Vin et homard, accords gastronomiques

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La saison du homard arrive vite et il ne manque pas de  choix de vin pour accompagner la reine des crustacés!!

La mise à l’eau des casiers à homard se fera le 5 mai, aux Îles-de-la-Madeleine, si les conditions météo le permettent. ( Source: Radio Canada) C’est une excellente nouvelle, juste à temps pour la fête des mères.  Vous pouvez commencer à penser à faire des provisions de vos vins espagnols préférés pour commencer la saison du homard. Voici trois recommandations de vins espagnols suite à la dernière dégustation de presse de l’AQAVBS

«Quel vin va  mieux avec le homard?» On m’a posé cette question plusieurs fois au fil des années. Bien que la réponse dépende en partie de la façon dont le homard est cuit et de la façon dont il est servi, certains vins seront toujours meilleurs que d’autres lorsqu’ils sont associés à ce crustacé.

Le homard a une saveur délicate et devrait être associé à un vin qui complimente et accentue sa nature sucrée et succulente. La plupart des vins rouges ne vont pas bien avec le homard parce que les tanins dans le vin rouge ne réagissent pas bien avec l’iode trouvé dans le homard. Ce qui fonctionne le mieux, ce sont des vins mousseux  et blancs pas trop boisés.

Cava, l’équivalent espagnol du champagne, fabriqué principalement en Catalogne selon les mêmes normes rigoureuses qu’en France, est très polyvalent; il peut être utilisé comme un apéritif au verre idéal et peu coûteux et dans des boissons pétillantes comme le mimosa, mais ses qualités rafraîchissantes en bouche vont bien avec toutes sortes de fruits de mer – en particulier les mollusques et les crustacés.

Je recommande fortement d’essayer La Vida al Camp Brut 2014 ( SAQ # 12693895, $20.75). La Vida al Camp provient de la famille Raventós, mais est un projet indépendant et distinct de la ligne de vins Raventós i Blanc. Il est mélangé avec des cépages indigènes de la région composée de 45% Macabeu, 45% Xarello, 10% Parellada.Un Cava très délicat aux nuances douces de zeste de lime et de brioche. Bulle rafraîchissante avec une minéralité persistante et une longue finale. Merveilleux accord une queue de homard dans une sauce au curry vert.

 

 

Le cépage Verdejo est associé à l’appellation de Rueda mais il est également cultivé à La Mancha. Dans cet environnement, l’œnologue espagnol, Rafael Cañizares de Bodegas Volver cherche à atteindre l’expression maximale du cépage Verdejo. Le Bodegas Volver Paso a Paso Verdejo 2017 ( SAQ # 13466803, $14.50).  Un blanc charmant qui affiche des parfums très frais de coing, de melon et de poire bartlett. Frais en bouche avec une élégance gracieuse et une touche épicée dans la finale. Essayez-le avec vol au vent au homard.

 

 

Contrairement à ce que l’on croit communément, le mariage  du vin rouge et du homard est possible. Un tel accord dépend de la préparation du homard, de la sauce et des plats d’accompagnement. Les vins rouges qui marchent le mieux avec le homard sont des jeunes rouges avec un fruit primaire, et surtout sans bois

Des vins juteux, pas trop extraits, sans la  sensation alléchante. L’important dans le choix du vin rouge n’est pas de dominer la chair délicate du homard. Cela signifie deux aspects importants – la fraîcheur du fruit et la texture infusée.

De Bodegas Aranleon à Valencia, j’ai goûté le Bles Crianza ( SAQ # 10856427, $14.40) une assemblage  de Monastrell et Tempranillo. Blés désigne la plante autochtone qui croit entre les vignes dans la Vallée des Alforins, dans la région méditerranéenne de la Valencia. La viticulture écologique respecte l’équilibre de la nature. Le sud de la Valence est la région native de la Monastrell (le Mourvèdre en France). Une des meilleures valeurs espagnoles à la saq

Un nez délicieux qui montre des arômes frais de cerise et de mûre. Rafraîchissant avec une sensation suave en bouche avec des tanins doux. Les saveurs du vin évoquent le cacao et d’autres épices mexicaines. Ce sera parfait surtout avec des plats de riz au homard. Essayez-le avec du riz au homard style Murcia.

