Tuesday, 27 May 2014

WSA 2014 Part 2 - Bodega Toro Albala

My second blog entry from the wines I tasted at the 13th International Exhibition of Wines & Spirits Asia (WSA) 2014 held in Singapore, 8-11 April 2014. We'll focus on Bodega Toro Albala and their wonderful range of sherries. The tasting notes appear in the order the wines were tasted.

Bodega Toro Albala

Fino del Lagar 'Electrico'

100% Pedro Ximenez grapes, unfortified (contains only natural fermentation alcohol), wine is on average 10 years old.
Green olives, raw almonds and a touch of iodine on the nose; the initial nose is very much how you would expect Fino to smell - acetaldehyde and 'flor' aromas, with some yeasty / baked bread notes too. Notably, the PX grapes does bring a slight fruity aroma on the nose, in addition to the flor. On the palate, its slightly saline and nutty (like salted raw almonds); feels as nimble as your average Jerez Fino yet this shows a wider, more rounded, altogether softer mid palate. Mouthfeel is thin and refreshing, not in a bad way, but in a way that encourages you to keep sipping. It may not be as sharp and focused as your average Jerez Fino, but serve this chilled and you could drink it by the bucket load.


Average age of 35 years; 10 years under flor followed by 25 years of oxidative aging. No fortification, shows an alcohol level of 21%.
Plenty going on the nose: initial impact is very nutty, think roasted almonds and hazelnuts, with polished wood and lacquer tones, hints of cloves and nutmeg too, some rancio. Oxidative wood aging clearly shows and done very well, to me it smells of Christmas without the dried fruits. On the palate, its heavier and generous; nutty and spicy (cinnamon, cloves, or thereabouts) flavours persist; hints of dried figs too, touch of salinity on the finish. Very well balanced.


At least 15 years of age, also unfortified.
Sweeter than the Amontillado on the nose; dried figs / quince and maybe caramel, with some clove, cinnamon and wood polish thrown into the mix. If the Amontillado was roasted (slightly salted) almonds, then the Oloroso would be honey coated roasted almonds. The sweetness lends more heft and mouthfeel on the palate and I feel the bit of sugar left in makes it a more versatile food match. Slightly chilled, this would make a fine accompaniment to cured meats, dried fruits, nuts and mature cheeses - a perfect Tapas wine.

Cream Pedro Ximenez

At least 10 years aging, a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.
Overtly sweet on the nose, with caramel and toffee, raisins and prunes, even chocolate and coffee coming through; not so much oxidative notes. On the palate, theres raisiny sweetness with some hints of nutty flavour too; sweet and lingering without being cloying, enough acidity to keep things going. Its not the most complex sweet sherry, but its balanced and very easy to enjoy. Serve chilled and it can be its own dessert, otherwise pair with creme brulee or chocolate and fruit combinations (thinking in particular of Sachertorte here) ...

Don PX 2010, Vino Dulce Natural

PX grapes are sun-dried after harvest to concentrate the sugars; the resultant raisins are lightly pressed. Fermentation is halted by the addition of neutral grape brandy. The resultant wine decants for at least one year in stainless steel tanks, then bottled without filtration. No oxidative aging.
Lots of raisin, prune and all kinds of dried fruits showing, with caramel and treacle - smells like Christmas Cake (brandy butter and all). Its so youthful it hardly shows any oxidative character, it smells like what it is - fortified raisin juice. The sweetness, all 464g/l residual sugar of it, shows quite powerfully and overwhelmingly on the palate. Its syrupy and heavy on the palate with just enough fruity acidity. Not the most complex, but this is unmistakably PX. A dessert on its own, drink chilled and wait for the sugar rush.

Don PX Gran Reserva 1983 

Single vintage PX, oxidatively aged in barrels until bottled for release.
Dark brown with golden hues, this is properly opaque. Aromas of coffee and dark chocolate dominates, with hints of sweet woody notes (sandalwood and mahogany) and touches of rancio, some raisins hiding behind all that. Palate still fruity with raisins and prunes, again evocative of Christmas Cake but this time doused in mocha, with notable treacle & burnt caramel notes, along with coffee and sweet licorice. Still very lively, generous mouthfeel and exceeding length - great effort indeed.

Don PX Seleccion 1962

Jet black in appearance with a dark amber rim, this is now the colour of espresso. The aromas of coffee and bitter chocolate are the dominant notes, with sweet wood and licorice too. These aromas follow though to the palate, strangely more reminiscent to me of sweet turkish coffee than sherry, its still fresh and persistent but lacks power; you might find some raisin characters if you try hard enough. Age has softened all the edges, everything is integrated and exudes a stately presence. A wine to savour and linger over.

