What is a Creme Liqueur?

One of the things questions I regularly get asked is ‘what is the difference between Creme Liqueur and a Liqueur?’. Some people get confused thinking that a Creme Liqueur is a Cream Liqueur like Baileys Irish Cream. It isn’t. Not that surprising since the word creme (crème to give it it’s is proper French accent) is the French word for cream, the dairy product. So what are Creme de Fruits, Creme de Noix or Creme Liqueurs.

The first thing to do is to define what a liqueur is. European Law from 1989 states that a liqueur must have a minimum of 15% alcohol and a minimum of 100g of sugar per litre.

Briottet Creme de Cacao Blanc Liqueur
Briottet Creme de Cacao Blanc Liqueur

A liqueur is essentially made made from three components.

  1. A distilled spirit – this could be a neutral grain, fruit, grape or molasses spirit. However, some of the world’s most famous liqueurs use finished spirits such as whisky, cognac, brandy or rum as their base spirit.
  2. A sweetener – generally this can be sugar or a sugar syrup (perhaps fructose or fruit sugar syrup) . Other sweeteners can include honey or sweet wine.
  3. Some sort of flavouring – liqueurs can be flavoured with just about anything. Common flavourings are fruits, nuts, herbs, flowers, roots, bark, beans, cream and spices. The flavouring of a liqueur can be simple, such as just simply blackcurrant fruit for a Creme de Cassis, or the flavourings could be a long list (usually a closely guarded secret) of herbs, flowers, spices etc. For example, Green Chartreuse has 130 ingredients.

A liqueur always has sugar added, which distinguishes it from flavoured spirits such as flavoured vodka, and they are usually bottled at an alcoholic strength of anywhere from 15% (the minimum) to 55% ABV.

To dispel any confusion over a Creme versus a Cream Liqueur, a Cream Liqueur is simply alcohol and sugar flavoured with dairy cream (and other flavourings). Without doubt, Baileys Irish Cream is the most famous of the Cream Liqueurs but there are many others including Amarula from South Africa, all sorts of chocolate and coffee flavoured cream liqueurs, and those that use rum, whisky, tequila et al. for their spirit base.

What is a Creme Liqueur?

Briottet Creme de Cassis de Dijon
Briottet Creme de Cassis de Dijon

A Creme Liqueur has a more specific definition. It is liqueur made with alcohol that is sweetened and then flavoured.

However, a Creme Liqueur must contain at least 250g of sugar per litre, compared to a “normal” liqueur (100g/L) as above. Creme Liqueurs are normally made from fruit or nuts and are therefore known as Creme de Fruits or Creme de Noix.

There are exceptions of course. For example, Creme de Cassis de Dijon is more regulated, limited geographically and must have minimum of 400g of sugar per litre compared to standard Creme de Cassis. Creme de Cassis de Dijon must also contain at least 25% of the Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrant variety.

What does this mean?

Due to the higher sugar concentration Creme Liqueurs tend to be more viscous, more syrupy, heavier and (obviously) sweeter than standard liqueurs. In practice this perhaps means that when you are using them in cocktails or other recipes you may not have to use as much of a Creme Liqueur compared to a normal liqueur. I also recommend using a much smaller amount of the Briottet Creme de Fruit liqueurs when adding them to white or sparkling wines for example in a Kir or Kir Royale.

Glenmorangie Milsean

Glenmorangie Milsean Highland Single Malt Whisky is the latest Glenmorangie Private Edition. It is the creation of Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Whisky Creation and Distilling, and is inspired by the old jars of sweets and multi-coloured confectionery of traditional sweet shops, that are now such a rare sight on our high streets.

In keeping with 4 out of the last 6 Glenmorangie Private Editions, Glenmorangie Milsean, the seventh Private Edition release, is distinctive due to is unusual wine cask finish. The first Private Edition was released in 2010, and just to recap, the 6 releases have been,

Glenmorangie Sonnalta – extra matured in ex- Pedro Ximenez, dessert Sherry casks.

