Tag Archives: Oz Clarke

White Rioja

Andrew Polmear writes for the love of wine . . .

I LAST WROTE about red Rioja in June 2019 and said that the white wines of that glorious area would need their own article. I didn’t then write such as article because, frankly, I thought there wasn’t much to say. All the white Rioja I’d tasted had been decent, full-bodied, with a light, occasionally lemony tang, but without much individual character. Indeed, they only planted vines for white wine in Rioja in the first place to add them to the reds to soften the harshness, not with a thought of ever making white wine. Then, at a Rioja tasting at L’Atelier du Vin at Seven Dials, I tasted a white from 2008 which overturned everything I’d understood. It was full-bodied all right but the flavour was of toast and caramel, of nuts and marzipan. This, I now realise, is the true old-style Rioja white. The grapes are the same as in the ordinary white wines (Viura, Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia). The thing to look for on the label is the word Crianza. This guarantees that the wine has been aged in oak for at least six months. In fact, to make these rich stunning wines, they are often aged in oak for three years then matured in bottle for 3 to 12 years. The wine I tasted was by one of the great Rioja firms, Lopez de Heredia, from their Gravonia vineyard. You can buy their 2005 version from Berry Brothers for £37 a bottle. Continue reading White Rioja

Will the real Sauvignon Blanc please stand up?

Revolutions don’t normally happen at New Zealand House in London, but a small one happened on a February morning in 1985. British wine writers and merchants gathered to taste wines from a dozen different NZ wineries and were stunned by the range and quality of what they were tasting. Above all, they were astonished at the Sauvignon from Marlborough. It had that powerful gooseberry and fresh cut grass flavour, maybe elderflower and grapefruit, that we now recognise as uniquely Sauvignon. People who don’t like it say it tastes of cat’s pee. The tasters knew the wines from the upper Loire and from Bordeaux – all made with Sauvignon – but until then it had been thought of as a grape without much character, which only made good wine if the terroir contributed the character that the grape lacked. The power of Marlborough Sauvignon was especially surprising when you realise that the first vines were only planted in 1973. The most famous of the Marlborough vineyards, Cloudy Bay, only planted Sauvignon in 1986. Before that they bought their grapes from other vineyards. Continue reading Will the real Sauvignon Blanc please stand up?