What wines to have with Gazpacho?

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Slowly but surely, it is getting warmer in Quebec. Just this week on Wednesday, it was 31 Celsius. I was not in the mood to cook so I told my wife to cook supper. She ended up doing some burgers that were quite tasty.

My point being that nobody wants to be near a stove when is hot outside. Also, there is something about the heat that makes you feel deliciously lazy. In a hot summer day, I will salads, fish carpaccios or ceviche and of course a nice bowl of Gazpacho!!.

Basically, a gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup coming from the land of Flamenco and Tapas, Andalusia.  This is such a simple, tasty and inexpensive dish, that’s why it has become so popular.

Gazpacho goes way back to pre-Roman times when shepherds where sustained by the original version that consisted of stale bread, garlic, vinegar, oil and water. With the advent of agriculture, vegetables were incorporated.

Popular across Spain, I have had amazing gazpacho in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. However, it taste better in his home of Andalusia, the land of good flamenco that comprises Sevilla, Granada, Costa del Sol and Jerez country. In this land of scorching heat, the Andalusians have been making cool magic potions for a long time.

According to Alicia Rios and Lourdes March, authors of Spanish cookbooks, Gazpacho became popular thanks to the marketing efforts of Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of the French Emperor Napoleon III in the nineteenth century. Gazpacho was unknown, or little known, in the north of Spain before about 1930.

At its heart, though, gazpacho’s fundamentals are consistent: It’s a cold soup based on tomatoes, with cucumber, onion and green bell pepper as customary supporting players. The addition of bread is much more European, and evokes a culinary link with Tuscan panzanella (“bread salad”), which could be irreverently described as a chunky Italian gazpacho too thick to drink. Other versions involve the use of watermelons and there is even a white Gazpacho. This last one is made with ground almonds, pine nuts, garlic and lima beans.

If you happen to be in Madrid, do not hesitate to visit the resto Clarita. They make an amazing watermelon gazpacho plus they have other goodies such an amazing red tuna and the seafood is amazingly fresh all the times.

Look for crisp whites and fruity roses to accompany your Gazpacho. These wines have the ability to handle the pungent acidity of the vinegar in the soup and will not overwhelm the delicate vegetable flavors.

Must try wines with Gazpacho

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Vina Ijalba Aloque Rosado 2015 ( $17.20. Private Import in Quebec, Charton Hobbs )

A 100% tempranillo rose from the leading organic winery in Rioja. Lovely notes of raspberries, strawberries and floral nuances. On the mouth, medium body, fresh with a delicate balance. Pairing nicely with tomato Gazpacho.

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Laguna de Nava Tempranillo Rosado 2016. SAQ Depot # 12238008. $11.65

Easy going red berry fruit with fragrant peach notes. In the mouth, simple yet with very fragant flavors at a friendly price. Pair it with a watermelon based Gazpacho.

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Bodegas Marañones Picarana 2014. SAQ # 13206841. $24.45

A 100% albillo from the upcoming Vinos de Madrid appellation. On the nose, ripe orchard fruit with dried herbs and spices. On the palate, it is tasty, fruity, with good acidity and well-balanced. Pair it with a garlic white gazpacho.

 

 

Dominio de Fontana-Honest and soulful wines from Cuenca

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Bodegas Fontana, owned by the Cantarero Morales family for more than  30 years, has been a leading pioneer in making Uclés a new winemaking zone with a protected appellation status’. Jesús Cantarero, brought together a multi star team of wine professionals to produce  terroir-driven, single-vineyard wines of great complexity.

The Fontana estates are located in Uclés, in the northern part  of Castile region, an area famous  for both its fresh, aromatic whites as well as outstanding reds from the Tempranillo grape. At a high altitude, the wines of Uclés display the fruitiness of the northern mountains  with the intensity and ripe, velvety tannins of the Mediterranean. Fontana manages its estates sustainably and as integrated ecosystems, taking advantage of the low levels of disease in this dry, continental climate. No pesticides are used, organic manure is the only fertilizer applied and weed control is done by light, superficial tilling.

