The joys of winter BBQ with wine



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.


Spanish winter reds to survive January


The start of winter was clement in Quebec in the last week of December. I was warm enough just wearing a sweater and a shirt. However, when the thermometer drop to -25c as this week in some parts of qc, it is time to take out the heavy jacket.

Here are my reccomendations on what to drink for what could be the coldest month of winter. All this wines should be drank with copious amount of meat and bean stews to reconfort yourselves.

I tasted some of these wines at the latest Grande degustation in November 2015.The vintages that i tasted might not be in the SAQ shelves. Also some of the wines are available in the private market only.So if you are reading this blog in Quebec, grab what you can find. For my international audience, use wine searcher

Vina Herminia Excelsus 2012. Rioja. SAQ Code:  12278296. Price: $23.95

Lovely leafy blackcurrant fruit with violets undertones. On the mouth, the wine is full body and quite modern. Flavors bring to mind sultry vivid black fruit aromas. Luscious with ripe tannins.

Vina Herminia Reserva 2010. Rioja. SAQ Code:  12604119. Price: $24.95

Traditional Spanish nose. Dry spices, black jam fruit, seasoned american wood. Full body with a modern profile. Sweet ripe fruit with silky tannins. Beautiful balance with a nice concentration.

Mas Igneus FA112 2011. Priorat. SAQ Code: 11691986 . Price: $41.75

Black mass of ripe black fruits, pebbles with shades of game and animal nuances finishing in dry spice notes such as paprika, cardammon, black pepper and anis. In the mouth, the wine is full body, concentrated with a beautiful layered texture. Very balanced with a long stunning finale.

Gratavinum 2010 Priorat. ( Trialto, Private Import )

On the nose, massive notes of black fruits, cedar, licorice with lots of candied violets. Very concentrated but nicely balanced with the a i

Tinto Figurero 15 Reserva 2012. Ribera del Duero. ( Private Import, Vintrinsec )

Deep roasted black fruit nose with a strong mineral poise. Full body with an exquisite balance and elegance for all that power.

Milagros de Figuero 2012. Ribera del Duero. ( Private Import, Vintrinsec).

Complex nose bringing to mind smoke, animal with notes of dry black fruits. Full body, with retronasal flavors more on the flower side than in the black fruit spectrum. Sultry and ripe tannins with a long finale.

Wines of Montsant


The Priorat is a county and within that county reside two official wine regions, the Montsant and the Priorat wine region. Geographically the Montsant wine region surrounds the Priorat wine region. The soil is what makes the two wine regions very different. The soil in Priorat is called “llicorella.”  It is a all slate, layers upon layers and said to give Priorat wines their defining characteristic.  In the Montsant D.O. the soil types vary. There are limestone, red clay, stone, and some of the same slate that’s in the Priorat, but only in a few areas of the region. The main grapes in both areas are Garnacha, Carignane, and Garnacha Blanc. Other varieties are grown but in small amounts. A big difference also with both appellations is also the price. While a bottle of priorat may fetch 60EUR, a montsant may cost you between 10-20EUR.

Venus la Universal is the personal proyect of Sarah Perez and Rene Barbier Jr, whose parents are among the founding bodegas of the Priorat, Clos Mogador and Clos Martinet. This is an organic blend of Garnacha, Syrah rounded by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A pretty amazing wine showing the identity of the Montsant appellation.

Venus la Universal 2011. Code SAQ: 11376994. $26.85

Very floral nose. Fanning aromas of rose, violets with lots of red fruit puree and ripe black fruit nuances, In addition, notes of leather and other animal notes with an intriguing minerality. Oak well integrated. In the mouth, full body and quite elegant. Structured wih a very linear and austere tannic profile. Long finale. 93\100.

Not to leave Priorat behind, here is an amazing Priorat that i discovered on the latest Raspipav edition 2014.


Humilitat is made by Franck Massard, a french ex-sommelier turned into winemaker. This wine is a fresh take on the wines of Priorat

Humilitat 2011 by ( Importation Sylvins. $31. Cases of 6 )

Stunning nose of mineral reminds me of schist rock. Also an endless field of violets with freshly pressed red black and red fruits. In the mouth, full body with a fresh acidity. A priorat on the elegant side, this wine has complex layers of flavors reminding me of Porcini mushrooms, woodwar and leather. Very long and persistent finale. 95/100

Alvaro Palacios, Spain Superwine hero ( 1/3)

iron man


The recent passage of Alvaro Palacios for the 14th of Montréal Passion Vin, gives a good excuse to devote a few lines to perhaps one of Spain’s most important wine producers. For me, he is a wine superhero, because he brought back from obscurity an important wine appellation called Priorat. He also was a main protagonist in the revival of  El Bierzo appellation. In 1998, he and his nephew, Ricardo Perez started a  wine collaboration in Corullon, Bierzo. Alvaro is also doing significant work in Rioja with the bodega of his family, Palacios Remondo. In this post, I will devote some time in his work in the Priorat. In later post, i will cover his work in Bierzo and Rioja.

In 1989, Alvaro Palacios arrives in Gratallops along with a group of local producers with the objective of revitalizing this area that has among other things, a mystical past and licorella soils.

What is this mystical background of Priorat?. The first winery in Priorat, Scala Dei was founded in 1163 by Carthusian monks, who introduced vine-growing in the region. The name “Priorat” comes from the Latin word “Prior,” the head of the Carthusian monastery founded in the village of Scala Dei. The monks pretty much developed viticulture for 6 centuries. Their legacy can be seen in the strong wine culture of the region today.

