Harvest Time in Rioja!

Summer has passed by and we can already feel Autumn is here! Wind sounds outside our office in Spain and temperatures are going down a bit! It is time to relax at home, enjoying quiet (or not that quiet!!!…It is up to you!!) dinners with family and friends.

Spanish Appellation of Origin regions are in the middle of the harvest! Some of our wine suppliers have already finished the most important weeks of the year. Enologists, wine specialists… Everybody has been very busy carrying out the harvest! This is the most exciting period of the year for winemakers! They have passed 12 months watching how vines were growing, first naked during winter, then warmer as spring arrived and finally even warmer under s

ummer sun. Harvest day is carefully chosen by enologist so grapes are in their perfect ripen point… Amazing! Isn’t it?

We did not want to miss the event and took a trip to La Rioja to be witnesses of this fabulous miracle and live the harvest experience in first person along with our friends in charge of create our Riojas

The Boss driving a tractor through the vineyards. Hornos de Moncalvillo,  La Rioja. ADM Winery 🙂

Thank you! We spent a great time having lunch with them, pairing reserves and Iberian ham, tasting moscato and laughing… because there are few things but wine so well related to nice moments with our closest ones.

Salud!

A walk in the vineyards in Labastida, Rioja Alavesa. Thanks, Ignacio, Antonio and family 😉

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What a Mixing!

Spring is being really cold this year, but that hasn’t stopped us from taking our business to a whole new level! Whenever there’s a big event in the ‘gourmet world’ San Jamon Team just cannot miss it!

Last week we had the opportunity to travel to Düsseldorf in order to visit ProWein, one of the biggest wine fairs of the world. Every year this event concentrates wineries representatives as well as attendants from every part of the planet.

We could see first-hand which are the wine trends for this 2017. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon remain as the undisputed leaders, as they are easier for the consumer to understand and more reliable. Nonetheless, the Spanish Rioja wines are on the rise; in fact, Tempranillo is currently the most sold wine in the UK. Furthermore, White Tempranillo is one of the most searched terms in the country. As you may know, Rioja wines have a strong presence in San Jamon.

While walking around the exhibition stands we were able to get in touch with members and providers of Australian, Chilean and New Zealander wineries. That means that we will soon surprise you with some international additions in our catalogue, although we will continue providing you with our classics.

Here it is a sneak-peek of our experience:

Wine Spectator Names 10 Spanish Wines to Top 100

This past summer I wanted to take our office team to a winery on my birthday. We all very much enjoy food and wine (who doesn’t?) and we are 20 minutes from world-class winemaking in Ribera del Duero. Unfortunately, the wine tourism in this part of the world is not as developed as, say, in Napa or even Rioja. But we did make a morning of it before we headed home for lunch. I had heard that Bodegas Aalto was doing some high-end tempranillo winemaking with the vineyards between San Bernardo and Quintanilla de Arriba off the N-122. Founded in 2009, the winery co-founder Mariano García was head winemaker at Vega Sicilia for over 20 years. The wines were quite extraordinary at Aalto and we enjoyed our flights in the modern tasting room in the underground bodega on the hill. So, I was thrilled to hear that their wine was chosen as the Number 6 wine of 2015 by Wine Spectator magazine.

Along with its infrastructure, Spain has made a big push in the last 20 years to modernize its winemaking practices. There are still traditional methods of viticulture practiced, but pneumatic presses are the rule not the exception anymore in wineries. This is a good thing for local economies across Spain that subsist on the good name of its exported products like wine and jamón ibérico. It looks like we have more wine touring in our future as we’ve only seen maybe two of the ten wineries on the WS list in person! The following is a list of all the Spanish wines included in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2015.

#6 – Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero 2012 (54 USD), 94 points- Wine Spectator writes, “This red shows focus and density, with rich flavors of plum, blackberry, cocoa, licorice and mineral. The structure is muscular but graceful, featuring ripe fruit complemented by savory notes that keep this balanced and fresh.” (Retrieved from url)

#15 – Abadia Retuerta Viño de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2011 Sardon de Duero Selección Especial (34 USD), 94 points – Wine Spectator writes, “Alluring for its plush texture and impressive for its depth, this red delivers plum, currant, licorice, tar and mineral flavors that are rich and focused. The firm tannins are well-integrated, kept lively by fresh acidity. Smoke and floral notes mingle on the long finish. Drink now through 2031.”(Retrieved from url)