 

 

Bonne dégustations et a la prochaine!!!

Celebrate the arrival of Spring with Rioja!!!

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I have a soft spot for the wines of Rioja. When I first got into Spanish wines, I started drinking wines from the south. However, with time and tasting experience, I went further north in Rioja  searching for  the elegance and harmony that only continental climate wines can provide.

Spring is a difficult time for me. I suffer from something called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While most people get the winter blues because of the cold weather and the dark days, for me is the opposite. When I have my down days, I cheer myself up with music, light walks and of course making food and drinking wine.  Before I was a wine lover, music was my passion. I am able to enjoy all kinds of music but I am specially fond for vocal jazz and flamenco.

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One of the advantages that Spring offers me is that I can cook more outdoors using the BBQ. I love grilling all kinds of meat in a hot BBQ from marinated plumper chicken breasts to fancy cuts of reds meat such as Filet Mignon or Flank Steak. In the weekdays, I use the gas BBQ but on the weekends with more time I turn to the charcoal grill.

Rioja has a perfect affinity for BBQ meats. Basically, you want a wine with enough power to work with a chicken leg with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce or a well-charred steak. Something big but not too much overpowering, not too dry and austere, and the most important factor: easy to drink.

Here are my top five Riojas to get you started for BBQ season:

ijalba

Ijalba Graciano 2015. SAQ # 10360261,$21.50

On the nose aromas of graphite, dry blueberries and black seaweed. On the mouth, fresh tasting with an excellent balance between concentration and acidity. Lovely flavors of sandalwood and black licorice complemented by firm and muscular tannins. Drink now or keep for the next 5 years.

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Marqués De Riscal Reserva 2013. SAQ # 10270881, $24.40

Fine tuned nose of cassis jam, wild oregano, iron and licorice. On the mouth, quite structured with a good acidity and chunky tannins. This reserva from Riscal shows a modern interpretation of this traditional Riojan producer.

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Marqués de Caceres Reserva 2012. SAQ # 00897983, $22.55

Lovely nose displaying resonant notes of wild blackberries with balsamic nuances of licorice and star anise. Silky with fine tannins and long flavors reminiscent of spice bread pudding. Best reserva that I have ever tried from this producer.

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Bodegas Faustino, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2005. SAQ # 10483026, $28.45

Textbook classical Rioja aromas. On the nose, predominant notes of vanilla, tobacco with cloves leading to a crescendo of ripe strawberries and raspberries. On the palate, it has an incredible depth of flavours and elegance. However, it needs to be decanted for a few hours to show its best. Drink now or keep for the next decade.

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Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2010. SAQ #  13566687, $31.50

Powerful with nuances of espresso, smoke, dark chocolate leading to  fig and cassis jam aromas. Very suave with finely woven tannins. Long finale.

Happy Arrival of the 2018 BBQ season!!

 

 

A salute to Classical Rioja!

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Photo: Bodegas Valdemar

I first heard of the term “Classical Rioja” when dining out with a well-to-do gentleman in the Madrid restaurant Botin. This restaurant is one of the oldest in the world. In fact, according to the Guinness world record, it is the most ancient establishment in the world, serving meals since 1725 without any interruptions. Botin is an “asador”, a place that specializes in roasting meats. They cook an average 50 suckling pigs a day. So if you ever visit Madrid, make sure that you visit this landmark institution.

Me and Jose had several Riojas that he brought from his cellar. In the course of that evening we had several legendary wines that include an Imperial CVNE Gran Reserva 1976, Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 1968 and Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial and 1978.I had a very difficult time understanding and appreciating these wines. I was in a phase of drinking Alta expresion Rioja and super extracted Priorat wines and my palate was not calibrated for mature wines. It took me further training and more tasting experiences with examples such as Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva 1964 to love Classical Rioja.

