But the visit really started the night before with an invitation to dinner at Los Asturianos restaurant (c/Vallehermoso, 94; Madrid). In fact, rather than dinner, it was more like a wine tasting accompanied by food. What an experience, to see wine world professionals in action! It took about half-an-hour to sort out the wines we were going to taste, and their order. Some had to be chilled, some had to be decanted, and the rest were lined up at the end of the table. Ordering the food, on the other hand, took about 30 seconds!
We were joined at the last minute by another mysterious (for me!) wine world personality, who came in carrying several bottles and a magnum in his hands and under his arms and who was introduced to me as ‘Victor’.
We tasted a good few wines (sorry, I didn’t take any notes!) for about 1 hr with tapas, including a wine from Méntrida made by the owner of the restaurant, and one from La manchuela made by Victor. Then, when our plate of steamed ‘berberechos’ (cockles) was served it was time to taste my wine, which had chilled nicely by then (Vinos Ambiz, Young White 2009, 100% Airén). JP, my importer, serves it up and says to Victor (who’s been talking 20-to-dozen ever since he sat down):
“Here, taste this.” So he stops talking and takes a sip,
“What’s this?” he asks.
“100% Airén, from Madrid”. Pause. Then “Hmmm, muy buena expression del Airén!”
That means “A very good expression of Airén”. I was pleased of course, but I was even more pleased the next day when I found out who he was! Then, after my 15 seconds of glory, it was back to the previous conversation!
So we stayed there for another few hours, tasting and eating, till about 1 o’clock in the morning. I couldn’t keep up with the professionals though: they went on to another place, but I just took a taxi home.
Next morning at 10 o’clock I met JP, KC and CB at their hotel and we drive out to the vineyard. How do they do it? They’ve been ‘on tour’ in Spain for 6 days, eating, drinking and sleeping 4 hours/night!!! What a life, eh?
The vineyard: they liked it because it smells beautifully (thyme, flowers, wild grasses) and because it’s flat! They’ve just come from Galicia and El Bierzo, where they have a lot of slopes!
The bodega (winery): they like the bodega too because it’s so ‘garagiste’ (see pics from previous posts)! Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of wine there for them to taste, as it’s all sold out. But this is what happens:
JP: “And what’s in that tank there?”
Me: “Garnacha 2009 that we’re going to oak”
JP: ”Can we have a taste?”
Me: “Sure, just let me find a clean glass!”
I hadn’t tasted or checked on that Garnacha since before Christmas. I’ve been so busy that I’d actually forgotten it was there and that we were supposed to have oaked it months ago!
So we all taste it, and JP goes crazy! “No way can you oak this!” he says “It would just kill it! The fruit and the freshness would be overwhelmed by the wood!” “How much of that have you got?” So I look inside the stainless steel 700 litre tank and its about ¾ full. “Er, about 500 bottles, I think”
“OK, I’ll buy the lot! Don’t touch it! No sulphur, no racking, no nothing! Just bottle it and send it over!”
What could I say? These guys are expert tasters, whereas even though I can grow grapes and make wine, I’m a hopeless inexperienced taster. In fact, I remember tasting that Garancha before Christmas and thinking “hmm, I hope this improves in the barrel!”. I think the cold temperatures over the Winter have made that wine evolve and improve a lot. It’s now a completely different wine from what it was 6 months ago.
Next we drive back to Madrid for another tasting-with-food at La Cave du Petit (c/Ponzano, 93), a wine shop that specializes in natural and ‘interesting’ wines from Spain and France. Carlos opened the shop specially for us – lucky we called, because he wasn’t going to open that day as Spain were playing football in the World Cup and the streets were empty! Again it took about 30 mins to sort out the wines and 30 secs to sort out the food!! And again, no notes and no photos either! The food was beautiful – all home-made (paté de fois gras, canard no-sé-qué, smelly and non-smelly cheese, etc) and of course a selection of natural wines (including Alfredo Maestro, Josep Garriga, Samuel Cano, Laureano Serres, and many more).
Then we parted ways: I went home for some rest and recovery (!) while they drove up to La Rioja, before going on to Catalonia to Alice Feiring's book presentation. What a life! Just one long party of touring around and eating and drinking, no? They denied that it was like that of course and went on about how hard they work during the rest of the year, but I don’t believe a word of it!!!