In Search of Paella in Spain – Part 1

You probably knew that paella was invented in Spain, but did you know that it originates from the city of Valencia?  Also did you know that sausage, chorizo, is not an ingredient in traditional paella?  Did you know that there are many different styles of paella; with some using seafood, rabbit, rice or noodles?

Come along and read about my experience with paella freshly made today for me, and others, at a conference I am attending in Castellon de la Plana, just a short train ride from Valencia.

Two paellas were made today; one vegetarian, and the other a mixture of two types of meat.  The meat one I was told is traditionally / commonly made with chicken and rabbit.  A very large paella pan was heated over a wood fire.  Vegetables and the meat were cooked in the pan, and spices added.  After a while rice was added followed by broth, then the whole dish simmered until the liquid was absorbed by the rice.  I did not get to see all the spices that were added, but saffron is always one of the ingredients to the best of my knowledge.  Before this trip I had never eaten rabbit, but now I will have had rabbit in two different dishes.  It does taste like chicken, but has a finer texture than chicken.

I sat with a lady from Valencia who told me that this paella was quite good.  I am not too sure I agree.  I think it needed a bit more flavour for me, so in Part 2, I will hunt for the ultimate paella when I am in Valencia.  In the meantime, check out the pictures of the cooking process for this paella, and think about relaxing in Spain with a glass of Tempranillo from Rioja.  Enjoy.

Paella - cooking the rabbit and chicken

Paella – cooking the rabbit and chicken

Paella - the veggie version getting stirred

Paella – the veggie version getting stirred

 

Paella - ready to add the rice and broth

Paella – ready to add the rice and broth

Paella - finished cooking

Paella – finished cooking

Paella - enroute to my stomach

Paella – enroute to my stomach

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Wines from Spain Spill into Consumer Glasses April 4th and 5th

Wines from SpainDo you love Spanish wine, or want to learn about Spanish wine?  There is of course Tempranillo, but there is also other grapes like Mencia you may not have heard of, or what about Spanish sparkling wine?  There is a chance for you on April 4 and 5 through BC Liquor Stores to try and learn a bit about Spanish wines.  The details are below.

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Vancouver, BC – Two FREE consumer tasting events kick off a province-wide Signature Store promotion at BC Liquor Stores Cambie Kitchen this month:

Dates: Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5, 2014
Time: Drop-in any time between 3 and 6pm
Location: Cambie and 39th Signature Store
5555 Cambie Street, Vancouver

The event will feature live Flamenco music by Canadian fusion guitarist Dave Martone with mouthwatering visuals of Spanish wines, their regions and their cultures. Accredited wine professionals will pour samples for visiting shoppers with descriptions of the wines and the foods that go with them. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper wine event without delectable foods to accompany the wines so Vancouver caterer Christine Moulson of Little House will be on hand with the finest in Spanish flavours to nibble on in between sips for all who come out for the fun. As an added bonus, all who arrive to taste wines will take with them a little something. (No purchase necessary.)

Seven wines take part in the promotion, winding consumers through a virtual tour of Spain’s booming wine regions and their various styles:
Cava PARES BALTA – BRUT ORGANIC $19.99 <Karl: a must try>
Jumilla LAS HERMANAS ORGANIC MONASTRELL $15.95
Ribera del Duero TORRES CELESTE $24.99
Toro ELIAS MORA $19.99
Monsant MALONDRO BESLLUM $19.99
Bierzo LOSADA MENCIA $24.99 <Karl: Mencia is a red grape you may not have heard or tried.>
Rioja MARQUES DE MURRIETA FINCA YGAY RESERVA $29.99

TASTE Resto-Lounge Opens Downtown – Food, Art, Music

Taste Resto Lounge chandelier and bar

Taste Resto Lounge chandelier and bar

Last week was the opening of TASTE Resto Lounge at 560 Seymour Street, in downtown Vancouver. It is next door to the nightclub, FIVESIXTY, so you may want to have a nibble here before dancing the night away.

On this evening we were served mini versions of the share plate menu items. Upon entering TASTE, you are struck by the red glass chandeliers, giving a Gothic or Bordello type atmosphere, depending on who you ask. At the back of the room is a long table, where you can sit with your friends, and make new friends, while you eat and drink, and view the featured artists’ paintings on the walls.