Tempranillo is the main protagonist of the wines produced with International varieties taking a second role ( Cabernet Sauvignon,  Merlot and Syrah). The blend varies vintage to vintage.

Aging time as well is determined by the quality of each vintage. In general, Fontana makes rich and modern wines with lots of depth of flavour. The  bodega works really well with new wood aging.

I had a chance to taste some of their wines in the heaven and earth wine salon from the group Charton Hobbs in Montreal, Canada. They are the importers in Quebec, Canada.

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Dominio de Fontana. Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

( 70% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aged in a mix of american and french wood for 12 months)

Intense aromas of blackberries with vanilla bean and smoked spices such as paprika. On the mouth, round, ample and very long with a very persistent finale. Pair it with smoked meat sandwich.

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Dominio de Fontana. Vendimia Seleccionada 2013. Tempranillo/ Graciano

( 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano. Aged in american oak for 18 months)

On the nose, aromas of ripe fieldberries, wild herbs such as tarragon and thyme, earth and spices. On the mouth, round and quite spicy. Ripe tannins with a delicious balsamic aftertaste. This wine would be amazing with charcoal grilled lamb chops.

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Quinta de Quercus 2013 Single Vineyard

100% Old Vines Tempranillo. 30 years+, 12 months aging in American and French oak)

Quercus comes from an estate in central Castilla with that is surrounded with 300 oak trees (hence the name Quinta de Quercus) this is a collaboration between the  local winemaking staff  and New Zealand M.W. Sam Harrop.

On the nose, lush ripe red and black herbs. Roasted herbs and toasted spices such as black cumin,  sumac and cloves. Full bodied, juicy acidity, muscular tannins and a great length. Great wine with a tira de asado a la parrilla.

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A sensual food match: Cava and Sushi

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Its well-known that certain food are aphrodisiacs, foods that increase your sex drive, causing excitement, sweating or palpitations.

Does sushi belong to this group. You bet!!!. Logically, you employ your chopsticks to place carefully slippery, wet and sometimes warm rolls in your mouth. From that literal description alone, Sushi is an aphrodisiac alone. But scientifically, seaweed, a basic ingredient in sushi has a bounty of vitamin E.

Cava has also a powerful symbolism in the sexual innuendo game. It has probably has to do with the  ritualistic opening of a Cava bottle, the release of the cork from the bottle’s phallic neck, this might conjure an image of sexual .

Putting both together, you have a powerful combination for a torrid afternoon or evening.

There are two possibilities when matching Cava and Sushi: first Brut nature or brut with their low sugar levels due to little or no dosage. This approach, which accentuates on the minerality of the Champagne, allows a complete expression to the briny aromas and texture of the raw fish.

The second alternative is a pairing with rosé Cava. These Cavas   have the ability to marry well with fish dishes, naturally, but also with the stronger flavours and nuances of certain sushi and maki. In fact the fruity characters of rosé  will form an ideal foil for soy sauce and be excellent with the melting texture of the raw fish.

Alcohol lowers inhibition by acting as a sedative on the central nervous system. True, this makes all forms of alcohol aphrodisiac to some degree but sparkling wine such as Cava has one extra property going for it, the “sexy effervescence,” as Dr. Allen Green of the Center for Optimum Health in Los Angeles refers to it. Thanks to a series of  studies in England, it is known that the alcohol in carbonated drinks is absorbed faster than in still forms of alcohol. This means that not sparkling wine will get you will in the mood  but is also better than Viagra combined with Sushi.

Cavas to try with your sushi experience.

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For me, the quintessential cava producer is Raventos. As you know Raventos have been making singular  and unique Cavas since 1497. The estate covers 300 acres of vineyards, woodlands and a lake in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. A special moment, in 1872 happens when Josep Raventós Fatjó made the first bottle-fermented wine in Spain using native grapes from this estate.

In November 2012, the family decided to leave the DO Cava and create their own more strictly defined and geographically specific appellation: Conca del Riu Anoia. Raventos wanted to concentrate their efforts in creating uniques wines from the River Anoia Valley.  The estate is certified organic.

