Friday, 26 August 2016

Wine tour to Arcos de la Frontera

Earlier this week I ran a wine tour to the Arcos de la Frontera area. Arcos is one of the famed white villages and is very spectacular with the old part of the town atop a sandstone ridge with towering vertical cliffs. I was with a group of wonderful Australians who were real fun to be with. at the winery quite a lot of the grapes had already been picked. In the  photo below you can see a large part of the vineyard with the leaves already changing colour and drying out.

The second photo is of the triconical oak fermentation vats which are used for the higher-end wines.

The final photo is in the tasting room where we tasted 4 wines, a white made from Chardonnay, a rosé and two reds. For the reds the winery grows 4 grapes; Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tintilla de Rota which is an aromatic local grape. Syrah vines make up the major part of the vineyard.
My clients enjoyed all the wines and favourably compared the reds with Syrah or Shiraz based wines from their homeland.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Pablo de Olavide University course on the wines of Montilla- Moriles

Every year in the summer I try to do a course at the Pablo de Olavide University. They run their summer courses in the town of Carmona in a wondeful old palace. The course has to have something to do with my work, so this year it was the wines from the Demoninación de Origen (D.O.) or appellation Montilla-Moriles, which is in the province of Córdoba. They make sherry-style wines from the Pedro Ximénez (PX) grape. Most people know PX as a dark sweet wine. It can, however, be used to make finos, amontillados, olorosos, etc. The area also makes a lot of young white wines. The course was for two days but I already had work today so was only able to attend the first day.
There was a general talk about the D.O. by its director which was followed by a lecture given by the head wine maker at Alvear, one of the best wineries in the area. His talk was on finos, amontillados and olorosos. I was very interested in the next lecture, given by a research scientist, on the yeasts involved in the ageing of finos. That is the yeast that covers the wine when it is ageing in the cask. After another lecture given on the wines of the winery Bodegas , we headed down to the cellars of the building for what was going to be a real fun experience, a food and wine pairing exercise. We paired a young white wine with smoked salmon, a fino with acorn-fed Iberian ham, an amontillado with cured tuna and almonds, oloroso with sachichón, moscatel with cheese and finally PX with dark chocolate truffle. This was a great way to finish the day!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Iberico ham tour

Yesterday, I ran my iberico ham tour for a group of people from Hong Kong.This tour is the most popular one for people from there, China and South Korea. They have a real appreciation for anything from the Iberian pig. Yesterday my clients were able to sample the following goodies from the Iberian pig:  acorn-fed ham, chorizo, liver, ear, ribs and "secreto" which is a very juicy cut of meat (the internal part of the loin near the front leg). Iberian pigs' ear is not something I had eaten before at the restuarant that we went to but I mentioned to the owner that people from Hong Kong and China like pigs' ears and 10 minutes later there was a dish on the table!
Below is a photo of  free-range iberico/Iberian pigs. I detest factory farming so it is always a joy to see farm animals wandering around freely.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Olive oil tour

Yesterday morning I took some Canadians on my half-day olive oil tour. On our walk around the olive grove it was great to see the trees laden with olives. The weather this year during flowering and fruit set  has been kinder to the olive tree than the last two years and people are optimistic that production will increase a lot after two years with a much reduced crop.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Vinoble 2016

Every two years the wine fair Vinoble is celebrated in Jerez de la Frontera in the Alcazar which is a beautiful setting. It is a fair that is dedicated to sweet and fortified wines from around the world with an a greater representation of wines from the Jerez region than from anywhere else. I have been to at least 6 editions of the fair. For the first three or four of them there were lots of stands from other countries but for the last two there have been considerably less for a number of reasons, including poor organisation and a drop in funding. Having said this, I had the opportunity yesterday to taste some very good Sauternes, sweet wine from Germany, sweet wine from the Canary Islands, port and of course a lot of very fine sherry.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Food & Wine Tour in Northern Spain Day 12

On Monday (23 May) we headed back to Madrid where my friends had planned to stay for 3 nights. I was really sad that the tour had finished as we all had such a great time and they were such great people to be with. I then took a train to Seville getting backing at 7:30 p.m. in the evening where a friend was waiting to take me home. Having done three tours in the north of Spain over the last 8 months I am now keen to do more as I find it stimulating to do things that are different to my normal tours in the south of Spain. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Food & Wine Tour in Northern Spain Day 11

Well Sunday (22 May) started out with lots of rain. It was a good thing that we had planned to visit the Guggenheim museum, which I am sure sure most of you know was designed by Frank Gehry. I really enjoyed the Louise Bourgeois exhibition and the Paris School 1900 - 1945 with paintings by Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Chagall, Modigliani and many others.

 In the Basque country there are lots of gastronomic clubs called "txokos", where the members, who are all male, meet to socialise and of course cook. Up until recently women were only allowed to enter them on 6 January, the day of Epiphany. Now this has been relaxed, but only men are allowed to cook. We were invited by some friends of mine to their "txoko" in Bilbao where we went armed with 3 bottles of wine that we had picked up on our winery visits. We had a superb lunch which included wild mushrooms with scrambled eggs, clams, cod cheeks with piquillo peppers and a wonderful lamb stew with hard-boiled eggs, asparagus, artichokes, etc. It was a great experience for my clients/friends and is something that is a rare treat for visitors.