[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Europe Wine Diary 1998

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Spain - Two nights in Madrid

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

Dinner at Victor's

Victor de la Serna

Victor de la Serna.

Our first night in Madrid, and what happens but Real Madrid, one of the town's top soccer teams, whips Torino to cop the European Cup. Now a half-million celebrants are pouring into the streets, waving flags and singing and honking their horns in a rhythmic "beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep-beep-beep" pattern. It's an exciting thing to see, even if we don't speak more than a few words of the language. Almost as exciting as the wines we shared with our friend Victor de la Serna and his family over a light dinner of gazpacho, Serrano ham and tortilla at his Madrid home tonight. But not quite ...

Didier Dagueneau 1990 Pur Sang Pouilly-Fumé - Clear, bright brass color. Rich old-Sauvignon aromas, almonds and hazelnuts and a touch of white asparagus on the nose; full and bright flavors, almost unctuous in texture, mingling asparagus and good snappy citric notes.

Camille Giroud 1969 Les Pruliers Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru - Dark ruby red, amber edge. Meaty and mushroom aromas dominate, but some red fruit survives on the nose and more on the palate, velvety and sweet. Doesn't last long in the glass, dropping off after 30 minutes or less to a vegetal tartness that doesn't invite another taste. But for that first half-hour, it's still fine.

Marques de Riscal 1952 Rioja Reserva - Dark ruby at the center shading to clear amber at the edge. Incredible ripe cherry aroma and ripe, sweet fruit flavor, tart and clean. This wine's 46 years old? It's almost impossible to believe it. And unlike the Burgundy, it lasts through the evening; we return to it after the Auslese below and sip till it's gone, raising our glasses to the horn-honking throngs in the streets.

Georg Breuer 1990 Rüdesheimer Bischofsberg (Rheingau) Riesling Auslese - Clear pale gold. Fresh mango and light petrol aromas; crisp, clean and fresh flavors, slight sweetness well balanced by fresh-fruit acidity.

Thursday, May 21, 1998

Offline at Viridiana

Luis and Ernesto

Luis Gutierrez (left) and Ernesto de Serdio.

Our long trek nears its end as we gather tonight at Viridiana, one of Madrid's finest restaurants, for an offline gathering of Spanish Web pals including Luis Gutierrez, Ernesto de Serdio, José-Mar&iacite;a de Lema, Victor de la Serna and me. Despite every effort to hold the wine selection to a moderate number, the tally mounted to nearly 20 before we were through.

Emilio Lustau non-vintage Almacenista Manzanilla Amontillada de Manuel Luevas Jurado - Clear gold, with fresh, nutlike Sherry aromas, full and clean. Very full-bodied; "a halfway house between Manzanilla and Amontillado," Victor says.

Viñas del Vero 1997 Somontano Clarión - Pale straw color. Grapefruit and litchee aromas lead into a crisp and tart flavor with a bitter aspect on the finish. Odd, unnamed varietals, planted as an experiment but later ruled inappropriate for the denominacion. This blend (which we jokingly likened to the Caymus Conundrum from California) is allowed for sale, but the grapes can't legally be disclosed. It's probably a blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Chenin Blanc, among others.

Albet i Noya 1997 Chardonnay Fermentado en Barrica Penedés - Light straw color. Fresh apples on the nose and palate, tart and full. Pleasant wine.

Condes de Albarei Carbello Galego 1996 Rías Baixas Albariño - Pale straw color. Fresh melon and faint minty aromas; light sweetness at first, dries out in a clean, tart finish.

Belondrade y Lurton 1996 Rueda Verdejo - Bright straw color. Buttery and tropical fruit aromas; full, oaky flavor, pineapple and spice. Oaky but good, it's made from the Verdejo grape but could probably pass as a ringer in a flight of Chardonnays.

Hiedler 1992 Langenloiser Schenkenbichl Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) Kamptal-Donauland (Austria) Halbtrocken - A gift from the Vienna contingent of the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group that I brought along to the Spanish chapter. Very pale color. Shy nose, light melon, opens into a full-bodied, slightly sweet flavor structured with snappy acidity.

