Author: arthur.demuth

Improve Your Skills with Wine

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There is always something new to read about alcohol and the effects it has on us. The dominant narrative concerns the necessity to drink in moderation and never to drink and drive. Naturally, Uvinum wholeheartedly supports prevention messages from health campaigns.

Nonetheless, recent studies shed a positive light on a moderate consumption of alcohol. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet have long been demonstrated by scientists, so we are not going to dwell on those. Instead, we discovered five studies proving that alcohol can enhance your skills. 

Dancing skills

Last December, The Times published the results of a study by Professor David Nutt which declared that six glasses significantly improved your score at an Xbox dancing game. This corresponds to about one bottle of wine. However, it appears that this new-gained skill disappears beyond six drinks.

Foreign language skills

According to a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and conducted by the universities of the King’s College, Liverpool and Maastricht, one glass of alcohol has a positive impact on self-rated and observer-rated language performance. So, next time you go on holiday on a Spanish or Italian wine route, don’t hesitate to drink some wine to talk with locals.

Problem-solving skills

A new study by Professor Jennifer Wiley of the University of Illinois seems to prove that two glasses of wine or beer make you better and faster at brain teasers than if you were sober. Though, it might be worth pointing out that this effect is limited as alcohol enhances the creativity with which you can tackle a problem but your analytical skills dwindle.

Sense of smell

The Institute of Science in Israel proved in a study that two glasses of alcohol for women and three for men can improve our olfactory performances.  In other words, we identify various odour when slightly inebriated. Although, just as with the other skills, this advantage disappears beyond a moderate consumption.

Social skills

According to an article published in Psychological Science, having a few drinks can potentially improve your social skills. Alcohol seems to facilitate involvement in discussions and to make you smile more, thereby easing social bonding. However, shots of vodka will not replace healthy relationships.

 TAGS:Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico 2015Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico 2015

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico 2015, a red wine from Chianti Classico based on the best sangiovese and canaiolo from 2015.

 

 TAGS:Château Grand Puy Lacoste Lacoste Borie 2015Château Grand Puy Lacoste Lacoste Borie 2015

Château Grand Puy Lacoste Lacoste Borie 2015,  a red wine from Pauillac that contains grapes of 2015.

Booze up your Hot Chocolate

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This week, we officially survived the so-called Blue Monday, the infamous “most depressing day of the year”. However, winter is here to stay, and every one of us could use some comfort food after spending the day fighting off polar winds, enduring dark afternoons and surviving icy rains. This is where our “ameliorated” hot cup of chocolate come into play. 

The sweet-powered: Caramel Lush

To start this list, I suggest a delicious caramelised hot chocolate. Its sweet flavours will make you forget about the long day you just had. Just sit down and relax.  

Ingredients

  • Achieving the caramel flavour is the tricky part. The easiest way is to use flavoured vodkaliquor or cream.
  • Alternatively, combine dark rum and caramel syrup for a more intense taste. 
  • Cocoa powder
  • Milk
  • Whipped cream

Preparation

After pouring the milk and cocoa powder into the pot, bring to a simmer. Make sure the ingredients are perfectly mixed. Add the syrup and the alcohol. Top it off with whipped cream.

Hot tip: add some toffee or hazelnut sprinkles on the whipped cream for a gourmet hot chocolate!

The fresh twist: Minty Bomb

This refreshing hot chocolate will make you want to live in winter for the whole year just to have the excuse of the cold to drink it again and again. This the perfect warm drink for your Sunday morning to enjoy on the sofa before starting the day. 

Ingredients

Preparation

Place the milk and cocoa powder in the pot, then, bring to a simmer and mix. We recommend replacing the cocoa powder with melted bitter chocolate. Add the mint schnapps and whipped cream. Your hot chocolate is now waiting for you!

Hot tip: To boost the mint taste of your preparation use some crushed mint candy or fresh mint leaves.

The fruit-infused: Soothing Orange

Discover this yummy citrus-flavoured hot chocolate. Admittedly, you are not going to drink it for the vitamin C but savouring it is likely to be the perfect way to spend the evening on your couch while the rain is pouring outside.

