Wine and Health: Rioja Congress 2017

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Today is a pretty good day. First, because this eternal flu seems to be  going away. After many days drinking water and little wine, I can finally go back slowly to my regular drinking habits. and also my writing too.  Since my sojourn in Spain, I developed a good habit of having wine on a regular basis with my meal.

When I was living in Madrid, I used to live on Fernando Catolico street on the quiet residential district of Chamberi. I rented a room with breakfast and supper included. Lunch was on my own and also wine. By trial and error, I discovered this wonderful little restaurant just 5 minutes away from my flat. Restaurant La Tuna on the 68th civic number of that street. It is a family owned operation. I think the family came from the La Mancha wine region. What I definitely know is that they were a family of vinegrowers.

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Food at La Tuna was not exactly gastronomical fare, more in the lines of comfort food. The menu will change daily but it rotated a few weeks or so. For 3 plates and a bottle of wine, they would charge 10.00 Euros. That was a sweet deal. I used to have lunch, almost every day. Friday was my favorite. They used to serve homemade breaded chicken escaloppe with a hearty portion of french fries. For starters, there was a magnificent lentil soup with chorizo bites and for desert there was always a classic Spanish dessert such as Crema Catalana.

The wine used to be pretty acceptable. It was a mostly a blend of Cencibel and Tempranillo, fruity and rustic with a brawling acidity.  The kind of wine that you would gulp it down.

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Drinking wine on a regular basis, is always a good thing. While browsing the Spanish wine news, I just found out that the VIII International Wine Health Congress will be celebrated in Rioja.  This is a congress in which the latest findings of  wine consumption on health will be discussed. If you want to read the whole article, you can check it out at the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo.

These are the points that there will be discussed:

  1. Personalized diets according to age group
  2. Diet effects over gene transmission. For instance, how the food diet of grandparents affect their grandchildren.
  3. New focus studies over wine polyphenols.
  4. New protective elements of wine.
  5. Wine effects over intestine microbiology
  6. Wine and the mediterranean diet.
  7. polyphenols effects on diabetes.
  8. Wine polyphenols effect on diabetes.

This congress is a shining light while many European health policies consider wine simply as an alcoholic beverage and not as a food. Along our shores, in a study done by celebrity Chef Ricardo and Leger Marketing reveals that Quebecers are the largest wine consumers across Canada. whatever this Congress effects would have any impact on the Canadian scientific community is to be seen. Already, they are skeptical about the positive effects of wine consumption.

This is a time of Bonanza for Spanish wine sales in Canada. According to the news agency EFE, in the first six months of 2016 alone, sales increased to a healthy 10 percent for a value of some $45.7 million. Interesting fact, is that much of the growth occurred in the Ontario province, which is the second largest market after Quebec. For the full press release of EFE, click here.

However I am confident that much of the growth of Spanish wine sales will come from Quebec in the near future. As I write this, the SAQ ( Quebec Liquor Board) continues in their cost saving program for wines of the regular catalog to regain parity with the LCBO. This is wonderful opportunity for the Spanish wine industry. However they have to act fast and not sleep on their laurels.

Good, tasty and friendly wines for your pocket

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Nobella Viura 2016. SAQ # 12698311. $8.00

It is still quite possible to drink Spanish wine, even if you are very limited in your income. Simple yet with delicious fruit orchard notes. Medium body and fresh. Nice white to have with a quick fish dinner on monday night. Nothing complicated, just pleasure.

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Ijalba Solferino Rioja 2014. SAQ # 13004449. $15.05

Ijalba does it again with this organic blend of mostly Tempranillo with Maturana. Solferino grapes are pressed by foot and is made with the carbonic maceration style. On the nose, this Rioja is very expressive of ripe red fruits, with a hint of licorice and church incense. On the mouth, very round and friendly with flavors bringing to mind more red fruits and red licorice. Soft tannins with a medium-long finale. Possibly the best value in the Spanish category at the SAQ

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Solaz Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. SAQ # 00610188. $11.05

Simple aromas of dark plums, toasted wood and dry italian herb spice. On the mouth, easy-going with a medium acidity. Savoury and vinous with a rather short finale. Its a good choice to have with a chicken club sandwich.