Glenmorangie Finealta – a recreation of a Glenmorangie from the early 1900s, aged in Oloroso Sherry Casks with a whisper of peat.

Glenmorangie Artein – matured in rare Super Tuscan red wine casks.

Glenmorangie Ealanta – Not a special wine cask finish but matured in virgin oak casks from the Mark Twain Forest.

Glenmorangie Companta – matured in combination of Grand Cru Burgundy casks from the Clos du Tart vineyard and some casks that had previously held a red dessert wine from the Rhone.

Glenmorangie Tusail – the second release not based on wine casks but an artisanal single, hand-crafted using floor-malted Maris Otter barley, a rare type of barley.

Glenmorangie Milsean available to purchase here.

Glenmorangie Milsean, 2016 Private Edition

Glenmorangie Milsean Bottle

Initially the whisky for the Glenmorangie Milsean undergoes a typical maturation in Bourbon casks but then it extra-matured in specially selected ex-wine casks. In this case the casks are ex-red wine casks sourced from the Douro wine-growing region of Portugal. Although the Douro is most famous for its historic sweet Port wines, there is a new wave producers making fantastic red wines. Of course, where the casks come from is a secret, but the best Douro red wines are usually a “field blend” of grapes which include varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Sousao and others. The wines that are produced tend to big and rich, yet elegant, with plenty of fruit and spicy character. So expect dark fruit character and spicy flavours.

However, not content with just using the casks as they are, the casks destined for the Glenmorangie Milsean are shipped to Scotland where there are re-toasted with live flame to enhance the sweeter notes of Glenmorangie. The result is a sumptuous whisky characterised by the sweetness and piquancy of the toasted casks combined with the rich, fruity flavours of the wood finish.

According to Dr Bill Lumsden, “A glass of Glenmorangie Milsean transports me straight to an old-fashioned sweet shop with its sweet and spicy bouquet, with hints of sugar cane, ripe fruits and fudge. Extra-maturing Glenmorangie in heavily toasted red wine casks for the first time, has allowed us to create a whisky recalling a bygone era. I hope its deep tastes of cherries, angelica, candied orange peel and unusual intensity of caramelised fruits, will surprise and delight whisky aficionados and malt connoisseurs.”

And why Glenmorangie Milsean? Milsean is the Scots Gaelic for “sweet things”, which gived a big clue to the style. It is pronounced meel-shawn. Only 5000 cases produced.

Glenmorangie Milsean Tasting Notes from the Glenmorangie website,

Copper beech.

At full strength, perfumed, sweet and spicy with hints of sugar cane, ripe fruits, sherbert lemons and fudge.
With water, more candy sweetness (dolly mixtures, sugared plums and sweet candy), with the over-riding fragrance of sweet, buttery coconut. Sweet lemon and limes, with hints of exotic ripe melons.

A thick buttery, oily texture with a hint of tingling spices and a hint of chilli giving way to a sweet, luscious candy-like flavour followed by a mix of tart plummy fruit, candied orange peel, cherries, angelica and then more fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums and melons.

Long and spicy, but always with a sweetness in the background, with flavours such as ginger, brown sugar, sweet tobacco and cake mix.

46% ABV
Non chill-filtered.


1976 Vintage Armagnac

Are you looking for a 40th Birthday Present or 40th Anniversary present in 2016? A 1976 Vintage Armagnac will be 40 years old in 2016 and will make a fantastic 40th birthday present or anniversary gift.

At Fareham Wine Cellar we sell Armagnac from two producers who specialise in the production, sourcing and bottling of single vintage Armagnac – Baron de Lustrac and Baron de Sigognac.

The depth of colour and complexity of flavour of vintage Armagnac increase all the time the spirit is aged in cask, the colour can range from pale straw to rich amber. As Armagnac ages it becomes darker in colour and softer, smoother and more elegant on the palate whilst aromas and flavours of prunes, violets, fig, honey, butterscotch and rancio develop. Both Baron de Lustrac and Baron de Sigognac vintage Armagnacs are bottled exclusively to order which allows the spirit to carry on maturing until the last moment.

Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac

Baron de Lustrac specialise in the sourcing and bottling of old vintage Armagnacs. Their brandies are presented in an old-fashioned Armagnac bottle and wooden box, these rare vintage Armagnacs are available in strictly limited quantities. Each label is clearly inscribed with the year of distillation.  Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac is presented in a wooden gift box with a hinged lid.

Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac 3

Buy Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac here.

Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac

As well as Baron de Lustrac we also supply a fantastic range of vintage Armagnacs from another old, vintage Armagnac specialist called Baron de Sigognac. The current owners, the Guasch family have owned the Chateau at Bordeneuve since 1974 and today are one of the largest courtier and negociant operations in the region.

Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac 4

Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac has a translucent yellow golden amber colour. It has an elegant and perfumed nose with the characteristic Armagnac notes of floral and prune, with some fine vanilla flavours. The palate offers a light and smooth taste of vanilla with stewed fruits, leading to exotic fruit flavours that culminate in a soft and delicious spicy finish.

Buy Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac here.

As an alternative, or for a Port drinker,  why not consider Grahams 40 Year Old Tawny Port?

Opening Old Vintage Port

We sell a lot of vintage Port, particularly around Christmastime, and I always like to give customers a few hints and tips about decanting and opening old Vintage Port. This is easy enough if one is face-to-face with a customer in the shop but slightly more difficult if the customer has placed the order online.

Just after Christmas I had the email (below) from a customer who bought a bottle Ramos Pinto 1983 Vintage Port from us online and struggled with the fragile and crumbly Port cork. I thought it would be good to share the email (names withheld) and my response as this is not the first time I have had a similar conversation with customers. I hope this helps anyone else that has similar problems opening old Vintage Port and removing the fragile corks.

Email received,

“…….. however when we came to open the port it didn’t go very well.  After taking off the foil seal the cork appeared fine but as soon as we tried to extract it it disintegrated and contaminated the port. As you can imagine this was very disappointing and we had to strain the contents to get rid of the cork that had crumbled into the port.

I have saved the cork and took photos as we attempted to opened the bottle. I wonder if you would be able to explain to me why this happened and what we should or shouldn’t have done.  This was our first bottle of port at this sort of price and were totally unprepared for what happened.”

Unfortunately, older Vintage Port corks, which are normally longer and higher quality than standard corks, can become very friable and difficult to remove from the bottle and if one is expecting the cork to pop out like your normal weekend bottle of wine it can be a bit of a surprise.

Opening Old Vintage Port can be a tricky job!

Here is my response,

“……. I am sorry to hear about the problems that you had opening your bottle of Port but this is pretty much normal condition for a cork in a bottle of vintage Port of this age. Over time, and this cork has been in the bottle 30 year plus, they do become very soft and fragile, and this happens when the Port has been stored correctly on its side. The particular bottle you purchased from us came directly from the Port house in the last year, so it should have been aged in optimum conditions. The wine would not have been contaminated, the Port has been on contact with the the cork since bottling after all.

All one can really do is to be prepared for this when opening bottles of this age. This means a very good corkscrew. Vintage Port corks are very good quality and longer than average corks as they do have to do their job for many years. Modern corkscrews are not very good for this. The worse type are the lever type corkscrews, ones that do not have a good, wide open “worm” (the spiral metal bit) or where the worm is not long enough to get to (or through) the bottom of the cork. I still find the best type of corkscrew is a high quality, 2 step, waiters friend.

However, because opening old vintage Port is a tricky, I also have a Butler’s Thief, whose prongs slide down the outside of the cork for opening really old, fragile bottles of Port. Some people use Port tongs to remove the neck of the bottle, but this might be a bit too much bother for most.