Classical Rioja wines represent elegance and subtlety instead of power and concentration. They are balanced, pleasant with a long persistent finish. The style was characterized by an emphasis on American oak aging which became its most recognizable  trademark. These are wines that show predominant tertiary aromas as a result  of the evolution of the wine in cask where the fruit becomes delicately embedded in the wood. In the mouth, these are very fresh wines with a high acidity leading to round tannins product of  barrel aging. They are at least 75 % tempranillo with the remaining balance consisting of Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graciano. This the old school Rioja, the style that I love the most.

Why is like this?. To understand Classical  Rioja, we must go back to the late XIX and explores its relationship with Bordeaux. The Bordelais taught the Riojan winemakers the use of the wood barrel for fermentation and maturation. Before that, Rioja wine was just simple stuff stored and served in hog’s skins. There is an important name to remember in the Classical Rioja style development: Manuel Quintano ( Marques de Riscal). To quote Ana Fabiano in her book, The Wine Region of Rioja:

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Photo: Todocoleccion.net, Marques de Riscal

It was in 1858 that Don Camilio Hurtado de Amezaga, the Marques de Riscal, was asked by the Diputacion Foral de Alava ( the Provincial Council of Alava) to find an expert in Bordeaux to teach winemaking techniques to the region’s vintners. That man was Jean Pineau of Chateau Lanessan, who spread the gospel of oak aging. By the end of the nineteenth century the wines from both Marques de Riscal and Marques de Murrieta were being aged in oak barrels.

However at the time French oak barrels were difficult to obtain and the Riojan winemakers decided to obtain their wood from the ex American colonies whose oak was very affordable and quite available.Ageing in American oak had many advantages that made the wines very attractive to Spanish drinkers who had never before been able to enjoy high quality wines from their own country. The rich oak vanilla flavour became a fundamental part of the wine style, as did the silky texture and smooth tannins. This came from the long oak ageing which also ensured, together with careful racking, that the wines had little or no sediment in the bottle, something that is much appreciated  to this day.

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Photo: OcioAmazonas. Marques de Murrieta

The classical history of Rioja wines can also be credited  to Luciano de Murrieta (also known as  the Marqués de Murrieta) who traveled to Bordeaux and returned to establish the first commercial bodega in the region by 1852. The new King of Spain, Amadeo de Saboya, gave him the Marqués title and praised him for making Médoc style wines. The 1855 classification of Bordeaux had inspired many other red winemaking regions around the world to produce similar style wines.

Bodegas Valdemar

A very important Bodega in Rioja crafting some of the classical wines that I enjoy the most is Bodegas Valdemar. Valdemar’s history goes way back to 1899 when the Martinez Bujanda family set up shop in the small village of Oyon in Rioja Alavesa. Today, the winery compass five generations of winemaking in Rioja.  Valdemar follows the Riojan tradition of blending fruit from the three subregions of Rioja; However, Valdemar is different from the other Bodegas because all of their fruit is estate owned.  Valdemar owns more than 1000 acres ( 425 hectares) of vineyards in the region.

Not long ago, I recently had a chance to meet Roberto Alonso, the export director of Bodegas Valdemar for a tasting of their wines available in the SAQ. The invitation was a courtesy of their importer in Quebec, Selections Oeno.

Tasting Notes 

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Conde Valdemar Viura Verdejo 2016. SAQ # 13385309, $14.35-( 85% Viura, 15% Verdejo)

Lovely nose. I am in love with its fine bouquet Very aromatic. Notes of green apple, yellow pepper, endives complemented by white pepper as well as Acacia and jazmin leaves. Round and caressing with a mouthwatering acidity and very elegant finale.

Inspiracion Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco 2016.  SAQ # 12591821, $17.31-( 100% Tempranillo Blanco)

Ripe pear with lemon meyer notes and floral undertones such as camomille. On the mouth,crisp and vibrant with a delicious saltiness and wonderful retronasal flavors that  bring to mind crushed yellow fruits. Excellent quality price ratio as well.

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Matching the Valdemar wines with roasted suckling pig. Classical Rioja has a natural affinity for meat dishes.

