Seeing as Stu’s Spanish Lit Month has been extended from July through to the end of August, I thought I would sneak in a brief wine post to tie in with the event before the month runs away with me! Luckily, white wines from Spain form much of the backbone of my summer drinking – alongside Italian whites and my beloved rosés, of course.
Galicia, in northwest Spain, is an area famed for its albariño – a crisp, citrusy white wine, often displaying a minerally edge. (I’ve written about this grape variety in the past – mostly recently in 2016, also as a nod to Spanish Lit Month, by chance.) Nevertheless, albariño isn’t the only grape variety Galicia has to offer; there is godello, too, a white wine with a little more body or ‘weight’ than its regional stablemate.
Valdesil Montenovo Godello (2019) is an excellent example, an unoaked wine that hails from the Valdeorras Denominación de Origen (reputedly the best region for this particular grape). The vineyards in the Valdesil estate are worked by hand, with the Montenovo being the youngest, freshest expression of godello this winery produces.
In terms of flavour profile, there are notes of pear, peach and apple here, maybe with a touch of something minerally too. It’s a little reminiscent of unoaked white Burgundy – a more interesting, layered version, perhaps? A very well-balanced wine with enough body to stand up to chicken, garlic and a bit of chilli heat. If you like unoaked chardonnay but have never tried godello, I can only encourage you to give it a go – hopefully you’ll enjoy it too!
I bought this wine from The Wine Society, where the 2020 vintage is currently available at £12.50 per bottle. (Disclosure: I have a link to The Society, so the vast majority of my wines are purchased there.) Alternatively, you can use Wine Searcher to look for stockists of this wine and other gorgeous godellos!
And if you’re looking for something to read while sipping a Spanish wine in the garden, here are the links to my latest reviews for Spanish Lit Month:
Ana Maria Matute’s The Island (tr. Laura Lonsdale), a darkly evocative coming-of-age novel that draws on the blistering heat of Mallorca to great effect; and a round-up post on my other reading recommendations, including books by Javier Marías, Valeria Luiselli, Enrique Vila-Matas, and many more. Happy reading (and drinking) for Spanish Lit Month!
It’s been quite a while since I last wrote anything about wine on here – five years in fact since I posted some notes about a favourite Albariño for Stu and Richard’s Spanish Lit Month, which runs every July. My original intention with the blog had been to write a mix of pieces – mostly book reviews (that’s still my primary area of interest, despite the name ‘JacquiWine’), some wine notes, and maybe the occasional book-and-wine match, should the opportunity arise.
Sadly (although maybe not so sadly for many of you!), my wine writing has fallen by the wayside over the past few years, mostly due to a lack of time and motivation on my part to put virtual pen to paper. But when one of my commenters recently enquired if I had any thoughts about posting the occasional wine note in the future, it gave me the push I needed to get back to it – albeit on what is likely to be a rather sporadic basis.
I’m writing this piece in the middle of June – a couple of weeks in advance of the posting date – just as the poppies are in flower, resplendent in red. It’s the time of year when my tastes turn to rosé, the quintessential summer wine, which is often unfairly maligned. There are some very sleek rosés out there these days, mostly from the Mediterranean regions, e.g. the South of France.
One of my favourites is The Society’s Corsican Rosé, a delicate salmon pink that I regularly buy from The Wine Society, vintage in, vintage out. The current 2020 edition is a blend of three different grape varieties: 70% Sciaccarellu, which is native to Corsica, 27% Nielluccio, aka Sangiovese in Italy, and 3% Cinsault (also found in Languedoc-Roussillon and the Middle East, to name just two). Etienne Suzzoni produces this rosé at Clos Culombu, one of Corsica’s leading estates, and he always does a great job with it.
(Interestingly, when I last wrote about this wine in 2015, the predominant grape variety was Nielluccio, maybe with a touch of Sciaccarello and Grenache in the blend, too. So, while the producer remains the same, the mix of grape varieties in the wine will change from one vintage to the next with the aim of producing the optimum blend.)
Having taken delivery of a pick-your-own mixed case at the end of May, I opened my first bottle of the 2020 Corsican Rosé a fortnight ago, just in time to accompany some pan-roasted salmon and fennel – always a winning combination for me. On this first tasting, the 2020 vintage seemed a little sharper than those from previous years – more bracing, and with a slight tartness from the crushed berry flavours that were coming through very clearly.