 

Vina Ijalba-The Quintessential Rioja wine.

The Ijalba Family

Readers of my blog may be familiar with the wines of this emblematic Riojano producer. I had a chance to taste many of their wines since the creation of this blog. So today’s post is like a visit to and old friend.If you are new to my page, you are about to discover some pretty darn unique wines. If you are a regular, my post will be like a review

My first encounter with Viña Ijalba was about 15 years ago. Back in 2002, I was a wine rookie living in Madrid looking for a top quality Rioja producer with a price range to fit in my student allowance. In an obscure tasting of countless Rioja wines at the UEC ( Union Espanola de Catadores), the Ijalba wines really stood out for their clarity of fruit, elegance, freshness and discrete use of oak.

The winery was founded in 1975 and currently has 80 hectares under their wing, farmed organically. Ijalba has indeed, gained much acclaim both within Spain and internationally for their incredible result with organic viticulture, as well as their expertise of obscure varietals. These wines, almost in extinction are amongst the few modern Riojas that contineue to impress me with their balance and style, without sacrificing Rioja “personality”. The winery was the first Rioja winery to convert to organics, and a peculiarity  for the region, is that all grapes used for the wines are 100% estate-grown.

Ijalba contiues to  set the tone for environmental awareness in the region, from its organic production to its extensive re-cycling and environmental certification for the winery.  Originally, the vineyards were all planted in abandoned  quarries, which justify the remarkable minerality they are endowed with, especially their bolder reds and, in particular, after some bottle age. The estate’s other distinction is the championing of the less-known varieties of Rioja such as the two Maturanas  and Graciano.

Wines available at the SAQ:

Viña Ijalba 2014 Graciano. SAQ # 10360261. $21.95.

Ijalba’s mission statement is to resurrect the traditional grapes of Rioja, and this wine  from their  20 hectare Graciano vineyard (the largest in the world) has been the flagship since they premiered the varietal bottling in 1995. Growers renounced  from Graciano because of its problematic low yields, but the freshness  and mindblowing perfume of the grape are an important part of what makes Rioja blends distinctive. 2011 brought to this wine an unexpectedly lush texture and seductive blackberry flavour.  Compared to the 2012, the 2014 is heftier with well endowed woody aromas.  In the mouth, it has that trademark clarity of fruit with a dark seduction on the palate.

 

This wine was outstanding with a dish of homemade smoked ricotta ravioli in a tomato sauce. The bold structure of the wine was molding the acidity of the sauce in the palate while the minerality of the Graciano was a dandy complement smoothing out the pungent flavours of the ravioli.

Ijalba Reserva 2012. SAQ # 00478743. $21.35

As always a careful blend of the oldest tempranillo and Graciano from Ijalba. Very spicy nose bringint to mind balsamic notes with a mix of red and black morello cherries. In the palate, powerful  but with  a firm structure, good acidity to keep in checks the wine.

 

Simply, a match made in heaven. You may think that a glass of white will work best. But I find that the spices and bold flavors of the seafood in the paella go hand to hand with the aromatic notes of the wine. In addition, the crispy texture of the rice, subtle the rough edges of the wine.

Two Hearty red wines to complement your meat fix

Yesterday, I was BBQ a tough piece of pork loin in the BBQ. I did a marinade of tamari, brown sugar and sambal olek with a touch of bourbon and sesame oil. It was stunning and it was a perfect match for two previous reds that I tasted in the morning. One from Ribera del Duero and Toro.

Yaso 2012. DOP Toro. SAQ # 12298975. $21.25

Charming red fruits and spice. Full body, nice freshness with ultra fine tannins. Not too much oak with pleasant notes of flowers such as roses and violets. Long and very elegant.