Conde de Valdemar Crianza 2013. SAQ # 897330, $14.91 ( 90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo)

On the nose, a classical Rioja nose that brings to mind prune jam, bitter orange peel, vanilla favoured cigar tobacco and black cherry. On the mouth, round and elegant. This wine is quite subtle with satiny tannins and a spicy finish.

Conde Valdemar Reserva 2010. SAQ # 882761, $20.45 ( 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5 % Garnacha)

A fantastic reserva with vibrant notes of ripe black cherry, fig jam, pepper sauce and delicate nuances of red meat. On the mouth, elegant with soft tannins displaying a wonderful harmony and balance.Lovely retronasal  flavours of blackcurrant, roasted peppers with smoke and fountain ink. Very long with a lingering aftertaste. Still can be easily kept for another 10 years.

Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2008. SAQ # 325084, $31.75 ( 85% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano)

A lovely mature classical Rioja. Subtle Tertiary notes such as wet mountain leaves and mahogany wood with montecristo cigar tobacco, cacao, dry coriander and cumin. In the palate, structured with firm tannins, good acidity and zen like balance. Graceful with many years of life ahead.

Valdemar Inspiracion Tempranillo 2012. SAQ # 11903344, $18.60 ( 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 10% Maturana)

On the nose a pitted cherry note with prune and cassis marmalade.. Woody yet pleasant in a modern style with an echo of a traditional Rioja.. Delicious red fruit flavours, nicely concentrated but not very extracted with a  racy finale.

Must try Spanish wines under $20

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Spanish wine continue to enjoy a rising popularity among Canadian wine enthusiasts. For instance, according to ICEX ( Espana Exportacion e Inversiones), Spanish wine exports to Canada have increased a whopping 27% from 2011-2015. Spain also ranks 4th place as a Canadian foreign wine supplier behind USA, France, Italy and Australia. The enthusiasm comes mostly from the province of Quebec with a share of the import market over 50%. Furthermore, growth in the French province has been an impressive 32% in the last five years, with 5.2% alone in 2016.

There is a number of factors that explain Canadians’ preferences for Spanish wines. First, Spain has a solid reputation of making the best quality price ratio wines in the world. Two, we can practically find all  wine styles made in Spain. This fact is no surprising to me since the country possesses more than 1 million ha of vineyards. The last reason is just a matter of taste. Canadians and specially Quebecers  just  love the  flavors derived from the oak aging system of Spanish wines.

I recently tasted a modest amount of Spanish wines that can be found presently at the SAQ under the $20 category. These are great wines for your weekday supper meals , weekends, or can be offered as gifts to please special friends or family. Below my tasting notes:

Disclaimer: Prices are in CAD for the Quebec market in Canada. Wines reviewed for this post were given as samples or tasted as part of a product portfolio by their respective importers or promotional agencies.

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Sparkling and Whites

Paco & Lola Cava Lola ( Xarello, Macabeo, Parellada)-Sparkling. SAQ Code: 13483911 $19.95

Pretty nose bringing to mind ripe pineapple with orange quince jam. Medium body and fresh with a luscious creamy mouthfeel. Long floral finale.

Bodegas Protos Verdejo Rueda 2016 SAQ # 13321874 $17.25

Bright nose reminiscent of ripe green apple and lime. Medium body with a good acidity and fragrant flavours bringing to mind fennel and tropical fruits. This wine overdelivers for under $20.

Conde Valdemar Viura Verdejo  2016 SAQ # 13385309 $15.10

Delicious bouquet bringing to mind green apple, yellow pepper and endives complemented by notes of white pepper, acacia and jazmin as well. Round and caressing with a mouth-watering acidity. This is probably the best quality price ratio for a spanish white available at the SAQ at the moment.

Reds

Francois Lurton Hermanos Lurton Tempranillo Toro 2016 SAQ # 10359261. $15.45

This modest toro has a very enticing nose bringing to mind red cherry cream with notes of raspberry dark chocolate and vanilla. Juicy on the palate with a fresh acidity and a long dry and lingering finish.