Ingredients

  • Typically, Cointreau and Grand Marnier are the recommended alcohol. But do not hesitate to be creative! There are many creams, liquors and bitters available. 
  • Orange zest
  • Cocoa powder
  • milk
  • Whipped cream

Preparation

Prepare your hot chocolate by warming and mixing together the milk and the cocoa powder or melted chocolate (go for a dark one!). You can also add some orange zest in the pot for a more intense taste. Once your chocolate is at the right temperature, add the orange liquor. Add some whipped cream and sprinkle the orange zest on top. 

Hot tip: use a small slice of candied orange or additional melted dark chocolate to top the whipped cream and create a stunning look.

The exotic-longing: Coco Delish

Bring back some of that exotic summer flavour in your dreary winter with this coconut-tasting hot chocolate! It will remind you of the great cocktails you drunk last summer.

Ingredients

  • Again two possibilities exist, the first (and our favourite) consists of dark Rum and coconut milk.
  • Another possibility is to use flavoured vodkarum or liquor and milk.
  • White chocolate
  • Toasted coconut sprinkles
  • Whipped cream

Preparation

Depending on the option you chose, put the melted white chocolate in the pot with the milk or coconut milk and bring to a simmer. When you reach the desired temperature, add the liquor and the whipped cream. Add coconut sprinkles generously to garnish. 

Hot tip: to make your cocoa even more savoury, add some cardamom or vanilla extract.

TAGS:Santa Teresa 1796Santa Teresa 1796

Santa Teresa 1796, a Dark Rum with origins in Venezuela which is aged with the solera method. This allows it to acquire a unique maturity and quality.

 

TAGS:Vodka DanzkaVodka Danzka

Vodka Danzka,  a vodka born in Copenhagen and the bottle is designed in the famous minimalist Nordic style.

Seven Insanely Creative Vodka Bottles

The most iconic example of a brand harnessing the power of design to promote its product is undeniably Absolut Vodka. Indeed, the arrival of the Absolut Company shifted the focus away from the product to its container and it has been one of the uncontested leaders thanks to its minimalist bottle shape, appealing colours and various limited editions.

Nevertheless, the competition quickly adapted and over the years we have witnessed a growing care given to the bottle. In a market always more competitive, some companies did not hesitate to go all the way and to up the ante to new highs. At Uvinum, we selected some of the most creative vodka bottle designs currently available on the market. 

Precious Vodka

Easily recognisable thanks to its diamond shape, Precious Vodka was designed by Precious Vodka with the clear ambition to offer a Premium Luxury Vodka to its consumers. Besides its crystalline aspect, it also contains an actual gem such as sapphire, emerald, ruby, topaz, peridot and amber. 

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Crystal Head Aurora Vodka

With multiple awards from prestigious international contests, Crystal Head Aurora Vodka can boast an excellent taste along with a unique design thanks to its bottle shaped like a skull. Moreover, you will appreciate the mesmerising colours reminding us of the northern lights. 

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Outerspace Vodka

If we start talking about skull-shaped bottles, it becomes necessary to mention the Outerspace Vodka. This time, the source of inspiration is the extraterrestrials, an appropriate choice for a vodka filtered through meteorites. A great drink for a cosmic experience. 

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Firestarter Vodka

The Firestarter Vodka produced by an eponymous company and ironically in the shape of a fire extinguisher will deliver what its name promises: firing up your parties. This eye-catching product from Moldova has all the advantages: a great taste (5 distillations), an original design and an affordable price.

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Vodka Red Army Kalashnikov

This design is quite straightforward in what it is supposed to evoke, Russia, its army, and its vodka-making tradition. Vodka Red Army Kalashnikov is displayed in a box similar to the unfamous Ak 47 Kalashnikov and contains a gun-shaped vodka bottle, six shot glasses (no pun intended) and a grenade filled with herbal liquor. 

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Vodka Bong Spirit Yosoh

A possible tribute to the relaxed approach to drugs of the Dutch, the Vodka Bong Spirit Yosoh combines the vices with its bong-shaped bottle filled with premium Dutch vodka. Not the most subtle design but it definitely belongs to current representations of what the country can offer. 

