Just six of us were at Masters Superfish yesterday for a lunch themed on Spanish Whites. I must say that there are those among us who feel that our Fino lunches here in Waterloo provide a wine style most suited to fish & chips, yet for me we had two very different sparkling wines to open the innings, and both went on to make centuries, to pursue the cricket analogy.
As ever, the food was simple but perfection. I’m often asked about London restaurants by overseas readers, and London has enough worth visiting to fill a very large directory. But if you want to sample the so-called national dish, then this is the place to come. French friends find it bordering on incomprehensible that we can enjoy London’s Michelin-two-starred venues and somewhere like Masters in equal measure. I think they are missing out. When you factor in the price, £15 yesterday for some fresh prawns, onions and gherkins (not so wine friendly), and the Masters Special (the exceptionally large cod and chips below), then what do you have to lose?
As for the wines, and those sparklers, well, the first of those was rare and rather special. Clos Lentiscus Sumoll Ferèstec 2010 is a Penedès methode traditionelle wine made by Bodega Can Ramon. It’s a miniscule cuvée of just 720 bottles (this one was numbered 51). Biodynamically produced from the increasingly well-regarded red Sumoll grape (vinified white, as opposed to Sumoll Blanc (sic)), it was disgorged in April 2016. The unique part of its production is in the use of local honey in the dosage. It could be the answer for anyone getting hayfever in Barcelona?
The wine is pretty dark in the glass, almost pale bronze. The bouquet shows richness, and a mature character, quite complex in the style of Champagne producers like Selosse and Prévost. On the palate it’s very different from what you are expecting. Totally fresh, with a very direct and elegant acidity. At around €50, this is magical, if you can find any (I think you’ll have to go local). Although it isn’t labelled as Cava, it illustrates that there is more than mass produced fizz in Spain.
If such a claim needed validating, then our second wine certainly reinforces it. Colet-Navazos Reserva 2010 is made from Chardonnay, aged on lees for 40 months. This was disgorged in October 2014, so it has had around two-and-a-half years pda. This wine, bottled as an Extra Brut, also has a unique aspect to its production as well.
Collaboration began between Colet and Equipo Navazos in the early 2000s. The aim was to make quality sparkling wine from Palomino Fino grown on the chalky Albariza soils of Jerez, using native flor yeasts. Meanwhile, both companies embarked on the ageing and production of two Penedès wines, from Colet’s home vineyards, using flor yeasts again, and using sherry-style wines in the dosage. I admit I’m not entirely sure whether the dosage in the 2010 is from Jerez or Montilla (the 2011 uses a blend of Manzanilla and Manzanilla Pasada), but you get the idea.
The straight Extra Brut is made from Xarel-lo, but this Extra Brut Reserva is pure Chardonnay. It is elegant, refined, and bone-dry. The Chardonnay and the long ageing give it a hint of Champagne about it, but the flor character, though pretty subtle, gives it an extra dimension, and a personality all of its own. There is perhaps more regionality to the Xarel-lo cuvée, but the Chardonnay Reserva is pretty sensational. Definitely a wine for the connoisseur to seek out.
Tempranillo “Blanco” 2015, Bodegas Sonsierra, Rioja is a somewhat unusual cuvée. Whilst other white varieties usually dominate white Rioja (largely Viura), this is made from 100% white Tempranillo grapes, a natural vineyard mutation of the region’s major red variety.
The wine undergoes a 24 hour pre-fermentation maceration, then 4 months on lees (with twice daily stirring) in oak (85% French, 15% American). This gives the wine body. The nose combines tropical fruit with a floral element, and maybe a little toasty spice from the oak. The palate is silky and full. It certainly requires food, and is beyond the spectrum of what you might normally expect from Rioja Blanco.
Godello 2006, Adegas Coroa, Valdeorras was very interesting. You may have read about the Pazo Senorans dinner I went to recently, where we had a taste of older Albariño, showing how well that Galician grape variety can age. Godello can age just as well in the right hands (cf Rafael Palacios’ As Sortes). I saw a note for this vintage on Cellartracker, posted in 2012 and saying this vintage was past its prime. Well, the 2006 may be past its prime today, but I think only just. It’s waxy, peppery, and there’s little fruit except maybe a lick of grapefruit acidity. There is also the hint of a butterscotch note developing as well, a sure sign of passing its prime, perhaps. But there was still some complexity.
I just think that it was a fascinating example of Godello at a decade old, not from a wine like As Sortes, intended to age that long, yet still providing something of interest. Others may well have thought it “past it”, there was not a lot of discussion on this wine, but I thought it went rather well with the food, myself.
Pedrazais Godello Sobre Lias 2015, Alan de Val, Valdeorras is a younger and more alcoholic (14%) Godello. Valdeorras (because someone asked) is a small area nestled between Ribeira Sacra and Bierzo, in Spain’s northwest. Although there are increasingly good reds produced, it is best known for white wine made from Godello, which is often steely when young, but ages well.
Pedrazais is a vineyard with north facing slopes, and the vines are planted at around 450 metres. Sobre Lias translates as on the lees and this gives the wine texture. There’s also fresh acidity, but a kind of sweetness to the fruit, no doubt down to the 14% alcohol. But the acidity, coupled with its texture, makes it a versatile seafood and fish wine.
A change of direction in both grape variety and region for our final dry wine. Ekam 2013, Castell d’Encus is from Costers del Segre. This is a DOP quite a long way inland from Tarragona in Catalunya, towards Lleida. Ekam is made from Riesling (with a tiny bit of Albariño in some vintages). This may not sound like a traditional variety for Spain, but the vineyards of Castell d’Encus are up at between 800 to 1,100 metres altitude. In fact, Ekam has a growing reputation.
The wine is very dry, someone remarking that it reminded them of a German Trocken wine. It’s fermented partially in stone vats, carved out of bare rock, and it does have a similar texture to that which one gets from concrete eggs. The wine is intensely mineral, with grapefruit-fresh acidity. It’s youthful now, but delicious, yet I think a little bottle age will allow it to develop and improve.
Although Masters don’t exactly do dessert, we did satisfy our need for a sugar rush with a sweet Godello. Pardoxin Dulce Godello de Recolección Tardía, Palacio de Canedo/Prado a Tope is, as the label says, a late harvest wine, from Castilla-León. The wine has lots of sweetness without being cloying and heavy. Perhaps something more of interest than something to actively seek out, but it was a nice end to lunch, though we did have to decant to a coffee bar at Waterloo Station for a caffeine fix. Spain strides onwards!
Masters Superfish is basic dining but the fish, and the chips, are peerless. They are at 191 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UX, just a few minutes past The Old Vic theatre. Booking recommended: 020 7928 6924.
I think I shall have to decamp to your neck of the woods. You have some great food and wine experiences. Spanish whites are amongst the most exciting anywhere at present.
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