Tardencuba Roble D.O. Toro 2015. SAQ # 12826096. $14.15

A delicious Toro wine. Crafted  with 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo grape) that were sourced  from a single vineyard that is more than 60 years old. It is aged six months in French oak barrels and for an additional 12 months in the bottle. It has primal aromas of red and black berries with exotic spices and leather. Very long with suave tannins.

Conde Valdemar Crianza 2013. SAQ # 897330. $15.75

A classical Rioja wine that display notes of prunes jam, bitter orange peel and pipe tobacco  complemented by vanilla and black cherry. On the mouth, noble and supple with satiny tannins with a quite spicy finish.

Garnacha Artazuri Artadi 2016. SAQ # 10902841. $15.65

Delicious red fruit expression such as ripe raspberries and red prunes complemented by floral scents such as roses,violets and lilacs.On the mouth, fleshy and juicy with flavors bringing to mind dry spices as well .Ripe and concentrated but always elegant

 

Artadi, Rioja Grand Cru

Artadi

When you participate in a fine wine tasting, it always helps to have some background information on the wines that you will taste. Otherwise, you will fail to grasp the essence of the producer philosophy. If you don’t do your homework, you risk reporting inaccurately the whole picture and at the end you may simply give the wrong impression to the reader. With this principle in my mind, I recently participated in a tasting of the wines of Artadi.

The invitation was a courtesy of their Canadian importer Trialto and the event took place at the restaurant Tapeo and was held by one of the young coowners of the winery, Carlos Lopez de la Calle.

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Carlos Lopez de la Calle

Bodegas Artadi is, in fact, the name by which the Cosecheros Alaveses cooperative is known, a boutique project born in 1985 in which several viticultural partners got together to prove that a grapegrower wine could have a chance to be a grandiose wine. And they got it, with all the wines in the portfolio of Artadi. In the 1990s, under the direction of Juan Carlos López de Lacalle, the winery saw an unprecedent growth, both nationally and internationally, and extended its horizons to new wine regions with the creation of Bodegas y Viñedos Artazu (Navarra) and Bodegas y Viñedos El Sequé (Alicante).

In December 2015 after a long time of reflection, Artadi decides to abandon the Rioja DOC. This was a decision based on an incompatibility of the winery image and values with the administration of the DOC. According to Mr. Lacalle, the quality standards of Rioja were unsatisfactory , specially with regards to the high production yields of the appellation. Artadi did not want to be part of an association that was and still is endorsing ” supermaket wines”. The decision was well documented in the well written article “Por qué Artadi deja la DO Rioja” by Victor de La Serna in the Spanish Newspaper El Mundo.

With the decision, Artadi officially adopts the French winemaking model of production. In France, the appellations are classified in areas, municipalties and growths. For instance, in Burgundy and Alsace distinctive terroirs are recognized and producers are allowed to mention the specific wine origins on their bottle labels. Under the Rioja system ( Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva), simply the terroir lines are blurred.

In Spain, this detailed knowledge of the land to make qualitative wines have existed for a long time. However, in the pursuit of quantity versus quality by the biggest producers, it was was taken for granted. Nowadays, it is starting to be recognized by the DO authorities by the adoption of a single vineyard Rioja category classification. Although there is some skepticism, about it. For further reading, consult the article: Sólo un parche en la DOC Rioja appeared in El Mundo as well.

What is the legacy of Artadi for Rioja winemaking?. Artadi were pioneers in breaking away from the traditional Crianza category and highlighted the importance of vine age. Its Pagos Viejos, produced since 1990, was the first grounbreaking wine for the winery. Since 1991, Viña El Pisón, arguably Artadi’s most important vineyard, has been bottled separately. Located in Laguardia, El Pisón occupies 2.4 hectares of vines planted by Juan Carlos’ grandfather in 1945 and is the equivalent of a Bordeaux Grand Cru in terms of personality, extraordinary qualities and aging potential. In my experience, few Spanish fine wines have the potential of expressing the energy that emanates from El Pisón.

