What wine-lover has not, at some time, dreamed of owning a vineyard, whiling away long hot summers watching the grapes ripen, a glass of last year’s vintage in hand? A few are foolish enough to try it. A very few actually make a success of it; although, as the saying goes, you can make a small fortune out of wine-making, but only if you start with a large fortune. I’ve thought about this a lot, so imagine my interest when Colette, our co-editor, alerted me to the fact that Vinod Mashru is selling wine at Bright News, in Buckingham Road, that not only has his label on it, but which has been produced by a partnership between his family and a Spanish wine-making family in Rioja.
The story is that Vinod’s son, Anish, had lived in Spain for a while and 9 years ago the Mashru family collaborated with the Ruiz family, which runs a serious wine-producing firm called Viña Ijalba. The Mashrus chose a style of wine that they thought would suit the English palate, and formed their own company called Iberiano Wines. Viña Ijalba made the wine, and two years later Vinod was importing wines under his own label. It might have helped that Anish is a marketing consultant and so had the expertise to design the labels and place the wines with 40 shops in Sussex. And what were the characteristics that Vinod thought would go down well in Brighton? The wine should be full-bodied, fruity, low in sulphites but high in alcohol (yes, I think he got that about right).
Is it any good? Yes it is. In fact it’s very interesting. It’s smooth, almost creamy in texture. There’s a lovely red cherry fruitiness with a little spice. It avoids the twin dangers of Rioja: over-extraction and oaking. Over-extraction means that too much flavour has been squeezed out of the grapes – the wine is powerful but after a glass or two you’ve had enough. As for oaking, Rioja can taste of oak if it’s matured in oak barrels, especially American oak. If done badly the wine tastes more of the vanilla of the oak than the fruit from the grapes. There’s absolutely no oak flavour in Vinod’s wine and the wine is elegant rather than powerful. This is a totally modern style of Rioja. And the alcohol? At 13.5% it’s definitely not low but I wouldn’t call it high either. A bottle is priced at £9.99 which is about right. Had there been an agent in the middle I can imagine it would have gone over the £10.
Why am I making such a fuss about this? I’m always writing about the fact that appreciating wine isn’t just about the taste of the stuff, it’s also about understanding something of where it comes from, how it’s made, and so why it tastes as it does. I’m fascinated to find such a direct link between those rolling hills of northern Spain and our very own Association Chair.