain ranges and meets the Ebro River just south of the city of Lleida.  Most vineyards sit in the Segre’s expansive basin. The DO was created in 1986, but has seen many evolutions since its inception, including planting of international varieties, adopting modern California winemaking techniques and the creation of sub-regions.

Despite its somewhat inconvenient location, in terms of trade routes, winemaking has flourished in Costers del Segre for many centuries. It continued uninterrupted until phylloxera hit the region hard in the late 19th Century. Many traditional winegrowing areas were not replanted; they were given over to olives instead. Traditional varieties such as Samso (Carinena) gave way to more popular grapes, both local (Monastrell) and international (Cabernet Sauvignon). The region rose to prominence again thanks to a single estate, Raimat, Spain’s largest privately owned winery and one of its most innovative, and essentially it’s responsible for putting Costers del Segre on the world wine map.

Costers del Segre is Catalonia’s most inland wine region and generally speaking, this region is harsh. It’s semi-arid, with a climate of extremes. Although its seven fragmented districts do represent a varied mix of soil and climatic conditions. As a result of these scattered sub-regions, this DO boasts one of the most versatile wine portfolios in the country.  A marked difference in summer and winter temperatures (ranging from 35C to –5C), along with a similar diurnal effect, gives Costers del Segre an overall continental climate. The region is largely flat, rising to the north towards the Pyrenees. Across Costers del Segre, rainfall is scant, and fogs hang heavy over the region throughout winter.

Located in Sant Martí de Maldà (Lleida), Petit Duran was formed in 1895.  It restarted the production and aging of quality wines in 2011, farming organically. The vineyards themselves are located on clayey calcareous soils, more than 400 meters above sea level, with a day-night thermal contrast that guarantees late and optimal ripening, providing good tannins and great colour intensity.   This wine was aged for 8 months in 225 ltr French oak barrels.

Overall an interesting tasting some, good  and some not so good but that is what wine tasting is all about as some wines are favourable to some people and not to others.

Neil Robertson

A vote of thanks was given by CBWS member Neil Robertson commenting on an interesting tasting in convivial company when at last we can taste wine together as a Wine Society.


Gagging for wine!