Previously, one of the most appealing aspects of this wine has been the slightly creamy note in the flavour profile – the hint of ‘summer pudding with cream’ which serves as a foil for the acidity in the fruit. This particular note wasn’t terribly easy to detect in the latest vintage, but I’ve no doubt that it will emerge more strongly over time. The wine just needs a few more months in bottle to settle down, for the flavours to knit together and integrate more completely. It’s at that ‘awkward teenager’ stage at the moment, in the midst of transitioning to an adult with most of its rough edges smoothed out. Luckily, I have another two or three bottles in the wine rack, happily lying in wait for some point in the future.
This experience with the Corsican Rosé got me thinking more broadly about the question of timing – not just for wine but for books too.
Wine is a ‘living’ thing, something that will develop and evolve over time, which means we have to be mindful of this fact to catch it at the optimum moment. But what about books? Clearly, they don’t evolve in quite the same way as certain foods or wine do – a literary text will remain the same, unless there are pressing reasons for it to be altered or updated. Nevertheless, other things can change, either within us or around us, which may well alter how we respond to books at different points in our lives.
Age is a prominent factor here, coupled with our personal life experiences. There are many books that speak to us directly when we are in our twenties that subsequently fail to engage us later in life and vice versa. Several of us can attest to that, I’m sure.
Our mood or state of mind is another influential factor in the mix. There have been many times over the years when I have returned a book to the TBR pile, purely because it didn’t feel ‘right’ for my mindset at that particular point in time. Some of these books are now firm favourites, novels like David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which I loved on my third attempted reading having stalled a couple of times before.
Societal change can be a significant factor too, prompting many of us to reframe our responses and interpretations to certain books as our tolerance levels shift over time. Attitudes to race, social class, gender and sexuality are just some of the factors that have changed markedly in the last 50 years alone, never mind the previous century. Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book recently posted an excellent piece on whether offensive books should be reissued, which tackles these issues head-on. Do take a look if you haven’t read it yet, particularly as the discussion around various points has been fascinating to observe.
Anyway, I should wrap up now before I grossly outstay my welcome. Experience tells me that I need to leave my Corsican Rosé till September (at the very earliest) before trying another bottle. Hopefully, it will have settled down somewhat by then, and I can enjoy a glass or two as part of a balmy Indian Summer. Fingers crossed on both fronts, for the weather and the wine.
Seeing as July is the month for all thing Spanish (see here for a link to Richard and Stu‘s Spanish Lit Month), I thought I would take the opportunity to post a short note on an Albariño I tasted recently. It doesn’t take much for me to get excited about Spanish whites as they constitute much of my summer drinking along with Italian whites and Provençal/Corsican rosés. The wine in question is the Pazo de Villarei Albariño, 2015, from the Rías Baixas region in north-west Spain. (I’ve already written about a previous vintage of this wine, but the 2015 is the latest release.)
It’s a lovely wine; lemony, minerally and very refreshing. Plus it has a slight spritz that gives it a sort of joie de vivre which seems perfect for this time of year. If you’ve never tried Albariño before, the Villarei would make a good introduction to this grape variety, a staple of the Galicia area of Spain. This is a fresh, zingy, unoaked white wine which is light on its feet yet satisfying too. Shellfish or sea fillets would make a nice partner. As for a suitable book match, I have just the thing in mind: The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán, a Spanish classic set in Galicia. A review will follow later this month.
Most of my favourite Albariños seem to clock in at the £12-14 level – Pazo de Señorans and Fefiñanes are terrific quality, but at > £10 pb they might not be everyone’s idea of an everyday wine. Up to until last year, I’d struggled to find a reliable Albariño at the sub £10 level, but the Villarei is keenly priced at £8.50. I think it’s great value for money.
I bought this wine from The Wine Society (I have a link to The Society, so the vast majority of my wines are purchased there). Alternatively, you can use Wine Searcher to look for stockists. If you can’t find the Pazo de Villarei, then the Pazo de Señorans and Fefiñanes are truly excellent wines, albeit a little more expensive.
My notes on another couple of favourite Spanish white wines can be found here, The Gaba do Xil is an unoaked Godello from Galicia while Las Olas is a Verdejo from the Rueda region. Enjoy.
Last summer I wrote about a couple of favourite Spanish white wines to tie in with Richard and Stu’s Spanish Lit Month: an unoaked Godello from Galicia and a Verdejo from the Rueda region. This year I thought I would focus on another favourite from Spain, wines made from the albariño grape variety grown in the Rías Baixas DO (Denominación de Origen) in Galicia, north-west Spain. Albariño wines taste of stone fruits, typically peaches, with a squeeze of lemon juice; sometimes there’s a slightly salty, mineral note from the sea air.
