El Cayado Bierzo: is it the same wine?

A while back I recommended the El Cayado Bierzo from Oddbins (£8.99), and today I plugged it in my Sunday Express column, describing it as one of the best sub-£10 wines I’ve tasted this year.

I even went and bought a bottle because I liked it so much (the first bottle I tried was sent to me as a sample, and I believe it came from the stock used in the press tasting).

However, this tasted like a different wine. It was angular and quite dense, lacking the charm and elegance that I so liked in the first bottle I tried. I would not recommend this wine at £8.99, even though there was nothing particularly wrong with it.

So is this a different wine? I can think of a number of explanations for why it might taste different.

1. Me. Wines taste different on different days, and in part it’s because our ‘state’ changes from day to day. But this wine tastes so different, I think it really is a different wine.

2. The biodynamic calendar. But I don’t think this is an explanation – I tried the wine on three different days and it tasted the same.

3. Bottle variation. The closure is taint free and consistent (Diam), so it’s not closure related. There is a possibility that the bottling line wasn’t consistent in terms of oxygen pick-up, though. This is quite common.

4. Heat damage. Oddbins shops can sometimes get hot in the summer. But the Mas Theo Tricastin purchased on the same day from this store tasted fantastic.

5. Separate bottling runs; different lots of wine. This is a possibility.

6. Along the same lines: the producer ran out of wine, and so went and bought more wine in, blended it, and bottled it under the same label. This sometimes happens, and it’s bad for consumers. Unethical even.

7. Worst of all: the wines shown to the press were specially selected press tasting samples. Most merchants like Oddbins would call in samples specially for a press tasting rather than using their own stock. This would be deeply unethical were it the case.

Added later:

Oddbins have responded. They said that most stores have the 2008 in stock. I reviewed the 2007, which was the sample I was sent. But there’s a good reason the bottle I bought tasted different: it was almost certainly the 2008 vintage, and I didn’t notice this because I didn’t bother taking a note. I just checked with Oddbins St Margarets, where I bought the wine, and their stock is 2008, so I’m pretty sure that it was the 2008 I tasted and didn’t like terribly much. In a way, I’m relieved, because the mystery is solved. But I also feel a bit of a twit for not thinking of this – the most obvious reason for the wine tasting different.

15 comments to El Cayado Bierzo: is it the same wine?

  • WineBusProf


    Sorry to hear of this sort of thing. Sadly, I’d think that it happens more often than one cares to contemplate.

    Let’s just assume for a second that it’s not you. Sure, it could be, but there are also other potential mechanics involved that I’d add as well.

    There’s the closure. Admittedly, you may not perceive a fault, but it could be below threshold level for your palate.

    Additionnally, the two wines from the same store could have had differing levels of exposure to inclement conditions. Sadly, most of which has a cumulative effect on the wine.

    Lastly, I thought I’d add that your palate could have been conditioned by whatever preceded the wine in this and/or the previous tasting.

    In short- too many variables! For me, it’s why I believe that winemakers need to seek consistency as much as possible between bottles of the same wine.

    Wine for thought?

  • Aloh

    This is why retailers should pull press tasting samples from their own stock.. to be sure what it reviewed is what is on the shelf and available to consumers… the press should always look for LOT codes and question retialers if tasting samples look to be “prepared” rather than taken from production stock

    Problem is that most, if not all, retailers are too money concious to fund this themselves and therefore ask suppliers to send in samples for press tastings.. suppliers who do not pull production stock for this are cheating everyone..

    Another problem is that this could well expose some retialers (and suppliers) to the reality that what is being bought is not always what was agreed with the supplier, or ends up on shelf..

    On the other side – if a wine sells more than was originally made there is pressure to continue to supply (being out of stock for extended periods of time could mean de-list)and as such a blend needs to be made that at best replicates the first blend

    A majority of winemakers have to suffer from the actions of the few

  • Ian S

    Have you contacted Oddbins yet? If not, definitely right to do so to at least give them the chance to investigate.

    Might also be worth asking any fellow tasters at that tasting to see if they want to retaste as well.

    Your investigations will be of interest.

    An intriguing reverse situation was suggested on one of the US forums re: 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco ‘normale’. The suggestion was that after the initial 2006 vintage bottling run(s) the wines initially held for the riservas were blended into the normale, rather than being released as riserva bottlings.



  • Andrew W

    I love all the Bierzo wines I have tried so was keen to try this one when you first recommended. However, I was disappointed in the wine (not as fresh or mineral than the others I have liked at this level). Perhaps this explains why.

  • Jamie

    A nice list of possible explanations, although if you are including the biodynamic calendar you should include other astrological explanations; currently Jupiter is in Aquarius, Saturn is in Virgo, the Sun is in Cancer and the Moon is the ruling ‘planet’. Could this have an effect?

    I think you get my drift. I think of all the aspects of biodynamics, the ‘tasting calendar’ has to be the worst.

    Meteorology rather than astrology might be important – ambient temperatures, amospheric pressure and so on. Although I would imagine you tasted both wines under similar circumstances, so perhaps not relevant in this case, but it can be important.

