Time for Vinos y Paella

paella

Finally the temperatures have started to rise and the rain is wearing off in this part of Quebec where I live. As we enter deep in the summer, all i want to do is cook and drink outside. One of the dishes that I love do in the summer is a big Paella.

For me paella is the ultimate Spanish dish for the summer weekends. When I used to live in Spain, I had it good restaurants in Madrid and also being a guest in some of my friends  homes back there in those golden yet far remote times.  It is a very intimate and friendly dish.

As a child growing up in Venezuela, I also had fond memories of eating Paella with my family and friends. Back in those times,  my grandparents were friends with a lovely couple from Spain that also resided in Venezuela. They nicknamed, the coquis, don’t ask why, I had no idea. Their names were Paco and Mara

When i was 8 or 9, in an easter holiday, we spent some time with them in Higuerote, a coastal city, not far away from Caracas.  The coquis were a pair of bon vivants. They knew their food and drink inside out. They had a beach chalet where they used to go on the weekends

On good friday while I took off with my aunts to the beach, Paco and Mara prepared the Paella, outside the backyard of their house. It was a seafood paella, stunning. Up to this day, I remember the fragrant aromas of the spiced rice with sofrito and saffron with the flavors of the seafood. It was a very familiar affair.

 

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Since Paella is a very relaxed meal, you want to drink easy-going wines, to stimulate conversation. A paella party is not the proper time to open a big expensive Ribera del Duero or a luxurious Priorato.  Stick with modest whites, rosados and light reds. The regions that you should be looking for include Rueda, Rioja and Navarra.

The drinks that you will have before the Paella are as important as the wines that you will have during the main meal. While preparing the Paella, you want wines to go with Tapas. Basically, you are looking for an aperitivo that will stimulate your appetite.  Some of the tapas that you will customary will see include Jamon, patatas bravas or cheese.

 

Cava works best. However, it is always handy to have a nice vermouth in case some of your guests don’t appreciate sparkling wine. Paco used to like to drink Johnnie Walker black label, a custom that he adopted from the Venezuelan natives. However, avoid having any spirits before, otherwise you will be drunk by the time you eat the Paella.

Here is my personal suggestions, on the wines you should have with paella:

Wines to have while making the Paella

Parés Baltà Blanca Cusiné Penedès 2010. SAQ Code # 12591021. $35.25

Delicate notes of honey, nougat with toasty notes of hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts. On the mouth, very fine with a silky texture and smooth bubble bringing to mind white fruits and ripe fruits. Long and tasty finale.

Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth Rouge.  SAQ Code # 13137647. $24.35

Lovely aperitivo starting on blood oranges with hints of clove and cinnamon. On the palate, it is sweet but not overdone. Flavors bringing to mind Italian Chinotto. Light, minty and very balanced.

Wines to have while eating the Paella

Whites:

Compania de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez. Basa Rueda 2016. SAQ # 10264018. $16.20

Broding yellow fruits, mountain herbs such as  chamomille, Fresh and zesty. elegant and quite balanced. Drinking very easy and dangerously.

Hermanos Lurton Rueda 2015. SAQ #  00727198. $15.60

Zesty with a nectarine-peach character on the nose. On the mouth, crisp and  subtle with a round almost creamy texture. Flavors bring to mind fennel and white orchard fruit. Very elegant with a long finale bringing to mind tropical fruits. 

Reds:

Rioja Cune Crianza 2012. SAQ # 13087248. $15.25

Delicious tones of black fruits such as cherry, c assis and prunes. Well spiced bouquet bringing to mind paprika, cofee bean. Fresh and ample in the mouth with generous tannins.

El Albar Barricas Toro 2000. ( Private Import, $26.95, vins fins)

 If your Paella has spicy chorizo or rabbit, this aged Toro could be a wonderful partner. On the nose, sultana raisins, cacao, black truffle with lots of floral undertones. Quite elegant, and round with mature tannins.

After the paella, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and balsamic vinegar condiment:

Pedro Ximenez de añada 2013. SAQ # 12653869. $21.80

Nose on the typical  Pedro Ximenez variety bringing to mind raisins and plums. Lovely orange peel (evolving towards marmelade) and a hint of apple blossom. Some candied tangerine and hints of fresh corinth grapes develop with time in the glass. The mouth is very sweet, bringing to mindcaramel and brown sugar flavours. Also dominant  notes of membrillo, the quince jelly they make in Andalucia. Very long with an aftertaste that brings to mind sweet almond paste.

 

 

 

 

A wine for each can of preserves

conservas

They are always there. In some lonely house drawer, or in our pantry. They are a fast solution when we are very hungry or when do we receive an unexpected visit. I am taking about tin cans. For years they,  have been underestimated perhaps for being too practical and for their mundane presence in all the houses, but for a while their quality has been improving  and they have become in some cases true objects of desire.

