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My father always enjoyed wine. I don’t remember him ever saying a negative thing about the glass he was drinking. More often, he praised it, with his fun-loving generosity. He made wine a fundamental part of the good things in life, together with family, friendship, hunting and good conversation. When I started appreciating reds and whites and ventured into writing this blog, at first he did not take me seriously. I was his strict son, the bookworm type, how could I now become the hedonist in the cellar? Only then I realized how much he really knew about wine, without ever showing off. For a long while, I could not find a red that he had not tried before. When Santiago my son was born, we went for lunch. I was eager to order Mauro and get his feedback, but of course he had already tried some years ago. Only recently, with the wine revolution at its peak in Spain, he accepted that they were some yet to be discovered.

This Christmas season I have missed him so much. I have gone back to some long-time friends to toast to him: Viña Ardanza Reserva 2010, Valenciso Reserva 2012, Pagos de Valdoneje Viñas Viejas 2015, Ramón Bilbao Edición Limitada 2016. We have also drank Terras Gauda, the Albariño served at my wedding. I remember well that he enjoyed it so much with octopus (oh, what a night!). These first days of January I have escaped with María to Porto. We had dinner overlooking the Douro in the Graham wineries and tried one of their reds, Quinta do Ataide 2016 (circa 14 euros), a wine full of dark berries and mistery. A wonderful ocassion to toast to my dad in the New Year.

“Summer is Delight”, wrote Emily Dickinson. I cannot agree more with her. This is the time when life begins over (according to F. Scott Fitzgerald), when everything feels new and all makes sense. I am lucky to spend this season, once again, between Galicia and Mallorca, and to enjoy Nature every day, in its Atlantic and Mediterranean splendours. From the Sil river to the valleys of the Ulloa, from the bay of Alcudia to the mythical mountains of Sierra Tramuntana, two wines stand out these summer days.

The first one is Twenty Twelve, a Majorcan wine from the Es Fangar winery, presented in a bottle typically used for a gin or another strong liquor. It is made with the Muscat grape in Felanitx, with a touch of Prensal and Viognier grapes. It has a very smooth and lasting taste, with hints of lemon and a beautiful yellow and green colour (13 euros).

The second one is a classic Rioja, Martínez-Lacuesta Crianza 2015, in Magnum format (29 euros). This is an unpretentious and profound red that reconnects you with a time when wines were true to the terroir and did not go over their head to earn points to obtain global market recognition. Nevertheless, this old family winery has updated its wine making technique and offers amazing quality at very competitive prices.

“Je vous écoute”, just like Emmanuel Macron keeps saying these days. I have received countless requests and messages from friends asking me to write again in this blog. As we approach the end of December with its many special nights and festivities, the pressure is growing. Could you recommend the perfect wine to celebrate many good things? My friends are like that. I always listen to you -and I never pretend that I listen.

Thanks my summer diaries, I can tell you right away about two extraordinary wines.

(Summer nights are perfect to try new things. You don’t look at your watch and next day you can wake up late and say “I have nothing to do and all day to do it”. Thank you Irwin for teaching me this important truth).

The first wine is Abadia de Retuerta Le Domaine, made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes and a bit of verdejo by the mavericks of Abadía Retuerta in Sarón del Duero (35 euros). It is the best white I have encountered in decades, strong and complex, with a touch of pineaple and the colour of old gold.

The second wine is Lindes de Remelluri 2011 (12 euros) from the old monastery grounds of Toloño in Rioja. A very soft, silky & smooth red, incredibly well priced.

More recently, my friend Benjamin -when it comes to understanding life and food, he is the one- has invited me to discover two treasures. The first one is Dominio del Pidio 2016 (50 euros), a very special white created by Oscar Aragón in Quintana del Pidio, Burgos, with the little known Albillo grape. This is an amazing Atlantic wine, full of dreams.

The other great introduction has been to Galia 2016 Villages (30 euros), a garage red invented by Jerome Bougnaud, well know for his splendid work in many projects in Spain, like this one with the Regajal winery. Galia is a red wine of striking personality. It is made with garnacha and tempranillo grapes that come from small and very selected parcels along the banks of the Duero river. I was surprised by this wonderful invention, so attractive that it deserves to become in no time a revered tradition.

I have had the temptation of retreating home these past winter months. I was able to resist it and still go out in good company, cruising the streets of La Coruña and Madrid. During these brave forays I tried two Rioja wines that I would like to bring to your attention.

The first one is Oinoz Crianza 2014, by Carlos Moro. He has chosen a mythical area of North Rioja, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, to create his new wines. This well-known vigneron of Matarromera in Ribera del Duero is now offering us an outstanding crianza, refined and interesting, as a good guest should be (12 euros).

The second one is Lan a Mano 2012, a very special member of the big family of LAN wines, from Fuenmayor, right next to the Ebro river. Grapes for this limited edition wine are hand-picked and carefully crafted by artisans. Lan a Mano is both elegant and deep. A very good companion to look in the eye and slow down the quick passing of time (29 euros).

