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STRAIGHT OFF THE VINE.

Byline: Neil Cammies

I OBVIOUSLY have to mention the Tiny Rebel Newport Food & Drink Festival, being held today, as once again I am compering the chef 's demonstrations upstairs in Newport Indoor Market.

It would be grand for you all to come and see how annoying I can be with a captive audience and a microphone. It's the fourth year I have been involved and it's a fantastic day with great stalls, super chefs and, guess what? It's all free.

Another thing to keep an eye on, and very pertinent to this column, is Ultracomida's Rioja Month promotion throughout October.

Not only are there many in-store tastings at Narberth, Aberystwyth and the Curado Bar in Cardiff, but they're also giving discounts on their wide range of Rioja.

For those who think Rioja is just a name of a Spanish red, I'll try to shed some light.

La Rioja is a wine region in the north-east of Spain, made up of three sub-regions - Alavesa, Baja and Alta - and produces, as we know, reds, white wines and also rather crisp and full-bodied rose.

So there you have it - but hang on a moment, what are the wines like? Well, if you'll be patient, I shall continue.

Looking at the range of white Rioja, two styles are the most popular - joven (young) and barrelfermented (fermented in oak barrels). An example of a joven white, the SOLAR DE ESTRAUNZA BLANCO, RIOJA ALAVESA 2016 (PS8.95, Ultracomida) errs on the lighter, fresher style of white. Delicate stonefruits from the 100% viura grape variety, are initially detected on the nose, then zippy citrus fruit leaps in on the palate. As the wine develops across the tastebuds, crisp green apple fruit and a lemon zest framing is the dominant character on the finish.

The MUGA RIOJA BLANCO 2016 (PS12.95, Ultracomida) is made from 90% viura and the rest made up of malvasia and garnacha blanca. It is barrel-fermented in new oak, resulting in warming white fruits on the nose - melons and white peach.

In the mouth the full stonefruit attack is released, with lively citrus underpinning keeping things bright and frisky. There is good length to the elegant finish, still carrying fresh minerality, in this wine from the ever-reliable Muga stable.

Moving to some reds now, and they sit within four categories: joven (young), crianza (a wine having spent at least a year in oak barrels), reserva (a wine that has been aged for two years - one of these in oak barrels) and gran reserva (a wine that has been aged for at least two years in oak and three years in bottle). I hope that's cleared that up.

First, the SIERRA DE TOLONO RIOJA 2015 (PS12.95, Ultracomida) sits within the joven style with six months in oak, which translates into brisk and crunchy red fruits on the palate. This fruit-forward style is lean and clean across the mid-palate and cries out for a big meaty stew and an open fire.

The ALTUN RIOJA RESERVA 2011 (PS15.95, Ultracomida) has those recognisable warming vanilla notes on the nose. The red fruits in the mouth are deep and rich, with a little spice on the finish in this delicious chateau-style Rioja with fruit from family vineyards.

Finally the ERUDITO RESERVA RIOJA, BODEGAS OLARRA 2009 (PS19.95, Ultracomida) can be described as the very essence of red Rioja, with warming vanilla tones and bounteous red fruit on the nose. On the palate there's an elegant introduction with a lightness of touch as the texture builds in the mouth, with balanced tannins and structure all the way to the luxurious finish.

Oak-aged in new barrels, this is a bargain and should be grabbed while you can.

@NeilCammies email: neil.cammies@walesonline.co.uk Columns online log on to walesonline.co.uk and click on the FOOD & DRINK tab

Another thing to keep an eye on, and very pertinent to this column, is Ultracomida's Rioja Month promotion throughout October
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 7, 2017
Words:660
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