Sherry is a hit at the AKT tasting

I love Sherry! These were not my words although I am very fond of Sherry. This was a phrase that I kept hearing during a Spanish wine tasting that I gave in London last week in aid of the Albert Kennedy Trust (www.akt.org.uk) *.

The conversation turned to Sherry as we were setting up: I looked down at the table to see two decent wine glasses sitting alongside the tiniest Sherry glass. This prompted a conversation with Tim Sigsworth of the Albert Kennedy Trust who likes a glass of Sherry especially at Bar Pepito (www.camino.uk.com), a Sherry bar in King’s Cross. He often meets friends or family off the train and welcomes them to town with a chilled glass of fino.

But back to the tasting… We started with Codorníu’s refreshing Selección Raventós Cava which is a blend of Chardonnay, Xarello and Macabeo. We then moved on to a couple of vibrant wines making their debut from the 2011 vintage – the deliciously fruity Marqués de Riscal Verdejo white from Rueda and Marqués de Cáceres Rosado from Rioja which was brimming with red berry fruit.

After a break to enjoy some tapas, and with the party in full swing, we continued with the red wines. Urban 2009 from O. Fournier in Ribera del Duero was an instant hit with its generous Tempranillo fruit and a touch of oak while the estate Rioja El Puntido 2008, a contemporary wine from the region, offered great depths of flavour and, we agreed, a wine which will be even better over the coming years.

Finally Lustau’s Old East India Sherry took a bow. This Sherry is an ideal choice to end a meal as it has some sweetness; it is a blend of dry oloroso and sweet, dark Pedro Ximénez Sherry. Slightly chilled, this is a Sherry to savour at the end of a meal on its own or with blue cheese or crème brulée.

The tiny Sherry glasses were left to one side. This Sherry’s wonderful aromas, mahogany tones and long dried fruit and candied orange flavours were fully appreciated in a wine glass. Sherry won a few more fans that evening.

 *An auction following the wine tasting raised £19,000.

 Other places to enjoy Sherry and good Spanish wines in and around London:

 Barrafina: www.barrafina.co.uk

Capote y Toros,  www.cambiodetercio.co.uk

Copita,  www.copita.co.uk

Ibérica, www.ibericalondon.co.uk

José,  www.joserestaurant.co.uk

Moro,  www.moro.co.uk

Salt Yard, www.saltyard.co.uk  

Tapas Brindisa, www.brindisa.com

Trangallán, www.trangallan.com

Spanish wines for spring: Cavas and whites

I’ve tasted some impressive Spanish wines lately, some made from grapes that I haven’t previously heard of. Here are the ones that have most impressed me together with a few other favourites…  

Cavas:

1. Conde de Haro NV, Bodegas Muga, Rioja, £15

A delicious sparkling wine based on the Viura and Malvasía grapes, the classic Rioja white blend.Available from: Portland wine cellars (Lancashire), Ultracomida (Aberystwyth, Narbeth), Les Vignerons de St George (Surrey),

2. Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut NV, Freixenet

An elegant Cava with good structure made from Chardonnay, Macabeo and Parellada. Available from: Waitrose and Tesco.com, price guide £14.99

3. Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs Reserva 2008, Codorníu    

A decidedly modern style of Cava and very polished. Made from Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay.  Available from: Majestic plus independents (Dickens House, Taylors Fine Wine, The Halifax Wine Company, Aughton Wines), £14.99

4. Parxet Brut Reserva 2009 Cava, £12.95

A Cava with some maturity; delicious apple and pear fruit with a savoury dryness – try it with food. www.winetraders.org.uk

White wines:

5. Albariño de Fefiñanes Joven 2010, DO Rías Baixas, £15.95, 13%,

A fine Albariño from one of the oldest producers in the region. www.winetraders.org.uk

6. Señoráns Albariño 2010, Pazo de Señoráns, DO Rías Baixas,13%, £15

A focused style and a consistent performer. www.Rhone2rioja.co.uk

7. Albariño Leirana 2010, Forjas del Salnés, 12.5%, £17.95, from some of the oldest vines in the region www.carteblanchewines.com

8. Coto de Gomariz Blanco 2010, Coto de Gomariz, DO Ribeiro, £13.75, 13%

A blend of Albariño, Godello, Loureira and Treixadura from Ribeiro, in Galicia, which is re-emerging with a quality wine offering. Unoaked, vibrant and zesty. www.indigowine.com

9. Louro 2010, Bodegas Rafael Palacios, Valdeorras, 13.5%, £11.94,

A fine example of Godello carefully aged in oak from a talented winemaker. Available through Georges Barbier of London 020 8852 5801

Three wines from Monterrei, the smallest DO region of Galicia:

10. Grego e Monaguillo 2011, Godello, 13%, £10.50

Very pure and fresh – a delightful wine for spring and summer.