Tasting Notes:

Raventos i Blanc De Nit Conca del Riu Anoia 2014. SAQ # 12097954. $26.60

This cava is a coupage of Macabeo, Xarel·lo, Parellada and Monastrell grown in three estates: La Plana La Barbera and El Llac. La Plana is an estate located on clay-loam soils that grows Xarel·lo and Macabeo varieties.  A gastronomical cava, bringing to mind pretty aromas of dry rose petals, raspberry, and strawberry sorbet. Chewy, with a nice acidity. Smooth and enveloping in the mouth. Will pair nicely with a Kamikaze or Dragon eye roll.

De la Finca Brut Raventos I Blanc 2013. SAQ #  12178834. $35.25

This cava is a coupage of varieties Xarel·lo (54%), Macabeu(30%) and Parellada (16%) grown on 9 plots located on the slopes of the Serral hill which is north/north east facing. On the nose, this cava has a very complex minerality bringing to mind Chalk, naftaline, and a strong iode note.. On the mouth, dry and very crisp. Lots of force and tension. Will need a sushi like a fatty bluefin tuna belly.

 

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Raventós I Blanc Manuel Raventós Gran Reserva Personal 2008. SAQ #  12936455. $80.00

 Raventós i Blanc Gran Reserva personal Manual Raventós is a very special cava that is born from  two plots: el Clos del Serral and Creueta del Coll. El Clos del Serral is a mono varietal  Xarel.lo plot on slopes, north facing orientation with  clay loam soils. At Creuta dl Coll there are as well  sandy loam soils, but is a mono varietal Parellada variety with vines dating back to 1973 . 

Very noble cava, like a fine champagne. Yeasty, verging toward brioche, croissant with subtle notes of vanilla wafers and dry apricots. In the mouth,  dry, and  austere with a pleasant note of grilled hazelnuts. Perfect finesse.  If you are feeling like a spending a few dollars, why not have it with Osetra caviar tuna sushi.

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In the mood of Rias Baixas with Lobster

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Source:  http://kednycuisine.com/

This morning, I woked up with an incredible thirst to have a few bottles of  Rias Baixas with Langosta a la Parrilla. Living in Quebec, soon I will be getting my fix of the queen of the crustaceans.

When I think of eating Lobster, all I need is a nice Albarino. When made in the Galician wine region of Rias Baixas, often displays an echo of salinity from the nearby Atlantic, with different tones of floral notes, citrus, stone and tropical fruits. Plus, a Rias Baixas offers a very crisp  acidity, medium body and low alcohol.

Rías Baixas boasts a number of high-quality grapes. Albarino is king with a lion share of more than 90% of the DO’s vineyard area. It is said  to be related to Riesling, and some wine scholars argue that it was brought to the area by pilgrims or monks on their way to the  medieval town of Santiago de Compostela. Albarino is often blended with Treixadura or Loureira.

The soils are mostly granite, with a little bit of  chalk and clay. The bounty of the earth  offers a stream of  minerals with little nutrients, making it ideal for viticulture. The slopes encourage good drainage, a very important factor considering the high amount of rain, the area gets.  The neighboring Atlantic Ocean provides not only rain but also humidity, so growers have traditionally favored trellising their vines with pergolas, allowing air to circulate around the grapes, therefore sanitizing the grapes.  Fortunately, late summer is usually the driest part of the year, providing ideal ripening conditions for harvest in October. The grapes are pampered here.

Bodegas Terras Gauda,  are making some extraordinarily good wines from the local Rias Baixas grapes. As well as famous albariño grape, they use loureiro (also found in Portugal’s Vinho Verde just a little further south), and intriguingly, they have taken the near-extinct caiño grape to their hearts,to preserve this disappearing local white variety.

 

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The 2016 is impressive on the palate due to its powerful structure. Youthful with a great character. On the mouth, it is quite aromatic and exuberant with citrus aromas of mandarin orange and grapefruit, ripe peach and pineapple, and additional nuances of orange blossom, mint and thyme.  This is a serious wine for a serious shellfish. It retails for $24.25 in the Quebec market (10858351).