Since then, three new single vineyard wines were launched in the 2000s. Pago Valdeginés is born from 7 hectares of east-facing vineyards in Laguardia, La Poza de Ballesteros comes from 3.6 hectares of west-facing vineyards in Elvillar de Alava and El Carretil, a southwest-facing plot measuring 5.3 hectares.

Artadi has been much criticized by its high prices and making wines for an elite. However, price is just a matter of perception. For this, I have to say that what is expensive for me might be not be for another client. My role here is not to criticize on a winery pricing policy but rather to inform and make the reader discover.

I applaud the initiative of Artadi to leave the Rioja appellation system. In doing this article, I found out that 85% of Rioja vineyards are grower owned. It is for sure, that Artadi has the grower in mind.

Thanks for reading.
Artadi wines at the tasting:

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Artadi Valdegines 2015. SAQ # 13214366. $72.50

( A single vineyard situated in the village of Laguardia at 600m of altitude in deep clay-limestone soils. 100% Tempranillo vinified in wooden open-top vats with cold maceration for 24-48 hours and fermentation during 10-12 twelve days with two daily “pisages” in and a small pumping over. Aging: malolactic fermentation and aging for 12 months in new French oak barrels)
An amazing symphony of wild black fruits, ghana cocoa, licorice liqueur. A really multi layered bouquet expression. On the mouth, very focused with bright and earthy almost ethereal nuances. The oak is present but well integrated. Very polished in the midpalate with cashmere and finely woven tannins. It has a particular very plesant taste that brings to mind seaweed and burnt pipe tobacco. Approachable now but I will forget in a cool and dark cellar for the next 5-7 years because this wine has a lot more to say.
La Poza de Ballesteros 2015. SAQ # 13214374. $129.25

( A single vineyard in Elvillar at 600 meters of altitude, laid on deep clay-limestone soil
100% Tempranillo vinified in wooden open-top vats with cold maceration for 24-48 hours and fermentation during 10-12 twelve days with two daily “pisages” in and a small pumping over. Aging: Malolactic fermentation in barrel. Aging for 14 months in new French oak barrels)
This wine has a strange combination of hedonistic and masochist wine drinking. The nose is so vivid showcasing a powerful kaleidoscop of ripe black fruit nuances. Fascinating, like looking a Goya painting. Beyond fruit, there are so many spices intertwined to each other: cloves, nutmeg and black cumin. All of the jumping out from your glass. On the palate, the wine has an indredible lenght and elegance, but is very structured almost stoic if we can say that of a wine. Definitely, this is a wine for the long haul. Buy 3 bottles and follow its development for the next 20 years

El Carretil 2015. SAQ # 13214382. $253.00

( From a single vineyard in the village of Laguardia at 500 meters of altitude on deep clay-limestone soil. The variety: 100% Tempranillo vinified in wooden open-top vats with cold maceration for 24-48 hours and fermentation during 10-12 twelve days with two daily “pisages” in and a small pumping over.Aging: malolactic fermentation and aging for 12 months in new French oak barrel)

The nose of this wine transport me into oblivion. A core of black fruit with notes of black olive tapenade, wet earth and iron. Potent, rich, energetic and dense, quite tannic at the moment with an electric mineral finish. It has the elegance of the best Margaux wines. If you are looking for deep sensations you must try a bottle of El Carretil. If money is not an issue, buy 6 bottles and explore its development for the next three decades.

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Vina El Pison 2015. SAQ # 13210605. $394.75

( From a single vineyard site in the village of Laguardia at 480 meters of altitude on deep clay-limestone soil.The variety: 100% Tempranillo vinified in wooden open-top vats with cold maceration for 24-48 hours and fermentation during 10-12 twelve days with two daily “pisages” in and a small pumping over. Aging: malolactic fermentation and aging for 12 months in new French oak barrels)

The masterpiece of the tasting. Not everyday you can taste and drink a glass of El Pison. The wine nose pulls you in into the glass into something that I describe like an infinite ocean of black fruits. Also, I could feel the rare sensation with this wine that the earth was whispering something to me. Hummus, black earth,roses…. On the palate, so much elegance like a Bordeaux Grand Cru. Still quite linear and austere. El Pison has not finished singing, so get a case ( if money allows) and forget it in your cellar for a long time. Your patience will be rewarded.

