Back to the home of cricket for day 8 of the International Wine Challenge. It was another wet, cold day, but I had another good table, and although we worked hard, finishing after 5 pm, it was an enjoyable day’s work. There’s a reason that we have four or five judges on a table: it makes the results more robust. As a panel chair, my job isn’t to convince others that I’m right. I’m often not the most experienced or competent judge on the table, even though I’m leading things.
No: my role is to try to get the team to work well to come to the best conclusion. This means that sometimes I’ll have to downgrade a wine I scored Gold to Bronze, if that’s how the others see things. Happened today with what I thought was a lovely, meaty, olive-laced Languedoc red. But it can work the other way round, when I spot something special and then convince the others that this is really good.
Along those lines, it would be daft to suggest that a panel is swayed by the big, loud, shouty wines. We look for elegance and reward it, while remaining mindful of the danger of praising a wine for avoiding bigness, yet possessing no positive qualities. Difficult flights? Tuscany still produces its fair share of poor wines, as does Rioja – wines that have seen too much oxygen during winemaking, or which suffer from unwanted microbial attention. Cheap Burgundy can be charmless and angular, as can cheap Bordeaux. The more commercial end of the Australian offering can be a bit iffy. Most regions make good wines alongside poorer ones: there’s no surprise there.
Now I’m drinking a Spanish wine. It’s a high end Ribero del Duero. Expensive, yes, but very impressive. If I had some of this I’d put it in the cellar and forget about it for a decade. With its minimalist, clean labelling, it seems to be taking a tilt at Vega Sicilia. It’s not all that far off in quality terms.
Pago de los Capellanes Reserva 2007 Ribera del Duero, Spain
13.5% alcohol. Calcareous soils, Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), and 18 months in new French oak. Deep coloured, this has a nose of ripe, sweet aromatic cherry and berry fruits with some creamy vanilla oak. The palate is taut with vibrant berry fruits and some grippy tannins. There’s good definition and freshness here, despite the ripeness of the fruit – it’s certainly not over-ripe, and I suspect the prominent oak will fade with time. Savoury and fresh on the finish, this has lots of potential for development. 93/100 (c £35, UK agent is Enotria)
Find this wine with wine-searcher.com