Posts Tagged ‘spain’

Spain: Mambo Number Five. Numero Cinco

April 3, 2010

Los Trenzones, Condesa de Leganza vineyards in La Mancha

Spain is probably the source of some of the best value you can get these days. Here some quick notes on cinco vinos de puta madre, like they say in the land of Don Quixote, Tapas and ever-choking-at-World-Cup national teams.

Legaris Crianza Ribera del Duero 2003 $30. After drinkingTempranillos from Toro for the last few months, I really enjoyed the switch over to Ribera del Duero. Elegant, satisfying fruit in a medium frame supported by lovely tannins. Good stuff. Paella, roast chicken with rosemary? No brainer. Pick it up.

Dehesa Gago, Toro 2007 $20. Telmo Rodríguez is perhaps the top winemaker in the Toro region. This Tempranillo loads up all the rustic power and concentration typical of the appellation plus unoaked fruit freshness. Solid.

Faustino V Reserva 2004 $25. 92% Tempranillo + 8% Mazuelo make this a real head turner. Intoxicating nose with toasty woody notes and a velvety mouthfeel of stewed fruit. Ok. Enough vino bul@#$^&&. Yummy.

Fortius Tempranillo 2006 $14. Look for this Tempranillo all over Vancouver, and when you find it, snatch a couple (cases). Possibly best value Tempranillo in town. Peppery, fruity acidity and weight make it a great choice.

Condesa de Leganza, Crianza 2004, Reserva 1998. Lines above I said “possibly best value Tempranillo” because it is hard to compete against this pair. From La Mancha, the Crianza* 2004 is remarkable, with elegant wood giving off cinnamon, coconut, preceding the medium bodied palate. 18 dollars? Amazing for the price.

The bigger sibling of the Crianza is the Reserva 1998. Yes, 1998. That is -let’s count- uno, dos y tres, cuatro, cinco, cinco y seis….12 years since release.

You better stick to winecouver. Which other blog educates you on wine and throws some Spanish lessons to top it off? 22 dollars is a bargain for this Reserva, gold medallist of the Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2009 (whatever that means but sounds important enough *~*) I Drank it with a friend and found all kinds of aromas on the nose. Bootylicious with persistent fruit finish.

Ok, now go grab some …y Ole!!

Condesa de Leganza bodega -winery- in Spain.

* I get asked all the time (it must be my Spanish accent -or my good looks) if Crianza is an appellation or a grape. It is neither. You will see both terms, Crianza and Reserva on lots of Spanish labels. You will also come across Vino Joven (young wine) or Sin Crianza. These last two mean no ageing in oak. Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. These laws change for whites and roses.

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Arroz con Mariscos: The Easy Alternative to Paella

January 5, 2010

I had the fortune to eat my first real Paella in the place where it was born: Valencia, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. As a first timer, I was intrigued and also a bit weary. You never know if you are going to like a new food, especially, when everyone who told you about it seems to love it. I had had spurious versions in Vancouver’s Hispanic restaurants and I couldn’t say I was too impressed. My hosts were a nice young couple who had visited me in Vancouver years before. They fell in love with our city (how could they not?) and were more than eager to show me their town and its best expressions. I am not the kind of person who can hide his dislike of a dish or wine. So, I was a bit worried I might pull a face when tasting the Paella Valenciana they were so excited to share with me.

Before going on with the story, let’s say that Valencia claims to be the cradle of Paella. That is, the Paella Marinera (marine) that we all know. Rice, saffron, red pepper, mussels, prawns, chicken, chorizo. However, the original Paella, also originated in Valencia but further inland, is made with rabbit, chicken and rosemary as opposed to saffron. The young Spanish couple had made this for me during their visit in Vancouver and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  In the years to come I tried making Paella Marinera several times. Anyone who has attempted this knows how heartbreaking is to find, after spending good money on seafood and a lot of work and time, that the result is not what one expected. Most stoves do not have the right burner size to heat the paella pot homogeneously. Electric elements don’t respond quickly to temperature changes. It is easy to end up with overcooked rice, lumped in one sticky mass. Or even worse, to have uncooked rice on your plate. Because of that I turned to a Peruvian favorite, Arroz con Mariscos (rice and seafood) that is easier to make and is a tasty substitute to Paella.

