The Wine Appreciation group’s first meeting was a tasting of Spanish wines hosted by Majestic Wine in Dorking, writes Geoff Saunders
On the group’s inaugural outing our team of hopeful U3A tipplers drifted into Majestic Wine on South Street for a first foray into the mysterious world of wine. Our host for the evening, deputy manager Charlotte, had already set out a selection of wines from Spain to introduce to us and some nibbles to accompany them.
Charlotte explained that we would be tasting a couple of white wines, a couple of Riojas and a couple of other reds that were showing promise at the moment. She explained, too, what to look for when tasting wine: the aroma, the colour and, of course, the taste, as you start to drink and after you swallow.
First up was a white wine from north-west Spain, made from a grape new to most of us, Albariño. It was delightful, light, refreshing with a hint of sweetness and a peachy aroma. Perhaps an interesting alternative to Chardonnay?
Next the second white, from Rioja. Many of us were surprised to find there is such a wine, but found it interesting and rewarding to sample. It had a more complex taste than the Albariño, spicy and toasty from the new oak in which it is aged. A good accompaniment to strong-flavoured food like paella.
Red Rioja contains a large proportion of Tempranillo grape but can be blended to achieve the desired result. In quality terms there are four grades, the highest being Gran Reserva and Reserva, so these were the grades we tried. First a Reserva specific to Majestic, from their new Definition range. It was delicious, soft fruit flavours with hints of vanilla and toasted wood.
You would expect the Gran Reserva to top the Reserva, and it did handsomely! The Gran Reserva is aged in oak for 30-36 months and has a darker colour, complex warm fruit flavours, earthy and leathery. Wonderful, if a little expensive for everyday drinking.
In truth it would be very difficult to top this, and the next red was decidedly down the scale. This relatively new wine uses another grape new to most of us, Mencia, grown in the Ribeira Sacra area where the Romans tended vines. However, it didn’t impress most of us, some suggesting it reminded them of jelly, others ice-cream.
Lastly, back to the Tempranillo grape, not from Rioja but from Ribera del Duero. This is a very full-bodied wine with intense blackberry and herb flavours developed during 12 months in oak prior to bottling. A great wine to end on.
To sum up, we had a great introduction to a good variety of Spanish wines, a tempting start to our attempt to extend our knowledge of the ancient, interesting and worldwide art of winemaking (and drinking).
Thank you, Majestic and Charlotte.