The staggeringly lacklustre and pitifully acceptable

Sometimes you fancy something different, happens to us all, and so you shop outside your normal parameters. Of course, this is a path fraught with danger and the peril of heinous suffering. We all do it anyway. The Albarino was the only white wine, beyond Sherry, I have found I could reliably manage to tolerate on my jaunts to Spain. As I am sure stomach churning experience has taught you Spanish whites are generally of a quality that makes them unfit even to clean the toilets in particularly unkempt dysentery wards. But I felt reasonably safe with this.

I got a recommendation to try the Seresin from a normally reliable source. Whilst it was far from cheap it seemed a good risk; I am a firm believer that New Zealand can produce properly grown-up Pinot, Larry Mackenna can certainly do it. I hoped this would show some of the allure and lubricity that make Pinot the obvious red wine choice for enlightened lovers of fine things.

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Albarino 2010, Pazo Senorans

Bloody hell, does this smell of anything at all?[ref]Guy will remind us of when, moving onto to white wine number two at one of our little gatherings, I annouced it was rather aroma free. Much laughter ensued as he pointed out I was sniffing the swill of water I poured to clean my glass. I did feel a bit of a large, unsightly arse.[/ref] If I strain my most acutely trained and finely honed of tasting faculties I think I might be able to discern a suggestion of yeastiness and maybe even something, that with the application of my active and slightly unhinged imagination, could have a vague resemblance to fruit. But sweaty tests to that! This nose is bland, torpid and tedious, matched only in anodyne character by the wit and erudition displayed in the lunchtime banter at a Trappist monastery. Arse, it is staggeringly dreary. The palate pushes back the boundaries of insipid, anaemic boredom. So devoid of character is it that I am more able to detect the flavour of my tonsils than the wine. What really worries me is that I have drank at least several bottles of this wine, indeed exchanged actual money I could have used for Burgundy or fizzy cherry sweets to get it, because it was preferable to what else was on offer. The staggeringly noisome qualities of things worse than this lacklustre contrivance so perturb me that the trip to Spain has been burnt from my diary with a laser and I’ll go and visit my chum Jeremy in Burgundy this October with the instruction that any appearance of Spanish whites will result in the agonisingly severe application of my Singapore Judicial. If, most likely given threats of having to drink something as execrable as Cava, I were forced to endure such a soulless entity of woe just to satisfy my white wine requirements the only path open to me would be to repeatedly force cocktail sticks violently into my sinuses just to prevent sensory deprevation. I must make it luridly clear that spending money on this wine will only leave you weeping with bleak depression; mind-bendingly sub-interest. Get some Sherry, it is cheaper and better.

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Pinot Noir ‘Rachel’ 2008, Seresin

This has a nice, fruity nose of strawberries and raspberries, but that, I’m afraid, seems pretty much it. They claim some expensive oak influence but I don’t see it. Sure, it’ll please, but it will ask no questions and deliver little stimulation. The palate is much the same. I like the fruit, the acid level is refreshing and there is what approaches a convincing approximation of structure. It is a simple quaffer, and over-priced at that. Only buy if you like your vinous conquests to be of extravagently easy virtue and most definitely hanging around the embarrassing end of the ‘gifted’ pond.

  • Tom Blach

    David, have you not sampled the joys of old Tondonia Blanco? magnificent stuff.

  • Veronica Castro

    Thanks for the heads up on the Pazo. Agree with Tom… the Lopez de Heredia whites are good and interesting wines.
    Also, the Ameztoi Txakolina is spritzy, summery fun. Cheers!

  • HI Veronica,

    I have to admit you’ve got me on the Txakolina, I love the stuff! I think we can agree, however, that it is not entirely conventionally nice; it toys with ideas of vapid insipidity and spiky dirtiness that might not instantly grab but actually work amazingly well. Of course, the stuff is best knocked back in heroic quantities whilst nibbling on little pieces of bread with some amazing ham and sweaty cheese on them whilst propped up on a bar in San Sebastian trying to look suave and generally cool rather than terrified of the crowds and impressively newscasted as it is the 12th pinchos bar you’ve visited that evening.

