Wine region / Country
Muga Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2012 (2 bottles)
Viña Gravonia Blanco Crianza 2003 (1 bottles)
Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva 1998 (1 bottles)
Gran Barquero Oloroso (1 bottles)
Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez (50 cl.) (1 bottles)
Normal retail price: £71.72
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Barrel Aged white. Bodegas Muga Rioja, Spain Viura, Malvasia
Bottle: £6.91 club members / £7.85 non-members
The impact of fruits, flowers, nature… is unexpected on the nose and surprising. The Viura is not exactly a very aromatic variety but that 10% of Malvasía really pervades the wine’s character, and moreover, although this is a white which ferments in barrel, any trace of wood is so slight as to be almost indiscernible, especially when newly released. With time, the great ally of those who are truly in the know, this wine will develop other nuances, but who would want to keep it when it is so wonderful right now!
In appearance, Muga Blanco is bright, very clean, a very pale straw-yellow colour with some brand-new gold hues too on the rim. It boasts fairly thick tears and gives a hint of the creaminess that we detect both on the nose and again on the palate; this is a white with body and volume.
But let’s give prominence to the nose: its perfume is fragrant with the fresh and penetrating aromas of countryside flowers, the spring-time aromas of a meadow covered with flowers, and white fruits are there too, such as white peaches and pears, ripe and juicy fruits touched with citrus and on a sweetish background; some tropical notes (subtle) appear too and also some saline ones, of white stones and dry fennel. A point worth noting is that 2012 was an exceptionally dry year, and that dryness, which the Viura bore well, is perceived on the nose: the sweetness of the fruit is very well-balanced by good acidity. An elegant, vivid and natural perfume.
The entry is balanced, fresh, here more citrus than sweet, just right for offsetting a bitterness that is virtually non-existent; an oily, fleshy mouth-feel, with a warm, spirited persistence, which sees the return of notes discerned on the nose.
Steamed mussels / grilled squid / fruit salads / salads with soft cheese / as an aperitif
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Barrel Aged white. Bodegas R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja, Spain Viura
Bottle: £9.55 club members / £10.88 non-members
Just its appearance, its colour, demonstrates clearly this winery’s exceptional work as true masters in the art of ageing wine: notice how little this white has been evolving; aged for four years in American oak barrels, with a long maturation in bottle until now, and yet it appears a lovely gold colour without evolution.
Viña Gravonia is the house’s most modest wine but its complexity is quite remarkable. The first impression on the nose is one of maturity and moisture: wet stones, sea breezes, gentle whiffs of iodine, which come as a surprise to anyone accustomed to lighter, younger whites, but which immediately captivates lovers of mature, complex whites. Swirling it round a little, straightaway it offers a blend of fresh, citrus aromas, with lactic notes (cheese) and ripe fruits, of ripe pear skin and lime blossom tea, with a very pleasant freshness once it becomes still in the glass.
It is dry on the palate: don’t expect a sweetish wine with this sort of maturity; its acidity is extraordinary and will enable it to continue evolving over time. The notes suggesting moisture and other aromas discerned on the nose are repeated now on the palate: evolved fruit, raw almonds and notes reminding us of cheese. It is an easy wine to drink, fluid, medium-bodied, a perfect companion for aperitifs and less complex dishes, mushrooms, full-fat cheeses and any mild dish combining these ingredients. Tondonia white wines relate extremely well to food and should be served at virtually the temperature of a red, remember: at about 14-16 degrees, or you will miss out on all its richness!
Olives / wild mushrooms / soft full-fat cheeses / spaghetti carbonara / potatoes with monkfish / potato omelette / pasta with cheese
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Barrel Aged white. Bodegas R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja, Spain Viura, Malvasia
Bottle: £16.60 club members / £18.86 non-members
If the Gran Reserva is perhaps out of many people’s reach, the Blanco Reserva is a wine that you should try at least once in your life, and one to always have in the cellar if possible; it is a particularly ‘gastronomic’ wine, relating well to food, perfect for fish and fried or grilled shellfish, cheeses such as Brie, Parmesan and Manchego, risottos, seafood rice dishes, fish stews, lobster, pasta dishes with truffles, mushrooms, asparagus, potatoes with cod or monkfish, scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms or fresh garlic, white tuna with tomato or onion… This is a white but at heart a red, much more vinous than fruit-driven, ideal for serving with food.
The honesty of a Tondonia white becomes clear starting with the bottle: transparent. The cork is superb; this wine can be kept for years and years, with no expiry date. In the glass, a vivid bright gold, eternally young. On the nose… give it some time; after maturing for six years in barrel and resting for a long time in bottle, it needs to breathe; if you can, decant it. Describing it is difficult because its aromatic palette is very well integrated. We can discover aromas of very ripe yellow fruits, moist notes of fallen leaves but also of sea air, saline and iodine notes, hints of fine wood… of pencil shavings, suggestions of fennel and aniseed, white almonds, very subtle notes too of fruit peel, like orange, loquats and dried apricots, and dry earth… but in essence, Tondonia Blanco has a mystical touch, an aromatic profile that we associate with the smell emanating from old tomes and rooms perfumed with incense. The Blanco Reserva is a journey in time, a resurgence of fond memories.