I was born on a summer night, fifty years ago. By coincidence, a few days before celebrating my birthday, I tried Marques de Griñon Vendimia Noctura 2012. This is a white wine that is made with grapes harvested at night. Following the wisdom of the French enologue Émile Peynaud, the Griñón family chooses the best possible moment to start the wine making process, when the grapes are in great physical condition and the night temperature is soothing. Well, you can tell that it is a wine born to be enjoyed, a Rueda Verdejo with more personality and charm that the usual ones. It is not only storytelling -I was born on a summer night…

I had many other moments of celebration around my 50th birthday. At a wonderful dinner in the magical coast of Deia, Majorca, some friends introduced us to Macán Clásico 2011, a super red from Rioja, so smooth that I first thought it was a Ribera. Back in Galicia, we drank Obalo crianza, a fantastic discovery of an every day Rioja (8 euros), thanks to the recommendation of El Ensanche, a restaurant and wine place in La Coruña well worth visiting.

To understand what it means to turn 50, I re-read a fantastic essay written by my friend Javier Gomá: “when you have already encounter the bitterness of life but you know very well how to direct your energies”. His advice is to re-discover forms of idealism, to keep alive enthusiasm for the good things ahead and to avoid becoming blasé or cynical about everything. Wine tasting and writing are clearly among the activities that I intend to pursue further in that spirit of healthy naivety.

We have been lucky this year: rays of sun and glorious weather have blessed so far our lunches and dinners in Monterroso and La Coruña, two of our favorite spots in the island of Galicia.

In mid-June we gathered friends to enjoy a day together in the countryside. Some of them had ben our hosts in Egypt. To reconnect with our Nile trips we took a walk along the ultra-cool first milles of the Ulla river. Then we went back to María’s family house in Monterroso and tried D-12 Lan 2012, recently invented by the Lan vignerons of Fuenmayor in La Rioja, “D-12” is the name of their favorite tank or crate where they nurse this marvelous creature, incredibly balanced, with a very interesting and long finish. For 12 euros, it is hard to find a better new-new Rioja.

In early July I came back with more friends to the island, this time to La Coruña. We drank Casal de Armán 2015, a white Ribeiro, at the famous family-owned Lois tavern, siting outside on a cool night. I love the revolution that is taking place in this part of Orense, mixing Treixadura grapes with Godello and Albariño ones. Casal de Armán is a very full, intense, rich white wine that connects you with the best dreams of summer. It sells for 11 euros.

At the beginning of August I bought a wine called “Rayos Uva” (UV rays) just because I liked the hip bottle design and thought it was a very appropiate name for a midsummer wine. I did not realize I was picking a true Stratocaster wine, according to María’s appreciation (see “Stratocaster wines”,

Rayos Uva 2015 comes from Rioja, but it is really a garage wine, 50% tempranillo grapes and 50% graciano grapes, full of personality, wonderful to drink and affordable (11 euros). It has been invented by Olivier Riviere, who has moved from Bourdeaux to develop wines in the regions of Navarre, Arlanza (Burgos) and Rioja. He happily preaches “the new world in the old world”. We toasted with his UV rays to family and to more summer days like these. Just like Mark Twain’s beseech, “Warm summer sun / Shine kindly here.”

I have been away from this blog a bit too long, but for a very good reason: I was busy preparing the book “Iberians on wine”, that contains a selection of the blog in the last ten years.

For those readers who want to have it all, access to this blog AND the book, you can now order it here:

I have to say the book looks and reads great thanks to the cover illustration by artist Diego Mora-Figueroa and the devoted editing of María Bárcena, Javier Varela, Marta Enrile and John Hamilton.

Yesterday some good friends came to Museo ABC to drink a glass of wine (thank you Luis Valentín, of Valenciso for your wondrous red and white!) and to listen to wine mavericks Gonzalo Verdera and Benjamin Lana talk about some of the themes of the book.

They both stressed the importance of time in wine-making and wine drinking. Benjamin even quoted a verse from my favorite poet, T.S. Eliot, “only through time time is conquered” (Burnt Norton, Four Quartets). Well, two wines I have recently tasted come to my mind as very good examples of patient and loving invention of new wines.

The first one is Finca Valdepoleo, a red from Pujanza, in Rioja, a winery that has done very well since it was started in 1998. After the success of Pujanza and Pujanza Norte, it made a lot of sense to step back and think of all the lessons learnt. Among other new-new Pujanza wines, Valdepoleo was created, using the name of the estate where the grapes comes from. It is very refined, fruity and subtle, and sells at a great price, 20 euros. We were lucky to drink it at a dinner party at home without looking at our watches or i-phones.