#23 – Bodegas LAN Rioja Edición Limitada 2011 (50 USD), 94 points – Wine Spectator writes, “This rich red delivers ripe, racy flavors of blackberry, kirsch, toast, spice and mineral. Plush but dense, with subtle yet powerful tannins and tangy acidity. A big wine, showing energy and style. Drink now through 2031. 6,250 cases made.” (Retrieved from url)

#30 – Dominio de Tares 2011 Mencía Bierzo Cepas Viejas (30 USD), 93 points  – Wine Spectator writes, “The plush texture delivers rich flavors of plum, blackberry and boysenberry, with accents of coffee, mountain herb, cedar and mineral. Fine-grained tannins give this structure, showing enough acidity to stay fresh. A modern-style red. Drink now through 2025.” (Retrieved from url)

#36 – Bodegas Godeval Valdeorras 2013 Viña Godeval Cepas Vellas (20 USD), 92 points  – Wine Spectator writes, “This alluring white delivers a broad range of flavors in a pillowy texture, while crisp, well-integrated acidity maintains the focus. Melon, coconut, spice and smoke flavors mingle harmoniously on the plush palate. The mineral element is fresh and long. Godello. Drink now through 2018.” (Retrieved from url)

#53 – Descendientes de J. Palacios Bierzo 2013 Pétalos (23 USD), 91 points – Wine Spectator writes, “Expressive black cherry, currant, licorice, mineral and smoke flavors mingle in this focused red. The texture is gentle but firm, with well-integrated tannins and racy acidity providing structure. A compact wine that shows good intensity. Drink now through 2023. (Retrieved from url)

#56 – Cune Rioja Imperial Reserva 2010 (44 USD), 93 points – Wine Spectator writes, “Smoky and tarry notes give this rich red an austere character, but plum, licorice, soy and mineral notes promise an expressive future. The tannins and acidity are balanced and unobtrusive. Best from 2016 through 2030. (Retrieved from url)

#58 – Torre de Oña Rioja Finca San Martín 2012 Crianza (14 USD), 91 points- Wine Spectator writes, “This red is focused and polished, delivering harmonious flavors of black cherry, olive, smoke and mineral. The tannins are well-integrated, the acidity fresh. A bit reserved, but has depth. Drink now through 2022. 10,500 cases made.(Retrieved from url)

#69 – Bodegas Monasterio Ribera del Duero Hacienda Monasterio (51 USD), 93 points – Wine Spectator writes, “This rich red delivers blueberry compote, dark chocolate, licorice and smoke flavors in a firm texture, supported by solid tannins. Ample acidity keeps this fresh through the floral, cola-accented finish. Drink now through 2026. (Retrieved from url)

#80 – Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Viura Rioja 2012 Capellanía (28 USD), 92 points- Wine Spectator writes, “Aromatic notes of beeswax, chamomile and orange blossom frame the flavors of baked apple, coconut, ginger and tarragon in this generous white, whose fresh acidity and light tannins keep it structured, with the spicy accents lingering on the finish. A traditional style. Drink now through 2020.  (Retrieved from url)

 

Rioja Harvest and New Arrivals

Miguel and I were fortunate to visit Rioja ‘en plena vendimia’ just as harvest was in its most heated moments in late September 2015. It is exciting to witness crush and this year was especially memorable because skies were clear and the temperature was warm. All signs point to an excellent vintage. We nearly took a tumble down a steep grade with Alfredo and Sonia at ADM who were showing us hidden tempranillo and albillo vines. Maybe too hidden.

We saw the enological laboratory garden station of La Grajera-Logroño just off the LO-20, which is slightly fabled in the underworld of mad viticultural scientists and highly prolific publishers of new research on wine. These are folks that make studies on indigenous Spanish grapes and see their work peer reviewed in scholarly journals. And they were letting me swish around some barely fermented sauvignon blanc in my mouth.

We also attended the annual Cata del Barrio de la Estación (http://lacatadelbarriodelaestacion.com/en/) where the seven main wineries of Haro fling open their doors and give tours, have live music and food and, of course, wine tasting. It was short-sleeved weather. We managed to visit from Viña Tondonia to La Rioja Alta and my favorite, Bodegas Roda, a new classic in Haro. We highly recommend you make the trip down next fall and enjoy the festivities and the world-class winemaking.