Senorio de los Baldios Crianza 2009. DOP Ribera del Duero SAQ # 12417807. $22.10

Very spicy nose. Quite aromatic bringing to mind cloves, anise, stewed prunes. On the mouth, structured and potent. Cocoa, cofee with lots of lush new wood. Grainy tannins. A beast of a wine. Excellent candidate for a cellar.

And I pair these with the below picture. The Yaso worked better complementing and bringing a certain freshness to the asiatic notes of the pork. The Ribera del Duero was good too, specially with the charred parts of the meat but it had a bit too much power for the meat. It would have been better with beef.

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Vinos de Madrid: Bodegas Maranones

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2016 is  gone and it has been a year of austerity for me. Not much cash in my pocket, so it was one of the years in a long time that I spent less on wine. I have always sticked to Spain for wine but in this brutal year that is about to finish, even more for their fine values.

Not only Spain produces wines friendly for the pocket but also is a continous source of discoveries and wow factor. My latest musing has been with an appellation that many Canadian wine lovers dont now: Vinos de Madrid.

The SAQ only list 3 wines in their catalog from this appellation. I hope that they continue to list more since it is a place to watch for.

Madrid is not only the capital of Spain but also one of Europe’s great cultural centers. Tourists invade  Madrid to see its museums and plazas and to enjoy some of their greatest resturants. However,  many visitors don’t realize that Madrid has a wine region all its own, the Vinos de Madrid Denomination of Origin (DO).

The DO is divided into three subzones: Arganda, Navalcarnero and San Martín de Valdeiglesias. Arganda, southeast of Madrid, is the largest of the three. San Martín, to the extreme southwest, is the next largest, while Navalcarnero, also in the southwest, is smallest. The climate is of the continental type.  If you ever find yourself visiting Madrid, this make a nice day trip.

Bodegas Maranones is the proyect of Fernando García Alonso, co-founder of Comando  G). The estate is comprised of 20 hectares between  old bush vines (between 30 and 70 years old) of local varieties (mainly Grenache and Albillo) in a Mediterranean forest, at an altitude of between 650 and 850 meters above sea level.

The winery employs organic farming methods. Each plot is vinified separately and manually, in order to express the characteristics of each soil and vintage. The principles of biodynamics are applied on the vineyards and during the winemaking process as well.

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Bodegas Maranones 30000 Maravedies 2014. SAQ # 12769571. $23.10

Maravedíes were an ancient form of currency once used in Castilla and 30,000 Maravedíes was the sum that Don Alvaro de Luna paid a local monastery, centuries ago, for the land where Bodega Marañones is now located. It is an appropiate name for this “village” wine made from three terroirs that Fernando farms: Manrañones, Andrinoso and Dehesa. Made primarily from Garnacha, there is about 10% Morate and a tiny amount of Syrah included in the blend.

The wine  starts with an amazing nose of fresh picked cherries, then continue with  layers of cracked pepper, fresh leather, rhubarb and  green pepper, with nuances of mint, plums and fig.  The wine goes on and on and become richer and more complex with a blueberry red fruit compote.

I hope that in 2017 my wine fortunes will improve so I will continue in my discovery quest.

 

The joys of winter BBQ with wine

 

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The author of this blog

I am back from an unexpected break due to some new circumstances in my life that require dmy attention. During that time, I have brush up my cooking skills in all aspects. I have been revisiting different cooking techniques including BBQ. Actually, i have to admit that enjoy better barbequing during the winter season rather than the summer.

There is something inviting of the cold Quebec winter that lures me to being outdoors cooking. Problably it is the smell of the cool crisp winter air. It feels so clean that it makes you want to escape from the stuffy indoor environment. However, it takes someone with a high tolerance to cold. Even to this date, I continue to wear shorts while I am outdoors.