The second wine is Lagar do Merens, a white from Ribeiro of limited production, priced at 15 euros. It caught me by surprise while having a long dinner with Benjamin and Gonzalo at Alabaster, the great Galician restaurant in Madrid. Lagar do Merens comes from Castrelo do Miño in Orense. The vigneron, Jose Merens, has recuperated a run down winery to connect the old and the new. Lagar de Merens stands out as a wine with a strong personality, fun to drink and with a very long finish. When you try it, make sure you live up to Eliot’s urging, “only in time can the moment in the rose-garden (…) be remembered”.

Lisbon is the perfect city to start a new year. For a few days we have nested by the estuary of the Tagus River, next to the Port of Bom Sucesso. We have watched the sun rise and set, the sail boats come and go and communed with the infinity of the ocean. We also saw very good friends, took long walks, even did a bit of sailing. At the Belcanto restaurant we had an outstanding experience and became enchanted with the art of Jose Avillez, chef and entrepreneur, Our host, Domingos Cruz, gave us two Pessoa books he has recently edited (check our his great literary and philanthropic initiative in In one of them, a collection of poems entitled “No matter what we dream”, I found the best dedication for the New Year:

We pass and dream. Earth smiles. Virtue is rare.
Age, duty, gods weigh on our conscious bliss.
Hope for the best and for the worst prepare.
The sum of purposed wisdom speaks in this.

The best wine we tried in our Lisbon trip was Valado Reserva, a living proof that Earth smiles, Some years ago my co-editor Miguel wrote a magnificent comment in this blog of what he thought of this “Super-Douro”. His tale of seduction and velvet applies still today. With the same enthusiasm, I can add nothing else:

“We started with the Vallado Reserva 2003. This is to start almost in heaven. Vallado wines keep having the greatest ratings you can imagine but they still don’t have that much buzz around them. The reason? Well, is it perhaps because they are not that expensive?… I sure hope they continue that way. The 2003 was powerful but extremely elegant. It came dressed in velvet and it was the first time I fell in love that night.” (

Back in Madrid, we have celebrated this weekend María’s birthday (“Twenty-five? what a ridiculous age to be. Nobody is twenty-five any more…”) with two wines we particularly like, Ramón Bilbao edición limitada 2011 and Albariño de Fefiñanes III año.

In the case of Ramón Bilbao, I revere the transformation that has taken place in this Rioja winery. For 11 euros, this “special edition” crianza is an incredible surprise, like some streets in Lisbon that open to the sea. Today, a Sunday without watches, we have tried Fefiñanes III año (meaning “aged for three years”), a very different Albariño wine that our friend Juan Figueroa makes and recently sent us. From the design of the bottle to the colour, bouquet and taste of the wine, this golden treasure deserves to be called a “Super-Rias Baixas”. Like a good conversation in a Galician home, the wine suggests, makes detours and asks questions that do not really need answers. It tells many different stories and embraces the passage of time with fantastic grace.

Summer brings more time to find new wines and enjoy them. Before this one is officially over, let me share with you how wonderful it was to taste this year’s Valenciso Rosado. This rosé is a very short production that the Valenciso mavericks usually present around May. It has the best dark pink colour I have ever seen in a wine and it reminds you of fruit for desert in a picnic when you were a child (

I was also very happy to drink Dinastia Vivanco, a 2010 crianza (8 euros), with my father during our days in Valldemossa, Majorca. My father is very exigent with wines -much less with his sons- and made a nod of appreciation when I brought this Rioja to the table, set out in the garden, next to lemon trees. Back in Galicia, I took with me to María’s family house in Monterroso, Lugo, a case of Tobía crianza 2010 (around 12 euros per bottle). This is an amazing Rioja, as subtle and unstoppable as a conversation between Galician natives about how to get from one place to another. Tobía resists well the comparison with this never ending exchange and can be drunk with the same pleasure of those who seek or imagine new paths and different routes.

Paco Garcia is not a typical Rioja wine. It is the standard bearer of a new generation that has arrived full of passion and imagination. The project is directed by the very young couple Juan Bautista García and Ana Fernández, and pays tribute to two “Pacos García” in the family, Juan Bautista’s father and a lost brother. Since 2008, this wine stands out as as an attractive experiment to lure the young who no longer drink wine back into Western civilization. I tried first Number 6, a wine that does not need profound thoughts to be truly enjoyed, at an incredible price of 5 euros per bottle. Today we drank the Crianza, around 12 euros, an exceptional work of art, seductive and more in touch with its own feelings.

Fruit, fun, friendship, love, excess, folly, all of these concepts want to be expressed by Paco Garcia. Do not be deterred by the somewhat strange X ray hand print in the label (a tribute to Paco father). This wine is a must and in spite of the party noises it wants to create, is faithful to the endless possibilities of roots. Paco Garcia, from the humble village of Murillo del Rio Leza, southwest of Logroño, is probably the best combination I have found lately of a garage experiment and serious determination to exalt the terroir.