Not long ago  I read an article on tin cans in the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo. The title was: Latas de conserva: de comida de subsistencia a producto de culto. In english, it means: Tin Cans: from subsistence fare to cult products. The article explains well the high quality and almost artisanal aspect of the Spanish tin industry. I highly recommend that you read it. Having lived in Spain, I can corroborate this fact. You can find amazing preserves for 3 or 5 euros.

In the last few years, the popularity of high quality tin cans has exploded in Quebec, Canada. From every hipster restaurant from Au pied du Cochon to Le Vin Papillon and Maison Publique, you see on the menu a plate consisting of a conserve or two. However, it was not all the times like this.

In my recollection when I came to Montreal in 1994, there were maybe 2 or 3 fine grocery stores where you could gourmet tin cans. I used and still  go on a regular basis to la Libreria Espanola, where they have an excellent selection of Spanish Tin Cans.  Les Douceurs du Marche in the Atwater market has some good stuff as well.

Wines and Tin Cans.

The combinations are endless , due mainly to the wide range of products and flavors of the preserves, and to the great variety of  Spanish wines of  premium quality that we enjoy today in the Canadian market.

For clams and mussels, I like different whites such as Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo Rueda 2015 ( SAQ # 12861609, $14.00. LCBO VINTAGES #: 461400, $14.95) or Paco & Lola Albarino 2015 ( SAQ # 12475353, $17.20. LCBO VINTAGES #: 350041)

For the fish and seafood preserves that involve some type of sauce, I will choose an intense and aromatic Verdejo such as El gordo del Circo ( SAQ # 12748171, $20.95. LCBO VINTAGES # 441220, $17.95). With sardines and sardinillas, I will choose a wonderful rosado such as Torres Vina Esmeralda 2016 ( SAQ # 13204803, $17.00. LCBO VINTAGES # 490920. $13.95.

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What about anchovies?

gitana

Txakolis, would be muy first choice of wine when to drink with anchovies. Sadly, there is very little in Canada and the tiny amounts are only available in private imports.  With anchoas en conservas, I will go  for La Gitana Manzanilla ( SAQ # 12284039, $22.05. LCBO VINTAGES#: 745448, $16.95 for 500 ml. The pungent and umami like flavours of the anchovies would compliment nicely the briny and chalky notes of  La Gitana.

Asparagus and Artichokes.

 

For me, it is hearsay talk is difficult to match wine with the abvove two vegetables.  For the delicates flavours of the Asparagus, I would choose a Baron de Ley 2016 ( SAQ # 10357572, $14.30). A mostly monovarietal Viura, with its non intrusive floral and citric notes will not disturb the delicate notes of the asparagus.

For the picky artichoke, the perfect partner would be another  manzanilla. This time, I would choose the Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Extra Dry ( SAQ # 00242669, $19.45, LCBO #  231829, $17.95. A lovely wine that displays notes of green almonds, tobacco with green apple peel.

Whate are some of your experiences matching preserves and wine?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Tasting the new Spanish arrivals from the Espace Cellier

This week I have been tasting some of the  Spanish wines from the latest Cellier offering at the SAQ. All perfect for the last weeks of summer.

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Marques de Caceres Verdejo Rueda 2015. SAQ #12861609. $14.00

This monovarietal Verdejo  is the new venture  of the prestigious Marques de Caceres in Rueda.  The grapes were picked at night to preserve the freshness of the wine. Very fragrant with exotic and tropical fruit ( grapefruit) aromas and pleasant herbaceous undertones. Delicious and aromatic on the mouth with an acidity that brings freshness to the wine. Pleasant bitter almond final typical of the variety.  Perfect for salads or seafood pastas. 90/100

 

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Celler Credo Miranius 2013. SAQ #  12866557. $19.80

Miranius is the name of a fox that lurks around the vineyards and become intoxicated with the aromas of the grapes. Celler Credo is the first producer that adopted biodynamic practices in the region of Penedes.  Made mostly with Xarelo and the rest Macabeo, this wine has an entincing perfume of golden apples with citric fruits, bay leaf and nuances of white stones. On the mouth, it is creamy with an excellent freshness. It perfumes your palate from beginning to end.  Could go well with poultry-based dishes such as grilled chicken breast with Mediterranean spices on the BBQ. 90/100

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Finca del Marquesado Rioja Crianza 2010. SAQ # 12859103. $15.95

From the well-known Riojan producer Valdemar, this Tempranillo is grown on the Rioja Alta from the Briones in the Rioja Alta. On the nose, reminiscent of black cherry, pipe tobacco and subtle earthy notes. On the mouth, it has a generous fruit structure with subtle tannins. Perfect for every day bbq read meats with an excellent price. 93/100

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Castillo de Ulver Bierzo 2013. SAQ # 12865829. $18.50

Made under the direction of Raul Perez, this Mencia displays aromas of perfumed blackberries, licorice with a hint of smoke and licorice. On the mouth, it is polished and long with subtle tannins and a long finale. 93/100. Great with BBQ burgers.