Most of my favourite albariños tend to fall within the £12-£14 per bottle price range, but earlier this month I discovered a new one, slightly more modestly priced at £8.95 pb. It’s the Pazo de Villarei Albariño from the Salnés Valley in the heart of Rías Baixas. The Pazo de Villarei is textbook albariño: pure, clean and refreshing with plenty of lemony citrus flavour. This is an excellent introduction to the albariño grape, a wine that would suit lovers of unoaked white wines who are looking to branch out from Chablis, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
As far as food matches go, albariño is the perfect partner for simple seafood dishes, but there’s enough richness here to cope with slightly stronger Mediterranean flavours too (garlic and olives, for instance). Seared tuna, paella or seafood risotto would also make excellent matches.
Wine stockist: I bought my bottle of Pazo de Villarei Albariño, 2013 from The Wine Society, priced at £8.95 per bottle. (No longer available, but the 2014 vintage is in stock, priced £8.50.) Or you can check alternative stockists via wine-searcher.
For the record, my other favourite albariños are made by Pazo de Señorans and Palacio de Fefiñanes, both come highly recommended.
Last month I reviewed Rendezvous in Veniceby Philippe Beaussant, a beautiful novel of love, art and Venice. (You can read my review by clicking on the link.) I don’t need much of an excuse to open a bottle of Italian wine, so I rummaged through the bottles at home in search of a suitable match. This Cà dei Frati Lugana caught my eye. It comes from a family-run estate on the south banks of Lake Garda near the northern Italian town of Sirmione – the vineyards are situated about 150 km from Venice, so that’s near enough for me.
Lugana is a white wine is made from a grape variety known locally as Turbiana (previously thought to be Trebbiano di Soave). The Cà dei Frati is a personal favourite, the best example of a Lugana I’ve tasted. It’s fresh, rounded and very moreish – think baked apples, a squeeze of lemon and a whiff of thyme. Perfect for a warm summer’s evening and a vicarious trip to Venice/the Italian Lakes.
Wine stockist: I bought my bottle of Cà dei Frati Lugana, 2013 from The Wine Society, priced at £12.50 per bottle. (No longer available, but the 2014 vintage is in stock.) It’s relatively widely available elsewhere – you can check stockists via wine-searcher.
Rendezvous in Venice (tr. by Paul Buck and Catherine Petit) is published in the UK by Pushkin Press.
Last October I read Transit by Anna Seghers, a haunting novel of shifting identities, questions of destiny and the quest to secure safe passage from France during the German occupation in WW2. It’s a remarkable story inspired by Seghers’ own experience as a refugee as she fled from Europe in the early 1940s. (If you’re not familiar with this novel, I’d encourage you to take a peek at my review – it made my end-of-year highlights.)
A sizeable chunk of the novel is set in Marseille where the narrator Siedler (or is it Weidel?) and his companions dine on slices of pizza, all washed down with copious quantities of rosé wine. I had intended to write about rosé at the time, but winter was fast approaching and to my mind this style of wine is best enjoyed in the sunshine. We’ve had some decent weather in the UK over the last week, so I opened my first rosé of the year, a wine from Corsica.
I get a bit annoyed when people dismiss rosé as “girly” or “not a serious wine”. (Even terms like “pink drink” set my teeth on edge a little.) There are some very sleek rosés around these days. My favourites include the pale and delicate rosés from Provence, wines from producers like Domaine Houchart and Domaine Rimauresq.
Earlier this week I tried a different rosé, the latest vintage of a favourite wine from Corsica: The Society’s Corsican Rosé, 2014. This is a delicate and elegant wine, a crushed-berries-and-cream rosé made from Nielluccio (Sangiovese) – there may be a touch of Sciaccarello and Grenache in the blend, too. It’s dry and refreshing, with a slightly creamy note that balances the acidity of the fruit. A delightful wine, possibly the best vintage yet.
It’s produced by Clos Culombu, and I’ve enjoyed their wines for several years (they also make a delicious, slightly herby white from the Vermentino grape).
Transit gives few details about the wine Siedler/Weidel and his companions drink in the Marseille pizzeria, but I’d like to think that any of the rosés mentioned here would make a fitting match.
Wine stockist: I bought my bottle of The Society’s Corsican Rosé, 2014 from The Wine Society, priced at £8.95 per bottle.
