Wine marriageIn our business we often talk about the ‘marriage’ of food and wine, but I have always maintained that this is often a matter of personal taste. There can sometimes be an element of wine snobbery attached to pairing food and wine, but happily as consumers, we don’t always have to agree with the experts and so if we prefer, can make our own wine choices.

Don’t get me wrong, sommeliers do a fine job, and will often help consumers tiptoe their way through the minefield of an extensive wine list. Wine ‘flights’ were, and still are, another alternative (nearly always offered to accompany the chef’s own tasting menu). These are simply a selection of hand-picked wines, served by the glass, specifically chosen to ‘marry’ with each dish on the menu. Some selections will be International encompassing wines from around the world, whereas some might be a selection of local wines, chosen specifically to accompany a menu highlighting local produce.

Of course the beauty of a wine flight is that it offers the opportunity to taste several different wines, possibly every one a new experience, and not least of all, that each one will make the perfect accompaniment to the food. But what happens when they’re not??

A while ago I ate at a top Galician restaurant (which shall remain nameless for purposes of this story) and selected their best tasting menu. I was offered a choice of two different wine flights, one basic and one more ‘up-market’. I opted for the better one of the two, including five glasses of ‘superior quality’ Galician wines. Of the five wines I thought that two were very good and went well with the dishes. The third, a floral, honeyed white blend from the D.O. of Monterrei was served with a dark, rich, slow-braised cheek of beef. Sorry to say, but this selection was simply not a ‘marriage’ in any way, shape or form….

The final two wines were just….. well, poor and not very well made. A Rias Baixas red, made from a blend of Pedral, Souson and Espadeiro was just unripe and highly volatile – sour and unpleasant. Then finally a “dessert” wine (I use inverted commas deliberately), made I believe, from a late-harvest albariño. Only 9% alcohol, watery, hardly any concentration or viscosity and completely lacking body – ordinary at best, and certainly not memorable in any way. Oh dear!

On one final, more positive note, the food was outstanding and I will certainly be back there soon. It goes without saying however, that the next time I will be making my own wine selections!

Posted in Food & Wine, Tasting

Weather addendum

February 3rd, 2017

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FloodedOnly one week ago I mentioned that the weather had been very dry, far too dry for this time of year. And yes, more or less the following day the inevitable happened – the heavens opened. Since then there have been a few days of light rain, but also a couple of days with significant downpours and the odd bit of thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure. Today strong winds have also joined the party!

Great for the vineyards, but maybe not so great for our guys working out there, pruning our pergolas with driving rain in their faces….

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

LanguageLet me start by admitting that my Spanish is quite appalling. Considering that I been living in this country for so long it is clear that I should be speaking the language like a native (well, maybe not Galician, but certainly Castellano). The truth is that I am lazy, and I expect everyone in our office to speak perfect English like what I do! Our guys in the bodega, maybe not, but our office team certainly. My other problem is that I have satellite channels on my TV – in English, and so even when I am at home I am not learning any new vocabulary……

I’m happy to say that Paula (who is comparatively new to our office), is setting the example by attending English classes to improve her understanding. OK, so she is a good deal younger than me, and still benefits from the mental capacity to learn new things, whilst I conveniently cower behind the old adage of “old dog, new tricks”.

She explained to me that she recently had an exam of her spoken English, and so I asked her how it went. I was a bit surprised when she told me that the subjects allocated for this conversation (with no prior warning) were ‘consumerism in developed versus old economies’ and the ‘pros and cons of volutarism’. Wow! Even as a fluent English speaker (more or less!), I think that even I would struggle with these subjects, not to mention that it really requires quite a bit of specialised vocabulary in order to cope well.

To be honest I thought it slightly ridiculous, and that it would make far more sense to allocate topics more closely related to our daily lives. Of course, I can also add this example to my list of excuses for not attending Spanish classes!!

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

BiodynamicA week or so ago I wrote about tasting the tanks of our 2016 wines, and the fact that that I had decided to taste them on a day determined by my 2017 Biodynamic tasting calendar. I have mentioned this calendar on previous occasions, but just to recap quickly, it suggests that wine will taste differently on different days of the month according to the phases of the moon. The best days are known as ‘fruit’ or ‘flower’ days, the bad days are ‘leaf’ or ‘root’.

