Category Archives: Spain

THE EPICENTER OF WINE CULTURE IN MÀLAGA, SPAIN

I went to Los Patios de Beatas on Calle Beatas the other evening to check out the wine scene there. It was recommended by Kelly Kannisto of Tannin Trail Tours (LINK) (LINK TO PREVIOUS POST), when I contacted him about recommendations for wine experiences in Màlaga.

Although Màlaga is a wine region, the wines made here are generally sweet. The great dry wines of Spain are made elsewhere.

Los Patios de Beatas is a combination restaurant, tapas bar, wine tasting room, wine retailer, and event location. It is beautifully appointed, has indoor and outdoor seating, and a good selection of wines, almost all from Spain, on sale. Since being in Màlaga, we have had some difficulty finding a good wine shop.

I looked around the space a bit, and asked if I could do a tasting. Àngel, the head waiter told me to sit anywhere in the tasting room/tapas bar area. He and Christina made sure that I was well attended to, even though there were other customers – the exterior seating was full. The main restaurant is staffed separately.

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There is a Enoteca Machine that dispenses wines and keeps them at temperature. The wine list had over 15 tintos (reds) and half a dozen blancos (whites) available by the glass. Eight of the reds were in the Enoteca. I started with a 2005 Tilenos Pagos de Posada, 100% Mencia from D.O. Bierzo (LINK) in northwestern Spain. This wine has a great minerality with hints of dark fruit, chocolate, and leather. Very nice. It retails for 33€ or about $36. Another great value from Spain.

Next, I tried a 2009 Alma de Luzon, Monastrell blend of 70% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah. This wine is from D.O. Jumilla (LINK), in southern Spain not far from Valencia, where the Monastrell Grape is very popular. This wine was rich and chewy, with medium tannins and a smooth finish. It retails for 36€ or about $39.

Next, Àngel brought four bottles to the table – all chilled. Three were Sherry, and one was a local Màlaga sweet wine. There were two sweet Sherries and one dry Sherry from D.O. Jerez (LINK) (LINK TO PREVIOUS POST), where Dorianne and I visited last year. I tasted these side by side while waiting for my tapas to arrive.

The Màlaga sweet wine, a Trajinero (LINK), made from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes and fortified, was semi-sweet, with a nutty flavor and a nice smooth finish. The stand-out was the Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso Jerez Sherry (LINK), probably the best dry Sherry I have ever tasted. Over 20 years in the barrel (they rotate Sherries through a series of barrels so that each vintage is similar – taking some out, leaving some in, and adding the more recent vintage), this wine was smooth, with traces of coconut, vanilla and pear. Really special. This wine retails for 22€, or about $24 per 500ml bottle.

Then, my two tapa arrived. The first, a cod in a sauce that include coconut milk, was an amazing sensation of flavor. The second, pork belly, slow cooked and then the fat removed and a slice of pork chorizo inserted, accompanied by fennel and an apple puree. Amazing! The kitchen here is wonderfully creative and executes that creativity beautifully.

To accompany those, Àngel suggested a 2008 Mauro “Sin D.O.” from Castilla y Leon, made from 88% Tempranillo and 12% Syrah. The wine was a decent pairing with the cod (the coconut made it tricky), but perfect for the pork belly.

Then, to round of a great experience, Àngel brought out two local digestifs. They retail for about 7€ for a ½ bottle. Both were nice, if not exceptional.

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My tab for the whole thing was 50€. I know that a couple of things were comped. One of the more expensive evenings I’ve had in Màlaga, but a bargain anywhere outside of Spain.

So if you find yourself in Màlaga, find Los Patios de Beatas and have a great wine experience. I was solo on this trip, as Dorianne is out of town – so I will be taking her there when she returns.

As always, your comments on all things Spanish and/or wine are welcome.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

SPANISH WINE IN ANDALUCIA’S RONDA

Dorianne and I are staying in Málaga and Granada for six weeks. The other day, we took a tour of the beautiful white town, Ronda. We were going to go there anyway, but found a local tour company that combines your tour of the town with stops at two local wineries. All in all, a very nice day.

