Tasty accord: Bocata de Calamares with Cava and Verdejo

bocata

A very common scene in Madrid: people walking around the Plaza Mayor anytime, with a sandwich full of some fried rings that resemble onion rings. If you pay attention on it you should recognize the aroma. This is nothing less than a squid sandwich.  When i was living in Madrid back in 2002, I used to go bananas for this sandwich. Actually in Spanish, it is called bocata de calamares. Every sunday, i used to go the Prado museum, visit and study an specific wing and afterwards grab a Calamar sandwich. It was my idea of a happy sunday. I will have the sandwich or two with a beer.

But what is a squid sandwich exactly is? The squid sandwich is a piece of baguette bread (or a piece of bread), cut by the middle, but not entirely cut, filled with fried squids with olive oil. It can be flavored with lemon, mayonnaise and aïoli. If you want, you can have a beer with it. Simple and delicious!. Although in Madrid, the choice of drink is a beer with this bocata, you can go against convention and have it with a white Rueda or Cava. The acidity of the Cava will refresh the palate from the richness of the deep fried squid rings. Also, the biscuit and mineral notes of the Cava will complement nicely the fried and sea like flavors of the calamar and the white bread taste.

Now, i have not talked at all about Verdejo in this blog. This grape is perhaps most well-known, if it can be considered like that at all, in Rueda, a small region north of La Mancha and the city of Madrid and just west of the Ribera del Duero. It’s actually pretty difficult to find a description of Verdejo that is not linked to Rueda. Verdejo is native to Rueda and is not planted very extensively in other regions. Jancis Robinson, in her Vines, Grapes and Wines has this to say about Verdejo: “Of all the white varieties among Spain’s official top twenty, Verdejo is probably the one with the most marked aristocratic character.” As a casual socialist, that kind of description makes me grind my teeth a bit, but what the heck anyways.

Verdejo is a very food versatile grape. It can go well with a wide variety of foods that range from cured meats to soft cheeses, salads and of course fish and seafood. The site Wines of Rueda has an interesting chart about matching food with Verdejo. You can see it by clicking on this link.

Now the secret for a perfect calamar sandwich is to deep fry your squid rings in olive oil. But not any squid, it seems. According to Alfredo Rodriguez from the Restaurant El Brillante, in Madrid you need whole squids, since they have a higher proportion of water to meat. He also states that the best squids are the ones that comes from Mediterranean waters. They have the softest and juiciest flesh. About this, it is important to go a fish store that you can trust. For the batter, Alfredo reccomends to use the highest quality flour available. He mentions that it is in fashion right now to use a flour variety that contains ground chickpeas because of its low fat content. For the oil, he reccomends extra virgin oil, heated at 220 celsius and not passing 250 degrees. If you follow these guidelines, your squid should be perfectly fried and with a nice golden hue in 1 minute. For the bread, he reccomends that it if possible freshly baked. For more information, you can read his interview to the newspaper El Confidencial. For those readers that are more visual, Here is this video on the preparation of a Bocata de Calamares.

Cava choices for the calamar sandwich:

recaredo

Recaredo Gran Reserva Brut. SAQ Code: 12016288. Price: $33.50

Brilliant with light gold nuances. Aromas of yellow bruised apples with ground cherry jam. Interesting oxidative notes, nutty with chalky nuances. In the mouth, medium to full body. Retronasal flavors remind me of anis and flowers Good bubble with an amazing lenght. Refreshing acidity with lovely floral nuances. Long aftertaste. 94\100

sumarroca

Sumarroca Gran Reserva Brut Nature. Private Importation. Rezin. $21.60 per bottle. Case of 12

On the nose, green apple, lime and other citric fruits with toasted bread nuances. On the mouth, very mineral with a beautiful floral angle. Good acidity. Creamy and elegant with a long and savoury aftertaste. 92\100

And now for the Verdejos:

massard

Herbis Franck Massard Verdejo 2013. Private Import. Importations Syl-Vins.

On the nose typical aromas of the variety reminding me of green apples and herbal notes. In the mouth, medium to full body with flavors that bring to mind to mind ripe peaches. Beautiful lenght with a lovely aftertaste. 90\100.

rolland

Rolland & Galarretta Rueda 2012. Price: $20.85. SAQ Code:  12244889.

