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These past months have felt like a long journey in the desert. Too many trips, too much work. Along the way I found several oasis, like the fertile moments of getting together with friends. The wines we tried will also give you a place of refuge.

At a dinner party chez nous we opened a very special Albariño from Palacio de Fefiñanes, a Magnum bottle of Armas de Lanzos (110 euros) and very much enjoyed it. This limited edition of 1000 liters has been aged and nurtured like the best Reservas in the world. We discovered a fabulous white with history and conversation.

I also brought a red from Navarre to a more informal friends’ gathering, called Deyo Castillo de Monjardín Merlot de Autor. In spite of the grandiose name, it is very affordable and reconnects you with the civility of the Merlot grape (9,5 euros).

Yesterday, at Estado Puro, the tapas bar of Paco Roncero in Madrid, probably the best in town, we ordered Las Retamas de Regajal (9,2 euros). This young red from Aranjuez, Madrid, beautifully made with Cabernet, Syrah and Tempranillo grapes, added laughter and joy to our table.

I have found near my office a cheese shop that I particularly like, called Queseria Cultivo, http://www.queseriacultivo.com. They only sell cheeses made by artisans from all parts of Spain, each one with a story and a human face. This idea of a creating network of fromageres, proud of their names and of what they do, and no longer part of a production chain, got me thinking about some of the last wines I have encountered.

We have tried recently Lagar do Cervera 2014 with friends. We celebrated its green and yellow colors and enjoyed it greatly with seafood and conversation. María loved it, also because she knew and admired the original owners of this albariño wine from the Rosal terroir, her preferred “coin perdu” of Galician wineries.

A friend brought me that same day a bottle of De Raiz 2013, a new ecological red wine from Vejer de la Frontera, Cadiz, made by Peter Maurer in association with his father and other vignerons. De Raiz combines syrah, merlot and petit verdot grapes and is wonderfully easy to drink, a young creature that has already learnt to turn its own complexity into elegance.

I also got a very special bottle from another very good friend who came to our next dinner party, Señorio de Sarria, Reserva especial 2010, a serious wine from Puente la Reina (right in the Camino de Santiago, near Pamplona). It is one of the best cabernet sauvignon one can find in Spain, so well made it has got me interested again in wine from Navarre.

Two weeks ago I went for dinner to Meating, the restaurant where Sonia Vendrel acts as sommelier. She always offers great wine recommendations, while she pretends she knows not so much as her clients. That day she was not there, but knowing we were coming she had left for us a fantastic wine, Forlong Assemblage 2013, made with merlot, syrah and tintilla de Rota grapes. Forlong is another ecological red wine from Cadiz, created  by Rocío Áspera y Alejandro Narváez not far away from Puerto de Santa María and Jérez. They are two very young local entrepreneurs who already know a lot about wines and storytelling -a great cow with mustache and tie stands out in the well designed blue label.

I have tried recently three wines that share two common traits: greatness, combined with a bad name. How come wine makers (or vignerons, if you prefer) sometimes choose names without thinking twice about how well they will sound and what will they evoke? Our words are our worlds, as Philip Allot wrote, or in a close to home version, we live in the words we use, Octavio Paz dixit.

Here are the three wonderful wines that caught my attention in spite of their names.

The first one is Predicador (“Preacher”, translated into English), a fantastic new Rioja, around 18 euros, so well made that even the ugly label with a hat from a cowboy B-movie should not deter you from triying it.

The second one is El Regajal (around 15 euros), from the Madrid region, a successful experiment, made out of four different grapes (tempranillo, cabernet, shyra and merlot, from a beautiful Aranjuez vineyard that is also a butterfly natural reserve. In this case the label improves the harsh sounding name of “regajal”: with an expresionist drawing of a butterfly, inspired long ago by Diego Mora-Figueroa, artist and friend.

The third wine is Eolo, from Navarre, a modest wine (around 4 euros, can you beat that?) that in spite of this silly name (Eolo is the god of wind, a tacky name with no connection to the wine) is worth trying, a very good coupage of Cabernet, Garnache, Merlot, Tempranillo and Merlot.

Some of you have suggested I write a follow up on my last post “Pairing wines and books”, this time on pairing wine and poetry. Others have asked me for recommendations of wines to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. I am learning not to ignore a la Mubarak the wishes of my constituency, so here are some musings about both topics.

Luckily, I have come across three wines lately that you could serve to enjoy dinner aux chandeliers with a loved one. Each of them is so attractive that can be described through the work of my favorite poets.

The first one is Viña Ardanza reserva 2001, a classic Rioja that I had not drank in ages and that in 20011 has the most beautiful red color that can be imagined. It is so delicate that it reminded me of William Blake’s famous poem, “Love’s secret”, where he describes why love cannot, should not, be communicated, “Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be/ For the gentle wind does move/ Silently, invisibly”.

The second wine is Jorge Ordoñez’s Volver 2008, from Castilla la Mancha, young and impetuous, like the passions full of demands and despair that John Hegley describes in his poems. In spite of its Almodovar name, Volver is a wine worth trying, that seduces you from the very first moment you taste it: “You stepped into the café / then you sat next to me/ I’d just ordered breakfast/ and you were my cup of tea (…) You said you painted portraits/ and you’d like a go at mine/ you said come up to my studio/ and be my turpentine”.

The third wine is Chivite Merlot Ecológico 2007, a new wine from this well-established winery in Navarre, made according to high ecological standards. Merlot is one of the grapes that always reminds me of why I love wine. Chivite has created a wine out of this world, delicate, pure, and worthwhile. It is one of those wines that you can remember with the verse “one hour was sunlit”, from Ezra Pound’s poem “Erat Hora”:

“Thank you, whatever comes”. And then she turned
And, as the ray of sun on hanging flowers
Went swiftly from me. Nay, whatever comes
One hour was sunlit and the most high gods
May not make boast of any better thing
Than to have watched that hour as it passed.

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