I managed to mostly avoid the flash flooding on my way to a tasting of Justerini and Brooks Italian, Portugese and Spanish releases last night. Steps near Middle Temple Hall (pictured) were like waterfalls and the striking venue was full of slightly damp tasters making their way through the 165 wines on the list. I guess being co-established by an Italian explains the focus on Barbera, Barolo and Barbaresco but I was most looking forward to exploring some new wines from Spain and Portugal.
The excited huddles and whispered comments around the Angelo Gaja and Roberto Voerzio tables seemed more about reputation and price than the wines themselves. A couple of the Gaja Barbarescos from 2007 were brooding and intense, likely to be amazing over coming years but slightly overwhelming and at £200 per bottle the province of those with deep pockets.
For me, two ostensibly different wines (an Italian red and a Spanish white) stood out. I say ostensibly different because they actually have quite a few things in common once country of origin and colour are discounted. Both are excellent in terms of quality and value, and are made using Burgundian approaches.
Tenuta del Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2010 £85 for a case of 12 in bond.
Ossian, Rueda Blanco, 2010 £85 for a case of 6 in bond
Both makers also have some pre-phylloxera vines including some more than 200 years old in the case of the Ossian. At the tasting the makers seemed particularly proud of the wines despite them being relatively humble. The great thing about attending a tasting with such a large range of wines is that you get to compare your preferences across styles, makers and vintages. You also sometimes get to chat with the people who make them which tends to add value through insight and connectedness.
Wines from Etna just keep on standing out for me. The ‘bottom of the range’ red from Tenuta del Terre Nere is Nerello Mascalese (and a smidgin of Nerello Capuccio) grown at altitude (they have vines higher than 2000 metres). It is a light, perfumed beauty perfect for ‘everyday’ drinking and a snip at this price. The Calerara Sottana, Feudo di Mezzo and Guardiola all from 2009 and the same maker were also showing really well as was the Prephylloxera 2009 which is maybe worth the premium and still represents fantastic value. Chatting with someone halfway through their MW exams he told me he had once served it following a Roumier Chambolle Musigny and it had convincingly trounced it.
The Ossian is more ambitious and riding, or perhaps in part helping to fuel, the growing respect for Spanish whites. I could wax lyrical about it but need to head to work, so try some for yourself. http://www.justerinis.com/