I confess that I originally stumbled upon this idea more or less by accident, when I often imagined that our wines appeared to taste better on certain days of the week, but couldn’t really pinpoint the reason why. I subsequently read about the theory of tasting cycles and the biodynamic calendar, and despite remaining sceptical, decided to buy a copy. Of course, the power of suggestion is very strong, and we can all be influenced or have our perception changed by having a certain idea being offered to us in advance. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I find that this concept works for me, and the days that I chose to taste are now more often than not decided by a quick glance at the calendar. And I am not the only one – large organisations such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer, as well as important cellars such as Pol Roger and Maison Joseph Drouhin also use this calendar as a point of reference.

The reason that I am revisiting this subject now is simply because a New Zealand scientific study into the Biodynamic calendar has just been published. “The findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle,” the researchers concluded. The methodology was simple – 19 New Zealand wine professionals making blind tastings of 12 Pinot Noirs, four times, twice on a fruit day and twice on a root day, using 20 descriptors including  aroma, taste and mouthfeel. They concluded that the lunar cycle did not influence their perceptions. (I should mention that atmospheric pressure was also taken into account as some believe that this can also influence taste).

Perhaps the surprising point is that despite these findings, some wine professionals (including MW’s) say that they still retain their faith in support of the calendar… including me!

Cold snap

January 25th, 2017

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Cold snapAfter saying that we don’t get too much frost here in Galicia the last week or two have seen early morning temperatures either at, or just below freezing. Quite naturally these cold nights are accompanied by clear skies, meaning that during the day we have enjoyed wall-to-wall sunshine, with temperatures of around 11-12°C (52-54°F).

In one way these conditions constitute the prefect conditions for pruning (and I’m sure that our team working in the vineyard are very thankful for that), but as always there is also a slight downside. The problem is that the winter so far has been very, very dry, with hardly any rainfall whatsoever since the turn of the year, perhaps just one or two odd days with a bit of drizzle, but nothing more. As I have said before, we simply need more water to replenish the water table.

The forecasters say that we will have rain tomorrow, but if I remember correctly they said that yesterday, and, as you can see from today’s photo, they were wrong!

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

Flu

January 19th, 2017

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BabesJust over a week ago (after consulting my new 2017 Biodynamic tasting calendar – more about that on another occasion), I made one of my regular tastings of the 2016 tanks. Obviously our 2016 wines are still sitting quietly on their lees, and so the purpose of tasting is to monitor progress, check for any potential faults, and eventually, to chose the optimum moment to rack them (remove them from their lees deposit into a clean tank). One of the possible faults that we look out for is reduction. To cut a long story short reduction is an ‘off’ smell caused by volatile sulphur compounds, which if detected, can usually be rectified by simply racking the wine. The problem is that the longer any reduction remains undetected, the more difficult it is to remove, which can result in the wine being tainted and possibly undrinkable, hence our regular tastings.

Happily, I can report that all of our wines are in good condition, and whilst they are still a long way from being the ‘finished article’, they are looking very promising. One of the characteristics of the vintage is quite simply the fruitiness. Yes, of course, we have fruit in our wines every year, but in 2016 (owing to the hot summer and very ripe fruit), the fruit flavours are very much at the forefront of the wine. We shall see….

The bad news is that, no sooner had I completed this tasting than I was stuck down with quite a virulent strain of flu. A week later, after a couple of days in bed and many days on the sofa, I am only now just starting to feel human again, which may help explain why I haven’t made any posts recently. Hopefully, by Monday, I will be back in the office, and normal service will be resumed!

Posted in Odds & Sods, Tasting

January update

January 11th, 2017

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RebajasIf you thought that January might be a quiet time in the bodega then you would be wrong. Of course we have the usual year-end admin to take care of…. (Luisa for example, is super busy closing the accounts for 2016, and to make matters worse, is also suffering from a horrible winter cold), but there is also a lot more activity taking place both inside and outside the building.

Thankfully, many of our customers are replenishing their stocks after the holidays, and so we are now very busy making pallets (very nice for helping our cash-flow at what is traditionally a very lean time of year). Consequently we have to plan more bottling, and so we have now embarked on a programme of passing wine through the cold-stabilisation process (in order to prevent the finished wine from precipitating tartrate crystals in the bottle). Once this process is complete, in about two weeks time, we will make one final adjustment to the sulphur, and then bottle the wine ready for shipping.

