Once a month on a Monday night Choong and Markus of Restaurant Markus conduct a wine tasting using some of the wines from the vast and diverse cellar of Choong. This is the first one I have been able to get to, and after this great night I am rather looking forward to future events.

Quite apart from the wines of Choong, there is the bonus that you can stay for dinner and enjoy the culinary excitement of the cooking of Markus.

This evening the focus was on Rioja in Spain, world central for the Tempranillo grape. Two wines from Marqués de Cáceres, first the Crianza, then the Gran Reserva. Here are some notes on the wines:

Marqués de Cáceres Crianza 2011

crianzaYou can read the winemaker’s notes below, and we completely agreed. This is one of the rare entry level wines that is a complete wine; it is such a joy to drink, medium bodied but rich and silken in the mouth, lovely marriage of red fruit, oak, tannins, and satisfying finish.

85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha tinta, 5% Graciano.

Selection of parcels from 15-25 year-old vineyards, located in Rioja Alta (85 %) and Rioja Alavesa (15 %). Low yields of 35HL/ha on average.

Mainly clay and limestone. Some parcels in Rioja Alta with ferrous subsoil.

Mild, Atlantic climate with marked seasons.

100% manual, parcel by parcel.

The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed. Alcoholic fermentation at controlled temperatures starting off at 10oC to reach 28oC. Prolonged skin-contact maceration up to 20 days. Malolactic fermentation in stainless-steel tanks. Once this process has finalised, the wines are put into barrels for ageing with racking every six months.

12 months in French (60%) and American (40%) oak barrels, split equally between, new barrels and 2, 3, & 4 year-old (maximum) barrels.

1 year minimum before release.

Gets better every year confirming its assets, for this wine always delivers. It is not due to chance that Crianza is the favourite wine from our range. Bouquet of cherries and vanilla with gentle toasted notes. Balanced in the mouth with soft, ripe and luscious tannins that mingle with delicious, lively fruit. Pleasant fullness and good length to delight the palate.
Serve at 16°C. ABV :13,5%

Then it was over to the Big Brother …

Marqués de Cáceres Gran Riserva 2005

gran-riservaOnce again the winemakers notes are below. We were awoken by the power of this wine, rich, ripe and full bodied in the mouth, dark fruits and chocolate, tannins softened by time. A general feeling was that it was drinking at its peak right now, a timely observation since this was Choong’s last bottle.

85% Tempranillo, 8% Garnacha tinta, 7% Graciano.

Special selection of 35-50 year-old vineyards with some parcels in Rioja Alta that are 65-85 years old.

Very low yields with a maximum of 33 hl/ha and less than 15 hl/ha in those parcels that are 65 years plus.

The Tempranillo comes from vineyards planted at various altitudes (400-620 metres above sea level) from different zones within the Cenicero boundary, Elciego and Laguardia, which confer complexity. The Garnacha Tinta is selected from vineyards located in Rioja Alta, specifically Cenicero and Nájera, with respective altitudes of 650m and 500m, so as to achieve finesse, freshness and, at the same time, good structure.

The Graciano is selected mainly in Elciego, where the grapes offer unique character: exquisiteness, style, brio and colour.

Mainly clay and limestone

100% manual, parcel by parcel.

Mild, Atlantic climate with marked seasons.

The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed. Alcoholic fermentation at controlled temperatures, starting off at 10°C to reach 28oC. Prolonged alcoholic maceration with the skins up to 30 days to extract more colour, aromas and tannic structure. Malolactic fermentación in new French oak barrels or in stainless-steel tanks, depending on the batches. Once this process has finalised, the wines are put into barrels for ageing with racking every 6 months.

24-26 months, depending on the origin of the vineyards and if the new French oak barrels are being used for their first or second wine.

4 years minimum before release

Lively with great potential for development. Spices and minerals, backed by soft, ripe fruit. Well-balanced with body and brio, this wine is elegant with delicious flavours and charming character. Chosen as one of Rioja’s 100 top wines for the 10 X 10 tasting, held in London on 10th November 2015 (Harpers magazine published a brochure with details of the 100 wines).
Serve at 17C. ABV : 14%

What could Choong pull out of his cellar hat to top these wines. Well, he simply didn’t try; no, he floored us with a bottle of …

Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry

… yes the very same one that is the favourite of the Queen of England.

harveysWhat a delightful conclusion to the tasting this was; rich luscious, sweet, and deeply satisfying.

Region:  Andalucia

Varietal:  Sherry

A British classic – blending some of Jerez’s finest Sherries: fino, amontillados and olorosos. This provides a smooth and silky mellow finish with a rich complex palate.

(Some notes from Tesco England.)

Harveys Bristol Cream was created in the company’s cellars in the 1880s by John Harvey II and his brother Edward. An aristocratic lady who was visiting the cellars was sampling Harveys Bristol Milk. She was asked to try the new, finer and richer blend. “If that is Milk, then this must be Cream” she declared on tasting the new blend, and Bristol Cream it has been ever since.

From 1970 onwards Harveys began investing heavily in the region of Jerez, purchasing top quality vineyards and bodegas and building a bottling plant including the latest technology. All production and distribution of sherry for world markets is now centred in Jerez. Only wine produced in the area of Jerez, southern Spain can be called sherry.

Appearance: Amber.

Nose: Clean and fresh with overtones of dry fruit.

Palate: Crisp and elegant with fruity grape flavours, backed up by woody and nutty flavours.

Finish: Mellow with a velvet smoothness.

Harveys was founded in Bristol in 1796. At the time sherry was transported by ship in oak casks and then blended in England. Harveys Bristol Cream was created in 1880 by John Harvey II and his brother Edward. It contains over 30 blends of Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado and the special Pedro Ximenez grape and is a global icon of sherry.

By Appointment to HM Queen Elizabeth II Sherry Suppliers Harveys Jerez Spain.

But wait, we still planned to have dinner. Which raised the question of what could we possibly do to match or complement the wines we had just tasted.

We found one!!

Enter the Marqués de Murrieta Gran Reserva Finca Ygay 2005.

marques-de-muriettaEssentially the same blend of grapes as the Marqués de Cáceres Gran Riserva, but it might as well have come from another country. And that country would be Italy and that Appellation would be Barolo/Barbaresco.

This is an astonishing wine, the initial bouquet floods you with violets, roses, cherries and black fruits. The palate is medium bodied and electric, every mouthful reveals another facet of this beautiful wine. It is lively, rich, elegant, powerful and haunting all at once.

The finish goes on and on, but alas the wine does not, before you know it, the bottle is dry. On our reckoning, this wine is only just entering its prime time, with many years ahead.