Sharing Plates Samples

Charcuterie at TASTE Resto Lounge

Charcuterie at TASTE Resto Lounge

We were given tastings of:

  • charcuterie, with a mix of sausages, prosciutto, capicollo, artisanal cheese, and sweet pickled beets
  • house smoked chicken liver pate with capicollo, pickled beets, pesto, onion marmalade on a crostini
  • bacon chutney with pear and brie stack and a chimmichurri sauce on a crostini
  • a salad of roma tomatoes, fresh Bocconcini with diced cucumber and white balsamic pesto

I think my favourite item was the chicken liver pate.  Lots of flavour, and paired nice with a glass of prosecco.  All of the ingredients, I was told, are local and organic by Executive Chef Renaldo Decembrini.

Wine and Other Drinks

The wine list has a range of wines from around the world, but BC wines were missing.  It would be nice to add in one white and one red in the list.  The food and wine list were designed to be complementary and they have some selections with food and wine pairings on a chalk board beside the long table in the back of TASTE.

On the white wine side, you can enjoy a glass of Marisco the Ned Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, full of herbal character, and have with a salad.  The Canti Prosecco as I mentioned to go with the chicken liver pate. Try the Fritz Riesling or the Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc with the charcuterie.

There are 2 Argentinean Malbecs to choose; Pascual Toso  and Dona Paula. I did have a sip of the Marques de la Mancha Tempranillo, very full bodied, lots of dark fruit and very smooth and silky. Definitely would pair nicely with the charcuterie or their house smoked beef tenderloin.

In addition, there are some BC/Canadian beers on tap.  They also invented some cocktails that are meant to pair with their share plates.  I did not have a chance to try these, but maybe on my next visit.

I wish TASTE Resto-Lounge the best of luck in their launch.

Charcuterie menu at TASTE

Charcuterie menu at TASTE

salad of roma tomatoes Bocconcini and cucumber

Salad of roma tomatoes, Bocconcini, and cucumber

TASTE chalk board recommendations

TASTE chalk board recommendations

Dragon Feast of the Century Luncheon at the CCFCC 2011

Today the Rainflower Restaurant in Richmond, BC was the site of the Canadian Culinary Federation Culinaire Canadienne Chef’s Conference luncheon, “Dragon Feast of the Century“. We were taken through 5 appetizers a savory seafood dish and a dessert. No wine was served, but maybe I can suggest some wines that could have went with these dishes.

Dragon Feast of the Century Menu

  • Drunken Squab Breast and Arctic Char Nanjing Style
  • Dungeness Crab & Lobster in Jade Purse
  • Braised Fraser Valley Duck Breast, Empress Style
  • Tenderloin Teaser in Filigree Cup
  • Yin Yang Steamed Eggplant
  • Seafood Siu Bang
  • Longevity Date Cake

My favorites of the luncheon were the:

  • Braised Fraser Valley Duck Breast, Empress Style
  • Tenderloin Teaser in Filigree Cup
  • Yin Yang Steamed Eggplant
  • Seafood Siu Bang

The Fraser Valley Duck Breast was served cold on a piece of deep fried tofu.  A mixture of enoki and other mushrooms accompanied the duck breast. The duck breast was very full flavoured and the mushrooms had an earthiness.  I would serve this with a slightly chilled pinot noir.

The Tenderloin Teaser in Filigree Cup consisted of small pieces of tender beef along with chopped bell peppers and slices of asparagus. A very nice dark sauce with a bit of pepperiness on the finish. I would like to have this beef with an Okanagan Valley or WA State Merlot.

The Yin Yang Steamed Eggplant was quite surprising with a burst of flavour on your palate.  The eggplant was sweet and smooth with a dark soy flavour and green onion bright notes. This could be my overall favorite dish of the luncheon. Pair this with a juicy tempranillo.

The Seafood Siu Bang was a mixture of seafood wrapped inside a pastry, topped with sesame seeds and baked. Quite delicate with the light flavours of the seafood and the flakiness of the pastry. An unwooded chardonnay or a sauvignon blanc could work here.

We also had a live demonstration of noodle making by hand.  A master chef from Hong Kong came to this event and demonstrated his noodle making technique.  Here is a video I recorded of the noodle making process.  It is quite interesting. I hope you have a chance to go to one of the CCFCC events. Enjoy.

Sangria for Summer!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Author: TamorlanSummer is just around the corner, your patio furniture is coming out. You need something refreshing to drink. How about sangria?

