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1998 Pingus at Rekondo

October 6, 2016

19 September 2016 was truly a busy, and memorable, day. It began with a visit to Chateau Petrus in the morning, followed by lunch at Saint Emilion after which we showed up at Chateau Ausone. Visiting the two top chateaux that make the most sought-after yet least-available wines would have been more than enough to satisfy any oenophile but we went further, literally, by driving across the southwestern border into Spain in the late afternoon, soaking in the evening sights of the San Sebastian seafront before we finally arrived at Rekondo at 2100h, a Michelin-starred restaurant perched at the hilltop of the city’s outskirts, for our first real Spanish dinner where we were joined by Mr Jimmy Lim, who has lived in Spain for the past 46 years and is extremely well versed in its wines.

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San Sebastian seafront at dusk

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Rekondo is a cross between tasty rustic real food and fine dining. The setting is unassuming. The interior decor is almost plain but functional, complete with an old-fashioned bar counter, the waitresses fuss around you busily but efficiently, the place is brightly lit (I like it this way…why hide the food if it’s supposed to be good?) and one can dress down and make a lot of noise here.

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We thought these were handwritten…but no

But the real deal lies with the food and the wine. The menu is simple, offering a fairly limited but varied range of courses, each item so very reasonably priced that I thought there must be some sort of printing error. But it is the wine list that takes the cake, reputed to be the best all of Spain. Page after page, the listing is exhaustive for Spanish wines while its international selection is also excellent with very little mark-up in prices. In fact, the great thing about wining and dining in Spain is that you get really great food at ordinary prices, and truly good wines that are inexpensive right from the restaurant itself. Its knowledgeable sommelier, a young Argentinian named Martin, was kept busy all night across the restaurant. The cellar of this restaurant is another sight to behold with its huge extensive collection of current releases as well as very old bottles (oldest is a 1750 JM Rivero) and wine bottled in very large formats.

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Unbelievable

We began the evening with a 1976 R Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia White Gran Riserva, made from mainly viura grape with a small proportion of malvasia. The first bottle was sadly way past its peak, leaving only an empty shell. A second bottle showed better, quite lovely with alluring aromas of aged creme and apricot with lifted overtones of cinnamon and lemon. On the palate, the wine has faded somewhat though there was still fair concentration of clear citrus, slightly musky with firm acidity. Clearly a wonderful wine during its prime but now better on the nose than palate.

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For the reds, we started with a 2014 Contino Gran Reserva, made of 100% tempranillo at 14.5% alcohol. This wine displayed a deep nose of enamel with impressions of red and dark fruits, well replicated on the palate with additional traces of licorice, bramble and wild berries, excellent in acidity and concentration though a tad short initially.

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Try looking for this

It became more plummy over time, attaining fabulous intensity, richness and length, finishing on a minty note. Excellent, but it really needs time to show well.

Jimmy then spotted a gem in the wine list, a 2014 Algueira made in very limited quantities from 100% merenzao. Displaying a light rosy tint akin to pinot noir, this wine threw a floral fragrance of rose petals, red cherries and raspberries, medium-bodied and gentle on the palate with wonderful purity of fruit and flavours, decidedly feminine in character, firming up with greater intensity and concentration over time. Very lovely and great value for money indeed.

img-20160920-wa0016We pushed the boat out for the main red to go with the superb T-bone steak: a 1998 Pingus from the restaurant list at EUR975. I guess there is no better way to drink Pingus than in Spain itself, along with great Spanish cuisine. My only experience with Pingus had been a 2003 (tasted in 2010) which was bold and hedonistic. I was surprised that the 1998 turned out to be very mellow, aromatic yet somewhat distant on the nose, like a beautiful but reserved woman, where red fruits and dark plums dominate with a mild lifted earthiness, very gentle on its entry on the palate where it was harmonious and distinctly feminine, displaying red fruits with traces of camphor, gaining in gentle intensity as it sat in the glass. Not a wine of profound depth, but highly supple and open. What a great way to start our week of food and wine in Spain.

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