If you cannot get your hands in a bottle of Gauda, try Albarino Valminor or Pazo de Senorans, they are good alternatives as well. Lobster has a delicate flavor and should be matched with a wine which compliments and accentuates its sweet, succulent nature. That’s why I think a Rias Baixas is a natural partner: Imposing but not oververhemling.

If you want to know how to grill a lobster, here is a very simple video that describes the task. It may seem complicate, but is quite easy. All you need is a good knife, a bit of dexterity and a nice lobster.

Salud!!!!

 

A little bit of vino with Snow Crab

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If you live in the eastern part of Canada, with the arrival of spring, not only comes the good weather but also the delicious crustacean, the snow crab.

Rivaled only by its crustacean cousin the lobster, crabs sit at the temple of marine epicurean delights. Served alone, these protein-rich shellfish are delicious, but when paired with the appropriate vino they become mind blowing. There’s a simple reason white  wines are the perfect companions for crab dishes: It’s all about the acidity.

When matching crab and wine, both the crab and wine should be ultimately fresh. Fresh crabs retain their sweet natural flavors and snappy texture, while fresh wines feature good acidity. Epicureans around the world employ acidity to bring out the natural flavours of  seafood.We often sprinkle lemon on a dish, while in Thailand lemon grass is used while in Chinese gastronomy, sides of vinegar dipping sauces appear in the table. Naturally, my acidic liquid of choice is a lovely white or sparkling wine.

The best wine to pair with crabs very much depends on the type of crab and how it’s cooked. While good acidity is good way to start as it emphasizes the natural freshness of crabs, other qualities like fruitiness and minerality are also important.

One of the world’s most crab-friendly white wines is Albarino from the wine region Rias Baixas in the northwest of Spain. This is one of the most hilly and rocky wine regions in the world, and it has a rather harsh Atlantic climate. The wines produced in Rias Baixas  are highly aromatic and vibrantly fruity with mouth-puckering acidity. These qualities make them the perfect wines for your ultimat snow crab experience.

Viura is the most important white grape of the Rioja area in north-central Spain As you know Rioja is renowned for its tempranillo-based reds than its whites. Viura makes a less aromatic  wine than the aforementioned albariño, lacking the latter’s exotic aromas, flavors, and overall complexity. A favorite grape of the Spaniards during the summer months, when the temperatures get very hot. With its light alcohol and medium texture, Viura is my go wine with simple crab dishes such as salads or light pastas. Viura can  offer wonderful fruit with mineral notes, wild flowers and spice.

For centuries, Verdejo has been   deprived of its true glory, drafted into producing an oxidized, amber-coloured wine like sherry. It has only risen recently only with a pale color and bone-dry profile and has been  earning its rank  as one of Spain’s most thrilling white bargains.

In the last twenty-five years a revolution in Rueda has changed the style of the wines, and brought the region to the attention of the world’s wine connoisseurs. A reverence for the indigenous variety, Verdejo, has been combined with modern equipment and winemaking techniques to make Rueda one of Spain’s most cutting edge wine producing regions. Much of the harvest is done at night and every step of the winegrowing and winemaking process includes careful handling so that oxidation of the grapes is avoided. As a result, the Rueda Denomination of Origin (D.O. Rueda) was the first quality region to be approved by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture for the larger Castilla y Leon region.

Verdejo is a fascinating grape, with great freshness and acidity balanced with rich body and notes of citrus, minerality. It goes well with any crustacean such as lobster or snow crab. When the snow crab season arrives, I always keep handy a bottle of Verdejo.

Wine Reccomendations for Crab season

Lagar de Cervera Rias Baixas 2015. SAQ # 13159272. $27.40

Classic mineral character of Albarino, complemented with some exotic stone fruit and tropical flavours. Steely acidity runs through the wine, giving it balance and character. A chic Albarino. Interesting match with a crab Thai salad.

