The Flip Side Of The Coin

I know it’s hard to believe, but this job isn’t always as glamorous as my writings would have you think. It’s not all plain sailing, you know. Only my dedication to the public service that is this blog enables me to cope with the good, the bad, and the ugly faces of the wine world with such impunity. In this instance, it was il brutto and il cattivo that I suffered on your behalf, although I probably should have known better from the outset.

I’m in no way an ingrate, and I heartily appreciate the kindness and the generosity of whoever brought me this bottle as I’m certain that it was given in good faith. That being said, the contents did make me question the statements I have just made in the previous sentence.

As I’ve said, I really should have known better. Any wine which features on its label the phrase “Selección 15% Especial” as its most extollable virtue is quite likely to rub me up the wrong way. If, as I fear it does for many, quantity does indeed equal quality, I’d far prefer to drink two bottles of Mosel Riesling Kabinett at 7.5% to ingest the same 112.5ml of pure alcohol. The experience would be both far more agreeable and would leave me with far less of a hangover. So what was this incredible intoxicant, I hear you cry? Called simply El Bombero (2010, 15% ABV), this straight Garnacha from Cariñena in north-eastern Spain was, I’m certain, as flammable as its name implied (El Bombero translates as "the fireman").

Bodegas San Valero, El Bombero 2010

Bodegas San Valero, El Bombero 2010

The brightest and most ludicrously purple wine I have ever seen (the result of either carbonic maceration if I'm feeling generous, or a little too much Mega Purple if I'm being realistic), the nose fortunately gave little away. Just a suggestion of darks fruits and graphite were discernible, but I’m sure I noticed a faint, acetic twang lingering worryingly underneath. Where to begin with the palate? Sweet, fiery alcohol assaulted my tastebuds initially, followed by a dull pounding from soft yet slightly bitter tannins. The berry fruit wrestled to poke its head from under the blanket of sweet alcohol and bitterish tannins, and it was difficult to tell if some or all of the wine had been exposed to oak of any sort for any length of time. The low acidity and modest levels of tannin again suggested carbonic maceration or Mega Purple. The finish overstayed its welcome, flavoured as it was with the sweet heat of the alcohol and the piquancy of burning plastic.

Overall, the sweetness of the alcohol swamped whatever character this wine may have had, although without all of that alcohol I’m not sure what else it might have had going for it. I’ve subsequently determined El Bombero to be a Laithwaite’s wine and rather too many of the reviews posted on its website tend to agree with my less than complimentary verdict. I can’t help but worry about the quality and style of future wines produced for the UK market if this is in any way indicative of what Joe Public buys and enjoys. Do we need a bottle of wine at an everyday price point that contains almost twelve units of alcohol?