In a new series, wine expert, author and regular Borough Market columnist Jane Parkinson explores the international wines available at Borough’s specialist traders. This month: the Spanish wines of Brindisa
As one of Europe’s foremost wine countries, Spain has a wealth of clever wine tricks up its sleeve.
Style-wise, it just couldn’t get more diverse. Let’s start chronologically with how we might drink it during the course of a meal, as wine and food go hand in hand in a country like this.
Spanish sparkling wine is mostly about cava, Spain’s answer to champagne. It’s made in the north-east, most famously in a region called Penedès. To earn the privilege of saying ‘cava’ on the label, it must be made in the traditional method (the same process for making champagne) albeit cava is not required to age for as long as champagne before being released for us to drink.
Cava and champagne have grapes in common, too; while cava often uses native grapes xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada in its wines, it can and often does use grapes that are used in champagne, such as chardonnay and pinot noir. Producers can use either or both or a combination of them all and their toasty refinement is what drives people to drink them. After all, cava is one of the ultimate tapas-matching wines.
In terms of dry white wines, again, Spain commonly uses its own local grapes, many of which have been harnessed over hundreds of years, to perfect their flavour in the climate and location in which they’re grown. However, there are many progressive winemakers in Spain too, so the ‘invasion’ of international varieties such as chardonnay or sauvignon blanc is neither common, nor rare.
Rosé, or if we’re being very correct here, rosado, is known for being deep in colour and rich in flavour, but that does not necessarily mean it’s sweet—the colour has no bearing on the sweetness of pink wine, whatsoever. Many local Spanish red grapes can pack an especially good punch as a rosado, some of the most common being tempranillo, garnacha and bobal.
Spain’s red wine scene is hugely exciting at the moment and it extends way beyond Rioja, which for some people can still be synonymous with Spanish red wine. The hedonistic days of highly-extracted, very tannic and oaky wines are not completely over but they definitely have less prominence, as young Spanish upstarts are being made in a fruitier, less oaky, fresher style—all of which is music to food lovers’ ears, as it increases the wine and food-matching possibilities.
Before diving into sweet wines, let’s pay homage to one of Spain’s most exciting wine regions, Sherry. Tucked down in the southwest patch of Andalusia, they are no-brainer food wines because they come in so many styles, from bone-dry manzanilla to unctuously sweet pedro ximenez and gorgeous styles in between such as oloroso and palo cortado that can match game meat just as well as desserts, depending on whether they are dry or sweet (they can be both).
Spanish sweet wines are a delicacy no wine-lover should ignore. They can come in any colour and can be unfortified or fortified, plus they make a serious winner with cheese, as Brindisa is currently demonstrating on its winter menu.
“With our Brindisa blues board, we recommend a sweet monastrell from Alicante by producer Felipe Gutiérrez, who’s a dear friend of ours,” Monika Linton, founder and owner of Brindisa explains. “We’ve imported his wine, Recóndita Armonía, for the first time to the UK this year as its rich velvetiness is the perfect match with our strident blue cheeses. With our winter cheese selection, I’d recommend an all-time favourite of mine: the Casta Diva moscatel. It’s complex and varied enough to be enjoyed across our choice of cheese.”
Fabulous Spanish cheese with Spanish wine that has a real sense of provenance? Why, that’s the Spanish food and wine dream right there.
Raventós i Blanc Blanc de Blancs Cava 2015, £43
The three local cava grapes macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo come together here to make one of the most impressive native variety cavas around, with bright floral aromas, crunchy buttery toast flavours and lively bubbles.
Coto de Gomariz The Flower and the Bee, Treixadura, 2016, £40
This Galician dry white has floral and fresh apple and pear aromas with juicy, ripe stone fruit flavours and a citrusy dry finish. Perfect with seafood and tapas.
Bodegas las Orcas Decenio Rioja Joven 2016, £8/£23/£34.50
A youthful and perky red rioja with deep juicy berries and the lightest of oak contact means it’s incredibly juicy and refreshing, with black fruit.
Gutierrez de la Vega Casta Diva Moscatel, £6.50/£36
Made with the moscatel grape—as so many sweet whites in Spain are—this has unctuous sweet decadence of honey and orange but with enough freshness to cut through cheese, too.
Recondita Armonia Monastrell 2015, £7.50/£36
A fabulous choice to go with blue cheese, this pure monastrell dessert wine is packed with homely, wintry flavours of black fruits laced with fruitcake spices.
All wines are available at Brindisa, Borough Market