Friday, 18 December 2009

More Rioja, Cardinal?

When it rains in rural Spain there's nothing to do but drink fermented grapes. Fortunately, during our recent sodden stay in the region of Rioja, we were literally sleeping above caves filled with wine.

I've already raved about the little winery attached to our hotel in the northern town of Laguardia, a slightly non-helpful raving for any Britons wanting to taste its wares, since they don't seem to be available in the UK.

Neither, sadly, do those of Carlos San Pedro Pérez de Viñaspre - a 500-year-old artisan winery that still ages its goods in cellars eight metres below street level. After being allowed to sample its pre-bottled 2006 Crianza from the tank during a tour of the cellars we asked if we could taste the Vinasperi Reserva 2004, liked it, brought one home (pictured top). It was full of oak and blueberry flavours, a little less rich than other Reservas I've tried, and with a fairly dry finish. Taken with some mature manchego and some leftover jamon and chorizo, it was a welcome reminder of a wet weekend.

A few days later we opened a takeaway bottle of 2006 Cantos de Valpiedre (left), which we first tried in a Laguardian bar on the recommendation of a friendly waitress. This wine, made from 100% Tempranillo, was and remains terrific - smoky but also fairly light, with a complex finish (complicated to describe, anyway). The name of the winery, Finca Valpiedra, means "valley of the stones", and its proximity to the Ebro river and its bed of calcium-filled pebbles apparently makes the grapes taste good. Temptingly, this one seems to be buyable in the UK.

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