There is another reason while I like to being outddors making food in the winter. It permits to have as an aperitif, spirits with the excuse of warming up. It is the best time to enjoy a Spanish brandy. In a  BBQ video that I made, an acquintance of my wife suggested that it was a charming setting to have a hot wine. Although, I agree with her, I rather have a glass of Cardenal Mendoza.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

For a weekday BBQ meal, why not have a glass of Torres 10 Imperial Gran Reserva.( SAQ # 00094367, $31.00). A great Spanish grape brandy from Torres, made from Catalan grape varieties and aged using a solera made from American oak. Dark topaz colour, with fine old gold tints. Of a pungent aroma, it displays an intense bouquet – more metaphysical sthan spirituous – with hints of spices (cinnamon, vanilla). On the palate it is round and full of  tannins, developing a rich and long aftertaste.

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

If budget permits why not have a glass of Emilio Lustau Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez. ( SAQ # 12467151 ,$77.00).  This Brandy brings memories  of whisky matured in sherry casks (think Macallan, Glendronach, Glenfarclas…), only more sweeter. There is lots of raisins and figs, milk chocolate, thick caramel and vanilla character. Molasses and tofee complement the nose along crushed almonds. On the mouth, a good dose of dried fruits, mainly dates, chocolate coated figs and with rum & raisins. A bit of  candy apple as well.After the initial wave of sweetness, which could be a little overpowering for some, it settles down on nuts such as  hazelnuts and spices (pepper, cinnamon) and just the perfect  hint of smoked wood. Long, dark with a  sweet finish.

After your meat is done, and you are cold enough to go back inside, it is time to  eat. I reccomend a bold red to stand the bold flavors of the BBQ. Finca Villacreces Pruno 2015 would do the job just fine ( SAQ# 11881940, $23.20). Dark fruit tones, maple taffy caramel, licorice. On the mouth, good structure with a well acidity and tannis. This classic wine from the Ribera del Duero keeps getting better with time. 

Another interest wine  to have comes from the Priorat. More powerful than the Ribera del Duero, it will keep you warmer.  The Gratavinum 2 Pi R Priorat 2011 ( 11307163, $30.25) has dark chocolate notes, herbs and  extracted black fruits. On the mouth, modern and plush, concentrated  with a massive tannic charge. Not the style that I favor on a regular basis but once in a while, it is good to have when you are outdoors.

 

Comfy Spanish wines for the fall weather

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One of my simple pleasures during the fall weather is to enjoy a bold and gutsy wine with some comfort homemade food for a weekday or weekend supper. I take out my crockpot and let my imagination run wild with the creation of wonderful stews and roasts. Hell, I even abuse of the oven too!!!. These days, I have been doing a lot of cooking and stocking up for the winter, it seems-thats what my wife says.

For a comfy wine, what i am looking for is two things: great quality with the lowest price that I can get. Basically, I am looking for a pleasure that does not require too much fretting over. In Spain, there are many wine regions that deliver this style of wine. I tend to give preferance though to the wines of the Mediterranean-specifically Yecla and Aragon region.  Yes, I love Monastrell and Garnacha. Both grapes deliver the wines to get you through those cold days.

I also enjoy white wines as well. In a white, what i am looking for is body with a creamy texture. Freshness is important with a medium acidity. Grapes that could do the job include Chardonnay, Macabeo from Southern Spain as well.

Bodegas Castano Hecula Monastrell 2014. SAQ Depot #  10946334 $12.40

Sunny black fruit mediterranean style (black cherry, cassis) with deep accents of licorice, violets and spice. On the mouth, full body and rich with smooth tannins. Flavors are consistent with the nose. A nice wine for a cold weekday evening. Good with roasts or chicken in mushroom sauce.

 

Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013. SAQ # 11664902.$20.00

A steal for $20 bucks at the SAQ. Decant at least 30 min and leave it to chill  on your balcony. On the nose, great aromatics of black cherry, Chinese five pepper spice with a marvelous minerality streak. On the mouth, plush with firm and round tannins. Have it with braised bee shoulder and polenta.

 

Castillo de Monseran 2015. SAQ#  00624296 . $9.75

Dont let the small price of this wine fool you. On the nose, the wine displays generous aromas of red berry fruit, pencil shavings and cracked peppercorns. On the palate, charming and ample. Will leave you wanting to have another glass.  I like to have it with pasta and tuna with a drop of pesto sauce.

