So it was Monday evening in Barcelona. Fiona, Trevor, Treve and I headed down from the hotel to the Plaça Catalunya, and from here down the tourist-infested but still very attractive La Rambla. Then, up a graffiti-encrusted street right just after the opera house we came to Cañete Barra, which had been recommended to us. It was everything you’d want from a high-end tapas bar.
Trevor and Fiona
We sat at the bar, the best place to be, and went through a succession of beautifully executed small plates. Considering the bustling nature of the place – full to the seams, even on a Monday night – service was really good.
My favourite dish, apart from the fabulous padron peppers (which is always my favourite), was a Spanish take on a corn dog. I’ve never had a corn dog, and Treve says that I don’t need to go out of my way to try one, but this was really tasty – a thin chorizo sausage fried in a pancake coating. It was delicious.
We had lots of fried things. There’s something immensely comforting about food that has been fried, although you can have too much of a good thing. So we had some vegetable dishes too, including a brilliant riff around the theme of green beans.
To drink? Beer to start. We were hardly hungry, having finished a gazillion course three-michelin star-type lunch at 5 pm, so beer seemed a good beginning. Although they didn’t have a proper beer list, just a couple of average St Moritz beers on tap. Then we went to Cava, and from there to the Petalos Bierzo: comfort Spanish red wine for me.
The Cava was a new one to me that came highly recommended: Juve y Camps, and it was really good, in a pure, bright, fruity style. The Petalos was its usual generous, balanced, fresh fruity self, and both were relative bargains in the mid-20 Euros, if I recall correctly (actually, the Cava might have crept into the 30s. Whatever).
Such a fun evening, and it was testament to the quality of the Cañete food that even though we had arrived pretty full, we still managed to eat lots over a prolonged period.
The Primum Familiae Vini are an association of top European wine domaines, and we were treated to a tasting of some of their wines, presented by Christophe Brunet, wine ambassador of the PVF and Fiona Beckett, food and wine journalist. They were providing the chat, with Fiona’s brief being suggesting suitable pairings for the wines. She did really well: it’s not a task I’d envy. Fiona’s suggested matches are here.
Champagne Pol Roger Vintage 2004
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. Lively, complex nose with white peach, citrus and subtle cream notes, as well as some ripe apple and a bit of toast. The palate is lively, powerful, fresh and complex, combining delicacy and finesse. So pure with fabulous focus. 94/100
Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot ‘Marquis de Laguiche’ 2011 Burgundy, France
From a 2.5 hectare plot, this is ripe but restrained with nice textured pear fruit and some brighter citrus notes as well as some stony, mineral character in the background. Creamy and with some delicacy. 92/100
Egon-Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2013 Mosel, Germany
From a tricky year with the lowest yields since the 1940s, this is wonderfully lively with a mineral, citrus and melon nose. The palate is beautifully detailed with crystalline fruits and some spicy notes, as well as lemon and grapefruit freshness. Fresh and intense, a proper kabinett. 94/100
Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2012 Tuscany, Italy
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, aged in small oak of which half is new. Tight, fresh, vivid and spicy with firm tannins and dense blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, as well as some cedar notes. Completely closed for business. High quality but a bit international? 91/100
Marchesi Antinori Tignanello 2011 Tuscany, Italy
Youthful, sleek and quite polishhed with sweet black fruits and some grippy structure. Hints of tar and herbs. Still quite youthful and tight, this is already nicely complex with a slightly wild side. Great potential for development. 93/100
Château de Beaucastel 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France
Ripe, sweet, but really well defined black fruits nose with complex notes of meat, liquorice and floral black cherries. So expressive with lovely balance between the sweet ripe fruit and the more savoury olive and meat characters. From a cooler vintage, this has a touch of the northern Rhône about it, and it is fabulous. 95/100
Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 Ano 2010 Ribera del Duero, Spain
Dense, youthful and rich with bold primary fruit and notes of spice and vanilla from the oak. Taut, ripe blackberry and cherry fruit dominate with lovely coffee and chocolate complexity. Still primary, pure and incredibly dense this needs time to come together, but it could be a 30 year wine, and it’s fabulously good. 95/100
Château Mouton Rothschild Petit Mouton 2005 Bordeaux, France
Hmm, old fashioned Bordeaux, and quite bretty, which is a real suprise. But it sort of works. There’s a wild animal edge to the dense blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with some grippy structure and a bit of spice. It has appeal, but not for everyone. 92/100
Torres Reserva Real 2010 Penedes, Spain
In 1995 the King of Spain visited Torres. He was in love with Bordeaux wines, so Torres promised to make a small-production Bordeaux-style wine for him from a small 1.5 hectare vineyard with dark grey, clay-like slate soils. Just 200 cases are made in a typical vintage. Fresh, vivid blackberry and raspberry fruit here. A dense wine with good structure and well integrated oak. Quite primary, and not at all over-ripe, with hints of coffee and spice. Real potential. 94/100
Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 2007 Alsace, France
Really exotic nose with sweet grape, lychee, honey and melon notes. Powerful, concentrated oalate with lovely lychee and spice characters. Richly textured and almost jellyish with sweet fruit. 93/100
Dow’s Vintage Port 2000 Douro, Portugal
Ripe, sweet and dense with nice leather and herb complexity. Beginning to develop interesting complexity. Still tannic with direct fruit beginning to turn mellow at the edges. Grippy, fresh and detailed with lots of potential. Warm, spicy and intense. 94/100
Ferran Centelles presenting at the Wine & Culinary Forum
So here are more highlights from the Wine & Culinary forum here in Barcelona. You can read Part 1, here.