Opening Old Vintage Port - A Butlers Thief
Opening Old Vintage Port – A Butlers Thief

There are many times that I have opened a vintage Port when the cork has disintegrated, just like yours. On occasion if I haven’t been able to get all the cork out I have simply pushed it in. Of course, if you do this, you will need to remove and cork bits. I use a simple decanting funnel which has a double mesh filter. This removes all the cork bits that might be left. Many customers of mine use muslin or coffee filters (unbleached) and even fine denier tights!

I hope you enjoyed the Port when you had strained it. I have tried this one a few times over the years and it has always been excellent.

I hope this gives you a few ideas and I hope you aren’t put off trying an older vintage Port again!”

In fact, I had another email from the customer, and, in the end, they removed the cork as best they could and filtered the Port through some muslin, which is pretty much the way I do it if I have a very troublesome cork, as I mentioned in my repsonse. Its just common sense really. I have had to do this on a number of  occasions! The important thing is not to be too precious. Decant the Port as best you can to leave the sediment behind and if one needs to filter the Port though something to remove any small bits of cork, so be it. It is not an exact science!

Does anyone else have any handy hints and tips for opening old Vintage Port bottles? Has anyone tried filtering Port through tights? What denier did you use? I once saw someone filter some cork bits out of some Cognac through a freshly removed sock!

To find out more about how and why to decant Port please refer to this blog post, A Guide To Decanting Port.

Gilbert White Gin

What do you get if you combine Gilbert White’s gardens and Winchester Distillery? Gilbert White Gin, of course.

Many of you will be familiar with the name Gilbert White. White was a pioneering naturalist and ornithologist parson who was born in Selborne, Hampshire where the White family house remains to this day. The house is known as The Wakes and houses the Gilbert White museum as well as the Oates collection (an Antarctic exhibition dedicated to Captain Oates, who accompanied Captain Scott to the South Pole in 1912).

You might also be familiar with Winchester Distillery (founded in 2014) who produce the fantastic Twisted Nose Gin, Wasabi Vodka and Vermouth, all of which are made using locally sourced ingredients and botanicals where possible.

Gilbert White Gin

Gilbert White Gin

Gilbert White was an experimental, keen and enthusiastic gardener, and at The Wakes in Selborne there are 30 acres of ancient parkland and carefully restored gardens which have been looked after by head gardener David Standing since 1979. Perhaps the idea of producing a gin from the gardens is not so unusual and White himself apparently used to make a wide variety of brews and wines made with plants from the gardens.

All the botanicals for the Gilbert White Gin (with the exception of he juniper) are hand-picked by David and include the following herbs and fruits,

Swan’s Egg Pear
Golden Sage
Winter Savory
Pineapple Mint
Rose Hip

Buy Gilbert White Gin at Fareham Wine Cellar.

Gilbert White Gin is distilled at Winchester Distillery by founder Paul Bowler. All of their gins are small batch distilled in traditional copper alquitar pot stills. Alquitar pot stills are renowned for producing a superior, purer spirit due to a slight longer distillation process and unusual design.

A sophisticated, complex and herbaceous gin, good enough to drink neat. It also makes a great gin and tonic. Use your favourite tonic water and garnish with a slice of pear or mint to complement the botanicals.

Please don’t forget to check out our other Hampshire Gins, Twisted Nose Gin and Silverback Gin.

Silverback Gin

A fantastic new gin from Hampshire. Silverback Gin is a “Mountain Strength Gin” made by the Gorilla Spirits Co. located in Four Marks near Alton in Hampshire. The distillery is situated at the highest point in Hampshire. The owner and founder is Andy Daniels who has spent four years building up to the first release of Silverback Gin in December 2015. He is the now the proud owner of a state of the art distillery and the gin is flowing!

Silverback gin is a small batch gin made using a pure wheat base spirit as the clean background to allow the expression of the carefully chosen botanicals to come to the fore. The gin is distilled in Gorilla Spirits’ copper still which is nicknamed Mugwaneza (which means “she who is content” in Kinrwandan).

Silverback Gin is now available at Fareham Wine Cellar.