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The Ladoga Imperial Collection

We kept the most impressive bottle for the end. With its Imperial Collection, the Ladoga company really created an exclusive product whose outrageous price can only be explained by the incredible design. This vodka honours Russia’s two most outstanding export successes: traditional vodka and the Fabergé eggs. 

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 TAGS:Absolut Vodka 1LAbsolut Vodka 1L

Absolut Vodka 1L is distilled with natural resources such as pure Swedish spring water and winter wheat. Discover the Swedish vodka-making tradition.

 

 TAGS:Vodka Finlandia 1LVodka Finlandia 1L

Vodka Finlandia 1L whose distillation requires six-row barley growing under the midnight sun and the icy spring waters. Uncover the Finnish soul with this unique vodka. 

Elegant Cocktails with Cava

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Each year, the holiday season witnesses the come back of sparkling wines in our lives as we celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve with friends and family. Along with Champagne and ProseccoCava is an all time favourite and its popularity never decreases. Yet, after numerous celebrations, one might need some novelty as we toast with our loved ones. This is why we discovered these interesting ideas to pimp up your Cava and add some dash to your usual drink.

The Bubbly Mary

The lightest offspring of the Bloody Mary Family is an interesting cocktail to add some elegance and refinement to your Friday usual. What’s more, the bubbles transform an old-fashioned cocktail into a modern drink

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon slice
  • 1 lime slice
  • 2 oz Cava
  • 4 oz Tomato juice
  • 2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • 2 dashes of Worcester sauce
  • 1 pinch of Ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch smoked paprika 
  • 1 pinch celery salt

Preparation 

Squeeze the lemon and lime slices in the shaker, add the tomato juice and the paprika, celery salt and pepper, as well as the Tabasco and Worcester sauce in the shake the mix. Pour in a glass and add the Cava which you will gently mix with the preparation to preserve the sparkling properties. 

The Apple Pumpkin Spice Sangria 

Over the last decade, pumpkin has been invading your autumnal coffee with regularity. Now, you can extend the trend to the heart of winter thanks to this exciting recipe!

Ingredient

  • 4 apples
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 pears
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin purée
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 4 cups apple moonshine
  • 1 bottle of Cava

Preparation

Cut the apples, oranges, pears and place them in a punch bowl. After, add the cranberries, the pumpkin purée and all the spices along with the cider and moonshine. Pour the Cava and let sit overnight for the ingredients to release their aromas. 

The Pomegranate Twist

This easy cocktail will revolutionise your boring New Year’s appetiser into an innovative drink. Sometimes, simplicity is the answer and the association pomegranate juice really does create a novel beverage.

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 30ml pomegranate juice
  • 90ml Cava 
  • Pomegranate Arils

Preparation

Mix the cold Cava with the pomegranate juice. To strengthen the sweetness, do not hesitate to add a sugar cube. Finally, to give your drink a more sophisticated look, simply add some frozen pomegranate Arils which will keep the liquid cold and release a more intense aroma as it melts.   

 TAGS:Freixenet Excelencia BrutFreixenet Excelencia Brut

Freixenet Excelencia Brut is a sparkling wine made by Freixenet from the region of Cava.

 

 TAGS:Codorniu Cuvée Gran Cremant BrutCodorniu Cuvée Gran Cremant Brut

Codorniu Cuvée Gran Cremant Brut is a sparkling wine made by Codorníu from the region of Cava based on viura, xarel·lo and macabeo.

Delicious Cocktails for your Holidays

 TAGS:undefinedAs daylight makes itself scarce, you might feel like retreating into your home to drink tea under blankets. This also means longer nights and more time to go out and spend time with your friends. A great alternative to fight winter blues and to make the most of your holiday season. Here are some ideas to brighten your social evenings: 

Cranberry Mojitos

What says party better than a mojito and what fruit evokes Christmas better than cranberries? None, that is why Cranberry Mojitos were created for December!