Martin Codax 1997 Late Harvest Dry Albariño - Pale straw color. Startling aroma mingles ripe musky melon aromas with litchees and figs; these delicious scents carry over into a ripe, full-bodied flavor.

Abadia Retuerta 1996 Matador Valdés Sardón de Duero - Dark reddish-purple. Shy black-fruit aromas with mint and anise. Flavors follow the nose, a burst of fruit with good acidity to hold it together.

Joaquín Gálvez 1996 Don Pela Murcia Crianza Monastrell-Merlot - Very dark garnet, black at the center. Earthy black-cherry aromas; big structure and balance, lots of tannin but also a lot of fruit.

Marqués de Riscal 1991 Baron de Chirel Rioja - Very dark reddish purple. A bit closed in the nose, but juicy, tart fruit flavors open up with time in the glass. Excellent wine, needs time.

CVNE 1985 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja - Dark ruby. Lovely old-Rioja aroma, red fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and heady floral notes. Sweet red-fruit flavors, vanilla and spice. A delight.

Pesquera 1996 Crianza Ribera del Duero - Opaque blackish-purple with a bright-garnet edge. Closed nose, black fruit and anise, a touch of sulfur blows off. Big and tannic on the palate, lots of fruit. (Winery sample, pre-release.)

Val Ribeño 1995 Carmelo Rodero Crianza Ribera del Duero - Inky dark reddish-purple, dark fruits and caramel aromas. Warm, raisiny, seems a little soft, but there's sufficient acidity to hold it together.

Pesquera 1991 Janus Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero - Very dark garnet, black at the center. Big black fruit aromas with mint and fennel. Flavors follow the nose, juicy and fresh.

Vega Sicilia 1942 Ribera del Duero - Clear, dark-ruby color, amber at the edge. Chocolate, mint, licorice and deep black fruit aromas; sweet and full, black fruit and maple sugar aromas, dry but showing Portlike nuances. Amazing vitality in a 56-year-old wine.

Emilio Lustau non-vintage Almacenista Oloroso Añada 1918 de Pilar Aranda y Latorre - Clear amber color with a greenish edge. Walnuts, pecans, almonds and hints of black truffle, perhaps the most complex aroma I've ever enjoyed in a Sherry. Very full and rich, flavors consistent with the nose; dry and long with lemony acidity providing structure.

Emilio Lustau non-vintage Pedro Ximénez "Murillo" Seleccion del Centenario - Very dark burnt-umber color with a clear edge. Leather and stone fruit and mineral aromas. Thick and syrupy-sweet, structured by a tart "grip;" layers of deep flavor, prunes and plums.

Jose-Maria and Abraham
José-María (left) and Viridiana proprietor Abraham Garcia.
Carta Azul non-vintage Pedro Ximénez Agustin Blazquez Xerez - Very dark blackish-brown with a syrupy texture that coats the glass. Caramel and brown sugar aromas; sugar-sweet flavor, thick and gentle at only 8 percent alcohol.

Jordan & Jordan "Vin Santo" - An experimental wine from Peter Jordan, who sent samples to Victor after an online discussion of it after our tasting at the Jordan winery, this is a Saar wine made from Kerner grapes vinified with what Peter called a "sherry yeast." Peaches and botrytis aromas and a light almond aroma are intriguing, and the flavor is just off-dry and somewhat Sherrylike. In contrast with our tasting at Jordan's, however, this sample is somewhat flawed by nuances of overripe fruit and something akin to varnish.

The dinner at Viridiana

   Ham, sausages and smoked Scottish venison with Gypsy flatbread.


   Field greens, "vineyard peach" and goat cheese.

   Tiger shrimp (Langostino) flambéed with Manzanilla with a spicy Ramescu sauce, served in a pastry shell.

Main Course:
   Duck maigret with molé sauce and quinoa purée.

   Torta del Casar sheep's-milk cheese from Estremadura.

   Greek yogurt with Pedro Ximénez and strawberry sorbet with Alsatian raspberry brandy.

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