We planned to taste through a portfolio of wines just after the morning cata in Haro. Perhaps foolish, but unavoidable as we only had three days and Miguel is an overachiever. So, we drove the 7 km or so up to Labastida where Ignacio Gil of Bodegas Mitarte met us at the grill. Local lamb chops were on the menu. He was so full of life that I didn’t know where one story ended and another began. I was never fully aware if we’d be tasting wine, helping them harvest or foraging for our dinner. I recall there being some overlap. With harvest you never know when the trucks will come in. And especially deep in the heart of Basque country where you are talking about 80-year-old unkempt bush vines that require some coordination to liberate the cluster. Plus, there was a lot of talk of politics. Grape politics, trade politics, local politics and, a minor detail, Ignacio was the mayor of Labastida for over 20 years during the height of ETA. He had round-the-clock body guards during his entire tenure. Oh the stories he told.

The wines are the same: expressive, dark, unexpected, thoughtful, racy, juicy, rounded, and plentiful. He knows what he is doing. He is taking the best fruit from the foothills of the Cantabrian mountains and making it into extraordinary wine. Expect us to source good things from him in the coming months.

Last month we held a contest on your favorite red. Mitarte Madurado Tercera Hoja DO Rioja was the winner Jaldún Crianza DO Rioja (of Alfredo and Sonia) was a close second.

— Vanessa Harris, wine geek, San Jamón

Rioja Readies for Autumn Harvest

We constantly try to tempt you, our customers, into trying wines from different appellations. And, it is a fact of life that Spanish red wine and our San Jamon jamòn ibèrico go hand in hand. You can have the cured delicacy with a glass of mencìa as easily as a glass from Priorat. But we always come back to the classic region, the region our fans ask for over and over again: Rioja.

Please check out this space  in the coming weeks to see how the harvest develops.

Let us know your top Rioja favorites, below.

Lost in Rías Baixas Between a Quartz Rock and a Hard Granite Place

We were lost, lost in wine country between two small mountains in the D.O. Rías Baixas sub-zone of Ribeira do Ulla. We rounded a bend and saw a sign of life: an exuberant young man with a straw hat coming excitedly toward us. It appeared we had found Adegas Castro Brey.

The young man embraced us and introduced us to his colleague, Ana. We’ve been working with Ana for over three years on bringing the local albariño grape to a wider audience. In typical Spanish winemaking tradition, the winery remains in the hands of the family. Ana is directly related to the original founder, Isabel Becerra while the young man, commercial director and fancy-packaging extraordinaire, Ramón Blanco is married to a cousin of the offspring of the progenitor.

Walking in the vineyards of Adegas Castro Brey

Walking in the vineyards of Adegas Castro Brey

Castro Brey is tucked into the folds of the hills between Camanzo and Amosa next to the hamlet Vila de Cruces, inhabitants 20, about 27 km southeast of Santiago de Compostela. The Río Ulla meanders through the zone creating a nearly sub tropical micro climate on its way to empty into the Atlantic in the upper Rías Baixas. Rías Baixas means lower estuaries and in this picturesque area along the coast, dozens of inlets can be found where sweet water swirls with salt water to make a bivalve mollusc-lover’s paradise. Well-heeled Gallegos and adventuring Madrileños feast on steamed, sauced and fried seafood all to be washed down by one thing: albariño.

It is said that this northwest corner of Spain is the birthplace of albariño though some still contend that it is a noble grape brought over from Germany by monks on their camino to Santiago de Compostela. That story is quite lovely, but there are plantings in Galicia of albariño that date back 300 years and DNA testing has concluded that there is no genetic link to riesling.

Descending toward the creek running through the property.  A very hot day!

Descending toward the creek running through the property. A very hot day!

Albariño is a thick-skinned grape with tightly-packed bunches. The high humidity in Galicia make its cultivation tricky. If the vines were not lifted off the ground on statuesque granite pillars called emparrados, they would succumb to the moisture and be unable to aerate their bunches.

The five sub-zones of Galicia produce five distinct expressions of albariño. The most inland, Condado do Tea “Tea County” vinifies to what could be considered a Spanish viognier because of its oily texture and soft stone fruit aromas. The microclimate here is hot and dry around the Tea river and the temperature in the summer easily reaches 104°F. Whereas the grape grown right on the Atlantic coast in the Val de Salnés “Silent Valley” has strong notes of minerality and acidity being grown on granite and rock.