Ingredients for 4 drinks:

  •  8 oz cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 40 mint leaves 
  • 4 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 8 oz of rum
  • Seltzer water

Preparation:

Add the cranberries, sugar and water to a pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes (but do not bring to a boil). Once cold, you can start the making the mojitos: put 10 mint leaves,  and one tbsp of lime juice, and press the leaves to release the mint aromas. Pour 2 oz of rum and 2 oz of the cranberry preparation in the glass. Finally, fill up the glass with the Seltzer water, ice cubes and some fresh cranberries. 

Winter Sangria

Though Sangria is traditionally associated with Summertime, there is no reason to deprive yourself of a fun sangria evening thanks to this spice-rich recipe!

Ingredients for one punch bowl

  • 1 bottle of sweet red wine
  • 1 bottle of apple cider
  • 2 clementines
  • 2 apples
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate
  • Rosemary for each glass

Preparation

Peel and slice the mandarines and the apples and cut the cranberries in half. Pour the wine, cider and sliced fruits in a large bowl stir to mix the whole and let infuse in a cold place. Serve with ice cubes and a branch of rosemary.

Jingle Juice

The perfect rum-based fruity cocktail to forget the harshness of winter and celebrate the holiday season with friends.

Ingredients for a punch bowl

Citrus Sugar:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Punch:

Preparation

To make the citrus sugar, put all the zests with the sugar, the ginger and the cinnamon, press it to release the aromas and put it to rest. Next, place the citrus sugar in the punch bowl and add the add the juices and nectars while stirring. Pour the alcohol and the sparkling water. Finally, incorporate the freshly sliced fruits into the mix. 

Christmas Coffee Cocktail

The ideal drink if you want to stay awake, savour an original cocktail and enjoy the holiday spirit. Moreover, this drink can be served warm or cold! 

Ingredients

4 oz strong coffee
1 1/2 oz amaretto liqueur
1 1/2 oz coffee liqueur
1 oz butterscotch schnapps
1 oz creme de cocoa
fresh whipped cream
grated chocolate, for garnish

Preparation

Mix and stir the coffee and liqueurs in a glass. Add whipped cream and garnish with grated chocolate.

 TAGS:Faustino VIIFaustino VII

Faustino VII is a blend based on tempranillo grapes becoming more and more popular. Not only in Spain but all over the world.

 

 

 TAGS:Porta 6 Branco 2016Porta 6 Branco 2016

Porta 6 Branco 2016 is an entertaining composition of Portuguese and French grape varieties such as sauvignon blanc, arinto and fernao pires.

 

Rioja vs Ribera

TAGS:undefinedAt first sight, the issue might appear trivial, however, several customers recently asked me the following question: “What is the difference between the wines from the Rioja and those from the Ribera del Duero?”. What’s more, according to my experience, the next question tends to concern the price difference. This is why I thought an article would be the ideal opportunity to come back on the topic, especially considering that Christmas is at the door and we should be thinking about which wine to open during the holiday season.

The most famous Designations of Origin in Spain and those whose wines sell best are, beyond any doubt, the Rioja and the Ribera del Duero. Their red wines are famous not only in Spain but worldwide. Each receives a fervent support from their amateurs whose positions hardly seem compatible. But what are the differences between these regions’ red wines? In order to answer, I have to go through some of the “boring” differences … Before getting to the interesting part!

The creation

La Rioja has been a Designation of Origin (Denominación de Origen, DO) since 1925 and even received the “Denominación de Origen Calificada, DOC” in 1991, which implies an excellent quality. On the other hand, the Ribera del Duero is a relatively new DO as it was only recognized in 1982.

The geographical situation

The Rioja  DOC’s production area is located in Northern Spain on the banks of the Ebro river, mainly in the autonomous communities of the Rioja and the Basque Country. Moreover, the region is subdivided into three geographical designations: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. All in all, the DO counts 63.593 hectares of vineyards producing between 280 and 300 million litres (90% of red, 5% of white and 5% of rosé).

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The production area of the Ribera del Duero DO stretches over the south-east of Castile and León, mostly in the provinces of Burgos, Segovia, Valladolid and Soria. There are 22.320 hectares of vineyards which produce about 130 million litres (98% of red and 2% of rosé).

