Charlie's Wine

To London and the annual portfolio tasting of our UK distributors Richards Walford. This is always a good event for us as we meet our existing customers and potential new customers although the number attending was down a little on last year due to the bad weather. One person who had made it was Charlie Allen. She used to work for Richards Walford but has now migrated to Spain where she has become a wine producer. Her wine, called Pirita, comes from the Arribes region. I must admit that I had never heard of the denomination until I realised that I had been to Fermoselle the main town in the area. It is located on the other side of what the Portuguese call, rather grandly, the  'Douro Internacional'. Known over there as Carlota, the locals think she is crazy (which she probably is) and refused to say anything nice to her for at least a year. She has overcome this by giving them as good as she gets and now commands a certain respect – it is so different in Portugal! Charlie has rented 14 hectares of old vines (average age 75 years), all interplanted with the traditional grapes in the region: mostly a variety called Juan Garcia but also Rufete, Bruñal, Tinta Madrid, Bastadillo Chico, Bastardillo Serrano, Tinta Jeromo, Gajo Arroba, Verdejo Corado and the inevitable Tempranillo. Yields, as you might expect from these old vines, are very low (10 hl/ha). Pirita 2007 was placed next to Pedra Basta 2007 at the tasting so I tasted it a number of times during the day. Initially quite austere with crunchy mountain fruit and strong tannins, it opened up during the day to reveal its true character: strong but scented with minerality and structure, finely tuned and balanced despite its 14.5% alcohol. I left the tasting full of admiration for Charlie and her wine.