 

Is Rueda losing interest for Verdejo

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One of the reasons that i love Spanish wines because they original. Spain has an amazing collection of wine varietals which are not exploited on their advantage.

The problem that i have in Rueda is Miss Sauvignon Blanc. Dont get me wrong, I like Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, or Bordeaux. But Rueda has a such a magnificent territory in a high altitude climate, so why give such and importance to Sauvignon Blanc?

My sudden uneasiness with Sauvignon Blanc goes with the recent world Sauvignon contest held in Tordesillas. A selection of Spanish Sauvignons Blanc received a warm reception. These included Mantel Blanco and Palacio de Bornos from the 2015 vintage. Other wines selected by Spanish master of wine, Pedro Ballesteros were received well.

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Verdejo vineyards

There seems to be a contradiction between what the D.O Rueda wants and the image that this type of events portraits. The slogan of the apellation states that only Verdejo is the character of the appellation, reflecting the special characteristics of their soil. Although the percentage of Sauvignon Blanc is a mere 6% planted in Rueda ( 2013 harvest figures), it has encroaching slowly but surely in the appellation

Sauvignon Blanc was introduced in Rueda by the Marques de Riscal in 1974. Then, it was felt that the appellation needed a dynamic fresh look in the International markets. Emile Peynaud was brought to consult and being the good Bordelais, dismissed the Verdejo variety. Verdejo is prone to oxydation, and he reccomend to replace by Sauvignon Blanc if Rueda wanted to succed it.

Today, Rueda is doing well in the Spanish wine Industry. The Europeans specially the Germans like Rueda. However, the long term sucess of the appellation will rest of the promotion of native varieties.

And now for the tasting note:

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Chartier Créateur d’Harmonies Rueda 2014. $19.40. SAQ Code: 12831101

Aromas that bring to mind citric fruits, green apples with nuances of fresh coriander and a hint of almond with anis spice. On the mouth, structured and balanced with a complex and refreshing finale. Excellent with seafood asiatic based soups. 90/100.

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This Rueda is the seventh wine of the line of Chartier to appear in the SAQ shelves. This Rueda comes from very old vines of Verdejo ( 75 years old+). The soil in which the wine is born is similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, red pebbles, which tend to absorb the heat and distribute to the vines. Chartier uses indigenous yeast to vinify and the wines mostly spent his time in inox with a short time ( 3 months) in its lees.

Matching wine with salt cod dishes

The idea from this post came from an observation from my mother. The other day I was making fish and chips. For my fish, i used fresh cod which she complained that it tasted anything. In her mind, the idea of savoury cod was the one that was salted and left in water for a few days before cooking. This got me thinking about it, which was a regular dish during Easter when i was a child in Venezuela, so i thought about dropping a line or two about the subject. Coming from an Italian family, this was a traditional dish that we used to have every good friday.

Easter is coming soon and I thought that it would be just appropiate to talk about a dish that is very famous in Spanish Gastronomy. Bacalao or Salt Cod.

Salted dry cod cut at the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Salt cod, a popular Good Friday dish in many parts of the Mediterranean, is cooked many different ways which suggest different wine pairings.

Pairing salt cod (bacalao) with wine is a tricky business, and one can go seriously wrong. Salt cod’s high salinity and complexity of the way it is normally cooked with other flavors such as onion, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, olive oil, etc. make it tough to find a wine that stands up to the  flavors and that complements them.

In this post, I will give 3 reccomendations for some of my favorite white wines. On a later one, I will discuss pairings with red and orange wine.

Here are my suggestions for wine varietals to accompany Cod:

Chardonnay (unoaked) – Chardonnay has a consistent structure and an agreeable freshness. It works well with dishes containing flaked salt cod which normally retains more salt than filets of salt cod.

Carménère –  This Chilean red-wine varietal stands up well to salt cod dishes which contain green peppers, a notoriously tricky flavor when it comes to wine pairings.

Pinot Noir – This grape, known for its smoothness and balance, is recommended when salt cod is roasted or served with few other flavors.

