In Search of Paella in Spain – Part 2

Moving from the small, seaside city of Castellon, I was entertained by the Old World charm of Valencia, and the youthful vibrancy of Barcelona. But with one thing still on my mind: Paella!  The locals say that the best paella is always found at restaurants along the beach.  So while in Valencia, I headed to the beach, with it’s beautiful silky, sand, and sun tanned bodied, and found the restaurant of my quest; “Restaurante La Pepica“.  This restaurant is an establishement to say the least, being located there for more than 100 years, and being visited by such celebrities such as Ernest Hemmingway!  They must know what they are doing with paella, and I was right.

Although Paella Valenciana, made with chicken and rabbit, is the namesake for Valencia, I was on the beach, and needed to try seafood, so I ordered Paella Mariscos.  The paella came, with the rice forming a thin layer in the pan.  I could see that the edges of the pan had bits of “burnt” rice, which is crunchy and one of my favourite parts of a rice dish.  The paella was made simply, topped with prawns, then mixed in the rice were fish, shrimp and squid.  The rice was al dente, but I think that this is normal, as I’ve tried 7 paellas to date and all but 1 were al dente.

Paella mariscos and a glass of rosado wine

Paella mariscos and a glass of rosado wine

Squeezing lemon on the dish allowed the citrus flavours to brighten the earthiness from the spices in the rice, and make the seafood come alive.  This was the perfect paella while I have been in Spain.  To enjoy with this paella, I of course had a bottle of wine; a local rosado from the Valencia region.  It was made from Cabernet Sauvignon, which is quite surprising, but it was very tasty with sour cherries and strawberry flavours and a very smooth round mouthfeel.  A perfect pairing.  If you ever go to Valencia, Spain, visit Restaurante La Pepica, and raise a toast to Ernest Hemmingway!

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Where is Rioja and What Wines Can I Taste?

SPAIN WINE MAP FROM http://picsicio.eu/keyword/spanish%20wine%20region/Rioja is a Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C. Qualified designation of origin) wine region named after La Rioja, in Spain.  The Rioja DOC is inland in the northern part of Spain and has a very warm continental climate.  The area is sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain. Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).  The most common red grape variety for Rioja is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo.  You can get a single varietal Tempranillo wine, or blends with Tempranillo.  Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word, “temprano”, which means early.  This is an early ripening grape and works well in cooler climates. (thanks to Wikipaedia for this background info.)

Tempranillo has flavours and aromas of plum and strawberries to tobacco, cedar, vanilla, leather and herbs.  It also can have a bit of a rustic edge to it.  It produces a medium bodied wine with medium tannins, and pairs well with stews and grilled meat.

Garnacha, in France it is known as Grenache, is another popular red grape.  It has fruity flavours, predominantly strawberry, coupled with a fiery spiciness. Sometimes you get a butterscotch flavour from garnacha.

On the white wine side, Viura is the prominent grape (aka Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca.

It has been common for some bodegas to age their red wines for more years than other countries (e.g. 15-20) years or even more before their release.  There are different levels of aging/quality for Rioja wines:

  • Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel.
  • Crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak.
  • Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
  • Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.

Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.

Doing a quick check at the www.everythingwine.ca website, I located the following Rioja wines:

  • J.G. Carrion Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva 2001 750 mL
  • Palacios Remondo La Vendimia Rioja 750 mL
  • Faustino V Reserva Rioja 750ml
  • Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva 750 mL
  • Marques de Vitoria Ecco organic Rioja 750ml
  • Muga Rioja Reserva Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Montebuena Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Muga Torre Rioja 2004 750ml
  • Roda Rioja Red Blend 750 mL
  • Marques de Caceres Rose Rioja (maybe the most popular winery)
  • Ostatu Crianza Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva Rioja 750 mL
  • Ramon Bilbao Crianza Cruz de Alba Tempranillo 750ml
  • Artadi Pagos Viejos Tempranillo 750 mL

and many more.  There were 29 in total.  The above wines range in price from $13 to $113 (the first wine in the list is the least expensive and the last in the list is the most expensive. Increasing price as you go down the list).

I really enjoy Spanish wines and I can find them at quite good price points.  Try a tempranillo if you have not enjoyed wine from this grape before.  Also, Muga makes an excellent Rose if you can find it.

There are other wine regions to discover in Spain.  In future blog articles I will be covering Jerez (sherry region), Ribera del Duero and other areas in Spain.  Salud!

Would You Like Nice Bubble and More for Christmas?