Put the Spanish touch on Valentine’s Day

vinoo and st-valentine

I dread making a wine reccomendation list for St-Valentine day. It is such a corny holiday. Do you think that we need a designated day to tell your significant other that you love her?. I find that the whole concept is just a marketing ploy to make buy cheap chocolates and wine.

However, this year my wife insisted that I make one to satisfy my readers wishes and after much thought, I caved in to her request. The task seems to be more complicated this year because the holidays falls on a weekday and I am assuming you would eat at home. If you are planning to dine out on that day, dont lose your time and stop reading. I am writing this piece for those specifically that will celebrate the day at home. There is nothing that says better than I love than a careful prepared home meal with some good wines.

For this year, I propose that you stick to sparkling and still white wines. The choice of supper should be a raw food theme. I am thinking of sashimi, tartare, crudo, gravlax — all manners of raw fish recipes. Why? The omega-3 fatty acids contained in most seafood has the ability to enhance your mood and leads to a favourable sexual encounter. Another reason is that it is relatively fast to make a raw fish recipe leaving you more time for preliminaries.

This week, I had a chance to taste some excellent Spanish whites that would be fantastic with your Valentine’s day celebration. In addition, it wont cost you a fortune, leaving you some room to make a gift for your loved one. The cheapest reccomendation goes for $12.95 and the most expensive bottle is $35.25.

Disclaimer: The Pares Balta wines were tasted by invitation from its importer in Quebec, Trialto. The Castano bottle was a sample from its importer AOC & Cie

Blanca Cusiné Parés Balta 2010. ( SAQ # 12591021, $35.25)

The wines of Parés Balta are no strangers to this page. Their Cusiné cava is one of my favorites Spanish sparklers in the Cava category. A blend of Xarel·lo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the finca Les Torres at an altitude of 670-690 meters above sea level. A very expressive nose bringing to mind lemon brioche, wild herbs and white peaches. with wild herbs.Dry and quite crisp with menthol and wild herb undertones and a fleshy finish. Receive your lover with a glass of Blanca Cusinée and enjoy it with a salmon tartare!

Calcari Parés Balta 2016 ( SAQ # 11377225, $20.20)

Calcari is a mono varietal Xarel-lo from the Parés Balta finca at an altitude of 254 m above sea level. A complex nose of sourdough bread with chalky undertones notes complemented by floral undertones . ( jazmin and white roses) with dry garrique. On the mouth, very crisp with alluring lemony and verbena flavours. I tasted this wine with a swordfish carpaccio and was amazing. I highly recccomend the pairing.

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Castano Macabeo Chardonnay 2016 ( SAQ # 10855758, $14.40)

Aromas of ripe green apple, quince and pineapple jelly. Honey and pollen as well. A slight tpuch of almond. On the mouth, fruity and crispy. Very easy going with aromas of white flowers and nectarines. A beautiful lingering finale. Enjoy this wine with scallops carpaccio with mango and cucumber.

So that’s it for me. I wish you a happy valentine’s day and remember to plan early so you can enjoy your evening.

How Cariñena helps me pass the winter blues

Surviving Winter with Carinena wine (1)

I dread winter. If you ever have experienced a Canadian winter, then you would know what I am talking about.

For those readers that don’t know what is like: picture an outdoor temperature that resembles more your home freezer. Of course, some people will say, it is not always like this, but the last few weeks in Quebec has felt like like living in an ice block.

I am not the type of guy who does winter sports. Figurati, being born in Venezuela, soccer and baseball were the sports familiar to me. Years ago, I took a skating class in college. Unfortunately, it was not my first choice because all the other courses were taken. To make the story short, I ended up learning how to skate with a chair rather than the real thing.

wildflower

What do I love to do in winter?. This is the season where I hibernate: Drink lots of red wine, cook using the slow cooker and read quite a bit of old magazines. This year, I am  also practicing my home baking skills since I decided to get a diploma in professional bread baking.