Hay, white fruits with notes of tropical fruits and ground cherries. In addition, beautiful green apple nuances. Medium body, buttery and very elegant. Long and spicy finale. A classy well made Verdejo. 93\100.

Spanish Wine Resolutions for 2015

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Like many of you, I consider the new year a time to look back on the previous year, as well as to make a few resolutions. It probably won’t surprise you that a lot of my reflection centers on wine.

For 2015, I will be drinking more Spanish wines than ever before. Spain has been producing premium quality wines since the last 30 years, yet still, in the mind of many Canadian consumers, it is still viewed as producing cheap wines.

I propose that for every month of 2015, you choose at least one Spanish wine. Now here you have plenty of room to pick. Being the winter months, i propose bold red wines from the likes of Ribera del Duero or Priorat. The former makes gutsy interpretations of Tempranillo. Priorat, on the other hand blends old vines Garnacha with Carignan. Powerful like Ribera del Duero but with a racy mineral character. If Garnacha is a grape that tickles your fancy, you must try the ones of Aragon, the kingdom of Garnacha. They offer plenty of floral and herbal aromatics with ripe and velvety palate profile.

Sparkling-Wine

Since St Valentin is around the corner along with skiing season, so don’t forget to include some Cavas. I recently came across 2 cavas from Spanish producer Giró Ribot. They are a family domaine situated in heart of the Penedes  region. They have been producing wine for generations and more important they have Champenois production knowhow since at point, they were associated with the group Remy Cointreau.
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I tasted the Tendencias with 18 months aging and a blend of 40% both Chardonnay and Xare.lo and the remainder Parellada.  It is a cava that has subtle aromas of a tropical fruits along with pears and undertones of freshly baked pastries. On the mouth, it is crisp and lively with an excellent balance of acidity and sugar levels. On the palate, it is rich and well structured. My go sparkling wine salmon tartare
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The Gran Reserva 2008 mare was stunning too. More opulent than the tedencias, this cava has aromas of dried fruits such as raisins, Pine and Macadamia nuts with beautiful floral tonalities bringing to mind Chamomille leaves. On the mouth, it is full body with a creamy texture. Elegant and refined, its flavors bring to mind fruits in syrup. This is a cava that is born in a single vineyard called “El Pont” – their oldest vineyard ( 30 to 50 years old vines). Also the Cava has a higher proportion of Xare.lo in the blend, around 50% which gives the more opulent profile. The Gran Reserva rest on its lees for 36 months which helps to give the creamy profile.

I would drink accompany the Gran Reserva with any seafood-poultry based spanish rice dishes with saffron or oven roasted lobster with garlic butter.

Giro Ribot is represented in Quebec by Armenicus Vins & Spiriteux. The samples were given for press review.

Cava: The Spanish alternative to Champagne

cava

So often, when we think of the holidays, our thoughts immediately turn to Champagne. When I used to live in Spain, Spaniards also tended to follow the same train of thought, and in truth, it was just plain sad. It is the same situation in Quebec, Canada. Cava is to Spain what Champagne is to France, typically of more of less the same quality and always at a lower price. While the most expensive Champagnes will push $100  or more  a bottle at the SAQ, you’d be hard pressed to find a Cava over the $100 , and I swear to you, the quality is always good.

Cava, is a  sparkling wine produced with the same winemaking method as Champagne. The birthplace of Cava making is the area around Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in southern Barcelona province. Traditionally this area been making 85% of all Cava supplied worldwide. However, today’s authorized growing area includes 160 municipalities in seven Spanish regions.

Like Champagne, each house or producer makes a particular cuvée from vineyards anywhere within the demarcated zone. The Cuvée may be one of seven types of Cava, distinguished by the level of sweetness.

Cava’s name derives from the Spanish word for an underground cellar, which became the term for the production method now known simply as ‘método tradicional’ (traditional method), in Spanish, and is now protected, so that bottles do not necessarily have to quote the DO status. This method is basically a second fermentation in bottle.