Silverback Gin

Silverback Gin Bottle

The botanicals in Silverback Gin include,

Sweet Orange
Calamus Root
Acacia Blossom

Of course, gin must contain juniper as a botanical by law and coriander, angelica and sweet orange are fairly common gin botanicals. The next three are a little more unusual. Calamus Root is also known as sweet flag, myrtle grass, sweet cinnamon, pine root and the rhizomes have traditionally been used in medicines, fragrance and bitters. The powdered rhizome has also been used as a subsitute for ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. It adds warmth and spiciness to the gin. Acacia Blossom adds brings a sweet, honeyed note whilst lemongrass gives a clean, citrus-y finish. It is a very modern style of gin with the botanicals at the fore and the juniper in the background. Technically this is a London Dry Gin, i.e. the spirit base is redistilled once in the presence of the botanicals with no sweetening added, but is bottled at sold as Mountain Strength Gin at 46% ABV.

A superb gin that can be drunk neat or over ice, it also makes a fantastic gin and tonic. Gorilla Spirits recommend Peter Stanton Drinks No 9 Cardamon Tonic Water to make the ultimate G’n’T. The heady cardamon fragrance and green freshness of the tonic water match perfectly with Silverback Gin. Garnish with an inch long strip of orange to complement the sweet orange citrus botanical in the gin.

For every bottle of gin sold in the UK, depending on the strength, approximately  £15 goes straight to the HMRC, frightening isn’t it? Gorilla Spirits also add GAT (Gorilla Added Tax) and for every bottle of Silverback Gin sold £1 goes directly to The Gorilla Foundation who are working to save the last remaining gorillas from extinction.

1966 Vintage Armagnac

What better what better way to celebrate a 50th Anniversary or 50th Birthday in 2016 than with a bottle of 1966 Vintage Armagnac?

Fareham Wine Cellar supplies 1966 vintage Armagnac from two Armagnac houses specialise in the production and supply of rare, old, vintage Armagnacs – Baron de Lustrac and Baron de Sigognac. Both have stocks going back to the early 1900s – have a look here for a full list of available vintages, maybe there is one for another anniversary or birthday celebration.

Compared to wine, good luck finding something drinkable (perhaps a Port would do the trick), or whisky from 1966 (a small fortune), vintage Armagnac will be guaranteed to be still drinkable and won’t put too much of a dent in one’s pocket. Read more about the advantages of Vintage Armagnac as a gift at my post about 1965 Vintage Armagnac.

Baron de Lustrac 1966 Vintage Armagnac

Buy Baron de Lustrac 1966 Vintage Armagnac here.

Baron de Lustrac 1966 Vintage Armagnac

Baron de Lustrac Armagnac is presented in an old-fashioned Armagnac bottle and wooden box. These fine and rare vintage Armagnacs are only available in strictly limited quantities. Each label is inscribed with the year of distillation, the name of the Domain of production, the bottle number (they are usually single cask bottlings) and, where relevant, the grape variety.

Baron de Sigognac 1966 Vintage Armagnac

Buy Baron de Sigognac 1966 Vintage Armagnac here.

Baron de Sigognac 1966 Vintage Armagnac Bottle

If you look on the Baron de Sigognac Vintage Armagnac chart, you can see that Sigognac categorise the 1966 as fine, light, easy to drink and is dominated by floral notes with leather and cigar characteristics.

The Owners of Baron de Sigognac, The Guasch family, have been in Gascony since the 12th century. They have owned the château at Bordeneuve since 1974 and are one of the region’s largest courtier and negociant operations. Today the father-and-son team of Jean-Claude and Thomas look after viticulture, vinification and distillation. They make a fantastic selection of single vintage Armangnac, but they also make some superb blended Armagnac too like the Baron de Sigognac 50 Year Old in Decanter Wooden Case or the Baron de Sigognac XO Platinum Armagnac Decanter Bottle.

Is my vintage 1966 Vintage Armagnac genuine?

Sometimes people buying a 50 year old bottle of Armagnac expect a dusty old bottle of brandy, but vintage Armagnac spends its life quietly aging in oak barrels (sometimes it is transferred to glass demijohns) and is only bottled and labelled when it is ready to be released. So it quite normal  that bottle and label are new. Read more about how Vintage Armagnac is regulated.