It is firm and dry on the palate; harmonious, balanced and elegant. Its entry is smooth but weighty, and it is oily, although without the Gran Reserva’s viscosity. This is definitely a fine white wine, bearing the Tondonia signature.
Soft cheeses / asparagus / wild mushrooms / gilthead bream cooked in salt / pasta truffles and parmesan / rice with wild mushrooms / fish stew / potatoes with cod / grilled shellfish / white tuna with tomato
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Fortified. Pérez Barquero Montilla-Moriles, Spain Pedro Ximénez
Bottle: £12.58 club members / £16.58 non-members
The entire Gran Barquero range is made traditionally, using the solera system of criaderas (sets of barrels), and the Oloroso is the only one to which alcohol is added, fortified with just 2-3% of vinous alcohol, and aged for more than 25 years in American oak barrels.
It is a lovely wine in the glass; somewhere between old gold and orange in colour, similar to an amontillado, clean and bright, and with an abundance of tears. It is fresh on the nose, and on the palate it melts like a sweet, dry, very intense, creamy, amazingly silky, the type of wine you long to keep on your tongue; you'll be reluctant to swallow but after you do, it seems to last forever! It has almost three decades of ageing and all the love, dedication and knowledge of a family and team that continue to show they are committed to upholding the traditional wines of Andalusia, Cordoba and Montilla in particular.
This Oloroso smells of cellars full of history and emanates a marine freshness, with citrus notes and dried flowers, toasted hazelnuts, orange peel and spices like cumin (refreshing); it is elegant on the palate and its high alcohol content (19%), typical of fortified wines, is felt merely as a purifying effect on the tongue. It is a touch sweet, with less sweetness than the amontillado, but creamier, very well-balanced and extremely long, and leaves a slightly unctuous sensation on the lips. A wine that lasts, one which can also be kept in the fridge for several days once opened without losing any of its fine qualities.
One last point, in case you prefer serving the wine with food: it pairs up perfectly with all those dishes difficult to team up with most wines: asparagus, artichokes, anchovies, pickled foods, gazpacho and of course the typical Cordoba-style salmorejo, delicious oxtail and also grilled meats and vegetables. What more could you ask? This is certainly a generous generoso wine in every respect!
NOTE: Traditional Montilla wines are made, unlike Jerez ones, from Pedro Ximénez grapes, a variety that is very rich in sugars and very thin-skinned, which allows the wine to reach naturally and without fortification the alcohol level required for biological ageing to develop in finos and amontillados. Only the oloroso is fortified with a small percentage of alcohol (2-3%) and consequently, the only “fortified” one; finos and amontillados are fortified (generoso) types of wine but without any added alcohol.
As an aperitif / afternoon/evening conversation / grilled meats / grilled vegetables / asparagus / pickled foods / anchovies / gazpacho / salmorejo / oxtail
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Sweet. Pérez Barquero Montilla-Moriles, Spain Pedro Ximénez
Bottle: £8.11 club members / £9.69 non-members
Pérez Barquero asserts, convincingly and with all good reason, that Pedro Ximénez wines are the pride of Andalusia’s tradition, and Spain’s in general, in dessert wines, and a universal wine-making heritage. Their Oloroso is a dessert on its own, and dry, while their Pedro Ximénez is a sweet par excellence, pure nectar proving the best accompaniment to ice cream, fruit and chocolate.
The Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez is amazingly viscous in the glass; it is a pleasure just to see how slowly the tears flow down on swirling and how they stain the glass. Their aromas are typical of Pedro Ximénez grapes turned to raisins: elegant aromas of figs and prunes in the foreground, followed by much more subtle notes resulting from the slow ageing: honey, coffee, exotic wood and a saline touch. Its heightened aromatic intensity leads us to expect a powerful wine on the palate but the gentleness of its entry comes as a surprise; it is a very sweet wine, with great structure, but not in the least cloying, and on the contrary it is fresh with the alcohol very well integrated. A dessert to enjoy in little sips.
It is fascinating to discover this wine’s versatility: it is wonderful to have with ice or sparkling water as a refreshing drink and thus tone down its sweetness, or else to accompany blue cheeses (Cabrales, Roquefort, Gorgonzola...), foie gras, stuffed aubergines, orange fruit salad, various wild mushrooms, and especially with desserts, made from puff pastry, crema Catalana, dark chocolate and cheesecakes made with chocolate, or to bring out the flavour of acidic fruits such as pineapple, strawberries and melon; although it is undoubtedly best when poured over vanilla ice cream. It is also a suitable condiment for certain sauces, to add that contrasting touch of sweetness and fragrance to vinaigrettes and pickled foods.
You can open a bottle of Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez and keep it in the fridge for a long time with no problem, and therefore drink it gradually; not only does oxidation have no effect but it also improves in bottle. Another amazingly generous generoso wine.
With ice / with soda water or tonic / blue cheeses / foie gras / stuffed aubergines / orange fruit salad / milk cap mushrooms / puff pastry desserts / crema Catalana / dark chocolate / chocolate cheesecake / vanilla ice cream / pineapple / melon / strawberries
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