As luck would have it, the weekend that I was asked to review these two wines was one of the very few over the spring when it was sunny and warm enough to sit in the garden for a few hours in the early evening with my children and drink a nice glass or two of white wine before lighting the barbecue and moving on to the red.
Although I like both these styles of wine – Albarino and Rioja – I hadn’t tried either of the two particular bottles before, but I knew I was in for a treat. I’ve bought wine from Richard Meadows at Great Grog in the past and so I knew I could trust his palate.
I tend to always start an evening – I hasten to add at weekends and not every night – by ‘warming up’ with a glass or two of white wine before moving on to a red. Over the past few years, I’ve tended to be quite ‘safe’ and drink mainly white Burgundy but three or four years ago I was introduced to Albarino by a friend and it has been on the list ever since.
Albarino is the main grape grown in the Rias Baixas region in the north-west of Spain, a beautiful, lush, green place where it tends to rain a lot – sounds familiar. Albarino tends to be a surprisingly fresh white from a country better known for its reds and it tastes of peaches, grapefruit and, as the glass warms in your hand, it also develops a light floral quality.
The Alba Vega Albarino 2015 that I sampled was excellent and had all of those qualities. The wine was clean and smooth and very easy to drink on its own – although I am sure that if my culinary skills were any better I might have rustled up some scallops or other seafood dish to accompany the wine.
I had no such challenge on the red. The barbecue was now in full swing and the steaks were about to touch the grill plate for a minute or two. Richard at Great Grog helped me choose the Rioja that I was to review and the Rioja Vega Gran Reserva 2009 was fantastic. I am a bit of a Rioja fan and this wine was certainly not going to do anything to change that.
This particular wine was chosen at a blind tasting by the regulatory council of Rioja to represent the region at institutional events in Spain and abroad throughout 2015. Given the importance of its reputation in maintaining the ‘Rioja’ name, this is a prestigious honour for any wine. It did not disappoint.
This wine is made using Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grape varieties – it was intense but at the same time very smooth and easy – possibly too easy – to drink. I have already been in touch with Richard to buy a case of both wines in anticipation of a good Scottish summer and a few more Saturday evenings in the garden.
Wayne Lawrence is head of law firm DWF’s Edinburgh office. Thanks to Richard Meadows at Great Grog, 17 East Cromwell Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6HD, for supplying the Vega Alba Albarino 2015 (£9.49) and the Rioja Vega Gran Reserva 2009 (£16.99).
Find out more at www.greatgrog.co.uk