Transit by Anna Seghers (tr. Margot Bettauer Dembo) is published by NYRB Classics. Source: personal copy.
There has not been much in the way of wine writing on here in recent months so I thought I would post a short note about a favourite wine – it’s a white wine from Greek islands, perfect for the spring sunshine we’ve been enjoying the UK.
Hatzidakis Santorini is a brilliant showcase for the assyrtiko grape, native to the Greek island of Santorini. This wine is quite full, minerally, almost tropical in style with melon and stone fruit and a slightly herby aroma, but there’s enough lemony citrus acidity to cut through the richness leaving a clean finish. This is a food wine, a great match for salmon with herb butter, and worth trying as an alternative to Chardonnay.
Wine stockist (UK): I bought my bottle of the Hatzidakis (2012 vintage)from The Wine Society. The Society has now moved on to the 2013 vintage priced at £11.50 per bottle. Also available from Waitrose £12.99 pb. Alternatively, if you are interested in finding this wine, you could use Wine-Searcher to check availability in other countries.
(Please feel free to ignore these posts if they are of absolutely no interest to you, it’s just a place for me to record a few wine notes!)
On Friday I read Ghosts, a novella by the acclaimed Argentine writer César Aira (first published in 1990 and translated in 2008). It’s a strange little book, and I’m not sure what to make of it. Nevertheless, something about it caught my eye. You’ll see why later, but first I should introduce Ghosts, albeit briefly.
The novella is set on a construction site; more precisely, in a half-finished building of high-end apartments for the well-heeled inhabitants of Buenos Aires. As the building is still under construction, the only human inhabitants are Chilean night-watchman, Raul Viňas, his wife and children who run around the structure hiding in nooks and crannies – the children that is, not Raul and his wife. But there are other dwellers besides the Viňas family, and they are the ghosts of the title. Aira’s creations are not your typical ghosts though. They are like naked men, big, boisterous and raucous, and come covered in fine cement dust:
They were listening too, but only as a pretext for bursting continually into fierce, raucous laughter. Or not so much laughter as vehement, theatrically sarcastic howling. […] The naked men shouted louder and louder as if competing with each other. They were dirty like builders, and had the same kind of bodies: rather stocky, solid, with small fee, and rough hands. Their toes were spread widely, like wild men’s toes. They were behaving like badly brought-up children. But they were adults. (pgs. 9-10)
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure what to make of the story as a whole, but there’s a dry humour to it which I enjoyed, especially in the first half of the book. My difficulty came at the halfway point where I got more than a bit lost as Aira slipped more deeply into philosophical territory.
What I loved about the story though was the following passage about wine, and I couldn’t resist posting it here. The Viňas family are living without the benefit of a fridge, but Raul (a ‘prodigious drinker’) has discovered an inventive method for keeping his wines cool – it’s desperately hot in their part of the building:
It consisted of resolutely approaching a ghost and inserting a bottle into his thorax, where it remained, supernaturally balanced. When he went back for it, say two hours later, it was cold. There were two things he hadn’t noticed, however. The first was that, during the cooling process, the wine came out of the bottles and flowed like lymph all through the bodies of the ghosts. The second was that this distillation transmuted ordinary cheap wine, fermented in cement vats, into an exquisite, matured cabernet sauvignon, which not even captains of industry could afford to drink every day. But an undiscriminating drinker like Viňas, who chilled hisred wine in summer just because of the heat, wasn’t going to notice the change. Besides, he was accustomed to the wonderful wines of his country, so it seemed perfectly natural to him. And, indeed, what could be more natural than to drink the best wine, always and only the best? (pg. 29-30)
What indeed. And how fortunate to have that kind of ghost nearby…
Well, I didn’t have any Argentine (or Chilean) Cabernet Sauvignon to hand on Friday, but I did manage to find a bottle of Zaha Malbec in the cupboard by the stairs. That’ll do nicely, I thought. The Zaha (which stems from the word ‘heart’) comes from the Altamira district of Mendoza, a cool-climate area where the grapes are grown at high altitude. Inky purple in colour, with a whiff of eucalyptus and a flavour profile of blackberries and liquorice, it’s unmistakably a New World wine. The grapes are mostly Malbec (90%), but I think there’s a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in the blend for additional interest and complexity. Not a bad match for the Aira, and a very good wine without the need for any interventions from ghosts.