If you have never had a glass of sangria, it is a mixture of sliced fruit, wine, and club soda or other sparkling water. The wine can be white or red, so make a pitcher of each if you are having a party on your patio. Sangria, from Spain, works well with tapas, so try to put together a few classic Spanish tapas, such as grilled prawns with garlic in oil, potatoes in spicy tomato sauce, grilled sausages, olives, cheese, and more.

White Sangria Recipe

  • 1 bottle of a light, unwooded white wine, like Casal Garcia Vinho Verde or a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1/2 sliced orange
  • 1/2 chopped red delicious apple
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Dissolve the sugar with a bit of the wine in a pitcher.  After the sugar is dissolved, add the chopped fruit. Pour the remaining bottle of wine into the pitcher, then refrigerate overnight, if possible, otherwise give it a few hours.  The next day add a few ice cubes to a glass, fill the glass 1/2 way with sangria, and fill the other half with the soda water / sparkling water. Enjoy.  If you like peaches, you could use them instead of the apple or orange pieces.

Red Sangria Recipe

  • 1 bottle of an inexpensive red wine (try a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Tempranillo. Check wines from Chile or Spain)
  • 1 shot of brandy (optional)
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1/2 sliced orange
  • 1/2 chopped red delicious apple
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

As you can see the ingredients are very similar to the white sangria.  So are the preparations. Dissolve the sugar with a bit of the wine in a pitcher.  After the sugar is dissolved, add the chopped fruit. Add a shot of brandy (optional). Pour the remaining bottle of wine into the pitcher, then refrigerate overnight, or at least a few hours.  The next day add a few ice cubes to a glass, fill the glass 1/2 way with sangria, and fill the other half with the soda water / sparkling water. Enjoy.  If you like peaches, you could use them instead of the apple or orange pieces.

Enjoy these two sangria with friends and with food!

Good Gracious Grenache at the Vancouver Playhouse Int’l Wine Fest

When most people purchase red wine, they probably think of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or Pinot Noir. I’m sure that Grenache is probably not on the top of your list, but should be.  During last year’s first International Grenache Day, this grape was given the moniker, “the girl next door“.  She is always around and a nice person but you don’t notice her, until you are smitten one day.

A little bit about the grenache grape, before reviewing the wines we tasted at Good Gracious Grenache, during the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fetival.  The grape is originally from Spain, where it is known as “garnacha“. It likes heat, accumulates lots of sugar and can make wines, high in alcohol.  It can have aromas and flavours of raspberries, grilled herbs, black olives, mocha, tobacco, and butterscotch.  Quite a range of aromas and flavours.  Grenache, as it is known in France, is important in Northern and Eastern Spain where it is blended with tempranillo.  Garnacha provides the fruit, while tempranillo provides the backbone of the blend.

Our moderators, Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris had us taste wines from Spain, France, Australia and California. Our wines:

  • Miguel Torres de Casta Penedes, Spain 2010. ($14.99)
  • Paul Mas Grenache, France 2009. ($12.99)
  • Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras, France 2009. ($26.99)
  • Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2008. ($48.99)
  • Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Garnacha, Spain 2009. ($25.00)
  • Orowines, Atteca, Calatayud, Spain 2008. ($26.99)
  • Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Granito, Spain 2007. ($55.00)
  • 2πR DOQ Priorat, Spain 2007. ($47.00)
  • Ridge Vineyards ATP Grenache, California 2004. (no price available)
  • Langmeil GSM Three Garden, Australia 2009. ($24.99)
  • Yalumba Tri-Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa Grenache, Australia 2006. (no price available)
  • Chapoutier Banyuls, France 2008. (no price available)
  • Seppeltsfield Fortified Grenache Rose, Australia, NV. (no price available)

Miguel Torres de Casta Penedes, Spain 2010. This is a rose wine to start of the event.  Light pink in colour. Strawberry nose.  Light body, off dry, with strawberry flavour.  Low tannins with good acidity.

Paul Mas Grenache, France 2009. This wine is from the Languedoc region of France, which has been known in the past as a wine lake, but is now being known for better quality wines. Paul Mas represents a new, younger breed of winemakers.  This wine was deep purple in the glass with legs on the glass, indicating it’s higher alcohol content coming from this warm region of France.  Slight raspberry on the nose.  Medium body and tannins, with raspberries and cherries.  Short in length though.

Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras, France 2009. Vacqueyras is a small region in the Rhone.  Vanilla, Purple fruit and olives on the nose. Higher level of acidity with firm tannins. Quite dry with dark cherry flavour. Medium plus length.  This is a good food wine.

