So I find myself in Madrid. It’s a little chillier than London, which caught me out a bit. But it is a nice place to spend a few days. I am here to act as one of the judges for the ML Wines competition. It’s the third time I’ve judged this: we assess red wines from the previous vintage (2013 in this case) from Portugal and Spain, which have had an inoculated malolactic fermentation.
Malolactic fermentation takes place in pretty much all red wines (young Vinho Verde Tinto is the only style I think that avoids it), and it is done by bacteria. It has an important sensory impact on the wines: if you ever taste ML trials, this becomes clear.
For young red wines, it is now possible to co-inoculate for malolactic and alcoholic fermentation so they happen at the same time. As long as the yeasts are performing well and have good nutrition, and the pH isn’t too high, then the bacteria prefer the organic acids as a substrate and everyone is happy. The results for young red wines are really impressive.
I arrived last night, and went out with a few of the other judges and organizers. We stopped first at a tapas joint near the Playa Major, in the heart of the city, called Meson Rincon de la Cava. It’s very quaint and old-fashioned inside, and the menu has photographs, which is alarming. But the food was very good: lovely jamon iberico, perfectly prepared pimientos de Padrón, some baby squid and some manchego cheese.
For wine, the list was short (again, it was pictures) and very traditional, but they managed to find a bottle of the brilliant Petalos from Palacios in Bierzo, with its ripe, sleek, pure floral fruit. And the Murrieta Reserva 2007 was pretty good in a ripe, modernist/traditionalist fusion sort of way.
Then it was off for some gin and tonic. We found a well stocked bar with No 3 gin and fever tree tonic, and the G&T was prepared the Spanish way with big bowl-like glasses and lots of ice.
Today was the first day’s judging. 12 of us tasted 120 wines, scoring them on a number of counts. Tomorrow we’ll taste the top 35, together with the winemakers who are participating in the exercise. It’s being held at the lovely Casino de Madrid, a very stylish, old-fashioned members’ club in the centre of town.