    Drinking Txakolina whilst doing tapas crawls in the Basque Country is one of the most compellingly wonderful experiences you can have. With their attitude to enjoyable eating experiences it can hardly be touched in terms of raw enjoyment value. The Basques say, “He who knows how to eat knows enough.” I would be tempted to substitute ‘drink’, but I really cannot argue with the supreme sophistication of the food culture in the Basque country.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  • Ed Tully

    Wines one drinks on holiday are rarely given the same critical scrutiny as at home. I must confess to drinking some (lots) of rose in Antibes I would not give garage room to in the real world. The sad truth is that Spanish white wine is universally awful. Either awful in itself, or awful in trying to be something else. I really can not remember a worse drink that “old style” white rioja, and that includes Retsina – which at least knew it tasted of toilet cleaner. All too often a truly vile wine is let off the hook by being described “interesting”. Interesting is not good in itself. Being buggered with barbed wire would doubtless be interesting, but not pleasant. No. The only great Spanish wine is sherry and, fortunately, it is very, very great indeed. Only deluded fools would willingly part with money for any other Spanish vinuous delight. If you think Claret is expensive then you might get a rude shock at the epic piles of cash the new wave Spanish Parker pleasers charge for their jam, vodka and beef flavoured juices.

  • Hello Edward,

    I suspect you are thinking of Priorat and its neighbours – I agree entirely. Every single one I’ve tried has not only been frighteningly hard work to even get to my lips but then showed themselves to be totally devoid of pleasure and proceed to bleach my mind of any happy thoughts I might have had before being subjected to the loathsome headache brew.

    Of course, Vega Sicilia can only accurately be described as the world’s most expensive vinegar. It is beyond reason that somehow, quite how I cannot fathom, it has the capability of fooling some into thinking it is actually wine that they should not only drink without vomiting but actually give the impression of enjoying. No words are extreme enough to damn this noxious abomination.

  • Ed Tully

    As a general rule if alcohol is the dominant sensation then the wine is ghastly and the wine maker should be forced to forfeit their vineyards. To a slightly lesser extent this is true of oak in anything other than very young wines (which you should not be drinking anyway).

  • Tom Blach

    Oh Ed. I fully accept that you don’t like old(style) white Rioja but you really mustn’t confuse opinion with fact or you’ll end up like Robert Parker.

  • Veronica Castro

    Ha! Your reply made me open a bottle of Txakolina tonight. The only thing better than saying, “Txakolina”, is drinking it! :p Will have to visit Spain one day and do the tapas crawl. I suppose you’ve visited Fado bars too? Also on the “to do” list.

  • Ed Tully

    “There is an objective reality” and (former) captains of the blind tasting team have access to it. I have done my very best to be convinced by Spain and its wonders. No really, I have. The only wine I would recommend for Spain was an ancient Rioja (55?) I shared with some other seekers after truth at Dujac in about 1996. It tasted a bit like premier cru Burgundy that should have been drunk a little while before, which begs the question….. As for a visit to a Fado bar, no need! Simply twirl some Spanish wine in your class, recall how much you paid for the pleasure and the tears will flow readily enough.

  • The difference between an opinion and a fact is, I suppose, that a ‘fact’ is the opinion of someone so opinionated as to believe their own views are beyond dispute, while an ‘opinion’ is the views of everybody who disagrees. But apart from David, who knows what the objective reality is, let’s keep on giving our opinions, and not be cowed by anyone who thinks they have a unique access to the ‘facts’.

  • Ed Tully

    The mistake I was making was using the word “truth” in its everyday rhetorical sense. Of course many philsophers will argue (one thinks of Freddie Ayers) that “truth” is never more than rhetorical, but such dangerous Relativism has no place at Elitist Review. The best we might be able to hope for (pace Alistair MacIntyre) is to suggest truths (however temporary) can be agreed on within like minded communities. If so can I suggest that right thinking people would rightly dismiss Spanish wine as an egregious affront to decency? After all, would you want to talk to someone who brought it to a bring your own party?

  • Hanneke Wilson

    But Ed, have you tasted the wines of Finca Sandoval in Manchuela, Victor de la Serna’s estate? And Monsant, which is much less hyped than Priorat, produces some nice wines, too, which are not expensive: I recommend Bodegas Acústic. I fully agree that one should stay away from anything over-alcoholic and jammy, and I am not one for US oak either.

  • Tom Blach

    Hmm. As it happens I would agree that ‘modernisation’ has in no region had such catastrophic results as in Spain, whether at trophy or everyday level; a sort of mirror image of the determination to bypass a great cuisine seen in its most ambitious kitchens. I would reluctantly concede, even, that the monstrosities created by such as Alvaro Palacios are objectively bad wine. But for lovers of poetry, context and great gastronomy I would similarly proclaim the greatness of at least Tondonia blanco and claim an objective truth for that.

  • Ed Tully

    Hello Hanneke! Such a long time and all that. No, no. I must confess that I have not. It just goes to show what I have been trying to convince my wife: I really must drink more wine! And Tom, if you can make it to Jersey I promise not to hurl any wine in your face.