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October and November have been hectic months, too much travel and work have taken me away from the serene and lazy space of this blog. But thanks to some friends’ presents, I have been able to try three new wines that are now my favorites to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

Juan Gil 18 months 2013 is a Jumilla creature that reconciles you with life, sweet and joyful, lie the Mediterranean sea. It is made with Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes (www.bodegasjuangil.com).

Enrique Mendoza Pinot Noir 2011 is a great discovery, a most refined, delicious and smooth red from Alicante, very easy to drink (www.bodegasmendoza.com). I tried it with salted chocolate, also marvelous as a dessert wine.

Pago de Valdoneje Viñas Viejas 2014 is made with Mencia grapes of centennary vineyards in the Bierzo region, one of the most interesting wine places in Spain. It is both fresh and deep, a fantastic wine for long conversations in front of the fireplace. (www.vinosvaltuille.com).

Two wines made me long for Spring last week. In Barcelona it happened in Mon Vinic, the eccentric restaurant that offers 3000 different wines. Just the visit to the cellar was worth the night, a space with amazing lighting and architecture, an art gallery in itself. After some deliberation with my dear friends Antonio and Nely, we chose Las Gravas 2012 as the main wine for our dinner. This is a red from the Jumilla region, beautifully made by Casa Castillo with Monastrell grapes and also some Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. When I walked around the city the next day the smell of pine trees and the sea breeze brought me back to this perfect Murcia wine, full of Mediterranean wisdom.

During the weekend we tried Ramón do Casar 2013, a white from Ribeiro, made with albariño, treixadura and godello grapes. It was the end of a perfect family day in the region of La Vera, a unique countryside south of the Gredos mountains. We were seating around the fireplace in Bocaloso, the estate of our wondrous hosts Fidel and Lydia. Bocaloso can be roughly translated as “The Tavern of the Bear”, probably because bears picked the overripe fruits of strawberry trees (“madroños”) in those fields and they made them tipsy. Well, our modest white wine from Castrelo do Miño proved to be very subtle, perfect with goat cheese and good conversation. I want to come back soon to La Vera, the Spanish region with the most famous Spring. When the cherry trees blossom there you experience E.E. Cummings’ powerful image: “flowers pick themselves”.

The question came out of the blue while enjoying a glass of wine at Barolo (Príncipe de Vergara 211, Madrid, http://www.enotecabarolo.com)

Maria hinted “The Jumilla’s Altos de Luzan”. A 13 € bottle of blended 50% monastrel, 25% cabernet sauvignon and 25% tempranillo. “And we will have some money left for tapas” she added. A purpled coloured wine with a dominant new oak and fruity aroma, overall equilibrium in mouth and persistent tannin nicely integrated. It was really a good start.

“What about Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas?” suggested Ignacio. I couldn’t agree more. A Bierzo made red wine (100% mencia), 12 € a bottle, medium to dark ruby, powerful fruity aroma, round and mouth filling and a hint of coffee in the finish. And still   enough money left to have a tapa.  A good buy.

“I rather go for Casa Castillo” said Blanca. “Well, things are looking up”, I thought. This estate bottle blend from Jumilla of 90% monastrel and 10% cabernet sauvignon is a dark ruby wine with sweet American oak scented nose, long in mouth. It must be tasted to be believed and for 9 €, real value for your money.

“What would you say to Baltasar Gracian, Grenache, Viñas Viejas (Calatayud)” I ventured to suggest. Dark intense cherry, depth scent with the Grenache thick, full bodied and superbly concentrated, with a straight forward and pleasant finish. For only 4, 5 €, a bargain.

“Not bad, not bad” Blanca answered me back,” but have you heard of Finca La Estacada?” Oh, come on, that was below the belt, a 3, 5 € bottle 100 % tempranillo coming from Cuenca (Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla). Bright cherry, fruity scent, strong and dry tannins, perhaps a bit toughs but with a future. A terrific bargain

“Can you beat it?” Pressed me Blanca again. Well, actually I could. For 2.2 € you can buy the Lavinia cosechero a medium bodied wine, with mild acidity, smooth berry taste. A superb every day wine. An unbeatable bargain. (Lavinia, José Ortega y Gasset 16, Madrid, http://www.lavinia.es)

To wind up my gossiping, it’s up to you to work out the answer to the question.

by guest contributor Fernando Vigón

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