Castro Brey belongs to the Ulla do Ribeira sub-region which is noted for its alluvial soils. But, Ramón reminds us, the Castro Brey plots are an unusual mix of alluvial top soil on highly acidic granite and quartz. The microclimate is hot but with strong breezes through the valley, regulating the heat that the vineyards’ grapes absorb.  This produces a wine that is juicy yet structured, fruit-forward with traces of minerality.

Looking through the valley in Ulla de Ribera

Looking through the valley in Ulla de Ribera

Albariño is one of the few Spanish cultivars that is grown, vinified and bottled as a single varietal. Chablis has chardonnary, Sancerre the sauvignon blanc and Rías Baixas has albariño. Ramón escorts us through the vineyards, traversing the countryside as he chats on happily about the Castro Brey philosophy. He is an architect by day and winemaker by post-siesta and night. His contribution is the creative packaging changes that Castro Brey has had to endure over the years. They were the first Galician winery to cover a bottle with specialty plastic to make the Nice To Meet You range.

In addition to still wines, Castro Brey also is also the smallest commercial supplier of Spanish aguardiente, firing the copper kiln to produce about 100L per year of the mildest, highest quality “fire water” we’ve ever tasted. It was fire water that did not burn. They produce three versions: the original clear distilled orujo, the fluorescent hierbas made with fresh herbs and the café de liquor made with beans imported from a friend in Jamaica and a light dressing of homemade caramel syrup. The bottles and boxes were designed by Ramón and if you turn the three bottles upside down, each sketch tells the story of the meeting, greeting and eventual nuptials of Ramón and his wife.

What An Incredible Five Days We Had

Check out our photos and video  to find highlights of our experience at the event! Thanks to all of you who came!

Gearing up for the Taste of London 2015

“No pains, no gains”. As you all know, we are taking ourselves to the Taste of London June 17-21. Regent’s Park.We love to make the personal touch so we are working hard these days to have everything set up and ready for the open doors.

 

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In the coming days leading up to the event, you’ll have a chance to win a pair of Taste tickets and promotions for discounted Taste hampers. If you want to be one of the lucky ones, share your pictures of the most exquisite Signature Sanjamon.com ibérico products or of our fines wines with hashtags #SanJamon and #TasteofLondon via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook pages.

Do not hesitate and pop along to out booth to sample our best ibérico charcuterie, cheeses, extra virgin olive oil and of course our crown jewel Ibérico Bellota Ham or simply come in and have a glass of our fine wine, rest your feet and take a moment to welcome the summer and indulge yourself.

We will reveal more details really soon! Meanwhile check out the  Taste of London 2014 Highlights

Salud!

 

San Jamon Blossoms Out

Eager foodies and wine-drinking community we are excited to announce that spring is here!!
The season that brings new lives and new beginnings, time to celebrate that we are growing, expanding and approaching renewals. We enjoy every day, on our way to the warehouse, watching the sights, almond trees flowering and storks building nests on rooftops. We are livelier; it is the power of sunlight and mild weather which allows us to relax in the sun immediately after lunch.

Our new site is getting ready, and we are eager to launch it even though it is both terrifying and exciting at the same time.
Bloom everywhere. Days are longer and sunnier, new born piglets, with perfectly floppy ears, running around makes our farmer spend most of the time catching and putting them back with their mother to be breastfed. They are so cute.

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Miguel, sanjamon.com Founder and our Sales Manager, just came back from ProWein, Dusseldorf, Germany, the number one trade fair for wines and spirits worldwide. The perfect trade fair to check what is new in the world of wine. He has had the chance of attending numerous presentations; establishing new contacts and meeting some old acquaintances for the first time, people from all around the world, winemakers, associations and institutions; savoring top quality products on their stands; tasting champagnes, ports and Rieslings, reds from South Africa, New Zeland and France… and brought his suitcase full of swapped stories and hundreds of brochures and business cards.
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ProWein Brochures
Such as enriching experience it is just the beginning. Now we have started contacting new suppliers and we are willing to begin this new stage: wines from Spain, but also from all around the world. And here we are, in Valladolid, among five appellations, and now surrounding by quite a few more, at least in our warehouse. Port wine is late, but Riesling is already with us. Check it out on sanjamon.com

DEINHARD Riesling
Now, we are gearing up for The International Fine Food and Beverage Fair, Salón de Gourmets, 29the edition, which will take place in Madrid very shortly. We hope to bring a new sample of quality products, including oil, honey and cheeses among others. Meanwhile, we keep on making our way to markets all across Europe and far away.
Savor the change of season tasting our new arrivals, uncork a wine bottle and take a moment to welcome spring! So do we.