Victor de la Serna
Noted Spanish wine journalist Victor de la Serna interviewed Asia’s first MW, Jeannie Cho Lee, about the future for wine in the far east. There were a number of insights. Jeannie thinks we should look at Japan, which she reckons is usually a decade or a generation ahead of the rest of Asia. Here, consumption of wine has levelled off over the last 10 years. Is there a danger that wine consumption in China could level off after such an explosive growth period? But she still thinks mainland China is a key target market, simply because of the numbers and interest in the first, second and even third tier cities.
What about wine with food, asks Victor? Could this be key to growing Chinese wine consumption? She says yes and no. In the leading cities, the top restaurants have become more wine friendly. They have wine lists, and increasingly they have food plated in courses, served in sequence. But even top restaurants still have the tradition of gan bei, where a toast is made and you have to down your glass, even if it’s full of high-end wine.
In homes? Well, there’s just no room for wine. Jeannie thinks the real room for growth is in after dinner drinking venues, and she’d like to see casual wine bars opening – ‘Starbucks for wine.’ In the far east people tend to eat faster, get out of the restaurant, and then linger somewhere else.
Ferran Centelles delivered a really cool presentation, with some taste demonstrations, looking at impossible wine and food pairings. One of these is artichokes.
Artichokes contain two compounds – cholorgenic acid and cynarin – both of which are reported to alter taste in a large proportion of the population. For many, they modify the palate, making subsequent tastes seem sweeter. In a few cases, however, they make things seem more bitter. This is challenging for wine matching. However, a lot depends on how you cook the artichoke, and of course your biology. Centelles’ demonstrated match with artichoke drew a mix of responses from the audience.
Another difficult match is vinegar. ‘Let’s forget about the idea that vinegar and wine don’t mix,’ says Centelles. ‘It’s not as terrible as we thought.’ He demonstrated this with a gherkin paired with a red wine, which wasn’t disastrous at all. His third supposed ‘no go’ food was egg, but – once again – the taste test showed that it’s a finding that should be revisited.
Montreal-based François Chartier has developed a reputation as one of the top experts in food and wine pairing, and he led a session involving three chefs (Mexican, Indian and Quebecois), titled ‘The end of the geographic barriers in taste.’ This was a cool session with some lovely dishes matched with wine.
Chartier’s big idea is that by putting aroma molecules into related families, he can devise surprising, synergistic pairings by means of focusing on the core aromatic molecules shared by different foods and drinks. ‘If we work with aromatic molecules there is a greater impact than with working with tastes,’ he says. ‘We should combine ingredients linked with the same aromatic molecules, looking for an aromatic synergy greater than the sum of its parts.’
One molecule Chartier chose to illustrate his point was sotolon, which is widely found in foods and even some drinks. It’s one of the products of the Maillard reaction (which occurs when sugar groups are exposed to heat in the presence of amino acids, also known as the browning reaction), and is found in maple syrup, mushrooms and curry (methi is high in sotolon), and barrel-aged white wines, for example.
The three chefs, Vineet Bhatia, Stephane Modat and Daniel Ovadia, all did demonstrations and we got to try their dishes with appropriate wines. It was a really good session, and I’m going to read Chartier’s book and look into the theory behind matching based on aroma families.
Yesterday the 2nd edition of the Wine and Culinary Forum was held in Barcelona. I was here to give a talk on minerality in wine, and I’m happy to send anyone who’s interested a written version of my paper. It was a varied and packed program, and with the exception of my talk, the rest of the presentations were focusing on the interface between wine and food, and how they work together. I can’t begin to sum up the entire content of the forum, but over the next couple of blog posts I’ll share are selected highlights.