Chapoutier La Bernardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 2008. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also a region within the Rhone, but has a different expression than Vacqueyras.  C-du-P is usually a blend of up to 13 different grape varieties, but grenache is usually the major component of the wine. Dull garnet in the glass.  Light strawberry, cherry, and olive aromas.  Medium minus body. Light cherry flavour and a bit warm on the tongue.

Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Rioja Garnacha, Spain 2009. This wine is deep purple coloured.  Dark fruit, slight leather and vanilla aromas.  Good fruit flavours of dark cherries.

Orowines, Atteca, Calatayud, Spain 2008. This is an area to the south of Rioja.  It is a very arid climate.  This wine was very deep purple in colour.  Saddle and slight smokiness on the nose.  Quite juicy and fruity cherry flavours.  Medium body, tannins and length.  I enjoyed this wine.

Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Granito, Spain 2007. This wine comes from a high altitude vineyard in Castilla y Leon, surrounded by mountains. Dark cherry and oak nose. Medium body, round mouth feel, with ripe cherry flavours.  It has very dry tannins and finish.  Needs food if you drink it now, or leave it to age 3-4 years and try again.

2πR DOQ Priorat, Spain 2007. Quite aromatic in the glass with oak and menthol. Juicy dark fruit aromas along with some leather and licorice.   Dry firm tannins and long length.  A very high quality wine, but needs some aging in your cellar.

Ridge Vineyards ATP Grenache, Sonoma, California 2004. This wine was brought in specifically for this tasting.  It was not available in the big tasting room, or for purchase in the festival liquor store. Grenache is not widely planted in California so it is a treat to see how the grape thrives there. This wine had vanilla and dark fruit aromas.  Dry up front, with medium body.  Savory and dark fruit flavours.

Langmeil GSM Three Garden, Australia 2009GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.  A blend.  This blend had the least amount of Grenache in it. Olives and savory aromas in the glass. Medium body, with dark fruit and olive flavours.  Soft mouthfeel with low tannins.

Yalumba Tri-Centenary Vineyard Vine Vale Barossa Grenache, Australia 2006.  Darker garnet in colour. Light vanilla, oak, cherry and raspberries on the nose.  Light fruity, raspberry flavours with a bit of spice.  Medium body.  A nice wine.

Chapoutier Banyuls, France 2008.  If you like Port, you will like Banyuls.  Banyuls is a sweet fortified wine. This one is 90% grenache and 10% mourvedre. Opaque purple in colour.  Sweet ripe dark fruit nose with some citrus notes. Lighter bodied, sweet, with dark fruit and spice flavours. Try this wine with chocolate.

Seppeltsfield Fortified Grenache Rose, Australia, NV. Another sweet fortified wine. Light, salmony coloured.  Bright aromatics with raspberry and caramel.  Medium sweetness, with strawberry and spice flavour.  Medium length.

Some Alternative Grenache Wines

Most of the wines were in an “Old World” style, with firm tannins, olives and herbs.  I have tried other, more bright raspberry fruit wines made from the grenache grape.  Here are a few wines I recommend to try:

d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia $21.99 – This wine is light garnet in colour.  Smoke and raspberry on the nose. Petrol, cassis, raspberry flavours.  Low tannins. Very refreshing.

Dusted Valley Grenache, Columbia Valley, WA 2009. This is such a wonderful wine.  Just the right balance of fruit, tannins, and acidity.  The wine was medium garnet in colour.  Cherry, vanilla and smoky aromas.  Raspberry, cherry, and vanilla on the palate.  Medium bodied with a raspberry finish.

Airfield Estates Winery Mustang 2008, Washington  (US$25). This is a blend of 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, and 2% Mourvedre.   This wine was medium purple in colour.  Quite a complex nose, with aromas of cassis, vanilla, and cherry. Medium body with soft tannins.  Red cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and butterscotch flavours.  Medium length.

Brotte Vacqueyras “Bouvencourt” 2006, France $28.99. This is a Grenache / Syrah blend. Medium garnet with a bit of bricking. Caramel, and cherry on the nose.  Medium body and tannins. Caramel, apple, raspberry and cherry flavours.

Gemtree Vineyards Cadenizia 2008, Australia. This biodynamic wine is a blend of Grenache, Tempranillo, and Shiraz. Medium garnet. Nice nose with butterscotch, cherry and vanilla. Lots of cassis flavour with black cherry and spiciness. Firm yet fine tannins.