The story of Cava goes back to 1872 when José Raventós Fatjó was able to obtain to obtain the second fermentation in bottle from the traditional white grapes of Penedès ( macabeo, xarel.lo and parellada).  Besides these grapes others are authorized such as malvasia and chardonnay. In red varieties, Grenache, monastrell, trepat and pinot noir. For this last one, it  was only authorized in the production of pink Cavas, but reforms in the appellation rules have allowed to be vinified in white.

Cava can be classified according to the level of sugar into the following categories:

Brut Nature: Up to 3 g/I and no sugar added

Extra Brut: Up to 6g/l

Brut: Up to 15g/l

Extra Dry: Between 12 and 20g/l

Dry: Between 17 and 35 g/l

Demi-Sec: Between 33 and 50 g/l

Sweet: More than 50g/l

paella

Matching Cava with food

Cava serves is a great versatile drink when it comes to match the four main flavour groups: salt, sweet, bitter and acidic. It’s also a great match for fatty foods, as the carbon dioxide bubbles help to refresh the palate. This come very handy as the menus in the holiday season tend to be laden with rich plates such as Turkey, Meat Pie, creamy seafood dishes, etc. Here are some food items in which you can match Cava.

Salads: salads with fruit (especially grapes, apples and pears) and the growing range of vinegars such as Cava vinegar make Cava an ideal choice. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut, Brut Reserva)

Pasta: the neutral flavour of pasta makes it easy to combine with almost any variety of Cava. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature, Brut, Extra Brut Reserva)

Rice: One of the best and classic matches. This is a clear example of Cava as a “conductor” of flavours. Cava goes particularly well with paellas and risottos. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut, Extra Brut, Rosé)

Seafood: Cava helps to enhance the flavour intensity of seafood and shellfish as their natural saltiness is balanced out by the acidity of dry varieties. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature Reserva, Brut Gran Reserva)

Fish: a particularly good combination with blue or fatty fish, as the effect of the carbon dioxide balances the greasy sensation in the mouth. ‘Meatier’ fish such as tuna also goes very well with Cava. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature/Brut, Cava Reserva Brut Nature/Brut)

Meat: Cava goes fantastically with poultry and white meats. It’s also a tasty accompaniment to lamb, stews and carpaccio. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature, Brut Gran Reserva, Rosé)

Desserts: light, sweet desserts and acidic red fruit flavours match nicely with Cavas that are drier. The flavours of long aged varieties are a perfect match with desserts in general, and sweet Cavas are a pleasant accompaniment to custard-based or creamy dishes. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut, Demi-sec, Sweet, Rosé).

The Cavas reviewed below were either purchased or given by their importers for review.

Freixenet Elyssia N/V. Represented by Élixirs vins et spiritueux

Light clear gold colour. On the nose, aromas of roasted nuts and white peach with layers of honey and creamy guava dessert. In the mouth, good size bubble, medium body with flavors of grapefruit, lime peel and fruit orchards. Nice length with a mineral aftertaste. 92/100.

Villa Conchi Brut Selección Cava N/V. Philippe Dandurand Wines.

Light hay colour.Yeasty with lemon and floral undertones. In the mouth, medium body with a ripe and generous fruit structure. Great balance between  the fruit and the toast components Tasty and fruity finale. 89\100

Villa Conchi Brut Rosado N/V.Philippe Dandurand Wines.

Beautiful cherry colour. Aromas of ripe red fruits and spices. In the mouth, medium body, refreshing with fine and persistent bubbles. Elegant with a nice acidity. Long aftertaste.90\100.

Codorniu, Selección Raventós Brut N/V. Les Sélections François Fréchette

On the nose, aromas of tropical fruits, with lots of flowers nuances. In the mouth, very fine bubble.  Well balanced and elegant with a buttery texture and flavors of apple with hints of nuts and honey. Delicate and complex. One of my all time favorite cavas. 92\100

Parés Baltà Cava Brut N/V. Trialto

Pale Yellow colour. Aromas of toast with pear and apple fruit. In the mouth, medium body, elegant with a delicate pleasant finish. 90\100