THE RECIPE

Start by thawing a bag of seafood mix. Rinse thoroughly with cold tap water. For this amount (approx. 1 lb) chop a medium size onion and a shallot. Sautee in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Add a sprinkle or two of chili flakes and a spoonful of Spanish paprika. Stir well and add the seafood mix. Chop a Roma tomato and add to mix. Pour 1/3 cup of dry white wine, ¼ cup green peas and a bay leaf. Cook in low for 7-10 min. or until seafood is tender. You will know it  is ready because it turns opaque. Remove bay leaf. Meanwhile, cook 2 cups of rice (I normally use rice cooker for convenience). Follow regular water to rice proportions. You can substitute water for fish, chicken or vegetable stock. When rice is almost ready, incorporate to cooked seafood mix and stir. Incorporate 8-12 prawn tails, shell on.  Add half a red bell pepper cut in fine strips on top, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and drops of lemon. This dish is truly enjoyed when paired with a refreshing white wine. Albarino comes to mind, but Fiano, Orvieto or a lean Chardonnay will do well.

Power and Earthy Concentration: The Tempranillos from the Toro Region

October 26, 2009

toro mapWest and slightly south of Ribera del Duero, the Toro region of Spain has been producing wine since before the times of the Romans. Until quite recently this region was considered a wine backwater and was barely recognized outside of Spain.

However, the tremendous synergy that exists between its Tempranillo toro-imdenominacion1_14-size590(known as Tinta de Toro) and the prevailing poor soils, has made an indellible mark on the palate of wine lovers around the world. Anecdotally, Toro means bull, an animal whose qualities of strength and persistence seem to have been passed to the wines from this land. So, what is so special about the Tempranillos from Toro?

Aside from the soils, which usually present sand underpinned by clay -in the northern part of Toro limestone is more common- the region receives very little rainfall. The dry, poor soils are further stressed by a scorching 2,800 hours of sunlight annually. All this results in the vines -especially the old ones- having to struggle to their limits to extract nutrients and moisture from such extreme growing conditions. The relatively high elevation of the vineyards guarantee cool nights, essential for the fruit to avoid being “baked” and for the level of acids to remain high in the berries.

The resulting grapes -and wines- of Toro are a vivid expression of the land. The growing conditions “educate” the vine, in a process which impact is gradual, slow and profound. Powerful flavors of red fruit, stone, earth and sweet tannin are the hallmark of a good Tinta de Toro. The concentration of these wines can be remarkable and distinct from most other wine drinking experiences. Many Tinta de Toro wines can easily be aged for decades, not losing potency due to their fruit concentration, unflagging acidity and tannic load. Sometimes up to 25% Garnacha is blended with Tempranillo to provide spice, aromatics and supple tannins.

Here a few tasting notes on Tempranillos from Toro available in Metro Vancouver.

Dehesa Gago 2007. Produced by prestigious Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodríguez, this Tempranillo is fully unoaked with slightly carbonic aromas and black fruit. There is a curious whiff of gasoline at the end of the nose. The richness of the body does not exclude fresh, vibrant fruit acidity. Overtones of rusticity and a marked mineral streak imprint the palate with the unmistakable flavor of Toro. Let breathe before drinking or pour through aereator. 19.99.

Viñaguareña Barrica 2006. Don’t let the long name intimidate you. This Tempranillo is awash with ripe red fruit aromas supported by smoky, toast and coffee notes. Fleshy on the palate, lingers with fruit, roasted coffee and vibrant acidity. 21.99.

Finca Sobreño. This 100% Tempranillo shows a nose with violets and strawberry marmalade. Full bodied, concentrated dark fruit and earthy minerality are the main features of this formidable Toro. The long finish lingers with traces of fruit and caramel. 32.99.