 

Castano Chardonnay / Maccabeo 2015. SAQ # 10855758. $14.15

Elegance, character, and freshness define this wine. On the mouth, soft with delicate citrus and floral notes. A wine for pleasure for a friendly price. I enjoyed it very much with a chickpea curry with green peppers and pumpkin.

 

Bodegas Luzon Blanco 2015. SAQ # 12559987 . $16.45

Fresh and energetic with touches of white anc citrus fruit. On the mouth, round and fresh with a good acidity and a pleasant woody note. Have with salmon in cream sauces.

 

Wine Trade Monitor 2016: Good news for Spain but a few words of caution

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I recently came across the latest findings of the Wine Trade Monitor prepared by Sopexa. In the study, 1100 operators in the international wine industry were interviewed about the worldwide trend of still wines. There are some interesting and reassuring wine observations that I would like to share with you.

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According to most captains of industry, France is the country that embodies more the image of  wine. However, if you take a look at the above graphic, Spain is rising fast in the ranks. Customers associate French wine for special occasions and Spanish wine for everyday consumption due to their excellent quality-price ratio. At this point Spains still needs to focus on developing a fine wine market image. In a recent article by Spanish magazine Sobremesa, one of the weak points of the Spanish wine industry is still the image that they have as a bulk producer. After reading the article, I was very surprised to find out that Spain is the largest exporter of wine in the world but the price of their wines have risen slightly in the past 15 years.

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Canada will be a key market for Spanish wine from here to 2018. This is the perception of 40% of the industry operators interviewed for this study. In an article by the newspaper, La Vanguardia, the growth of Spanish wine imports have been steady since 2010 ( a good 44%). However, much has to be done in the area of promotion of wine regions. Spain should follow the example of Italy in how they market the wines. Like the trade Italian tasting, Wines from Spain should organize trade cities across Canadian cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. It was very encouraging to see that the theme of La Grande Degustation 2015 was Spain but what I would like to see is a yearly Spanish wine show.

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Spain will continue to improve their whites specially in areas such as Andalucia and Asturias. See the article on Verema for more information about it. However, the biggest asset on Spain in the next few years will be about the Garnacha grape. According to wine trade monitor, the grape has entered the top 5 in the minds of North American wine professionals.

Spanish Garnacha produces red wine that doesn’t get a lot of attention. At my  budget price point, instead of cheap versions of Spain’s great wines, I’ll often simply reach for Garnacha. These wines remain largely under the radar, with plenty of delicious and inexpensive options.

Garnacha originated in the region of what is now eastern Spain. Garnacha proved to be succefull in the hot, dry Mediterranean climate, and soon propagated  to the south and east, first to Catalonia and then to other places where the kingdom of Aragón expanded throughout the 12th-17th centuries. The grape has become popular not only for its gutsy and deep flavors but also for its versability, resistance to disease and low impact on the environment.

With the occasion of Garnacha day worldwide on Sept 16th, I had a chance to taste  a small selection of Garnachas available in the Canadian market. The event was organized by wines of Garnacha. Some of my favorites wines were included on my previous post  celebrating Garnacha day. This wine was a favorite of both my wife and me. I wanted to include it since it does not happen often that we share a favorite wine.   Prados Coleccion Garnacha 2015 comes from the Campo de Borja appellation where Garnacha is king. The wine was amazing with the Paella made in Tapas 24, the place where the event was organized.

 On the eye, the wine has a deep and attractive red colour. The bouquet is quite heady with complex notes of ripe fruits,coffee beans and vanilla undertones tones as a result of oak aging. On the mouth, it is full body with an amazing elegance and soft tannins.

Prados Garnacha is the realization of acclaimed producer Pagos del Moncayo. It is the intimate realization of this bodega along close friends. The wines have gathered numerous awards including Parker and Jose Penin.