Conde de Valdemar Finca Alto de Cantabria 2015. SAQ # 00860171. $19.85

Very exhuberant nose bringing to mind notes of peaches and apricot with floral and citric nuances. On the palate, it is fresh and round with elegant spices brought by a passage in french oak aging. Perfect with crab pasta dishes.

Ijalba Genoli 2016. SAQ #  00883033. $13.90

Lovely fruity aromas that bring to mind green apple, grapefuit, white flowers and lactic nuances. Dry, elegant and very harmonious. In this bottling, Ijalba brings out the best of the variety. Pair it simply with steamed crab with a touch of lemon.

Basa Rueda 2016. SAQ # 10264018. $16.20

An abundance of citrus and stone fruits on the nose lead prepares the drinker to a dry and elegant palate. The finish brings to mind more lemony and green apple flavours and is very refreshing. Lovely with snow crab and asparagus risotto.

 

How I learnt to love Atlantic Garnacha

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In my formative years of learning about Spanish wines, I had a passion for the wines of the Mediterranean coast and northeast of Spain. Dont get me wrong, I still love them but there are other wines that enchant me as well.

Garnachas and Monastrell..with their heady aromas of deep black fruit, lead pencil and balsamic spice ( more like a fairy spice for me). Day and night, I will sip these wines from my apartment in Madrid and through the window and i would watch the time pass by listening kind of blue by Miles Davis.

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Back in those days I had a mentor that i was an adolescent with my wine drinking habits. He always used to tell me that my passage to adulthood wine drinking would occur when i started drinking wines with atlantic influence. Those were the wines of Rioja, Navarra and Bierzo. As we head north, the acidities get more pronounced and the fruit gives less gratification. The Garnachas of the north bring to mind red fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. On the mouth, there are fresh and juicy bringing to mind herbal flavors such as diverse teas. They are wonderful but require a bit more attention because these are more introverted wines.

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Famously known for its annual bull-running festival in Pamplona and its endless fields of white asparagus, red peppers and succulent artichokes, Navarra is also the birthplace to some of the world’s oldest Garnacha vines – offering drinkers some of Spain’s best value reds.

In Navarra, the Garnacha style is quite peppery with fine tannins and sour cherry acidity like. The acidity is the product of the terroir of Navarra: Atlantic climate with a combination of poor mountain soil In Navarra Garnacha has traditionally been used to produce pale wines labelled either rosado or clarete.  But more and more, producers are keeping the Garnachas to make singular reds.

One of this producers is Bodegas Artazuri. Part of the group Artadi in Rioja, Artazuri makes a joven entry level Garnacha. It has a very simple elaboration process in which the grapes are destemmed and cold macerated before fermentation occurs at a controlled temperature.

Some of the best wines I have tasted in Navarra are made by Bodegas Artazuri. Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle made his name with his Bodegas Artadi in neighbouring Rioja, then moved across the border to neighbouring Navarra to run Bodegas Artazuri in the village of Santa Cruz focusing on just 100% Garnacha wines.

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Garnacha Artazuri. SAQ # 10902841. $15.20

This is a very easy to drink and elegant wine. Lovely nose of coffee, cherry in dark chocolate with  lead pencil shavings. In addition,  crushed peppercorns. On the palate, earthy with a medium to high acidity. It may not be hedonistic like the Garnachas further south but provides a fine intelligent drinking. Also it comes with a very friendly price.  You can pair it with a dish of baked dry cod with tomatoes or a seafood stew. Or if you feel like an Italian mood, fettuccine with shrimps alla diavola. 

 

I cant tell you which wine drinker you should be, but it should be a mix of a connoisseur and expert. For a fun text regarding different wine drinkers, please consult the text of my colleague Yves Mailloux, what kind of wine drinker are you? ( in french).

Hasta luego!!!

 

A pleasant encounter with Bodegas Beronia

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Thousands of years ago the Rioja region was inhabited by the Berones; warriors who called their land Beronia. In 1973 the winery Bodegas Beronia was founded; named in tribute to the fighters of this beautiful land. It was founded on a passion for fine food and high quality wines and is now famous for red wines.