A note on Toro Albala

Having been schooled in the ways of sherry mostly by producers from Jerez and Sanlucar de Barrameda, it was a delight in being able to taste a range of sherries from Montilla, and from no less an illustrious name as Toro Albala. The one previous encounter I've had with them is the Don PX Gran Reserva 1982, at the Taste of Gold tasting of the 2011 International Wine Challenge in London - I was impressed then, as I am impressed (perhaps even more so) now. These are very high quality and versatile wines, and given the guide prices I've been given, will be great value too. In fact, if aged PX is your thing, then might I suggest you look in envy at my old wine pal Tom Lewis aka Cambridge Wine Blogger who recently tasted a centuries' worth (almost anyway) of Toro Albala's PX, his blog post can be found here.

I have no idea where Toro Albala's sherries can be found in Singapore / Jakarta, but I'm sure their very friendly Asia Regional Manager, Sofia, can help you.

Bodega Toro Albala
Sofia Guindo Morales
Asia Regional Manager
+886 9 75479395

Sunday, 27 April 2014

WSA 2014 Part 1 - Cognac Audry

The 13th International Exhibition of Wines & Spirits Asia (WSA) 2014 trade fair was held in Singapore on the 8-11 April 2014. I spent two days at the trade-only fair and over the next few weeks will be writing up some of the wines (and spirits) which were particularly memorable. They appear on this blog in no particular order, except perhaps the order in which I fished out the tasting notes from my filing system.

First up is Cognac Audry, imported into Singapore by Wine Selection (contact details can be found at the bottom of this post) - pricing indicated is retail from Wine Selection, for a 70cl bottle, correct at time of writing.

Cognac Audry

Audry XO
40% abv | SGD$ 150

On the nose, sweet vanilla, wood varnish/lacquer and toffee apple, with honey too - smells fragrant, its on the sweeter side of things, wonderful volatiles too. Palate is mouthfilling with sweet notes of vanilla and dried fruits (apricots and peaches come to mind); smooth throughout the palate, nothing out of joint. Its rather lively for an XO, it has bags of flavour and character, which is more than you can say for your average insert-brand-name-here XO cognac. What is most unexpected to me is the length and persistence on the finish, we're talking minutes here - obvious high quality.

Audry Reserve Speciale
40% abv | SGD$ 172

Similar to the XO in the nose, except perhaps it has a tad more oakiness / wood varnish notes coming through; deeper notes of caramel, burnt sugar and mocha, just feels a bit heavier on the nose. Palate is similarly profiled, less fruity and tending instead to burnt sugar and sweet oak. Mouthfeel is wider and more generous than the XO, perhaps less exuberant but more width and heft. Long finish too.

Audry Memorial
42% | SGD$ 255

Lots more interesting volatile notes here, with wood polish and lacquer showing, along with vanilla and all kinds of spicy notes; quite heady aromas here - the intriguing kind that beckons you in for another sniff. Spicy notes come through on the palate along with a caramel sweetness; mouthfeel is settled but with a more pronounced grip. Long and very classy.

Audry Exception
43% | SGD$ 407

Prominent spice of wood polish/lacquer, sweet vanilla on the nose, along with roasted / toasted hazelnuts - its quite obvious that this Cognac has spent a rather long time in wood; if you try hard enough, maybe some dried fruits too but definitely in the dried figs/plum range than the earlier peaches/apricots. Audry's own tasting notes indicate 'hints of rancio' which I am very much in agreement, adds a another dimension to the aroma profile. Spicy with a decent grip (note the slightly higher abv) with some wood tannins showing. Such poise and panache on the palate, generous and rich with caramel and spice coming through; persistently lingering (and surprisingly fruity) finish, just goes on and on and on. Exceptional, worthy of its name.  

A word on the house itself - admittedly, I'd never heard of Cognac Audry prior to this, but a quick google search seems to suggest that among the Cognac world, they are generally held in high regard. Based on the four Cognacs I tasted, it is a reputation well-deserved. Both the XO and Reserve Speciale are blended from spirit between 18-22 years old, the Memorial and Exception between 40-50 years old which is simply staggering. Its certainly a far cry from the financially-driven big name brand Cognacs commonly found in the market. 'Proper' and 'aristocratic' are two words I'd use to describe Audry, which granted is a rather strange descriptor for a beverage, but it conveys a certain sense of presence these Cognacs have.

Make no mistake, these are serious Cognacs and from the retail prices I've been given, rather excellent value for money too. These past weeks has seen the release of the 2013 Bordeaux en-primeur prices, an annual spectacle sure to arouse strong opinions from wine professionals - lets put it this way, per bottle, the Audry Exception costs less than most First Growth Bordeaux (and unlike its Bordelais friends, the Audrys are ready to enjoy now). That said, personally for me, the XO is the one that I'd spend my money on. Dont all rush in at once ...

Wine Selection
Sales Manager: Ghislain Moret (sales[at]wine-selection.com)
Tel: +65 83323069
Citimac Building, 605A MacPherson Road #08-03G, Singapore 368240
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wineselectionsingapore

For the record, Wine Selection also has an interesting selection of what seems like exclusively French wines, with particular emphasis on the stalwarts of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. Their selection of Bordeaux below the SGD$50 mark focuses on lesser known, smaller producers are certainly worth a punt.