Fareham Wine Cellar Christmas and New Year Opening Hours 2015

Farheam Wine Cellar Christmas Opening Hours 2015

All of us at Fareham Wine Cellar wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.  Thank you for your continued support throughout all of 2015 and we look forward to seeing you in 2016.

We will be open at the following times over the Christmas period.


Tuesday 22nd – 10am until 6.30pm

Wednesday 23rd – 10am until 5.00pm

Thursday 24th (Christmas Eve) – 10am until 4.00pm


Friday 25th (Christmas Day) – Closed

Saturday 26th – Closed

Sunday 27th – Closed

Monday 28th (Boxing Day) – Closed


Tuesday 29th 10am until 2pm and 4.30pm until 6.30pm

Wednesday 30th – 10am until 1.30pm

Thursday 31st (New Year’s Eve) – 10am until 4.00pm


Friday 1st January (New Years’s Day) – Closed


Saturday 2nd January – 10am until 6.00pm


And back to normal after that!

Don’t forget to pop in and replenish your stocks in the New Year!

You can check our normal opening hours here.

Madeira Day Wine Tasting 2015

Madeira Day is a campaign to spread the word about quality Madeira wines. Now in its second year, Madeira Day started as Madeira Saturday in 2014. It is organised by Vinhos Barbeito and their UK importer, Portuguese wines specialist, Raymond Reynolds Ltd. Don’t forget to tweet using #MadeiraDay.

Our Madeira Day Wine Tasting is a free tasting. Please pop into Fareham Wine Cellar anytime between 2pm and 5.30pm on the 14th November 2015.

Madeira Day Wine Tasting 2015

Saturday 14th November 2015 from 2.00pm until 5.30pm

Fareham Wine Cellar
55 High Street
Fareham, P016 8TD

We will be showing some fantastic Madeiras from Vinhos Barbeito, a small, traditional Madeira producer, who doesn’t add any caramel to their Madeiras as some more commercial Madeiras do. The result is that Barbeito’s Madeira have a wonderful clean, purity and freshness. They are superb wines, suitable for all sorts of occasions, and must be tried!

Madeira Day wines on show will be (and maybe a.n.other),

Barbeito Boal (Bual) Reserva 19% 50cl

Barbeito Boal (Bual) Reserva

A superb medium-sweet Madeira with refreshing acidity. Barbeito Boal Reserva has a golden, honey colour. The nose demonstrates aromas of dried fruit, floral notes and marmalade. It is a round, medium-bodied with slight smoky hint and a fresh and tangy finish.

Barbeito Verdelho 10 Year Old Reserva Velha 19% 75cl

Barbeito Verdelho 10 Year Old Reserva Velha

Barbeito Verdelho 10 Year Old Reserva Velha is literally an “Old Reserve” Made from 100% Verdelho grapes. It is made in a medium dry style. It has a bright, light golden brown colour. The nose has aromas of citrus, floral and honeyed notes. It is soft, round, well-balance with good acidity and persisent, lingering finish.

Barbeito Madeira and Bolo de Mel
Barbeito Madeira and Bolo de Mel in 2014

We we will also have some wonderful spiced molasses cake, made to a traditional Madeiran recipe, called Bolo de Mel, made by Alan Williams of the Buxton Cake Company to try with the wines.

Barbeito Madeira is was founded in 1946 by Mário Barbeito. Today Mario’s grandson, Ricardo de Freitas, runs Vinhos Barbeito. Barbeito is a very traditional canteiro style Madeira and undergoes no de-acidification nor addition of caramel. Barbeito work closely with local producers and have input with them to ensure that each harvest the grapes are harvested to the specification of winemaker Ricardo de Freitas.

Read more about Barbeito Madeira at their website.

A couple of tweets from the day!


