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August 2015 Quentin Sadler's Wine Page

Written with the Tag Line Burridges of Arlington St

Wine of the Week 64 – A is for Albillo
POSTED ON 29/08/2015

Those of you who read these pages regularly will know that I love finding new things, whether that is new wine regions, new wines styles, new grape varieties or producers. So, I am very excited by my new Wine of the Week.

It is a Spanish white wine – Spain seems to be turning out really exciting white wines right now – made from a grape variety called Albillo. I actually tasted it a while ago, but had failed to tell you all about, so I am rectifying that today.

Albillo is pretty rare, only being planted in Ávila, Galicia, Madrid, Ribera del Duero (where currently it is blended into red wines although the DO is about to start to make whites too) and Burgos Province. I actually mentioned the grape 6 years ago in my piece about the wines of Madrid here.

As with so many Spanish grapes, we have to be very careful as the same name can be used in all sorts of places for different grape varieties. Albillo is no exception as Albillo Real and Albillo Mayor are actually different grapes. My wine of the week is made from Albillo Mayor, which just to muddy the waters a little more and to show how confused wine names can be, is also sometimes known as Turruntés (in Rioja), Túrruntez, Abillo, Blanca del País. And if you were wondering if that means that it is related to Torrentes, well it isn’t. It seems that none of the Spanish grapes called Torrontes, or similar names, are related to the Torrentes of Argentina, although it just might be related to the Albillo Criollo grown in the Canary islands.

Excitingly though, it does seem that Albillo Mayor is one of Tempranillo’s parents, the other being Benedicto, an obscure grape that is no longer grown commercially.

Anyway, whatever Albillo it is, I love this wine so much that I have made it my Wine of the Week.

2013 Ermita del Conde Albillo Centenario
Bodegas Ermita del Conde
Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León
Burgos, Castilla y León, Spain

Ermita del Conde is a small estate that was created in 2006 by Marta Gomendio, but new though it is the secret here is that they largely use very old vines, which give wines of more depth with lower yields. I am also told that old vines ripen at lower sugar levels than younger vines, so give better balance and often slightly lower alcohol too.

The winery is in the little village of Coruña del Conde, which is outside the Ribera del Duero DO and so the wines have no DO, but have to be labelled as Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, the equivalent of the French Vin de Pays. Coruña del Conde is roughly 60 km east of Valladolid, 60 km south west of Logroño and 40 km west of Soria. The estate takes its name from the medieval chapel, ermita or hermitage next door.

Just 2 km away are the magnificent ruins of the old Roman city of Clunia Sulpica, which was briefly the capital of Rome and for a long time the most important Roman city in northern Iberia. In fact the whole area is steeped in history, with Roman bridges, medieval churches and castles dotted about the landscape – this area was for long a defensive frontier, so castles are everywhere.

Marta now owns 16 hectares of old vines that she has purchased off the local farmers and nurtured back to a productive life, this story by the way is replicated across Spain – and elsewhere. Most of the grapes are Tempranillo, or Tinto Fino as it is known in these parts. I have not tasted the red wines, but hope to do so soon.

Apart from the age of the vines, the other thing that makes for great quality here is the height. These vines grow at over 900 metres above sea level. This altitude tempers the extreme summer heat ensuring the wines retain their natural acidity and delicacy. Also, everything here is done by hand with the utmost care, and it shows, what’s more the winery is incredibly well appointed with the most modern equipment that treats the grapes very gently.

This wine is made from vines that are over 100 years old – Albillo Centenario. It is fermented in 3000 litre French oak vats or foudres. Fermentation is spontaneous using the wild yeasts and once complete the wine is aged in the oak on the lees for a further 6 months.

June 2013 From The Lady, June 14th

This week I’m drinking… with my father
Written by Henry Jeffreys
Much to my father’s disappointment, I have never shared his interests. He was a schoolboy prodigy at sport, whereas I was puny, lazy and hopelessly uncoordinated. To this day I dread that someone is going to kick a football at me in the park. Unlike my brothers, I wasn’t even interested in watching the rugby or cricket. But most gallingly for my dear old dad, I never showed even a flicker of interest in his great love: stamps of Bechuanaland Protectorate. Then, around the turn of the century, just as my father was beginning to despair of me completely, I became interested in one of his passions: wine. Now we have not only something to talk about, but something we can do together. Every couple of months we go to a wine tasting and generally enjoy each other’s company. I have never seen him look at me so proudly as the day I was appointed wine writer of this magazine. Here are a few wines my father hopes he will get from me on father’s day.

Urbina Reserva Especial Rioja 2001: www.farehamwinecellar.co.uk

With its layers of cedar and tobacco, this Rioja is perfect if your father is, like mine, a bit old-fashioned.

April 2013 From The Morning Claret, Tuesday 9th April
March 2013 From The Write Taste's review of SITT 2013
November 2012 From The Daily Telegraph's magazine, Saturday 10th November
October 2012 The Spanish magazine Sobremesa conducted a poll of Rioja wines made from a single grape variety, and placed the Tobelos Garnacha at the top, with 89/100 points
August 2012 Wine writer Richard M James included an article on "Catalan wines of the moment' on his blog which highlighted Edetaria wines and Olivella Ferrari cavas
July 2011 Liz Sagues, wine writer for the Hampstead and Highgate Gazette, based her July 2011 article on a review of Oliver Burridge & Co Ltd
July 2011 Simon Hoggart included a mention of the Urbina 1999 Selección in his column in the Spectator on July 16th