Contino is a small single vineyard estate that is part of the Cvne family of high quality benchmark Spanish wines from the Rioja region. Jesús Madrazo is the widely respected winemaker at Contino and has traveled to London for a tasting of the very troubled 2013 vintage.

 

Hail from hell

Nobody likely felt the woes of this vintage as much as Jesús who watched 99% of his harvest be destroyed by a freak hailstorm that struck the region in early September 2013. It was so severe that no such hailstorm has been seen in the region for 43 years.

With waterlogged vineyards and huge difficulties from mud, Jesús directed his pickers to pick a little later on the 26th September. By which time there has been more sun on the remaining 1% of grapes making them big and ripe. This ripeness subsequently pushed the alcohol level of this vintage up to 14.5%.

Determination

The team headed out and salvaged the remaining grapes from the wreckage. Usually Contino produce 2000 barrels in a vintage. In 2013 that number was reduced to 17. Jesús’ determination to produce wine with the remaining fruit is what brought him to London for this tasting.

contino bottles

Tasting notes

The wine has a rich alluring dark ruby colour and a very vibrant nose of spice and dark fruits. This is a barrel sample so there’s an enormous amount of bursting vigour in the wine. The tannin is course with so much grip that a few glasses at this stage could give you lock-jaw! However, as Jesús himself says, this needs some ageing time in the bottle to round off but the richness and class is undeniable.

Although officially ready in 2 years time, I could see these being wines of enormous pleasure to be drinking in 5 yrs and counting. If you can actually get your hands on any then perhaps open a bottle on receipt and then another every 2 yrs until you run out!

contino map

Wines of terroir

So many winemakers all over the world are talking “terroir”. With Rioja being such a vast region, it is easy to forget that winemakers are dealing with vastly different climates, soils, terrain etc. We tend to think in terms of ‘crianza’, ‘reserva’ and ‘gran reserva’ but this does no justice at all to what is really behind the wine in your glass.

Jesús is keen to emphasise the importance of “the place” where he is growing his fruit and the role it plays in delivering the finished product.

Although it maybe a big leap for the public to take more than a passing interest in the what-where-when-and-how of the vineyard, their is the reward of greater understanding of how great wines come to be. All things in context, and far from the idea of ‘crianza’, ‘reserva’ and ‘gran reserva’ as winemaking methods as opposed to the overall cycle, the winemaker is really a contributor to the process, as opposed to controller of that process.

Summary

With this in mind it is fair to say that the Contino 2013 has obvious gastronomic potential, but perhaps it might be best to classify it a “meditative wine”. A wine for sitting back and tasting, while conjuring thoughts of Mother Nature, as she breathes the life into the vines, whose roots climb down into the deep soils, and the subsequent fruits that are produced, are carefully worked into a nectar for the joy of humanity. 

The overriding feeling in response to the tasting is one of respect… for the winemaker, for the wine and for Nature.

contino jesus speaking

 

Add your name to our confidential database to receive more tips from Secret sommelier:

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.

 

Driving into the Entre-Deux-Mers region from the north, the vineyards roll out like a bright green deep-pile carpet across the undulating land. It’s hard not to be excited about tasting wines with so much heritage, as we head to Chateau-Sainte-Marie to meet with 5th generation owner, Stéphane Dupuch. 

 

It’s been a hot couple of weeks here trekking around northern Catalonia. From the homeland and backdrop to surrealist Salvador Dali’s world to dramatic remnants of the volcano park an hour away, this place is a land of rough-hewn vistas and rustic hospitality.

 

It’s a scorching summer evening in Regent’s Park and what is my glass is of premium importance. The fact that Britain is experiencing a thorough multi-day licking from the sun, is itself unconventional, as are the pourers at this evenings tasting: 4 wine producers from the appellation AOC Ventoux in the southern Rhone.

 

Carluccio's deli and restaurants are a high-street staple, where great flavours in food blend easily with quality wines on the list. Following the death of the charismatic founder, Antonio Carluccio, his spirit lives on in style and philosophy. Nick Breeze talks to Head of International Operations (especially where wine is concerned!), Mike Stocks about wine-list tips, food matching and the great man of "mof mof":

 

Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.

 

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of this site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

  I accept cookies from this site.
EU Cookie Directive plugin by www.channeldigital.co.uk