Southern Spain’s Andalucía region is an expansive area the borders the Mediterranean Sea on the south and east, Portugal on the west, and central Spain on the north. It includes cities like Seville, Granada, Málaga, Cordoba, Cadiz, and a host of other smaller towns and villages. The topography and climate are very much like southern California – warm and dry inland, slightly cooler and more humid near the sea. It is the home of millions of olive trees – and, where you can grow olives, you can usually grow grapes.

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Andalucian Valley

The wines of Andalucia are often sweet and/or fortified, such as the famous Sherry wines of the area around Jerez (LINK). Málaga is also known for sweet red wines (vino tinto dulce). But elsewhere, small producers are making dry wines out of unexpected varietals in the midst of olive country.

Our first stop was at Bodega Joaquín Fernández (LINK), just 3km north of Ronda. The bodega is located on a sloped property, and there are five hectares under cultivation, with an additional hectare about a mile away. They produce about 5,000 cases per year. Also, there is a rental unit where you can stay right at the vineyard.

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Moises Fernandez

Our tour was led by Moises Fernández, the son of the owner. He gave a very thorough tour of the vineyard and winemaking operation, with great detail on their organic processes. Only red varietals are grown at the bodega – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (pronounced Mer-LOT here), Syrah (pronounced SEE-rak), and Garnacha.  A white wine and a rosé (Rosado) made from Merlot are signature wines here along with some red blends.

All wines are fermented in large stainless steel tanks – a fermentation for alcohol, and then a malolactic fermentation. The wines are then stored in oak barrelsFrench and American, for periods from 3 months to two years. This is regulated by the local D.O. Malaga Hills/Mountain. Another regulation is that Tempranillo, the most popular red wine grape of Spain, cannot be grown here. That is why local wine makers rely on Bordeaux and Rhône varietals. In keeping with their organic philosophy, then do not use foils on their wine bottles. Instead, they seal them with a thin coating of beeswax.

Of interest, they have been experimenting with storing bottled wine under water. Here is a sample.

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After the tour, we had a tasting and tapas in the bodega’s outdoor tasting room that overlooks the vines. We tasted all of the wines produced – six in total. Dorianne and I were both impressed with the craftsmanship here – the wines were uniformly well-balanced, and all were very enjoyable. Two favorites were the 2015 Blanco de Uva Tinta – a white Merlot, and the 2014 Garnacha, a blend of 90% Garnacha & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines sell in the 11€ to 15€ range – great values.

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The line up – note the beeswax seals.

Next, we had a couple of hours to tour Ronda – a beautiful city bisected by a river canyon that runs about 300 feet deep or more. If you visit Andalucía, Ronda should be on your list of places to visit. But back to the wine.

Our second stop would include lunch. We were driven a few kilometers out of town to a small bodega called Bodega Garcia Hildago, a small producer – about 1,000 cases annually. Here, we received a tour by Miguel Hildago, the owner and then a four-course lunch with some of his wines. His wife is an amazing cook, but she was away for the day, so he served the food that she had prepared earlier at a table on the patio of their beautiful home.

Miguel grows the same varietals as Bodega Joaquín Fernández, on about 2 hectares on his property. A few of his wines are in local restaurants, but otherwise, you have to visit the bodega to enjoy them. He makes four wines using organic techniques in his vineyard.

We particularly enjoyed his 2014 Zabel de Alcobazin, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. It was rich, full bodied, and had a nice hint of minerality to it. There was a good tannin structure, so it should age well. It sells for 14€.

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Our tour company, Tannin Trail (LINK), offered a great experience. The van was comfortable (only two couples on the tour, which may have been a factor), the guide, Kelly, who originates from South Africa and has lived in Spain for eight years, was very knowledgeable about the local viniculture and the wines of the region, and the two bodega stops were interesting and fun. The tour company is in the process of expanding their operations to the Rioja Region as well, and have been re-branding from Trippy Vines to Tannin Trail during that time. Their Tripadvisor.com ratings are also excellent (LINK).

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It was good to get out and visit some of the wine makers who are making dry wines in this area of mostly sweet wine production. To be sure, Andalucía has a lot to offer.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

SPANISH WINES HAVE A MARKETING PROBLEM

Here is an excellent article from Fortune.com on issues with marketing the wines of Spain. I have always said that Spanish Wines are the best value in the world today. We recently spent six weeks in Spain and had amazing wines from a variety of regions at very reasonable prices.