I read Ghosts to link in with Richard’s celebration of Argentine (and Uruguayan) Literature of Doom. All comments are welcome here, whether they’re about Aira, Ghosts or wine. And if you’ve read any of Aira’s books, I’d love to hear from you…
Ghosts is published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton, tr. by Chris Andrews. Source: personal copy. I bought the Zaha Malbec, 2011vintage, from The Wine Society(no longer in stock).
I‘d intended to write a post on a couple of favourite Spanish white wines to coincide with Richard and Stu’s Spanish Lit Month in July, but alas, time got the better of me. And then our hosts decided to extend their focus on Spanish Lit by a couple of weeks, so here we are in August, and I’m still in time for the tie-in!
First up is an old favourite, a Spanish white I’ve been buying ever since it first grabbed my attention three years ago: Gaba do Xil Godello, an unoaked godello from Galicia (godello is the grape variety), made by a very talented winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez. This godello reminds me a little of a white Burgundy, but it’s more interesting than many unoaked chardonnays; there’s a mineral note here, a touch of something herby and a refreshing squeeze of lemon. A very well-balanced wine with sufficient body and interest to stand up to seafood, garlic and a bit of chilli heat. If you like this style of white wine but have never tried godello, do give it a go.
And moving on to a new discovery: Las Olas Verdejo, from the Rueda region, northwest of Madrid. Another unoaked white, this verdejo has a lovely aroma. At the risk of sounding like something out of fabric softener commercial, the aroma of this wine reminds me of an orchard in summer: slightly grassy, ripe pears and lemon (again). This verdejo tastes a little like sauvignon blanc, but without the stinging acidity that accompanies some wines made from this grape variety; it’s also more flavoursome than many sauvignon blancs. Las Olas (which translates as ‘wave’) is a very interesting wine and great value for money at £7.95 per bottle; another Spanish white for my re-buy list.
Wine stockist: I bought both wines from The Wine Society. I tasted the 2012 vintage of the Gaba do Xil Godello– The Society has moved on to the 2013 vintage, priced at £9.50 per bottle. Las Olas Verdejo, 2013 is £7.95 per bottle.
If you’re interested in my Spanish Lit Month reviews, click here for a round-up with links.
Have you tried any Spanish white (or red) wines recently? Do you have any personal favourites?
A couple of weeks ago I returned to an old favourite, an unoaked chardonnay from the Mâconnais region in Burgundy: Saint-Véran en Crêches, Domaine Nathalie et Jacques Saumaize. I’ve been buying this Saint-Véran for years, and it never fails to deliver vintage in, vintage out. I’m not a big lover of oak as far as chardonnay is concerned, and I suspect this is one of the reasons why I love this wine. There’s plenty of refreshing lemony acidity here, and a lovely creamy note on the finish – it’s so well balanced and elegant. Everything I want from a chardonnay at this level. In fact, it leaves me wondering why I ever bother buying other examples. But then again, that’s part of the fun of wine, isn’t it, to try different things? How else to discover a new gem?
Speaking of which, here’s a new wine from one of my favourite producers, GD Vajra: Dragon Langhe Bianco, Luigi Baudana (2012 vintage). Listed by The Wine Society as a chardonnay, the Dragon is a mercurial creature indeed – I’ve been reading Angela Crater’s Nights at the Circus, and this wine would be a fitting match. The Dragon hails from Serralunga d’Alba in the Piedmont region in North-West Italy, and it certainly feels quite European. On the nose, it’s quite floral with some stone-fruit notes, too, but if served blind, I doubt I’d mark this wine as chardonnay – it’s more complex and characterful than that. My initial thought was ‘assyrtiko’ from Greece, but the more I sampled this wine, the more it cried ‘Alsace’, especially as it warmed up. This wine is a beguiling mix of citrus (lemon oil), savoury and minerally flavours with a long, mouth-watering finish. Crying out for food, this wine would be lovely with salmon or a robust seafood dish – it’s got enough body and a slight oiliness to cope with something substantial.
In fact, the Dragon isn’t just a ‘straight’ chardonnay. It’s a blend: 80% chardonnay, 20% sauvignon blanc, riesling and local grape, nascetta. Whatever it is, the Dragon is a winner, one that punches well above its price point of £9.95. More, please!
Wine stockist: I bought both wines from The Wine Society. I tasted the 2011 vintage of the Saint-Véran en Crêches, Domaine Nathalie et Jacques Saumaize – The Society has moved on to the 2012 vintage now, priced at £12.50 per bottle. The Dragon Langhe Bianco, Luigi Baudana, 2012 is £9.95 per bottle.