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Above: a cold morning in Wiltshire, but the dawning of a very pretty day. The small structure in the centre foreground is a "privy". I suggest that this is a morning to be glad of indoor, modern sanitation. Interestingly, there's still a loo-roll holder screwed to the inside wall
I used to buy wine at auction pretty regularly and have outlined elsewhere some of the fantastic successes I had: 1921 Château Margaux and 1929 Château Latour at something like £13 a bottle spring (unsurprisingly) to mind. Those times have passed now, sad to say. It seems that all the world knows the value of the top stuff.
So I have started picking away at the lowlier end of things; bidding on lots of oddities in the hope that another similarly inclined wine merchant hasn't spotted them too.
Just this morning I headed up to Surrey to pick up my most recent success: a lot of 18 bottles of mixed Spanish stuff. The 6 bottles of 1997 Mas la Plana from Torres made me suspect that my bid was perhaps a little too derisory to win the day, but I have the impression that this wine is a great deal less celebrated today than it was a decade ago (when it was simply known as Torres Black Label), so was semi-confident. I was almost more interested in the other 12 bottles, which contained a wine called Finca l'Argata. This wine, from a producer called Joan d'Anguera in Tarragona, is the baby brother of the mighty (and mightily oddly named) El Bugader, of which we have offered both the 1999 and 2001 vintages.
Unable to contain my sense of anticipation, I waited until the sun had at least partially occluded the yardarm before pulling the first Finca l'Argata cork. Both this and its big brother are rather atypical blends of syrah, cabernet and grenache.
The nose here's dry, savoury, full of earth and spice (black pepper predominates). There are some dusty brambles hanging about looking menacing. They might or might not be chewing liquorice in a slightly threatening manner. There's beef drying in a hot, desert wind (carne do sol, I believe they call it in Brazil). In the mouth, there's good fruit, mineral bits, flavours of plums and pepper. There are nutty, upright, integrated tannins and good grip at the end. Wow, this is good value wine. One feels as though one has been innocently getting some cash out at the ATM when one is suddenly aware of some sort of firearm in the small of one's back i.e. it's a mugger; look out.
The ideal food for this wine? Hmmm. Obscure bits of rare animals that died at some undisclosed time in the not especially recent past. Perfect.