Here is a quote from the article:

“The Spanish wine industry’s exporting issues, which have long been a source of concern, have come to the fore in recent years. Spanish wine exports have tripled since 1995, And last year, exports grew 22.4% to 2.3 billion liters, according to the Spanish Observatory of Wine Markets (OEMV), helping the country pass Italy as the world’s biggest wine exporter by volume.

“The problem is that exports have been dominated by low-price/low-profit bulk wine, which accounted for 55% of Spain’s export volume last year.

“Spain’s biggest market in 2014 was France, which bought 518 million liters of Spanish wine—for only €0.47 per liter (about $0.53). Much of that bulk wine shipped to France was then bottled, marked up, and resold as a French product.”

(LINK TO FULL ARTICLE)

Here are a few photos I took in Spain.

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6 WEEKS IN SPAIN – SUMMING UP

Our trip to Spain has been a wonderful experience. Madrid, Seville, Jerez, Cordoba, Sitges, and Barcelona – each unique and each an expression of the overall Spanish culture and way of life. And the wines! We stayed mostly in AirBnB.com (LINK) apartments with a couple of hotels for shorter stays. We walked almost everywhere and used the trains and busses – we only had a rental car for one week.

We began with five days in Madrid, the capital and one of Europe’s great cities. We stayed near the old town and the Palau  Real (Royal Palace), where there were a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs. Madrid also has the high-end nightlife of a major city, although things are still a bit depressed here as the overall economy struggles to recover from the recession that hit Spain particularly hard. That said, it is a magnificent place to visit and we will surely return for a longer stay. The Prado Museum is among the very best in the world.

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Tapas is the king of food in Spain, and since the recession, these small plates of nearly infinite variety have moved from the status of late afternoon or late night snack to the evening’s repast. The variety and quality of Tapas at the many small tapas bars and cafes is simply astounding. And there is inexpensive and very good wine everywhere! During our stay in Spain, we probably averaged 2 euros a “copa” or glass. On most wine lists in the tapas bars, ALL of the wines were under 20 euros a bottle (and the dollar and euro are currently nearly at par)! So a Tapas dinner for two – three to five plates and two to three glasses of wine each – was almost always under 20 euros. This was true everywhere we went. There are more expensive places to eat, but the vast majority of food establishments in Spain are very, very reasonable.

After five days in Madrid, it was onto the Renfe High Speed Train for a nice ride down to Seville (Sevilla), the largest city in southern Spain’s Andalusia area. Seville is a gem of a city with a great history and a bustling food and wine scene. It is a home of Flamenco, and we saw some amazing shows while in town. We stayed for 3 1/2 weeks in an AirBnB.com apartment near the center of the old town. We were literally surrounded with history and the hustle and bustle of a busy city.We explored the city’s Tapas bars, the Arabian Spas, the Mercados (markets), along with the many historical and religious sites. We could have stayed longer. The people are amazingly welcoming, very proud of their city and their culture. We met many locals through our AirBnb host.

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While in Seville, we did side trips. One was a weekend in Jerez, the center of Andalusian Sherry production. Jerez is like a mini Seville with a historical city center, but with numerous Bodegas where Sherry is produced and Tabacons, bars where Sherry is served out of the cask and where, frequently, Flamenco shows are staged. It is also home to the Royal Andalusian Horse Training Center, which we visited for a performance.

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After Seville, we flew to Barcelona’s Airport (BCN), but did not go right to Barcelona. We rented a car and went south a bit to Sitges, a wonderful Mediterranean Beach Community. Sitges reminds me of the French Riviera, only it has sandy beaches and that amazingly inexpensive Spanishn food and wine. We stayed at a beachfront hotel for seven nights and explored the food and wine scene a bit. Sitges is near the Penedès D.O. (LINK) wine region. You can read about our winery visits there here (LINK) and here (LINK). Sitges was relaxing and enjoyable.

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Then it was on to Barcelona for the final week in Spain. This was my third visit to this wonderful city. Part of the reason that we came was that both Dorianne and I were presenting at a conference at the ESADE Business School (LINK) on Spirituality and Creativity in Management. We still managed to squeeze in some wonderful food and wine, though. Also, Barcelona is home to all things Gaudi – that’s Antoni Gaudi (LINK), the genius visionary architect and designer. We stayed a bit out of the city near the FC Barcelona Stadium, which was a great choice.

