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A Trip to Spain – at Barcelona Restaurant in Greenwich, CT

March 31, 2014 8 comments

DSC_0909About a month ago I got a note, which I shared with all my readers – Barcelona Restaurant in Greenwich is offering a special wine education program, called Passport Through Spain – 4 evenings of exploring the wines of the different regions in Spain, of course accompanied by the food. I didn’t have a chance to attend the classes until the very last one – but boy, am I happy I was able to attend at least one class!
The last class was focused on the region called Valencia. Valencia is more known for its paella and oranges than for its wines – but this is probably what made it more fun for me. The previous three classes were focused on Rioja, Galicia and Priorat, and I’m somewhat familiar with the wines of those three regions – but Valencia is quite unknown to me, and thus intriguing.

Region of Valencia is located on the east coast of Spain, along the Mediterranean sea line. There is a number of winemaking areas in Valencia, with Jumilla probably being the most known. There is a mix of climate zones in the region, some been more Mediterranean, and some more continental, but the very hot temperatures are quite common throughout the summer. However, in the areas with the continental climate the temperatures can drop very low in the evening, so the grapes can achieve great flavor concentration and depth. Similar to all other regions in Spain, the quality of wines in Valencia is steadily increasing, with the regions such as Valencia, Utiel-Requena and Alicante taking their place on the wine map. There is a mix of indigenous and international varieties growing in the region, with probably Malvasia and Moscatel being stars among the whites, and Monstrell, Bobal, Garnacha Tintorera and Garnacha Tinto among the reds.

The Valencia wine class was conducted by Jose Valverde, the Sommelier at Barcelona Greenwich, who is the wealth of knowledge and just a pleasure to listen to. We started with the wine called 2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO (14% ABV, 100% Alicante Bouschet/Garnacha Tintorera, 3 month aging in oak) – it was this wine, made out of the Alicante Bouschet, known in Spain as Garnacha Tintorera, which prompted my last wine quiz – so here you can read some interesting facts about that grape.

Here are my notes about the wine:

Color: Dark ruby, concentrated

Nose: Earthy, warm, inviting, with touch of espresso, cherries and pencil shavings, very intense

Palate: Perfect acidity, cassis, almost a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc profile, espresso, touch of bell peppers, very restrained.

Verdict: Beautiful wine, you just can’t put your glass down. Drinkability: 8+

Barcelona is actually a restaurant group, and they have a number of restaurants in Connecticut and even outside, all focused, of course, on Spanish food and wine. It was very interesting for me to learn that Barcelona takes the idea of cultural heritage very seriously – yes, I’m talking here firstly about food, cooking and overall Spanish cuisine traditions. Every year the group of chefs and other people who make your restaurant experience special, travel to Spain to immerse into, to embrace the cuisine, the food, the wines, to learn the ways Spanish restaurants operate. Best of the best is brought back home and then shared with us, lucky customers, in the form of special food and special experiences. The very first dish which was served to us, lucky customers, was the Toast with Bacalao Spread. Executive Chef Michael Lucente tasted that dish at one of the restaurants in Spain while being on educational trip. He loved the dish, and he asked for the recipe. Guess what – he didn’t get it, as the chef outright refused to share it. Chef Michael spent a year (!) perfecting that recipe, but as a foodie I think it was totally worth it. Incredible balance of flavors, and texturally interesting – this was one delicious tapas.

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We continued our journey through Valencia with 2010 Bodegas Sierra Norte Pasión de Bobal Utiel-Requena DO (13.5% ABV, 100% Bobal). Bobal is a unique Spanish grape, which doesn’t grow anywhere else – however. there is plenty of it growing in Spain, with more than 80,000 acres, which makes it one of the most planted red grapes in the world. The climate in Utiel-Requena is one of the harshest in Spain, with very hot summers and cold winters with frost and hail, but still, the grapes persevere!

Here are the notes for this wine:

Color: Ruby

Nose: Freshly crushed grapes, but restrained. Brighter nose than the previous wine, with some black cherries, herbs and tobacco.

Palate: Noticeable tannins, but overall light, open and clean, should be very food friendly. I crave the complexity of the first wine!

Verdict: Nice, simple and very food friendly – will complement wide range of foods! Drinkability: 7+

The dish which was served with dish was Roasted Hen with pimento, fried chick peas and cilantro. The dish itself was very tasty, with all the flavors perfectly melding together – and it also worked perfectly with the wine! All those mild flavors of the wine very complementing bold flavors of Mediterranean cuisine, so this was definitely an excellent match.

Our last wine of the evening was 2009 Pedro Luis Martínez  Arriba Término de Hilanda Monastrell, Jumilla DO (14.5%ABV, 100% Monastrell, 14 month aging in new American and French oak) – Monastrell, which is a lot more international grape than the previous one (it is known as Mourvedre in France and Mataro in Australia), is definitely the best known grape in this tasting group. One problem I often have with Monastrell wines is that they are made overly jammy, with lots of in-your-face overcooked fruit. Luckily, not this wine!