Enjoy!

Highlights from the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest – Day 1

Yesterday was a day of tasting primarily Spanish wines at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Quite a range from sherries to white, red, and Cavas to choose from. I haven’t been able to get through them all, but here are the names of a few bottles you may want to try if you go to the International Tasting room tonight or tomorrow night. Full reviews for these wines and others will come after the festival on my main www.MyWinePal.com website.

My Spanish Wine Picks for Day 1:

  • Alvaro Palacios Remonda la Vendimia 2009
  • Alvaro Palacios Remonda la Montessa 2007
  • Bodegas Chivite Gran Feudo Edicion Vinas Viejas Reserva 2005
  • Grupo Faustino Fortius Reserva 2004
  • Freixenet Elyssia Pinot Noir (sparkling)
  • Gonzalez Byass Finca Constancia Cosecha 2008
  • Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva 2003 (my favorite of the night)
  • Bodegas Olivares Rose 2010 ($12 bottle of rose is a great deal!)
  • Cavas Pares Balta Blanc de Pacs 2010 (a still white made from traditional Cava grapes. Great flavour. It is organic too.)

Most of the red wines above are 100% tempranillo, or a blend with tempranillo. Note that there are many other wines I could add to this list, but today I’m keeping things short.

Today is tasting room time again. I’ll be trying the rest of the world mainly, and finish off a bit of Spain. Saturday is jam packed for me, attending the New Zealand Perfect Pairings, the grenache seminar, and the Cinq a Sept French event. I hope you get a chance to try one of the above wines, and to meet you at one of the events. Please say Hi. Enjoy!

More Rioja: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva #VPIWF

Rioja is one of the well-known wine regions in Spain, divided into 3 sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja, with each region having slightly different climates and producing different styles of wines.

These 3 regions, and other regions in Spain use these designations for certain levels of quality and aging of their wines. I’d like to cover the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva levels/styles.  Wines labeled Crianza must be aged at least two years, one of them in barrel. Reserva wines must be aged for a minimum of three years, one of them in barrel. Gran Reserva wines must be aged at least five years, with two of them spent in barrel. In some cases the wines are left even longer in the barrel before being bottled and sold in your local bottle shop.  Riojas can be aged in either French or American oak barrels.

These classes of wines can also be broken down by style: classical vs modern.  The Classical style is characterised by longer aging in older barrels, often American oak. They are elegant, structured wines and often have a slight oxidized character. Their fruit tends to be subdued, lean and elegant, an effect of the long oak aging.  Modern style Riojas have shorter aging times in newer oak, often in French oak or a mixture of French and American oak. They are fruit driven wines, with support by the oak structure. Though they are fruit driven, they still retain elegance and balanced acidity. Both styles have their place in your cellar.

There are a wide range of Spanish wines at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Although I don’t have the list of wines and wineries, I am sure that there will be a mix of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva wines, as well as classical and modern styles. If they are attending, I would say to check out the tables from Bodegas Ysios, Marques de Riscal, Bodegas Muga, Marques de Murrieta, Miquel Merino, Vina Real, Bodegas Baigorri, and Bodegas Martinez Corta.

Enjoy!

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!

Being Impressed at the G7 Wines of Portugal Tasting – Part 2

In my last blog I introduced you to some white wines from Portugal. I didn’t mention, but should have, that the white wines of Northern Portugal, are well-known by the name Vinho Verde. (There are also some red Vinho Verde, but maybe I’ll talk about that another time).

In Part 2 of Being Impressed at the G7 Wines of Portugal Tasting, I would like to talk about the red wines made from the Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Baga grapes, and some food and wine pairings we enjoyed. I mentioned in Part 1 that there are approximately 256 different vitis vinifera grape varieties in Portugal. I wondered with this much variety, how many of the French vitis vinifera (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay) are planted in Portugal. I was pleased to hear that in the past it was about a 50/50% split, but now, 80% of the grapes planted are indigenous Portuguese varieties. I do like variety in wines and trying wines that are particular to a specific place in the world. Maybe you can say that these particular grapes express the terroir of the land.

Tinta Roriz is also known as Aragonez in Portugal. To confuse you even more, this grape is known as Tempranillo in Spain. The wines made from this grape provides elegance and also some mintiness to a Portuguese blend. The wine I tried was deep purple in the glass with some mintiness and black fruit aromas. It was medium in body, with low tannins. Black cherry and oaky flavours. It is also one of the grapes that go into making port wines.