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Regarding the geographical situation, it is not so much the formal delimitation between the various areas that matters but rather their soils or “terroir” as well as their respective climate. The soils and the climate determine the wine quality among other factors.

As to the Rioja DOC, generally speaking for the three production areas, the climate is continental, moderate, and almost Mediterranean in the Rioja Baja’s case. The mild temperatures allow for a slow and careful maturation of the grapes. The designation is characterized by a diversity of soils, though clay-calcareous, clay-ferrous and alluvial types of soil predominate.

Typical for the Ribera del Duero DO is the extreme continental climate along with scarce rainfalls. Winters are cold with icy winds whereas summers are hot and dry but with low nocturnal temperatures. As a result, the grape ripens faster and is more concentrated. Soils are rather diverse in this DO even if limestone prevails.

Varieties of grape

The main grape variety grown in both DOs is the Tempranillo but that is where their similarity ends. Indeed, in the Rioja, the allowed red varietals include the Tempranillo (the most common), the dark Grenache, the Carignan and the Graciano as well as three white varietals: the Malvasia, the Macabeu and the white Grenache.

In the Ribera del Duero, red varieties include the Tempranillo, also called locally Tinto  Fino or Tinta del País, the Cabernet, the Sauvignon, the Merlot and the Malbec. Additionally, they have a small amount of Grenache and, for whites, the Albillo.

Although the Tempranillo is the most commonly grown and used varietal in the elaboration of wines from both DOs, their wines remain truly different.

Aroma, power in the mouth, alcohol and alcohol level, colour and savour

In short, red wines from the Rioja can be described as sweet and hardly astringent. They do not leave a dry feeling in the mouth and are not harsh.

Ribera del Duero’s wines are more concentrated and intense both in their colour and their savour thanks to the extreme climate and the grape’s quicker maturation. They give a sensation of greater astringency, dryness and harshness in the mouth. They can be described as powerful.

For the same reasons as their power in the mouth, wines from the Ribera de Duero have a higher level of alcohol than those from the Rioja. Though, if the wines are well elaborated, one does not necessarily notice their higher alcohol content.

The Rioja wines’ aroma reminds us of red fruits and they leave a fresh aftertaste thanks to their acidity. The aroma of the Ribera del Duero wines calls ripe fruits to mind, appears smoother and rounder in the mouth and tends to end with a lactic hint, similar to a strawberry yoghurt.

Both DOs classify their wines according to their time of ageing in barrels or bottles (Crianza):

  • Joven / Roble (they do not age in wooden barrels neither do they mature in barrels for more than 12 months)
  • Crianza (minimum two years of ageing, one of which in a barrel)
  • Reserva (minimum three years of ageing, one in a barrel and the other in bottle)
  • Gran Reserva (minimum five years of ageing, two in a barrel and three in bottle)

The graph below shows the ageing potential of wines over time according to their “Crianza”. For both DOs, young wines should be drunk rapidly, whereas “Crianza” and “Reserva” wines can be savoured over a longer period.

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The boring, yet objective, part is finally over and we can now focus on the more interesting part.

The price difference

Why are Rioja wines generally cheaper than the Ribera del Duero’s? I answered this question to a large extent in my previous explanations: the production area and the number of litres produced in the Rioja is sensibly higher than in the Ribera. Indeed, we still have in mind the Rioja’s 63.593 hectares of vineyards in contrast to “only” 22.320 hectares in the Ribera. Moreover, the climate has a defining influence. Indeed, it is easier to produce wine in the Rioja than under the Ribera’s extreme conditions. The Ribera’s cellars face more frost problems which limit the yields of the vines. Less wine, higher prices!

To summarize, these DOs are different regions with different soils, climates and varietals. So, why do people keep arguing over the superiority of one designation over the other? To each his own tastes, no? Or should I prefer meat over fish?