I enjoyed the presentation by Lucas Paya and Ray Isle on innovative ways to serve wine in restaurants. Paya has worked for a while as wine director for Jose Andres’ TFG (Think Food Group) restaurants in the USA. He’s used Coravin to serve wines, but with very expensive wines it’s important to be fair to the clients in how much wine is dispensed. So the wine is on the list offered/priced by the milliliter, dispensing it on a set of scales using weight as a surrogate measure of volume. There’s a minimum 30 ml pour.
We tasted the Torres Mas La Plana 2009 which had been ‘coravined’ (neologism alert) on the 29th June by Paya in the USA. As you’d expect, it was very fresh, even with a huge below-shoulder ullage. Paya also talked about the wine list at Jose Andres’ Jalea in Las Vegas. Here the paper list has been replaced by iPads, which enables them to offer the customer a much richer set of information about the wine, and also makes navigating the list a lot easier. He added a concept called roulette (it’s Vegas), where you enter the table size (in people, not inches) and then play. If you don’t like the options suggested (with per head price indicated) you can play again.
Another Paya theme is ‘old is new’. He includes how to drink from a Porron flask as a video on the wine list, and these Porrons have now become so popular he’s had to produce a plastic version for people to take away with them. Other ‘old’ innovations that have succeeded are port tongs and sabres. Paya also introduced the ‘bigger is better’ concept, bottling 18 litre melchiors of Virginia wine from the cask. This is the best selling wine at the America Eats restaurant (you don’t order the full Melchior, just a litre from the bottle).
Isle also had some interesting things to say. One of these is the concept of flat priced wines. This works quite well for a casual/mid-range restaurant, who might decide to offer all the wines on the list at, say, $50. This defuses the pressure that a customer faces in looking at a wine list where typically there’s a big range of prices.
Isle mentioned the innovative list at Husk in Charleston, South Carolina. Here the list is broken down into slate, alluvial, limestone and volcanic. It’s a clever approach that also plays into the sensibilities of the restaurant.
He also cited the success achieved by Paul Grieco at Terroir Wine Bar in making Riesling popular. Grieco devoted a page of his list to Riesling every summer, an initiative that spawned the summer of Riesling movement. In addition, Grieco uses happy hour to promote niche but worth wines such as sherry and madeira.
A nice innovation is the flow chart wine list.This givee a decision path that is fun, and draws the non-geeky people to something that they’ like, promoting engagement with the wine list that you otherwise wouldn’t see.
Finally, Isle reported on the growing trend towards cask wines. Apparently younger drinkers in the USA love ordering a glass from a cask and this trend is growing very fast.
The Cape Winemakers Guild was formed in 1982, and its first auction in 1985 involved 13 winemakers and 18 wines. The guild was formed when South African wine was at a very different stage, in international isolation, with an industry dominated by two big players. The idea was to help lift standards by sharing knowledge and tasting the best wines in the world. The auction gave the members a chance to showcase what South Africa was capable of.
Things have changed a lot in the last three decades, and as the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction enters its 30th year, there are now 45 winemakers who are members. The auction, which takes place on October 4th 2014, will feature 62 wines from 42 of the members.
These wines are specially made for the auction, with a special auction label, and each winemaker is allowed to make 120 cases of auction wine (so if they have two in the auction, they have to split this allocation). They are not allowed to sell the wine anywhere else, but they can use extra bottles for marketing purposes. 72 bottles of each wine are required for samples.
Interestingly, 20% of these wines are sold internationally, although it’s quite rare to see any of these bottles in the UK. The auction takes a 25% commission, and profits are used to fund projects such as a protégée program, cellar worker training and viticulture training.
Here are my notes on some of the 2014 auction wines, from a lunch with CWG member Andries Burger (winemaker at
Paul Cluver) at High Timber restaurant.