Here are the notes:

Color: Dark ruby, concentrated, almost black

Nose: Closed

Palate: Powerful, coffee, dark chocolate, espresso, black plums, firm structure with spicy undertones, tar. Thought provoking, with excellent balance.

Verdict: Excellent wine, one of the best Monastrell wines I ever tasted. Drinkability: 8-

Care to guess what our last dish was? Yes, Paella! You can’t have a class on Valencia wine and not experience the classic of the cuisine. It was not even one paella, but two – both seafood and meat (rabbit and sausages) paella were served, and they both were absolutely delicious! No, I’m not going to describe them to you – just get to the restaurant and taste it for yourself.

That was definitely an evening of fun learning, great food, great wine and great conversations. There are only a few things are left for me to do here. First of all, I want to thank Barcelona Greenwich Sommelier Jose Valverde, Executive Chef Michael Lucente and PR Director Ria Rueda for the excellent program and great experience of Spanish wines and Spanish cuisine. Also, I want to bring to your attention the fact that Barcelona Restaurant group does a lot of work to educate the customers on both food and wines of Spain, so you will do yourself a lot of good if you will check their calendar and sign up for updates – there are great events happening literally every week! You can find Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar calendar right here – it covers all of the Barcelona locations and even more general events where Barcelona restaurants participate, so don’t think you should live in a close proximity of Greenwich to take an advantage of these special events.

Sommelier Jose Valverde and Chef Michael Lucente

Sommelier Jose Valverde and Executive Chef Michael Lucente

And we are done here. If you are looking for the great Spanish food and wine experience – there might be a Barcelona restaurant near you! Cheers!

Barcelona Greenwich
18 West Putnam Ave.
Greenwich, CT 06830
Tel: 203.983.6400203.983.6400

http://www.barcelonawinebar.com/greenwich.htm
Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC5 Theme, Not Really [Wine Shortage], Australian Wine and more

November 6, 2013 7 comments

Black sheep GSMMeritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #80, grape trivia – Mourvèdre.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about white grape called Mourvèdre. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Name two grapes, most famous blending partners of Mourvèdre.

A1: Grenache and Syrah. GSM is the best known blend with M standing for Mourvèdre. The G stands for Grenache, and S is for Syrah (Shiraz).

Q2: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Mourvèdre-based wines rated in the Classic category

A2: False. A number of Domain Tempier wines from Bandol have 96 rating from the Wine Spectator.

Q3: Fill in the gaps: The oldest, continuously producing Mourvèdre vine is located at ___ Vineyard in ___, and it is about ___ years old.

A3: My answer: The oldest, continuously producing Mourvèdre vine is located at Hewitson Old Garden Vineyard in Barossa, Australia, and it is about 160 years old – here is my source of info. Of course I understand the “the oldest” claims are tough to prove – I’m sure few other producers claim the same. But the age (160) and general location (Barossa, Australia) seems to be generally correct.

Q4: Explain potential origins for all three names of the grape – Mourvèdre, Mataró and Monastrell

A4: Let me actually quote my answer directly from this source: Mourvèdre “first became established in Cataluña where it took on the names Mourvèdre (after Muviedro, the Moorish name for the city of Sagunto, near Valencia) and Mataró (after Mataró in Cataluña). In Cataluña the grape was grown by monasteries, leading to the name Monastrell (from the Latin monasteriellu) in that region”.

Q5: True or False: France plantings of Mourvèdre far exceed the plantings in Spain (no tricks here  – Mourvèdre and Monastrell are used interchangeably, you have to assume it is the same grape).

A5: False. Plantings of Mourvèdre in Spain are about 6 times of the plantings in France.

So today we have a grand winner, the drunken cyclist, who answered all 5 questions correctly. We also have a winner, the winegetter, who answered all 5 questions mostly correctly, with the slight discrepancy on the question 3 – but nevertheless, they both get the grand prize of unlimited bragging rights. I also want to acknowledge my blogging friend Patty P’s 2013 photo project who was answering the questions for the first time – she answered the first question correctly, and I really like her take on the question #4. Great job!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

Now, I’m sure you read or heard somewhere about impending wine shortage. As the wine is ever increasing in popularity and demand all over the world, you would imagine that the report from the good source, showing for how many millions of cases demand exceeds the supply, will be picked up all over the news. And it was. Only the thing is that the numbers are numbers – question is what you do with those numbers. So in case you panicked (or were just amused), I have a very good article for you to read – it is written by W. Blake Gray, and it explains in good detail that no, you don’t need to stock up on wineand you will still find the good bottle to drink at the price you will be willing to pay.

Next post I want to bring to your attention is about Australian wines. It is a pity that selection of the Australian wines in the wine stores is not anything it used to be, as Australia makes a lot of great wines.  This article, written by Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist, is talking about the work Australian winemakers are doing to restore the image of the Australian wines and squarely put them back to the wine stores and the cellars around the world.