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This is what I learned in a recent encounter with  Matias Calleja Ujarte, the technical director from Beronia in a recent passagein Montreal. Senor Calleja was in a road trip with Cristopher Canale-Parola, the Area Manager for Canada for Gonzalez Byass. Beronia form part of this celebrated  family of wine domains since 1982

Beronia is famous for the experimentation with different types of oak. Matias was one of the first wine makers to experiment with an assortment of barrels and types of wood from different countries. He was also one of the first to try mixed oak barrels using French oak heads and American oak staves. Since 1973, the efforts of Matias has helped the signature style of Beronia, a mid point between the traditional and modern Rioja.

We tasted a number of wines available in the Canadian Market. For me the highlight of the tasting were the different samples of wines made with American and French wood that illustrated well the expertise of Beronia in the area of wood aging. Not to forget the legendary 1973 Gran Reserva that we tasted. This was a very much alive wine and makes wonder if Rioja could ever again make wines with this track record of longevity.

Another interesting wine tasted was the Rueda bottling. Gonzalez Byass has decided to invest in Rueda to demonstrate the potential of the area. The project has been led with Matias and Beatriz Paniagua. I was very surprised to learn by Matias that their Rueda is a 100% monovarietal Verdejo, something that it is rare to see as most Ruedas are blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Like I said before, the inclusion of Sauvignon Blanc blurs the character of the Verdejo and in consequence the terroir of Rioja.

Wines tasted

Beronia Rueda Verdejo 2016 LCBO # Vintages: 461327. 2015 was retailing at $11.25. In Quebec, private import by Univins

Lots of green apple, pear and lemon yogurt character with delicate herbaceous nuances. Medium body, refreshing with flavors of confit grapefruit. Very harmonious finale. The wine to have with crab cakes or fried calamari.

Beronia Tempranillo 2014. LCBO # 243055. 2013 was retailing for $13.95. Available soon in Quebec

Cofee, chocolate and prunes in brandy. Noble tones of wood. Full body with supple tannins. Flavors of cherry bomb and halzenut cream. Long. Pair with beef stuffed peppers. Amazing quality for a joven wine, steering toward a crianza.

Beronia Reserva Roble Americano 2014  ( Experimental sample)

Lots of spiced black fruit and irish cream. On the mouth, structured with a medium acidity and fleshy tannins. On the palate classic american oak flavors such as coconut and orange peel. For many, the flavors of American oak could be an adquired taste but I enjoy fondly the style

Reserva Roble Frances 2014 ( Experimental sample)

Very spicy nose.  Vanilla and Cinnamon with mineral nuances such as iron and black damson plums. On the mouth, fruit driven with tannins quite accessible. Well balanced.

Reserva Roble Mixto 2014 ( Experimental sample)

Intriguing nose with cloves and chinese orange. Cola and black fruit. Balanced with a round texture. Very elegant. The best of both worlds

Beronia Reserva 2012. SAQ # 11667231. $20.55. LCBO Vintages: 50203. $20.95

On the nose, smoke and espresso beans. Nice minerality. Voluminous in the mouth with earthy and elegant flavors. Tannins needs a few years to be resolved. One of the best reservas available in the Canadian market. Pair it with braised deer with vegetables.

Beronia Gran Reserva Rioja 2008. LCBO Vintages: 940965. $37.95

Sour cherry, dark olives in brine, prunes in eau de vie. Structured with mature tannins. Well balanced and elegant. Pair it with grilled lamb chops.

Beronia Gran Reserva 1994.

Very earthy showing a stream of tertiary aromas. It actually brought to mind mushrooms, fish sauce and other vegetable nuances. Some of the participants though that the wine was corked but what it actually needed was some time to open it up.

Beronia Gran Reserva 1973

Gorgeous wine. Full of live and vitality. Tones of coffee, moka with dry orange peel. On the mouth, very subdued with retronasal flavors of bark wood. Fully mature tannins. Amazing wine. It was verging towards an old noble Burgundy.