Today is one of my favourite times of the year. The last Import Vintners & Spirits Association (IVSA) trade wine tasting typically has a lot of sparkling wine and other wines to taste in preparation for the Christmas season. I spent half of my time exclusively trying sparkling wines, and the other half of my time on white and red still wines. There was so much sparkling wine, that I could have easily spent my entire time tasting these wines.

As usual, I would like to pass along those wines that were very good in my opinion, so that you can purchase them either at a government or a private liquor store. Some are at a very good price (sub $20).

Recommended sparkling wines:
Pierre Paillard Grand Cru NV Brut (France). A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. This wine is light peachy pink in colour. Bread and cherry aromas. Light small bubbles with lemon, cherry and apple flavours. Bready, citrus finish. Very nice.

Codorniu Classico Brut NV (Spain) $13.99. Pale lemon in colour. Lemon, yeast and slight petrol aroma. Fine bubble. Off dry with crisp acidity. Lemon and apple flavours. Medium length.

Hungaria Grande Cuvee Brut (Hungary) on sale $12.95 during Dec 2010. This is a very easy drinking sparkling wine from Hungary. Pale lemon in colour. Lychee, crisp apple nose. Light bubble with medium length. Apple and lemon flavours with a herbal finish.

J.G. Carrion Cristalino Cava Rosado Brut (Spain) on sale till Jan 2, 2011, $13.99. A mix of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepeat. Pale cherry colour with a light cherry nose. Cherry and raspberry flavours. Small bubble. Dry with a cherry finish.

Perle d’Aurore Cremant de Bourgogne Rose NV (France) $on sale till Feb 27, 2011, $23.95. Light salmon colour in the glass. Strawberry aroma. Strawberry and cherry flavour. Small, aggressive bubble in our mouth. Off dry. Very good.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne NV (France) $59.99. Bread and citrus on the nose. Very fine, small bubble. Dry on the palate. Lemon, oak, and almond flavour. Long finish. A very elegant Champagne.

Recommended white wines:
Teira Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley 2009 (California). This is a small production organic wine producer. If you tasted this wine, you would not guess that it is a Sauvignon Blanc. You might guess Pinot Gris. This wine is medium lemon in colour. Peachy, lychee, and flowery aromas. Light to medium body, medium acidity with apple and some herbal flavour. Round mouth feel.

Kooyong Estate Chardonnay 2006 (Australia) $49.99. Light lemon colour. Oak, vanilla, butter and citrus on the nose. Round mouth feel. Apple, citrus and oak flavours. Medium body.

Trefethen Estate Chardonnay 2007 (California) $34.95. Light lemon with a green tinge colour. Light lemon, apple, and flowers on the nose. Round mouth feel with cinnamon flavour up front. Medium body. Apple and lemon flavours. Long length.

Recommended red wines:
Velletri Riserva 2004 (Italy), on sale till Nov 27, 2010, $17.99. This is a red wine from the Sangiovese grape. This may have been my favourite wine of the tasting, and it is at a great price. Medium cherry colour. An interesting nose with pencil leads and red cherries. Medium body, round mouth feel with smooth tannins.

Chanson Pere Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2007 (France) $26.52. Light cherry in colour.  Light strawberry and red cherry aromas.  Strawberry, raspberry, cherry and vanilla flavours.  Light body with low tannins. Very nice.

Chateau de Ferrand St. Emilion Grand Cru AOC 2003 (France) $39.99. This is a red wine from the right bank in Bordeaux.  It is a blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Medium light garnet in colour. Nice vanilla, and red cherry nose.  Medium body with vanilla, ripe red fruit flavours.  The flavour builds in your mouth.  A wonderful wine.

Montresor Capitel della Crosara Appassimento IGT 2006 (Italy) $24.99.  This is a “ripasso” style wine, which is made by reserving wine made during the recent vintage then placing this wine on the pressed grape skins and lees in the vats used for Amarone and allowed to ferment further in contact with those skins, to acquire additional body and flavour. This wine was medium to dark garnet coloured in the glass.  Red cherry and vanilla on the nose.  Lots of fruit flavours on the palate, particularly raspberries and black cherry.  Medium body.

Purple Cowboy Tenacious Red 2006 (California) $19.99.  This is a fun red wine, made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Medium purple colour.  Nice cherry and raspberry nose.  Full body with raspberry and black cherry flavours.  Firm tannins but not overpowering.  Purple fruit and cherry on the finish.

There were many more wines to taste, and I’m sure I could have recommended more.  You may notice that there are no BC wines listed.  The IVSA tasting is for new vintages, and new wines being brought into the BC market.  There are plenty of very good BC wines, but none were being poured at this event.  So please enjoy the wines I’ve listed, but don’t forget BC wines.