Available from: Ballantynes of Cowbridge, Christpher Piper (Devon), Highbury Vintners (London), the Leamington Wine Co., Vins De Bordeaux (Oldham)

11. Alma de Blanco Godello 2010, price guide £7.50, Oddbins.com

Fresh with bright white peach fruit – a welcome new addition to the Oddbins range – www.oddbins.com

12. Pazo de Mariñan 2010, Bodegas Tapias Mariñan, 13% £10.50, 13%

Godello, Treixadura and Albariño come together in a stylish blend.

Available from: George Hill (Loughborough), Highbury Vintners (London), Mill Hill Wines (London), Partridges of Sloane Square (London), Ultracomida (Aberystwyth, Narbeth), Vins de Bordeaux (Oldham), Wines of Interest (Ipswich), York Beer and Wine shop, Wine Appreciation (Doncaster)

13. Tierra Fidel Rioja Blanco 2009, Agrícola Labastida, Rioja, 14%, £25

Mostly Viura, Garnacha Blanca and Malvasía with Mazuelo Blanco, Moscatel and the rare Rioja variety Calagraño making up the rest. When Rioja whites can be as good as this the region doesn’t need Chardonnay…   www.carteblanchewines.com

14. José Pariente 2011, Bodegas José Pariente, Rueda, 13%, £8.58

Fresh from the 2011 vintage – a rich yet balanced Verdejo with delicious hints of quince fruit. One of the best producers in the region in my view. Available through Georges Barbier of London, 020 8852 5801

London’s Spanish fiesta

Sam Clark of Moro, an octopus and other gastronomic delights at the fiesta…

It was a pleasure to meet Sam Clark of Farringdon’s Moro & Morito restaurants last Thursday at Old Billingsgate. He was taking part in the annual Wines of Spain Consumer Tasting which offers some of the capital’s best Spanish food to accompany a wide range of the country’s wines.

Sam was chopping up a sizeable octopus for ‘Pulpo a la Gallega’ which was served with rock salt, smoked paprika and Basilippo Arbequina olive oil. It was exquisitely tender – reminding me of the great seafood that I enjoyed when I lived in Galicia – and a good wine from the region, Albariño Pazo Barrantes 2010 from Marqués de Murrieta, was the obvious choice to go with it (www.mmdltd.co.uk).

Alongside fellow Moro chef Andy Haimes was preparing a tapa which takes inspiration from the south of Spain – ‘Chicharrones de Cádiz’ (wood roasted pork belly) – and, as a heady waft of the spice suggested, cumin was a key ingredient here.

Spice can be a bit tricky with red wines, especially oaky reds, so I opted for another white to go with this tapa – the deliciously fruity La Miranda Garnacha Blanca from Viñas del Vero in the northern region of Somontano (www.gonzalezbyass.com). It proved to be another great combination.

The Moro chefs had decided to keep things fairly simple but seeing the duo putting their dishes together at the table made great culinary theatre.

Several other restaurants were also taking part with their specialities. Brindisa’s Robert Castro prepared a ‘tostadita’ with roast vegetables, mackerel and romesco dressing and Camino’s Nacho del Campo served up an equally delicious equivalent with charcoal-grilled pepper, aubergine, spring onion and anchovy.

For something completely different I then headed to Ibérica’s table to taste the eclectic celery and seaweed panna cotta with apple and cucumber which refreshed the palate. I was then ready to enjoy some classic Spanish cold cuts with a red wine and I found River Café Sergi Arola’s lomo and chorizo delicious with the fine Rioja Contino Reserva 2006 (www.hatchmansfield.com).

Down at the end of the hall several tables were attracting a lot of interest, especially from those who know how well fine sherry and jamón go together.

Two of the UK’s ‘master carvers’– Chuse Valero and Zac Fingal-Rock Innes – were carving up wafer-thin slices of jamón to be enjoyed with something from the well stocked Sherry Bar. I found some of my favourite sherries here including I Think Manzanilla En Rama and La Bota de Manzanilla No 32 both produced by Equipo Navazos (available from The Sampler and Philglass & Swiggot) and Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana from Bodegas Hidalgo (www.mentzendorff.co.uk).

Thanks for the fiesta!

*Attracting nearly 400 people, this celebration of Spanish wine and food was hosted by Wines from Spain in collaboration with the publishers of Square Meal magazine. Guests paid £25.

For more information about Spanish wine go to: www.winesfromspainuk.com

All the Spanish restaurants mentioned here appear on www.squaremeal.co.uk