This being said, some issues and disagreements are brought to light. Nowadays, several estates in the Rioja Alavesa wish to break away from their current DO to create a new one (“D.O. Viñedos de Álava”). Local Alavese winegrowers (about 42) promote the differences and the unique character of their wines. If we consider the French or Italian classification system, their demands would be quite sensible. In 2015, the famous ARTADI Bodega quit the Rioja DO. The winemaker justified his choice declaring, “Renowned wine regions such as Bordeaux (with 52 sub-designations) or Burgundy (96) offer their consumers wines which evoke specific areas. It is essential to provide the consumers with the opportunity to discover our land’s diversity, which grants quality wines their uniqueness and authenticity”.

While they are right to wish for a distinct recognition and to promote their wines’ particularities, I might have some reservations. Indeed, let us not forget that the reputation and the fame of the Rioja wines are the result of its winegrowers’ efforts and dedication, but also the considerable resources deployed by the DOs to support their products’ commercialisation and promotion. It is necessary to thank the DOs for their great work. Yet, it can hardly be otherwise: just like every child will eventually stand on its own feet and trace its own path, winegrowers will aspire to a greater autonomy and step outside the DOs’ framework.

In the Ribera del Duero’s case, the situation is quite different. Here, we talk about those excluded from the DO. Some of the most famous cellars of the Castile and León region such as Mauro, Abadía Retuerta, Bodegas Leda, … Do not belong to the Ribera del Duero DO but to the “Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León”. Is it a problem? Abadía Retuerta answers, “At Abadía Retuerta, we could say that our auto-regulation is much stricter than other designations. Though our application to the Ribera del Duero was refused, today, we can affirm that this event is one of the secrets of Abadía Retuerta’s success. We are currently in touch with the administration to create our own designation in compliance with the recently voted Wine Law”.

As for Mauro, they are among the best red wines from Spain and acknowledged as such by the greatest critics in the world.

Every day in France, there are more winemakers who decide to break away from the designation of origin and to commercialize their wines under the name of “Vin de France”. It might be time for designations to rebrand or reinvent themselves. A similar situation is happening in Catalonia with the Cava DO where several estates quit their DO but, unlike other regions, they created two classifications: Clàssic Penedès and Cava de Paraje.

But let’s get back to our DOs: Would it be more sensible or relevant to distinguish Modern vs Classical wines? Are the former better than the latter?

It would like asking whether one prefers our grandmother’s traditional recipes or sushi … Wouldn’t it be possible to enjoy both? These are two totally different types of vinification and we shouldn’t compare them.

The so-called modern wines are usually more full-bodied and fleshy, they also have a greater intensity as well as a greater power and a higher alcohol content. These wines undergo their ageing process in new barrels (my best friends …). At first, it might sound unsavoury, but nothing is further from the truth! These wines’ problem is that they are drunk too soon, too young. They must remain in their bottle for 10 years before consumption in order to let them balance themselves and achieve their ideal drinking point. They should not be consumed too soon.

On the contrary, classical wines, my personal favourite, are left for a long period of time in used barrels, that is, in barrels previously used to mature other wines. The wood’s influence on the wine quality decreases and the wine becomes smoother. Moreover, once bottled, the wines are stocked in cellars for some time before commercialisation. For example, Viña Tondonia, La Rioja Alta, Vega Sicilia are wines bearing a tile colour with an evolved nuance and a very agreeable mouth.

Actually, the Rioja vs Ribera distinction does not really make sense. There are safe bets in both DOs, indispensable great wines and small cellars to give them a novel distinction. When well elaborated, a good wine with its own character can be found in every cellar and suit every pocket.

This being said, the wine landscape in Spain has tremendously changed over a short period of time. Some smaller regions unveil an incredible and fantastical potential thanks to a new generation of winegrowers who travelled, studied and worked in Spain or abroad with great winemakers. This generation shows a clear will to develop their vineyards, autochthonous varietals and quality wines which deserved to be known, and of course, enjoyed.

TAGS:Campo Viejo TempranilloCampo Viejo Tempranillo

Campo Viejo Tempranillo, a red wine from Rioja that is based on Tempranillo grapes.

 

TAGS:Pruno 2014

Pruno 2014

Pruno 2014, a red wine from Ribera del Duero vinified with cabernet sauvignon and tinta fina.