In the vineyards we have pretty much perfect weather for pruning – dry and cold, but mostly sunny. In fact, if anything this winter has been far too dry. After the hot, dry summer of 2016, we really do need more rain to replenish the water table. Winters in Galicia are often cold, wet and miserable, our problem is that, so far, this winter just hasn’t been wet and miserable enough!

New Year Fizz

January 2nd, 2017

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GorgolaI think it only appropriate that my first post of the New Year should be about sparkling wine, as it is very common to associate popping corks with this time of year. Without wanting to sound too arrogant I do consider myself to be something of a Champagne aficionado, and pretty much every Christmas and New Year for as long as I can remember, have always pulled the cork on a nice bottle – except for this year!

A few months ago whilst sampling a ‘wine flight’ in a good restaurant, I was served a glass of Albariño ‘espumoso’ as an aperitif. I have tasted (and actively disliked) almost every sparkling albariño that I have tried before, but I had now, finally, discovered an exception! A wine called Gorgola made by Cabana das Bolboretas. I believe that this Galician name could be something to do with the small bubbles that break the surface of the sea creating the foam (I will have to research this more).

Gorgola is made by hand, on a very small scale using very traditional Champagne methods. The bottle I tried was a 2013 ‘vintage’, made using only base wines of this single cosecha and using exclusively albariño grapes – this being the case no blending was required. It was disgorged in Spring 2016 after some 26 months of secondary fermentation/bottle ageing. Classified as ‘Extra Brut’, it was very dry (between 3g and 6g residual sugar), and so there was no discernible sweetness.

Technically a ‘Blanc de Blancs’, it had a dry, almost flinty, mineral fruit, but then a unique characteristic that made it quite recognisable as an albariño to the discerning palate. It had the typical salty zest on the tongue, that gave it a special character, and in my opinion, certainly worth giving a try.

(By the way, the Echezeaux 1998, Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg wasn’t too shabby either!)

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

New Year frost

December 29th, 2016

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New YearAs we approach the end of the year it looks very much like the last few days of 2016 are going to be pretty cold – or at least cold for our part of the world. As I have explained many times before, owing to our proximity to the Ocean, we don’t often suffer too many extremes of temperature. Rain and wind yes, but temperature, usually not.

In winter we normally experience only a handful of frosty days, and so in one sense we are actually quite lucky. The downside is however, the type of cold that we have; quite  damp and penetrating, and not at all like the crisp, dry cold that you might experience in places such as Madrid.

In any event, wherever you are, and whatever the weather, we wish you a vintage New Year in 2017.

Posted in Fiestas, Weather

Christmas wine

December 27th, 2016

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BatardFor the last few years I have always cooked something slightly less traditional for Christmas lunch – often a nice piece of roast beef, which is not a very common dish here in Spain. In a butcher’s shop for example, a piece of beef for roasting is often simply described as ‘rosbif’, and that is how you would order it. There would be no mention of the cut that you might require – rib, sirloin, rump etc., simply rosbif.

This year, as a nod to the British tradition, I decided to cook Turkey, albeit that I did cheat a little – my bird was pre-stuffed with chestnut and macadamia nuts (to be honest, I was quite surprised to find this option). Preceded by seafood and a bit of smoked salmon, the turkey actually turned out quite well, even if I say so myself!

OK, so what about wine? Quite naturally we would usually promote our albariño with turkey, but I’m afraid to say that special occasions sometimes require something a bit different. I recently found a very good sparkling albariño (the first that I have really enjoyed), but I will write more about that in the New Year. Meanwhile, a dusty corner of my cellar turned up a very old bottle white Burgundy, very much in danger of being well past its best. Bâtard-Montrachet, Domaine Paul Pernot 1990 – given to me by the man himself many years ago.

After a bit of surgery with the cork (finally removed completely intact), the wine, as one might imagine, was a deep yellow/gold…. but not one bit oxidised I’m happy to say. The nose was full and fat, dominated by a slightly caramelised, toasted oak and honey. On the palate one of the most surprising factors was that despite all the rich, full, honeyed fruit flavours, there was still an underlying touch of minerality. It supported my turkey ‘gravy’ very well, and I thought was especially good with the smoked salmon.

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

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