Last but not least for today is an interesting open letter written by Alder Yarrow of Vinography to the United Kingdom. Turns out that association of Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America is offering its help to the good people of UK, suggesting that they know how to protect public from the dangers of unregulated wine market (oh, horrors, free commerce!),  which seems to be of concern to the people in UK. In case you don’t know, it is the US wholesalers who you have to thank for monopolistic pricing and draconian shipping laws in many of the states, and overall inability of wine consumers to get the wines they want. So Alder’s open letter to the United Kingdom is definitely worth reading, it is hilarious – here is the link where you can find it.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #80: Grape Trivia – Mourvèdre, a.k.a Monastrell

November 2, 2013 11 comments
215px-Balzac_noir-mourvedre

Mourvèdre grapes, as shown in Wikipedia

The Wine Quiz series does not mean to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engines. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, with the focus again on the red grapes, and today’s subject is red grape called Mourvèdre, also known in Spain under the name of Monastrell, and also known as Mataro in Australia.

Mourvèdre is one of the very old grapes. According to the general consensus, Mourvèdre originated in Southern Spain at around 500 BC. From Spain,  the grape spread into France, where it became popular in Roussillon region, and then made it into Provence and Rhone. Mourvèdre was brought into US and Australia in the 19th century, but it was used mostly for blending or even bulk juice production for home-made wines. It was not until the late 20th century when the grape started gaining popularity in US and Australia, producing both high end blends as well as single-grape wines.

Mourvèdre requires a warm climate and a substantial amount of sunshine in order to produce ripe, concentrated grapes. In the cooler conditions, the grape will exhibit mostly herbaceous and vegetative flavors, not very suitable for the winemaking. Under the proper growing conditions, Mourvèdre produces grapes with expressive fruit (blackberries, blueberries) and gamy flavors, with  medium acidity. Mourvèdre also known for its thick skin, which allows for a good color and tannin extraction. Mourvèdre is used in a production of a single grape red wines (in Bandol, France, and many regions in Spain), as well as in various blends (for instance, it is one of the allowed 18 grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape). It is also used in a production of Rosé and sweet wines, and it is allowed to be blended into the Cava, Spanish Sparking wines (to make Cava Rosé).

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Name two grapes, most famous blending partners of Mourvèdre.

Q2: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Mourvèdre-based wines rated in the Classic category

Q3: Fill in the gaps: The oldest, continuously producing Mourvèdre vine is located at ___ Vineyard in ___, and it is about ___ years old.

Q4: Explain potential origins for all three names of the grape – Mourvèdre, Mataró and Monastrell

Q5: True or False: France plantings of Mourvèdre far exceed the plantings in Spain (no tricks here  – Mourvèdre and Monastrell are used interchangeably, you have to assume it is the same grape).

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Daily Glass: Is There Such Thing As Dangerous Wine, or Carchelo

August 14, 2010 3 comments

So, what do you think – is there a such thing as dangerous wines? Let’s leave all the issues of addiction outside of this conversation, as this is not worth debating – addictions are bad, no matter what the subject is, so let’s leave it at that. So let’s start again – when would you call the wine “dangerous”?

First, of course, there are all the forms of the wine faults – wine can be corked ( smells like musty basement, not pleasant to drink at all, because no flavor left), wine can be oxidized (again, no flavor left), wine can be “cooked” ( this is usually the result of of prolonged exposure to the heat, like transporting the wine for a day or two in the trunk of a car during hot summer), and so on. If you actually interested in learning more about wine faults, here is  very good Wiki article.

Then the wine can be simply not made well. This is the case when you try the wine and you just want to spit, and then you declare a bottle “not good even for cooking”. Not sure if this is the case of “dangerous” we are looking for, but this is definitely the case of wine we don’t want to drink.

And now, let me explain what I call a “dangerous” wine. To me, dangerous wine is the one you can not put down. You take a sip, you say “wow”, you take another sip, your glass is empty, and then in a while you don’t understand what happened with the bottle? Where this all go? Did I spill half a bottle? Is my dog walks suspiciously – but, hey, she couldn’t reach that bottle, right? So what just happened here??? Yep, the wine was so smooth, so round, so it went down so easily that now you completely astonished – but it’s all gone… This is what I call dangerous :).

Recently, I was lucky to come across such a dangerous wine, thanks to my friend Zak from Cost Less Wines and Liquors in Stamford – this is the wine called Carchelo:

Carchelo 2008, Bodegas Carchelo, Jumilla, Spain

This wine comes from the Jumilla region in Spain, and it is a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has very deep purple color, beautiful nose of dark fruit, plums, sweet cherries and blackberries, silky smooth tannins and good acidity, so all together comes in a “dangerously” balanced package. Final verdict:

Drinkability: 8

Try is today, and tell me if how dangerous it was for you!

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