Sabor Real. Viñas Centenarias 2005. Produced from vines that average 100 years of age, this Tempranillo merited 91 Parker points. An inviting nose that is downward, intense, earthy, with cherry and cigar box. Heavyweight body with dense red fruit underpinned by charcoal and dark chocolate. The finish is strong and warm, evincing excellent alcohol integration. Deep, dark and terrestrial, this is a phenomenal drink on its own and enhanced by grilled lamb, pasta with forest mushrooms or Paella Valenciana. 24.99.

Wrongo Dongo, Wrongo Wine Marketing

September 11, 2009

There are thousands of new ideas on how to attract the attention of customers wrongo_dongoto a particular wine. Some are brilliant, some work, some don’t. Wrongo Dongo, a decent Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain, falls in the last category.

The color scheme for the label and skirt showcase a very bright yellow. A bit in the Yellowtail style, which was very successful in its moment but that was over a decade ago. Also, the face depicted on the label is rather disturbing. It seems obvious that the creator of the label wanted it to look funny but it is rather strange, the face of a man who looks crazy or a bit distressed. Not what you want to get from drinking a glass of wine. But the worst blunder here is the name. If the idea was to strike a witty note for English speaking customers, the tactic backfired. Wrongo suggests wrong, and wrong has a very negative connotation which is hard to twist and reshape. No wonder this Monastrell languishes on the shelves.

Bullish Tempranillo by Finca Sobreño

June 16, 2009

finca_sobrenoThe Toro (meaning “bull”) region in northern Spain, produces wines of tremendous concentration that more than a few times can turn off the aficionado, if the drink lacks finesse. Finca Sobreño’s Tempranillo is a good example of what a well made Toro wine can offer. The appealing ruby red color follows with aromas of violets and strawberry marmalade. Full body and dense palate with concentrated red fruit and a vegetal streak. Tannins are massive and a bit raspy, showing best with steak or barbequed meats. The finish is long, ridden with fruit and caramel.

Product: Finca Sobreño Tempranillo

Variety: Tempranillo

Vintage: 2004

Winery: Finca Sobreño

Origin: Toro, Spain

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: 30.99 (Everything Wine)

Barahonda Monastrell

June 16, 2009

Monastrell is a variety yet to be fully appreciated by Vancouverites. barahondaIn its home, the vineyards of the Levante -the coast of the rising sun, as Spaniards call it- it finds its best expression. This Monastrell, from the Yecla region, exhibits the gamey nose typical of the variety. Ruby red in color, it displays aromas of licorice and plum. The medium body comes with notes of chocolate and graphite. Medium acidity and soft tannins in a good finish that shows red fruit and spice.

Product: Monastrell

Variety: Monastrell

Vintage: 2005

Winery: Barahonda

Origin: Yecla, Spain

Alcohol: 14.5.0%

Price: 16.99 (Everything Wine)

Organic White from Spain

June 2, 2009

From Penedes, in Catalunya, a blend of Parellada and Xarello -commonly used in the production of 2007paresbalta_blancdepacssparkling wine- with a bit of Viura. Atrractive lemon green with a nose of citrus, honey and mandarin orange. Light bodied and refreshing acidity with lemony flavors. The finish is medium with citrus and a tad white pepper.

Product: Blanc de Pacs

Variety: Parellada, Xarel-lo, Viura

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Pares Balta

Origin:Penedes, Catalunya, Spain

Alcohol: 11.5%

Price: x.99 Everything Wine

El Escondido, Tempranillo from Argentina

April 18, 2009

El Escondido TempranilloFor those who thought Tempranillo can only come from the land of bullfighting, Franco and Flamenco, this Argentinean broth, a gleaming ruby red that gives off a field of strawberries and other red berries that I do not dare utter. You get the idea. Or you don’t. Medium+ juicy body with the palate splashed with the aforementioned fruits  (both the allowed and the forbidden) followed by a very long expansive finish. Lovely at 26.99, pair with a chorizo laden seafood paella or just on its own, a powerful sip. Salud!

Product: El Escondido (the hidden one)

Variety: Tempranillo

Winery: Don Domenico

Vintage: 2005

Origin: San Juan, Argentina

Alcohol: 14.3%

Agent: Patagonia Imports

Recommended? Highly