Bartho Eksteen Vlockskoot CWG Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa
From Hermanuspietersfontein, this is very aromatic and sweet with tropical pear, melon and passionfruit characters as well as a bit of green pepper. Powerful palate with some guava and pear character and rich texture. Lovely. 92/100
Cape Point Vineyards CWG Reserve White 2013 Cape Point, South Africa
From Duncan Savage, this is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon spontaneously fermented in 600 litre barrels. Fresh and precise with nice focus and lovely crisp, pure citrus fruit. Nicely mineral with lovely purity and acidity. 92/100
Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2013 Elim, South Africa
David Nieuwoudt makes this. It’s very fresh and green, with purity and intensity. Powerful spicy green flavours dominate, but it works. So distinctive and intense. 91/100
Kleine Zalze Granite Selection Chenin Blanc 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Winemaker: Johan Joubert. One barrel selection from 31 year old bush vines in the Helderberg. Lovely intensity with powerful peach, pear and spice flavours with nice density. A bit of toast in the mix, too. Rich and interesting. 91/100
Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2013 Tulbagh, South Africa
Made by Pierre Wahl (Rijk’s Private Cellar). Rich, spicy and lively with lovely pear and peach fruit as well as some sweet spiciness. There’s grapefruit freshness countering the richness and it works well in a seductive, ripe style. 92/100
Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2013 Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa
Kevin Grant has made this from a single vineyard (Skyfields) in the Hemel-en-Aarde. Rich, creamy and toasty, made in a ripe style but with finesse. Lively lemony palate shows lovely precision as well as some toasty notes. Real finesse allied with power. 93/100
Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2013 Elgin, South Africa
Winemaker: Andries Burger. From 26 year old Chardonnay vines, the oldest on the Cluver property, wild ferment. Sweet but taut with a lovely toasty edge to the nose as well as pear and citrus fruit. Focused, fresh palate (no malo) with finesse to the pear and white peach fruit, and some spiciness. Balanced and fine. 94/100
Jordan Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Gary Jordan has made this from the Nine Yards Chardonnay vineyard. Rich, bold pear and peach fruit with some toasty richness. Nice texture and spiciness. 91/100
Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2012 Elgin, South Africa
Andries Burger made this from his highest Pinot Noir vineyards. Clones 667,113 and 115. Sweet, lively cherry and berry fruits nose. Supple, spicy palate with a bit of grip and nice weight. Spicy with a savoury focus. 91/100
Bouchard Finlayson Auction Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa
Peter Finlayson has presented the first Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pinot Noir to the CWG auction, and it’s a cracker. Complex and spicy with some ginger notes and a lovely texture, with savoury spiciness integrated into the black cherry and red berry fruit. Rich but precise and full of interest. 94/100
Strydom Family Wines Triple 7 Pinot Noir 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Rianie Strydom used 10% whole bunch fermented, matured 11 months in 30% new oak. Fresh and spicy with nice red cherry fruit and some herbal notes. Keen green streak to the bright cherry fruit. A really precise style. 91/100
De Trafford Merlot 2009 Stellenbosch, South Africa
David Trafford has selected a single, new oak barrel of Merlot from his Mont Fleur vineyard. Weighs in just shy of 15% alcohol. Sweet, ripe and lush with nice spicy blackcurrant fruit as well as some black cherry. Hints of tar. Attractive. 90/100
Vriesenhof Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Jan Boland Coetzee selected four barrels of this Cabernet. Bright, fresh, focused blackcurrant fruit with nice spiciness. Very bright with lovely focused fruit and real purity. 92/100
Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Made by Carl Schultz. Another 15% alcohol wine, this is sweet, ripe and rich with spicy, tarry notes. A big, rich wine. 89/100
Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Abrie Beeslaar has used 26 year old vineyards, picked at 24.5° balling, made the traditional Kanonkop way in shallow open fermenters. 100% new French oak barrels for 24 months. Savoury, spicy and tarry with powerful fruit, yet it still has freshness. Rich, bold blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with a taut, fresh core, made for the long haul. 93/100
Jordan Sophia 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A blend of the best “Cobblers Hill” barrels and a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe, juicy and spicy with sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a bright personality. 90/100
Ernie Els CWG 2012 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Louis Strydom is the winemaker. Ripe, sweet black fruits with some black olive notes. Nicely focused ripe black fruits dominate with nice balance. Rich and intense. 91/100
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2012 South Africa
Marc Kent doesn’t disclose where this fruit comes from, but it’s an impressive wine. Fresh with some green to the lovely blackberry and black cherry fruit. Great focus with supple, sweet, direct fruit and notes of meat and pepper spice. 93/100
Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2012 South Africa
David Nieuwoudt selects his three best barrels for this. Ripe, sweet and spicy with richness and a tar note underneath the aromatic black fruits. Very ripe and intense. 89/100
Boplaas Ouma Cloete Straw Wine 2013 South Africa
Carel Nel ferments raisined bunches after cold soaking them for two days in lagares. 10.5% alcohol, 183 g/l residual sugar. Sweet citrus, melon and marmalade notes with lively fruitines and nice weight and texture. 92/100
Douro star Dirk Niepoort has branched out in recent years, acquiring vineyards in Dão (Quinta da Lomba, an old vineyard purchased in 2013) and Bairrada (Quinta de Baixo, purchased in 2012). It may even be (and this is clearly heresy) that Bairrada has Portugal’s best terroirs, so it will be interesting to see what Dirk does with them. Dão has very interesting terroirs, too. Anyway, this was my first look at some of the new wines, and I was impressed. UK agent is Raymond Reynolds.