    Will you be contacting Oddbins regarding this very serious issue? The final statement in your post isn’t crystal clear on that.

  • Fascinating. I recall reading your review at the time and thinking how much it was at odds with what I had thought of the Oddbins bottle I had tried. As I tend to enjoy what you recommend I had simply assumed that I was the one who was “wrong” on the day.

  • I work in Oddbins, so you might want to reach for the salt just now.

    From memory, and then from my tasting notes, I’d say El Cayado was a lively, light, delicious red, certainly not “angular and dense”. You might compare it to a Loire Cabernet Franc.

    I’m pretty sure you’ve got a one-off bad bottle there.

    Which vintage was it? (I’d like to retaste and see if the wine has changed since last I had it)

  • Jem

    I await the outcome with interest! There must be some ‘chemical analysis’ that could be done to compare ‘fingerprints’ if appropriate bottles can be found? In some respects I am surprised retailers dont do that anyway so that they know what they are buying/what stock finally arrives rather than relying on taste

    I have definitely experienced No 5 as I know there were two different bottling of the same wine 6 months apart and the second tastes different to the first.

    I would like to bet that Oddbins didnt buy alot of stock in the first place
    and went back for more when it started selling like hot cakes (which might have been a month or more after the review and possibly many more than that after they first tasted it) and then either 5 or 6 occured.

  • As one who is regularly asked to submit samples for clients’ press tastings, it is not uncommon to be asked to provide samples for the tasting even when the wine is ‘in stock’ with the retailer. This can save some money for the retailer, but it always strikes be as being a fairly difficult thing to arrange from an admin point of view. Showing sixty wines means making contact with 60 suppliers, coordinating the arriving samples etc etc. Surely easier to take from one’s own stock? In the general scheme of things the cost is modest, but at least it stops the possibility of ‘show wines’ being provided.

  • Dear all – thanks for your comments. I’ve added a note of explanation to the main post – it turns out that there’s a simple reason for the wine tasting different – the second bottle I tried is most likely the follow-on vintage – something I didn’t spot because I assumed (rather stupidly) that within a few weeks of tasting the sample, the bottles in store would be the same vintage. At least it wraps up the mystery. I was tempted to delete this post, because it makes me look stupid (which I admit to being in this case), but then I thought it was best not to try to alter history in this way. And it still raises some interesting points.

  • Tom Bexton

    You did the right thing by not deleting this post Jamie, its an oversight that was easy to make. Being honest and humble is the best policy, and people should respect that.
    A similar incident happened to me regarding a bottle of Monastrell from Jumilla (from Oddbins)! – it happens to the best (or in my case worst) of us.

  • Mark T

    I don’t rate this wine myself. Have had it twice, and I generally like Mencia a lot (if they hold it on the oak, anyway). For me a warning sign with this one is that it’s made by Martín Codax, an average-at-best Albariño producer (yes, the Rías Baixas are about 100 km away). If I want a Bierzo, as anywhere else, I’d look for one from a small local bodega, and not a négociant-speculator.

    There’s a lot of this about in the Bierzo, as a fashionable and “happening” area. Another bit of lazy sourcing from Oddbins, methinks…

  • nick doran

    Amazing that you posted this as I was just going to comment on the earlier post but was wondering if I was too late. I also was really disappointed with this wine as I found it utterly fruitless, dry and difficult. I couldn’t understand as I usually really like your recommendations e.g. Cano Toro. Now this spookily timed post solves the whole mystery – thank you!

  • Andrew Halliwell

    I agree that it’s unethical to do (7), but I’m not so sure about (6). Ok so launching a “good” wine then slowly releasing lots of a “worse” wine under the same label on purpose is not ethical.

    But let’s say you are a large Rioja producer and it takes you 4 months to put your wine into barrels and 4 months to take it out. Let’s say you do a 3 million litre crianza blend and the largest tanks you have are 3×100.000L tanks in your winery. How can you make the 3.000.000L the same and taste the same, given that some will come out of barrels at different times than others, some barrels will be older, it’s colder in the cellar in the winter, some ferments will have gone differently from others, the grapes come from different lots? The reality is, that for many medium-large producers operational logistics get in the way and it’s something that I didn’t realise until I got into the industry, but just because the wine’s name and year are the same it doesn’t have to be the same wine in the bottle – though one would hope that most people try and make it something similar.

  • Jem

    Jamie. It may have been a new vintage but it is not uncommon that the vintage of the bottle on the shelf ends up by being different to the tasting sample. Wine Merchants dont operate on a ‘just in time’ basis. Oddbins may have tasted and decided to buy the wine some time ago and may only have been able to source a limited amount of the old vintage but loads of the new vintage.

    A bigger issue for me is whether or not they knew that the vintage they would actually be stocking would be different to the one you tasted. Given only a few weeks had elapsed I think thats likely and it very naughty of them to ‘substitute’ a wine.

    Do reviewers assume the stock will be available in large enough quantitites? Do merchants tell you? Situations like this harm yours and others integrity and standing and you should not be taken for a ride.

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