Urbina Rioja Winemakers Dinner 2015

with winemaker Pedro Urbina

Wednesday 14th October 2015

@ Lysses House Hotel, High Street
Fareham, Maplink

Urbina Rioja Winemakers Dinner 2015 (1)

On Wednesday 14th October 2015 we were lucky enough to have a visit from Bodegas Urbina winemaker Pedro Urbina and his representative in the UK, Edward Burridge of Burridges of Arlington Street, specialist importers of Spanish wines. This gave us the opportunity to host a winemaker’s dinner at Lysses House Hotel. Here are a few of my thoughts, and a few pictures, of the evening.

Pedro Urbina at the Urbina Rioja Winemakers Dinner 2015 (9)Pedro Urbina

It is always good to have access to a winemaker, there are always questions that you can ask a winemaker that no-one else will tell you the answer to. Of course, they don’t always answer the questions one asks! One of the things I was interested in finding out was how can Bodegas Urbina still be selling Urbina Gran Reserva 1996 or Urbina Reserva Especial 2001 Rioja when all other Rioja producers are on something like the 2005 and 2008 vintages? Well it seems that Pedro Senior, who would have been in charge at the time, made a lot of wine of one type if he thought that it would be the best expression of his wine in that vintage. So we, and Urbina, are still selling Urbina Gran Reserva 1996 because they made a lot of Gran Reserva in that year. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t recall ever selling any 1996 Reservas from Urbina, only Crianza. Likewise in 1999 there was no other Urbina Rioja made apart from the Urbina Seleccion Crianza 1999 (actually, it could be classified as a Reserva, see below) because Pedro Snr thought it would be the best wine to make in that vintage.

Urbina Rioja Winemakers Dinner 2015 (11)

Another interesting point that was mentioned, which is a useful point to remind everyone, is that Urbina Crianza has been aged long enough in oak and bottle prior to release to qualify as a Reserva and, similarly, Urbina Reservas qualify as Gran Reservas. Otherwise things seem to be continuing in much the same vein as before at Urbina. Pedro did mention that they are now using 35% French oak and 65% American oak where as it was 100% American previously and that will be interesting to see how it affects the wines going forward. There is also a new project from Urbina coming shortly called Bodegas Salva from Rioja Alta. It is named after Salva after Pedro’s grandfather Salvador and is a joint venture between Pedro and his two brothers Angel and Santiago, who are lecturers at MasterViteno in Madrid. This small 5 hectare estate will produce a Crianza and a Reserva in a more modern, fruit-driven style than the classic Urbina Rioja.

Urbina Rioja Winemakers Dinner 2015 (2)

As usual chef Clive Wright and his staff at Lysses House Hotel performed a stellar job in ensuring that everyone was fed and watered well. I know it is not an easy job trying to serve 60 covers all at once. The food, once again, was superb. The starters of cod and chorizo on a bed of spinach with a red wine and cream sauce was a brilliant match for the Urbina Garnacha, the sweet meatiness of the chorizo and the spicy, vibrant, red fruit were a perfect match. The main course was some fantastic Welsh lamb with a Spanish infused butter bean, pepper and courgette stew which worked really well with the Urbina Seleccion. The Urbina Seleccion 1999 is always one of my favourite Urbina Riojas as I find it just has a bit more fruit, but similar power, to their Reserva wines. In fact Pedro calls the Urbina Seleccion 1999 their 4×4 wine, it will go anywhere, meaning it is their most versatile wine for food matching. There was also a small selection of Spanish Cheeses inc;uding Manchego, a Spanish Blue and a Spanish smoked cheese called San Simon. I am not normally a fan of smoked cheeses and I was surprised how well this match with the Urbina Gran Reserva 1996, the smokiness of the cheese and the dried fruit and vanilla character just seem to complement each other really well.

The biggest star of the evening seemed to be the Urbina Crianza. Apparently the previous evening at another wine tasting it was the Urbina Reserva Especial 2001! Here is a breakdown of the wines sold on the evening.

Urbina Winemakers Dinner Sales Percentage

See the full list and wines and menu here.