Torremilanos Reserva 1996 Bodegas alba pez Tinto del Pa­s (Tempranillo) £15

Aged for 19 months in barrels of French oak from the Allier forest.. intense colour of red cherries with aromas of very ripe fruits and wild berries that blend with those of coconut and liquorice imparted by the oak. A big well structured wine.. smooth-textured, medium-bodied wine with elegant vanilla overtones and meaty flavour.

[or, as the Germans say, "this wine developed, fine ripe tones, a polished acid and Vielschichigkeit lets this wine great, a completely large fire-place wine become" (translated via babelfish)]


the experience

Several things struck me as I investigated this wine. Firstly that mention of the "aromas of very ripe fruits" was very evocative of walking through Mediterranean street markets where, even after all the stall holders have closed shop for the day, the smell lingers on. It's part sweet and part rotten, attractive and at the same time repellent, heaven on one side and on the other the abyss. The second intriguing feature was the mention of "meaty flavour" which, somehow, I knew could be interwoven with the rotten fruit idea.

The meat was the first thing to get right. I knew that traditional mincemeat had a significant amount of ground beef in it but I had never tasted this and couldn't find a source of ready made to try. Besides I didn't actually want the flavour of mince pies, more that of the fried or grilled meat. In the end I made my own recipe more along the lines of a bolognaise sauce but with the onions and tomato substituted by coconut cream, liquorice and raisins. I added a small amount of mixed herbs to my sauce as well as a tiny piece of vanilla pod and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. I wasn't sure about the onions. They have a fine savoury aroma while being fried or grilled but I finally decided that they shouldn't go in, using a pinch of monosodium glutamate as a more enigmatic alternative.

I have never been sure what defines"wild" berries or what flavours it brings to mind for the average reader of wine bottle labels. For me it is definitely bilberries and blackberries but these are probably alien species in Florida, say, where wild berries would be something altogether more exotic from the mangrove. I decided that a mixture of blackberries, bilberries, cranberries and redcurrants would have to suffice, all no doubt grown on farms and bought at an up-market grocer in Ilkley.

The rotten fruit came from a nectarine, a plum and a honeydew mellon. I chose ones that were already pretty ripe and pushed them over the edge by bruising and then leaving them in the sun. Within a day and a half they had developed the right aroma without any visible mould and the recipe was ready to assemble.

Because of the fruit content I concocted this pseudo-vintage in early summer. We drank it as an accompaniment to a lamb tagine (partly because of having beef in the wine) and we all rated it very highly. One slightly disconcerting feature was the slight oily surface caused by the fat in the beef and the coconut but I'm sure this could have been avoided by incorporating an extra skimming process.