The second red wine we tried was from the Touriga Nacional grape. This is another port wine grape, but also can be blended or on it’s own for still wines. We tried Touriga Nacional from the North (Douro), the Central (Setubal), and the Southern (Dao) parts of Portugal to see the differences in the wine produced from each region. Overall I would say that the wines had more tannic structure in the north, and became softer and smoother as you went south. Touriga Nacional has similar aromas to shiraz. The Douro wine was opaque purple in the glass. An amazing aroma. Very fruity, black fruit and vanilla on the nose. Ripe purple fruit flavours with some spice and round mouthfeel.

Touriga Franca was the next variety that we tasted. Touriga Franca (also known as Touriga Francesca) is another port wine grape, but also great as a still wine for drinking. It is a very difficult grape to grow. It does not like humidity and is prone to botrytis. It is happy with little rain and is late to mature. BUT can produce a wine with exceptional flavours and aromas if kept to low production. The wine we tasted was opaque purple in colour. Meaty, stewed / dried black fruit, vanilla, and leather aromas. Black fruit, spice and chocolate flavours. Medium acidity and tannins. I was really impressed by this grape variety.

Baga was our last grape variety to try, but not the last red grape that I will talk about. Baga I was told has great aging potential. It is widely planted in Portugal. This wine was opaque purple in colour. Some mint, oak, and black fruit on the nose. Ripe black fruit, a hint of spice on the palate. It was full bodied, with medium tannins and a long length.

The last grape variety that I would like to tell you about is the Moscatel de Setubal. This is the same as Muscat of Alexandria from around Egypt. I saved this one to the last as this grape is used for fortified wines, and we tasted wines from this grape when we enjoyed the dessert portion of our food and wine pairing. We tried a Moscatel de Setubal 1999 and Alabre 20 Anos (years) with our dessert. The Moscatel de Setubal 1999 is aged in oak malt whiskey barrels. The barrels are stored in a building which is not temperature controlled so the wines are exposed to hot summer heat and cold winter temperatures. The wine oxidizes and evaporates in the barrels to provide additional complexity and concentration to the wines. This wine had a wonderful orange and flowery nose. The Alabre 20 Anos, is a blend of 20 different vintages of this grape from 20 years old to 80 years old! This wine has sweet aromas with orange and some nuttiness. Sweet on the palate with spicy and orange flavours. Very round mouthfeel. These two wines, plus a port were paired with an orange creme tart, toasted almond, apricot garni and dark chocolate. It was an unbelievably good pairing.

Back to the still red wines. After going through the flight of white and red wines, sans labels, we then tasted five labelled red wines. The first was the Quinta da Garrida 2007 from the Dao region. A blend of Tinta Nacional and Tinta Roriz (50/50%). Opaque purple colour. Pruple fruit and oak on the nose. Medium body with dry tannins. Chocolate, black fruit, oak and spicy flavours on the palate. Long length a wonderful wine.

Next was the Tinto da Anfora 2007. This is a blend of many grapes, but primarily Tinta Roriz and Tinta Nacional. There is 5% Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend which adds a bit more structure to the wine. Medium garnet in colour. Some earthiness, black cherry, oak, and mint aromas. Medium body, smooth mouthfeel and medium acidity. Lots of ripe black fruit flavours with some spice.

One of my stars of the tasting for me was the Periquita Reserva 2007 (~$15). This is a blend of 3 varietals. Pencil lead aroma. Medium body with purple fruit, more pencil leads, violets, and vanilla flavours. Round mouthfeel with low tannins.

My other star wine was the Follies Cabernet Sauvignon / Touriga Nacional (30/70%) 2008 (~$16). Opaque purple in colour. Lots of aroma in the glass. Violets, black fruit, spice and mint aromas. Full bodied. Good fruit / tanning balance. Purple fruit flavour with a dry tannic finish.

The last wine in the flight of five wines was the Dados Reserva 2008. This is a blend of Tinta Roriz (60%), Touriga Franca (30%), and Touriga Nacional (10%). This wine is made from a very dry vineyard. The wine was opaque purple in colour. Purple fruit and vannila on the nose. Vanilaa, and purple fruit flavours. Smooth mouthfeel and medium body.

I think I need to do a Part 3 to this tasting. As I have 8 wines to go for the food and wine pairing. So stay tuned for Part 3. I hope I’ve enticed you a bit to go to your nearest wine shop to check out some Portuguese reds. Enjoy!