Around the town of Gratallops, we can find the vineyards of L’Ermita, Dofi and other parcels of their property. These vineyards are situated in high slopes. Their soil types are characterized by a type of slate called pizarra. This soil characteristic combined with the great luminosity ( 3000 hours of sunlight per year) that the region receives, gives the wines great mineral expression and generous  structure.

When phylloxera hit in the early 20th century, wiping out most of the region’s vineyards, Priorat was steadily depopulated and remained in a kind of medieval torpor until a small band of young, enthusiastic, and intensely ambitious wine makers set up shop in the hilltop village of Gratallops in the late 1980s.

Rene Barbier, Jose Luis Perez, Daphne Glorian, and Alvaro Palacios worked together out of the same barn-like winery, experimenting with different varietals and blends and bottling wines under their own labels. Combining ancient vines of Garnacha and Carignan with more recent plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot, these young vintners (only Barbier and Palacios came from wine backgrounds) started producing wines of astonishing complexity and power. Outside Spain’s DO (roughly like France’s AOP or Italy’s DOP) system, these early efforts had to be labeled simple vino de mesa (table wine)

Then the DO authorities tasted the wine. They right after offered all four winemakers unconditional DO status. In 2001, Priorat was elevated to DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada), one of only two such appellations in Spain, the other being Rioja.

las meninas velaquez

Las Meninas of Diego Velázquez

I had the pleasure of meeting Alvaro Palacios in 2003, way back when I was living in Spain. It was in the  IV Jose Penin wine salon of the best Spanish wines. I remember him as a very candid man, full of energy and exuberance like his wines. At that wine expo, I had a chance to taste all of his wines, including the epic and divine L’ermita. Yes, divine, because no words can describe the sensations and feelings that this godly nectar gave me. Up to this day, I carry the souvenir in my heart. However, divinity carry a hefty price. L’ermita retails internationally up to $1000. Not only you need to have the deep pockets to afford it, but also you need to find it. The allocations are quite small.


Alvaro Palacios

Although well-known by the most arduous wine collectors in Quebec and the rest of Canada by his  high-end cuvees in Priorat, he stills remain a relatively unknown figure for a lot of amateur wine drinkers. It is quite a shame, since Alvaro Palacios has been turning some brilliantly made wines since the last two decades. Some of his wines are quite affordable and the local media should give him this personage more attention He is one of the protagonists of Spain modern wine era.

The Wines of Alvaro in the Priorat.

Finca Dofi 2001. ( Tasted at the IV Edition of the Best Spanish wines in Madrid 2003)

(  Low yields of 20 hectoliters per hectare, Aged in 100% new French oak. A blend of 60% Grenache, and the rest Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot )

Deep opaque purple colour. Nose quite austere but revealing with time in the glass, a breathtaking breadth of minerality. In addition, ethereal flower nuances with ripe black fruit and Szechuan pepper. In the mouth, full body with a fresh acidity. Powerful but well balanced. Ripe tannins. Finale a bit woody but showing great persistence. Should be at its prime now, but can hold its own another 5-7 years. 95\100

Finca Dofi 2009.  Code SAQ :  00705764. Price: $64.50

(  60% Grenache, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Manual grape selection. Fermented and aged in french oak barrels for 18-21 months Farmed in biodynamic culture)

Complex nose. Fine aromas of oak, raspberry red fruit with a distinctive mineral profile and notes of black truffles and morilles mushrooms. In the mouth, full body with an perfect balance. Silky tannis. A wine with a lot of potential, in a dumb phase at that moment. Drink now or keep over the 20 years. 97\100.

Camins del Priorat 2012. Code SAQ: 11180351. Price: $25.90 for the 2013 vintage.

( 40% Garnacha, 25% Samsó, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 7% Merlot.  Harvested grapes are destemmed and sofly crushed. Fermentation occurs in a mix of stainless steel, cement and large wooden vats. Ageing follows for 8 months in barrels and wooden vats)

Brilliant dark purple. Thick tears on the glass. The nose displays a rich mineral background intermingled with animal and licorice nuances. In addition, notes of dry black berries, smoke and black pepper. Also lots of dry flowers. In the mouth, full body with a fresh mouthfeel. Retronasal reminds me of ripe red and black fruits. Lots of dry aromatic herbs as well. Sandy texture with a long aftertaste. Generous finish reminding me of macerated strawberries. Drink now or keep for the next 5-7 years 92\100

Les Terraces 1999. ( Bought in Madrid, Spain. Sept 2002. Price 14.75 EUR in La Vinia )

Intense cherry colour. Oak dominated aromas such as dark chocolate and pastry cream followed by notes of Cassis, licorice, violets and minerals. In the mouth, full body, round with a generous structure. Retronasal flavors remind of rocks kissed by the rain with lots of ripe cherry and blueberry notes. Long in the mouth with a mediterranean aftertaste that remind me of aromatic herbs. Should be drinking now or maybe past its prime. 91\100.

Les Terraces 2004 ( Tasted on summer 2011). SAQ Code: 10931562. Price: $36.25 for the 2012 vintage.

( A blend of estate grown and purchased fruit. Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in 20% new french oak for 1 year).

Deep and racy nose with a perfect fruit structure. No overripeness and oak well-integrated. In the mouth, rich flavors, well balanced wine. Nice freshness and minerality despite 7 years old. A model of harmony. Ample, full of intriguing textures. Ripe tannins enveloping your mouth. Long flavors of violets with red fruit flavors and nutmeg. Drinking well now or keep for another 3-5 years. 93\100.

The wines of Alvaro Palacios were purchased or given by its agent in Quebec, Canada Les Vins Horizon ( for press review.