words | Andrew Licudi AIWS
I have always considered that one of the pleasures of drinking older vintages is to use the wine as a time machine or aide memoir to recall events at the time the wine was made. The fact that even old wine is considered to be alive and evolving adds to the illusion of time travel and can provide a great topic of conversation during a meal, and if guests are present, all the better, as they will inevitably participate with enthusiasm.
Recalling long forgotten holidays, old friends, work projects or trying to recall if uncle Dave, who told great jokes, was still alive at the time can provide great therapy and put all our current woes into some sort of perspective. I recall on one occasion when our friends sheepishly admitted that, at the time the wine we were drinking was made, they had been married to other people and had been living abroad. We were surprised at this as we had known them and their children for years and other marriages had never been mentioned but then again, why should they have. Both, it transpired, had been shortly married to other people when they were very young and we all had a laugh when they embarked to list minor faults their previous partners had. Smelly feet, noisily slurping tea or obsessions with bikes and cricket all seemed childishly amusing after a few glasses of wine.
I was therefore delighted to find out that a friend and I had been successful when bidding on an obscure site for some extraordinarily old Riojas, bought at no more than one would pay for the current vintage – an opportunity that I am sure will never repeat itself. What we will do with so many old Riojas remains to be seen but some bottles will almost certainly form part of a charity dinner where our fellow wine geeks will be very willing to part with their ready cash for the privilege of tasting these historical wines and knowing all the money raised will go to a worthwhile cause. We have organised these dinners before and would recommend this format for anyone wanting to raise money for charity.
Here are some of the wines and a look back at what was happening at the time the wines were made.
Vina Albina Reserva 1942
All Riojas until the 1990s were “traditional” with long barrel ageing and limited skin contact making relatively medium bodied but long lived wines. Nowadays, however, modern Riojas like Roda, Ramirez de Ganuza etc. have been made to be extremely powerful and very fruit driven – indistinguishable from Ribera del Duero. So, what was happening in 1942?
- Frank Sinatra records his first solo track “Night and day”
- Singapore falls to Japanese occupation
- General Eisenhower comes to Gibraltar to oversee the invasion of North Africa.
- Bodegas CUNE remains a traditional Rioja producer
- The most famous bullfighter of all time Monolete is gored by a bull in the small town of Linares and dies
- Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, is born on the 2nd June 1947
- In the Houses of Parliament, Mr Skeffington Lodge asks the Secretary of State why he has approved a State Lottery in Gibraltar.
Imperial Reserva 1951
- “The Naval Armament vessel, formerly RFA Bedenham, was a naval armament carrier that exploded while docked in Gibraltar on 27 April 1951, killing 13 people and causing a great deal of damage to the town.”
La Rioja Alta Reserva 1962
- Cuban missile crisis takes the world to the brink of nuclear war
- Gibraltar participates at the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Australia but wins no medals
- Mine workers in Asturias go on strike in direct challenge to Franco. Franco responds with repression and brutal beatings of men and women
- Cliff Richard, true to his word since, releases “Batchelor Boy”.
Monte Real 1965
- Winston Churchill dies
- The Beatles, considered social terrorists by the Spanish establishment, land in Madrid. They are driven to Hotel Fénix where an advertising plot has been hatched by sherry producers in Jerez in an effort to get one over “British Sherry”. Sherry barrels and girls in flamenco dresses meet the four lads and, as anticipated, the brief event provides a great photo opportunity. They are asked to sign, in chalk, four barrels which are subsequently taken back to Bodegas Williams in Jerez and forgotten. In 1983, a group of Beatle fans known as “Club Crocodilo” are allowed to look for the barrels. After much searching, they locate two badly damaged barrel ends with Paul McCartney’s and Ringo Star’s autographs just discernible. There is no sign of the others. Years later, Pepe Arcas, an original member of the fan club who searched for the missing barrels, finds, to his amazement, that miraculously, four pristine barrels, with all four Beatles autographs, are being displayed at the bodega. Arcas couldn’t give his blessing to the barrels. Someone had imitated the autographs – badly, according to Arcas.
Wines to be tried at least once in your life
Kendermanns Riesling Spatlese 2015
Morrisons – Around £6.00
I recall many years ago, other than dessert wines, I preferred my wines to be bone dry and I turned my nose up at wines with any degree of sweetness. I am glad I got over this silly phase of my wine career quickly as otherwise, I would have missed many world class wines which, due to their production’s geographical location, require varying amounts of residual sugar to balance high natural acidity. German and Austrian Rieslings come into this category and both countries can produce stunning and age-worthy white wines which countries like Spain can only dream about.
My wine recommendation today is a Riesling from the Mosel and is an inexpensive version of this incredible grape. Its sweetness is well balanced with its high acidity, tasting of peaches, grapefruit and grapes and is low in alcohol at 9%. Whilst I am not one to go overboard with food matching, I do feel these wines complement curries and other spicy foods and can be delicious with salty cheeses. I always feel the sweetness and hotness of a curry can destroy a red wine or even a bone dry white.
Also, sweet wines have usually something really good going for them – their low alcohol content, which in this wine is only 9%. Compare that with a red Ribera coming in at over 15%…