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So Spain has cast its spell on me once again. It is with mixed feelings that we depart for France tomorrow, as much as I love France. Spain was hit hard by the financial collapse, but it is coming back gracefully, as far as I can see. And Spanish Wines – tintos, blancos, cavas, and Sherrys – are among the best values in the world today. So go to your local store and ask for something Spanish and then make a few small plates at home and sit back and savor the culture that brought us so much and continues to do so.

Some photos from our trip.

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OUT OF THE WAY TAPAS BAR WITH A CERTIFIED SUMILLER (SOMMELIER)!

We are in Barcelona for a week to do two things: to attend a Spirituality and Creativity in Management Conference (SCM2015) at ESADE Business School and, well, to be in Barcelona. We are staying a bit out of town to be near the campus (which is very close to the FC Barcelona Stadium) but otherwise, a fairly nondescript area.

We had been going toward the Barri Gotic (LINK) to eat, but the other day, we decided to check out something close to our AirBnb apartment. The hosts recommended El Cóm (LINK), a very small and very ordinary looking tapas bar two blocks away. So we went with another couple, friends from France who are attending the conference.

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Friends from France – Richard and Kamala – with Dorianne.
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El Cóm

We get there and look at the menu and are told that the place is closing in half an hour. The menu looks good, so we order and we speak to the “waiter” about wine. He lights up. Now, he is speaking Spanish and my wife is somewhat conversant and one of our French friends is less so, and me, I’ve got Mexican restaurant Spanish, so nothing there.

Dorianne asks about an Albarinõ, which is listed on the menu as not available. The “waiter” tells us that the vintage has run out, and then leaves. He returns with six bottles of vino blanco, then leaves and comes back with one more. At this point, we inquire a bit more deeply (noticing the many wine bottles around the restaurant in prominent places). It turns out that our “waiter” is Josep Valiente, Sumiller (Sommelier), a certified wine expert. Now I am paying attention.

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Me and Josep and the Wines.
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Just the Wines.

He describes each bottle (most of which we do not understand). I spot a Godello (LINK) varietal on one of the bottles, and, having just read about that varietal, I ask for that bottle. Josep opens it and we are transported to white wine heaven. It is a 2012 Bodegas A Coroa Lias Godello, from Valdeorras, Spain (LINK).

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A beautifully crafted wine that is balanced, buttery, well structured, yet very very smooth. Hints of pear and spice with a nice floral nose and a smooth finish.

Josep came over with his smartphone and showed us photos of a vineyard he is growing in the area. He said that he is growing several varietals. I showed him photos of our wine co-op (LINK) in California.

Oh, and the food was amazing. Oh, and we stayed for an hour and a half. Oh, and we are going back on Sunday.

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It is a wonderul wine.

WINE, TAPAS AND FLAMENCO IN SEVILLE!

Yesterday, Dorianne and I stopped into Taberna del Volapié (LINK) for lunch (around 3pm). We had a very nice meal of tapas and wine. The waiter told us that there was a free Flamenco (LINK) show that evening at 9pm. We decided to go later on.

We arrived at the Taberna at about 8:15 pm and noticed that all of the tables were either filled with customers or had “reserved” cards on them. Our waiter from lunch came up to us and we said that we had come for the show, but we did not know that we had to reserve a table. After some very rapid Spanish conversation with someone behind the bar, we were escorted to a table right up front, the reserved card was removed, and we were all set!

We ordered a bottle of 2013 Protos Roble, from Ribera del Duero (LINK), a wine that we have had before on our trip (in fact, I had two glasses with lunch). At 14€ (about $15) a bottle, it is quite a bargain.

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2013 Portos Robles Tinto

We had several tapas dishes – see the photos – and the show began.

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Iberico Jamon (ham)
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Patatas Bravas – fried potatoes with spiced sauce – each place makes this in a slightly different way.
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Tuna loin with tomatoes.

We each had a glass of Solera 1847 Cream Sherry to close out the evening – a sweet wine, it is reminiscent of a late harvest or a tawny port wine.

And then, FLAMENCO!

This group of three – guitarist, vocalist and percussionist (via clapping) and dancer – were the most accomplished team we have seen yet in Spain. Here are some photos and a video.

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