Niepoort Dão 2012 Portugal
Restrained red cherry and raspberry nose. Supple, elegant, pure red cherry palate with some raspberry and herb notes. Still quite primary but shows typical Niepoort elegance and restraint, without lacking flavour. Good acidity and a savoury, mineral core to the fruit. Fresh and pure. 94/100
Niepoort Projectos Baga 2011 Bairrada, Portugal
13% alcohol. Dirk Niepoort has been making Bairrada since 2010. The 2010 and this 2011 were released under the ‘Projectos’ label, but the 2011 is the first harvest made by Niepoort at Quinta de Baixo. This wine comes is from two old plots, one in Baixo and the other a centenarian vineyard in the region, both from clay and limestone soils. Textured, fine and supple with sweet red cherry and berry fruit, and a savoury, grainy core. It still has the Baga tannin, but there are no rough edges here. Such finesse, and it will likely age beautifully. It’s already elegant and pure, but the best is yet to come for this wine. 95/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com
For the benefit of those who just visit this blog, some recent articles from the main wineanorak.com site:
Three nice older bottles opened at the Gonzalez Byass 10th anniversary dinner last week:
Champagne Deutz Blanc de Noir 1975 France (magnum)
This Pinot Noir comes from Grand Cru Aÿ, and the wine was resting on lees for 37 years before bottling in 2012. A yellow colour, this has a taut citrus nose with subtle pear and toast notes. The complex, taut palate has some herby notes and a hint of honeycomb. Very tight, with some wax, lanolin and toast. Savoury and detailed with keen acidity. 93/100
Quinta do Noval Colheita 1937 Douro, Portugal
Powerful, concentrated and intense, this is lively and spicy with astonishing richness of flavour. Bold acidity and lively spicy notes couple with notes of treacle, raisin, old casks and dried herbs, with an eternal finish. It has some of the complex characters that you might find in an old whisky, and it is utterly delicious. 97/100
Gonzalez Byass Pedro Ximenez 1914 Jerez, Spain
This has probably been in bottle for 20 years: little is known about it. So complex and intense with vivid raisin, black cherry, christmas cake and spice flavours. Viscous and concentrated with tar, raisin and treacle, kept fresh by keen acidity from the concentration that occurs with a long time in cask. A powerful, remarkable wine. 96/100
I love Soalheiro. They’re one of the top producers in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, and it’s time I gave Portugal a bit more love on this blog – it was one of the key countries for getting me loved up about wine. I visited them a few years ago (report here), and this 2013 is lovely and bright. It’s a brilliant value in Portugal, where you can get it for 10 Euros.
Soalheiro Alvarinho 2013 Vinho Verde, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. Lively, fruity and floral with notes of grapefruit, melon and pear. Bright and fresh with a pure, zippy palate showing lovely pear and grapefruit. Delicate and fruit driven, and so attractive. 90/100 (UK agent Raymond Reynolds)
Find this wine with wine-searcher.com
I’ve written recently about Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap, giving his Trousseau Gris a positive review. Now it’s the turn of two Rhone varieties, Syrah and Grenache. They’re both beautiful, but my preference is for the remarkable Syrah.
Wind Gap Old Vine Grenache 2012 Sonoma County, California
13.75% alcohol. 420 cases made in two concrete eggs. Sweetly aromatic with red cherries and strawberries. It’s quite lush with some liqueur-like notes, but also has some fine spiciness and hints of leather. The palate is smooth and ripe but has great definition. There’s nice grip here with some cherries and herbs, and a bit of structure. Real complexity and interest. 93/100 (£33.95 Roberson)
Wind Gap Syrah 2011 Sonoma Coast, California
11.4% alcohol. 495 cases made in 17 barrels and 2 puncheons. Thrilling aromatics of meat, pepper and black cherries and plums. Sweetly fruited and very Syrah-like: it’s perhaps a little sweeter and riper than classic northern Rhone, but it has all the delicious meaty, spicy cool-climate Syrah character. Just a hint of green sappiness. Smooth and supple in the mouth. Hauntingly aromatic with finesse and beauty. Silky, detailed and quite profound, and I’d drink this now for the pleasure it delivers. 95/100 (£34.95 Roberson)
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com