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13 May 2020

My journey through a wine list


Text: Mª E. Alberti
Photo: Ana Busto

In matters of wine my tasting education comes from the paternal side, recognising that the sense of smell and the world of perfumes were passed down by my mother. My father was ahead of his time in his tastes and habits. In questions of education he never wanted to obey the rules and criteria of other fathers of his generation. 

He was a moderate drinker but a demanding one, able to recognise a charismatic wine, a sure-fire value or a modest label with great potential. Like Dumas, he believed that “wine is the intellectual part of a meal”, and like Hemingway, that “wine is one of the most civilised material things in the world”. When I was still very small he would sit me at the table with the grown-ups, this holy of holies where people discussed, joked and drank wine in glasses, which he always tasted first. 

His firs slow sip, with a reverential silence, fascinated me, just as much as his adjectives of revealing, expressive, superb… We shared, father and daughter, an undeniable physical similarity, great affinities and well-developed social and emotional skills. 

He liked attractive women, with personality, cultivated like his lady friends, colleagues and lovers. And he always wanted to make his only daughter independent and prepared for whatever life would throw at her. At 16 I began a secret masters to get me started. He firmly prohibited having sodas, Pepsis or grape must with dinner. When we were having lunch he would serve me a small glass of wine and ask me for my opinion. And at 17 he would pass me the wine list and say “you shouldn’t get lost now in such a short and simple list; you choose”. A responsibility which strengthened my self esteem. Years later, leaving a yoga or Pilates class, it was me who was trying to explain to my fellow sufferers that not only was Dior great, that Robert Parker was not an English actor, that Chardonnay was not a French jewellers, and that French was not just any oak. 

The bar at the tennis club was packed with leggy girls, tasting a white wine which for me was wet and watery. Only during my escapes to London and in its cosy wine bars could I finish off my wine education and understand that wine is also an unforgiving sociological marker as Montaigne said. 

Today my progenitor could feel proud as he raises a glass wherever he is up there, knowing that his little girl even knows how to appreciate a gem from the select private club of Gran Reservas. Of the  Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva 2012 my father would say that it is  my father would say that it is  a monument. And me too. 

In the attack its balanced, aromatic and balsamic depth seduces you. A musical score of fruit aromas with subtle nuances of toasted flavours which recall the noble wood. Tempranillo and other grapes from old vines over 80 years’ old, selected for this wine which remains for almost 3 years in French oak casks and another 3 years in the bottle. It is no surprise that the 14,5º it has lived leave something epic in the mouth, with breeding, something which will give the hierarchy of grand connoisseurs something to pontificate about. And as for me, dear reader, I can tell you that this wine is magical because its making is half passion and half  science and draws you into a sentimental relationship from the first sip. 

Remember that to tell the story of this wine you have to speak with an emotional, poetic voice and that its best pairing is good company or the accepted and mystical solitude of the seasoned wine drinker.