Winter is also the time of the year when I drink my fair share of Spanish reds. When I have a glass of Ribera del Duero, Rioja or Priorat, my heart warms up and I get a ray of sunshine to face the tough winter days ahead.

Being this month, the coldest of the season, I can’t stop thinking about the wines of Cariñena. I have known the wines of Aragon way back before I went to live in Spain in 2002. Cariñena is the kingdom of Garnacha but not any kind: old vine in high altitudes from 400 m to 800 m above sea level. These are rich and robust reds perfect for the hearty fare of winter.

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Lucky for me, the wines of Cariñena were present in the late Wine Bloggers Conference. In a seminar led by veteran wine educator Lyn Farmer, I learn about a fair amount of new trivia that I did not know about of one my favorite wine regions of Spain.

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Lyn Farmer

First, I learnt that Cariñena is the name of a Spanish town as well. Second, the wine region has a lot of goat herders which explains the excellent quality of their cheeses.  Other information in the seminar was a fresh review for me. You see, the wines of Carinena have a modest following in Quebec. For instance, the SAQ list more than 25 references in the catalog with incredible modest prices ( $9.95 to a maximum of $45)

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Despite the excellent prices, for many lovers, Cariñena still remains much of out of their radar and it should not be like that at all. The region boast some of the oldest Grenache and Carignan plantings in Europe. The average age of the vines is 50 years old and sometimes pushing more than 100. Furthermore, the favorable climatic conditions such as the strong winds of the region keep the wines fresh and free of disease.

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After the presentation, we tasted 6 wines from the region to demonstrate the variety of styles in the appellation. First came 3C Premium Selection  Carinena 2012.  From Grandes Vinos y Viñedos , this wine enterprise works with different winegrowers  in all 14 of the sub  areas of D.O.P. Cariñena.  This bottling is mono varietal Carignan relatively old (45 years old) from  the Sierra de Algairén at 700 m altitude. It had a penetrating bouquet of ripe red fruits accentuated by the floral notes of the variety. On the palate, spicy and not too oaky with silky tannins.

The second wine was Artigazo 2009. A blend of 40% Garnacha, 30% Syrah and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon of 40+ years agre. This bottle was denser and more complex than the first one featuring notes of roasted coffe, cedar, graphite and spice. This is a tried and tested example  of what old vines and power blends can achieve. Artigazo is made by Bodegas Paniza, a cooperative made of more than 400 growers. This is a nice little wine to have with a good old-fashioned roast beef.

The third wine presented was something quite different. From Bodegas San Valero, the Particular Garnacha Joven 2016. From younger Garnacha vines ( 15-25 years old) grown in a high altitude ( 800 m) and no oak aging. This was a bright and fresh wine with aromas reminiscent of red fruits and soft floral undertones. Bodegas San Valero has a track record in the region and works with a network of more than 700 growers.

Carrying on, we had El Circo Garnacha 2016. A young Garnacha bottling as well with no oak aging, This bottle had aromas of ripe strawberries and cherries with a delicate touch of spice. Smooth and racy with firm tannins and a long finish. A very accessible wine that coud be easily be my house wine.

The wine that followed was  Vinas Viejas 2012 from Bodegas Paniza as well, was no stranger to me. I had the chance  to review a few times in the past. An old vine Garnacha ( 100+ years old) grown at 800 m with a minimum of 6 month oak aging. The aromas were stunning featuring plenty of  blackberry fruit, cedar, and plum with a hint of spice. Fruity with a good balance and silky tannins. This was a well behaved big Garnacha.

The last bottle was the Particular Centenarias 2012. An old vine Garnacha ( 100+ years old) with a long aging in barrel ( 12 months)  and bottle ( 18 months). This was an exceptional wine in the restrained rather than big style. Very elegant with fine cashmere tannins and flavours redolent of cassis and black cherry. My favorite wine tasting. As I am writing these lines, I wish that I could have a bottle to have a sip.

That’s it for now. All this writing has made thirsty and I am starting to feel cold. I am going to take a break and have a glass of Carinena myself.

Hasta Luego!!!