Spanish wine reccomendations

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Chartier Rueda 2014. SAQ Code:  12831101. Price: $19.40

The wines of Francois Chartier have a well established presence in the Quebec Market. This Verdejo offer aromas of pears, white flowers with a touch of blanched almonds. On the mouth, the wine has a pleasant voluminous texture with fleshy fruit. Fresh finale. Will be good idea to pair it with Bacalao al pil-pil. 90/100

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Hermanos Lurton Rueda Verdejo 2014. SAQ Code:  00727198. Price: $16.80

The Lurton brothers are a powerhouse trio. They make wine across the globe in Argentina, Chile, France and of course of Spain. This Verdejo offers a mix of white and citrus fruits with subtle notes of green pepper. On the mouth, the wine is medium to full body. Fresh with more citrus fruits and a nice mineral undertone. Good quality for the price paid. Will pair nicely with cod preparations involving baked onions and green pepper. 92\100.

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Agarena de Murviedro Blanco 2014.-Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. D.O.P Valencia. SAQ Code:  12663101. Price: $9.55

Don’t let the price fool you about the quality of this wine.  On the nose, the wine displays notes of white lilies, hay and citrus fruits. On the mouth, fresh, medium to full body with flavors of pears and tropical fruits. Excellent quality price ratio. Will pair nicely with more traditional preparations such as boiled Bacalao with potatoes and olive oil. 91\100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rueda, underapreciated white wine of Spain

Appreciation can be defined as -.the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something-. For something to be appreciated if we go by this definition, it has to comply with this two conditions. In the Spanish wine industry, there are many wine regions that enjoy appreciation. These include Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Cava. Others are not so fortunate. This is the case of Valdepenas, Extremadura, Txacoli and which brings to the last one Rueda.

Salpicon de Mariscos

Rueda is the favorite white  of the Spanish people. One important reason is that their wines cost as much as half less than their competitors their Albarinos from Galicia. The other notable reason is the character of the Verdejo grape.  It is fruity with aromas of mountain herbs or scrub. On the mouth, it has a volume with a good acidity and its trademark bitter finish. Spaniards love their Rueda with roasted fish and fried calamars. In madrid, it is also popular with tapas of tortilla, ham and cod croquettes and patatas bravas. The acidity of the Verdejo cleanses the palate from the greasy sensation of fried food and has the body to stand to the bold flavors of some of this dishes.

Alfonso VI

It origins go back to the king Alfonso VI in the XI century in the basin of the Duero river. The Spanish monarch is attributed to have developed winemaking in the region. He developed winemaking in the region to supply its court.  After phylloxera wiped out most of the vineyards in the early 1920’s, Rueda was replanted with the most productive grape Palomino. In the 1970’s, Marques de Riscal from Rioja replanted a good part of the vineyard area again with the verdejo grape. Thus, the modern era of Rueda began. In 1980, Rueda was granted appellation status.

Despite its long historical winemaking tradition, Rueda does not get the recognition that it deserves. Well, there is a number of reasons. Geographically, Rueda it is in disadvantage. The appellation is squeezed betwen Cigales, Toro and the infamous Ribera del Duero appellations. All of these places produces red wine. In addition, Rueda is not as picturesque as Segovia and Avila.

Moreover in the 1980’s, the appellation went into a type of abyss as the demand for fortified wines was going down. At that time, Rueda was still growing Palomino (Jerez’s pre-eminent variety) and making solera-aged fortified wines, known as Palido and Dorado (pale and gold styles respectively). But the demand for fortified wines was dying. Consumers were losing the taste for these wines, whether from Jerez or elsewhere, and the price was going down fast. What replaced it was Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc. To make matters worse,  Viura is declining in popularity,as a blending partner. Sauvignon Blanc replace it in  blends and even as a varietal wine. These have generated strong sentiments in the region about their wines becoming international in style. Finally the cherry in the cake, was the cover up scandal in which the D.O try to hide the bad quality of the wines coming up from the 2013 vintage. For more information about this, read the article on El Mundo Vino.

These days the tables have turned in Rueda. Verdejo has become a crowd pleaser and as a result big companies have arrived to add a white to their portfolio. They include Freixenet and Codorniu for instance. But they are also some flying winemakers producing excellent whites such as Telmo Rodriguez or Lurton.

The SAQ carries around 15 different Ruedas between $14 and $32. This is probably not even a drop of wine in the ocean of Rueda wine. More might be available in the private importation network. If you are lucky, you could taste a few in the Restaurant Tapeo and Meson.

From all the Ruedas available in the SAQ, Val de Vid ranks among the best ones. This is a small bodega that has been making artisanal wines since 1996. Their Verdejo that i tasted was their entry level wine. They make other bottlings from old vine Verdejos blended with Viura. They are Condesa Eylo, Eylo and Val de Vid Rueda. Val de Vid is represented in Quebec by LBV International.

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Val de Vid Rueda 2014. Price; $14.35. SAQ Code: 12260281

Impressive nose. Tangy with aromas of lime, passion fruit and green apple with a minerality stream. Medium body,very fresh and vivace.Excellent with seafood salads, oysters and other raw fish and seafood. 93\100. Cannot be better for the price value that it command in these shores.