 

Ribera del Duero: The DNA of Tinto Fino

Our export manager, Vanessa, who handles our wine selection, had the pleasure of visiting La Horra, Burgos and interview Jordi Alonso, enologist and technical manager of one of the oldest wineries from Ribera del Duero, Virgen de la Asunción.

Jordi is the artificer of a new range of Ribera del Duero award-winning wines, between them, Ricardo Dimas, which is coming soon to San Jamón. He, together with his team, is currently implementing a project which involves not only renovating the underground cellars, but also approaching prestigious designers to carry out changes of the full range of wine labels.

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He says his wines are neither better nor worse than others, simply different. But believe us, these are amazing, fruity wines, with marked mineral notes coming through. They are high quality wines that clearly convey the spirit of Ribera del Duero with a little Priorat style. Good structure and concentration in the mouth, they are wines that do not need to spend years in a bottle to become round; modern, colorful and bright.

Traditionally, Virgen de la Asunción sold bulk wine to other wineries, but three years ago this cooperative went to bottle its own wine. The 100 families born and raised within the vineyard’s culture stepped forward offering unique wines made from tinto fino.

They own 325 hectares of vineyards located around La Horra (Burgos), known as the “Golden Triangle” of vineyards (Roa-La Horra-Sotillo) at altitudes between 800-850 m. A wide variety of soils (chalky, sandy, and calcareous clay) and one main grape variety tinto fino, were what Jordi found when he arrived to Ribera coming from Priorat.  Continental climate, with slight Atlantic influence, means extremely cold winters and warm summers with greatest differences between day and night temperatures; this is what gives the grape character. Even tempranillo, tinto fino y tinta de toro are the same, they are completely different depending on the region where they are cultivated.

Studies carried out indicate that tempranillo, tinto fino and tinta de toro DNA is the same, so they are all the same variety. Climate and altitude influence ripening process. In La Horra, climate is more extreme than in Rioja, with very short periods without frosts (from June to September), which is why  grapevines have had to adapt their growing cycle to reach the right ripe state in a shorter time. On the contrary, warmer and drier summers cause a higher concentration of sugar and polyphenols than in La Rioja varieties, and lower acidity.

Jordi and Vanessa

Vanessa and Jordi on one of the small plots outside of La Horra (Burgos)

Tinto fino is a very rustic variety, resistant to cold and extreme heat (August and/or September temperature oscillate between 36ºC during the day and 3or 4ºC during the night), drought-resistant  (there is not any drip irrigation system) as well as more disease-resistant.

The tinto fino bunches and grapes are smaller, creating a greater skin-to-juice ratio and more polyphenols, more tannin and a higher anthocyanin content. Wines are suitable for extended barrel aging. The finos have a distinct aroma of blackberry and violets whereas in tempranillo, red fruit (strawberries, raspberry) aromas dominate.

When it comes to making the wine, or rather understanding the wine itself, we try each soil, small plots or areas express what they really are. The fermentation process is made with almost no intervention, natural yeast or lactic bacteria.  Jordi doesn’t like wines that have been over-extracted. If they have a colorful grape, then they obtain a colorful wine. They do not force the wine by pumping it over, given that asides from color, pumping over extracts other things such as unpleasant herbaceous tastes. “Wine must be made to be drunk, not to participate in a contest,” Jordi says.

 Virgen de la Asunción winery

Sales Director Julio Carro, San Jamón wine director Vanessa, Asunción winemaker Jordi in front of Virgen de la Asunción

They have changed a lot in the last three years. They know that the potential of this area is unbelievable, and the ancient vineyard legacy is something magical and inexplicable unless you see it with your own eyes. There is no word for it. As Jordi told Vanessa,  “You’re welcome to come to harvest next October.” Meanwhile let your  mind and spirit free to enjoy life around a glass of wine. Thanks Jordi.