Regrettably, I don’t tend to receive much wine from Denominación de Origen Jumilla. So I was delighted when a case of white and red wines found their way to my door recently.
DO Jumilla, like many DOs of Spain, reinvented itself, slowly changing from the old predominately bulk wine producing area for which it had a reasonable name throughout Europe as a supplier of high alcohol, deeply coloured wine, used perhaps unscrupulously to bulk up wines from countries with a less favourable climate, to a fine wine producer in its own right.
The change, originally gradual, but wholly fast-track in the last ten years, has brought about some of the finest wines produced in South East Spain. Witness if you will, (well never mind witness, taste it!), El Nido, from Bodegas El Nido (Bodegas Juan Gil) which sells for about 150€ per bottle! And it’s clear that DO Jumilla is now well and truly established on Spain’s map of quality wine producing areas.
However, thankfully, not all wines produced are as stratospherically priced. Most, of course, have managed several steps upwards on the quality ladder, but have kept their prices down.
Bodegas Monterebro is a new bodega, in fact a wine producer whose existence came about as a natural consequence of the parent company’s dealings in the retail wine trade. If we are successfully selling other people’s wines, why don’t we make some of our own and market that too?
Currently, the Monterebro portfolio of just three wines, a white and two reds, is only available though the sister company, Murcia Wine Club (details at the foot of this article). But I expect this to change as distributors start to receive sample bottles and realise the very good quality/price ratio. You can expect to see these wines first on restaurant wine lists and then in the supermarkets and shops – provided the as yet limited production can keep up!
Monterebro Blanco 2011 (Commended International Wine Chalenge, IWC) is a white wine made with Malvasia and a telling 15% or so of Moscatel. Telling, as it is this variety that for me the wine the aromatic edge that it needs. White flowers, raisons and citrus notes make this aromatic wine an ideal refreshing aperitif as well as enabling it to accompany so of the spicy dishes of South East Asian cuisine. Clean and fresh.
There are two reds: Joven (young) and Barrica. Both are made with the local grape variety Monastrell, of which regular readers will have heard many times as it is a favourite of mine, producing, as it does, deeply coloured and flavoured red wines, often of distinction.
The difference between the two of course is oak and vineyard and grape selection. The Joven has seen no oak but the Monterebro Barrica (Bronze Medal IWC) 2011 has enjoyed four months in American and French new oak barrels (barricas). It’s a style of wine that is becoming ever more popular here in Spain. Consumers want the primary fruit flavours, for the sheer juiciness of the drink – in this case both light and dark cherries with slight plummy notes too, but they require a little more depth of flavour and a touch of complexity, supplied of cousre by the time spent in wood.
There’s a nice balance between fruit and oak in this wine. The oak is integrated but it’s there and adds the required extra depth without taking over the show. I could see this wine being quite a hit at BBQs over the summer where it will be a lovely, tasty and refreshing red wine served very slightly chilled.
The Monterebro Joven 2011(Commended IWC) wine is also made with Monastrell. It’s light quite fruit driven with not a trace of harshness. Grapes from the older vines are used to make the Barrica so it follows that this young wine would use the younger grapes.
The vineyards from which the Monterebro grapes are harvested are at an altitude of between 700 – 740 metres above sea level which affords cool night time temperatures which helps with acidity. The bunches of grapes mature slowly and are harvested when they are small and concentrated.
Chalky, sandy soils ensure that the roots have to search for nutrients and the small rocks and stones on the surface and slightly beneath help to hold some moisture from the limited rainfall as well as retaining some of the warmth of the sun to help during the initial growing period when freezing temperatures can be encountered.
All three wines, including the white, will respond well to being opened an hour or more before serving and all three can be served chilled – so some super summer sipping in store!
Many in the Moraira area will know that the super Nepalese/Indian restaurant, The Himalaya, has recently moved to its new location right in the centre of Moraira. This was the final venue of the series, Ethnic Cuisine Meets Spanish Wine – A Marriage Made In Moraira, and yet in some ways it’s where it all began!
A few months ago I was involved in some discussion regarding making some changes to an Indian Restaurant’s wine list in a different area. The idea was that I would present a wine tasting in the restaurant using the wines that I’d chosen for their list and demonstrating, hopefully, how wine can be a far superior accompaniment to Indian food than the popular choice, beer.
In fact the discussions came to nothing, but it started me thinking about my own area where there are a number of excellent Ethnic Cuisine restaurants. An idea, and subsequently a small series was born. As regular readers will know we started with Moroccan Cuisine, then moved to Indonesian food, ending with perhaps the greatest challenge of all – matching Spanish wines with Nepalese/Indian cooking.
Eighty-three reservations, plus a waiting list, hoping for a cancellation, was an indication to Chef-Patron, Thapa, Restaurant Manager, Praju, the wholly Nepalese staff and myself that the idea was a popular one! It was up to us to rise to the challenge!
The fact is that most, though not all, Nepalese/Indian dishes are far friendlier to white wines, particularly, and also rosados, than to reds. For a red wine to work with these flavours and of course with the spicy, chilli heat of some of the dishes it has to be practically tannin-free, with low acidity and extremely fruit driven. Matches are therefore possible and we did have one red amongst the five wines tasted, each with a different course. However with three whites and one rosado it was in the minority.
All Thapa’s recipes are authentic, with spices imported from Nepal and Pakistan and ground in the restaurant’s kitchen according to explicit instructions. Breadcrumbed Spiced Potato Balls were served Pazo de Villarei, a lovely Albariño from DO Rias Baixas. Although traditionally served with shellfish in Galicia, this rich and deeply aromatic white wine combined so well on the palate negating any burn potential of the mild to medium spicing.
To say that we had a lamb chop for the next course, although true, does not do this tender, subtly spiced meat dish justice at all! I was delighted with the choice of rosado to accompany the dish. Castillo de Javier from DO Navarra is a ‘Lágrima’ wine, a wine made with the first 60% of the Garnacha grapes’ juice after a gentle pressing.
Known in English as the Free-run juice this is the ‘must’ (grape juice) that will always make the best wine. Aromatic and delightfully full-bodied for a rosado the wine had a rich depth to it which was able to stand up to the lamb and combine on the palate with the spices.
Alborado Verdejo, from DO Rueda – where else(?), was served with chilli-spiced prawn dish, a favourite of mine. As you’ve perhaps read in this column before Verdejoa shares some of the flavour and aroma characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, a variety which is often recommended to accompany Asian cuisine. For me the addition of some vegetal notes to the Sauvignon-esque fruit makes this a lovely drink as an aperitif but also with this style of food.
I have to admit to a slight nervousness regarding my choice of wine for the next dish – chicken cooked to a secret recipe, unique to the Himalaya. Normally chicken will be happy with a red wine – I’d chosen the fruitiest on the list, from Ribera del Duero where fruit is often to the fore. But will it be fruity enough to be paired with the spices of the dish.
Tarsus is a super wine – I’d recommend you try it. It’s a Crianza and has 12 months in American and French oak, but it was this oak aged element that was the cause of my concern. I think, though, that the fruit content was sufficient to make this a happy marriage.
Finally I couldn’t resist a Sauvignon Blanc white wine. Aura, DO Rueda, is rich with pungent aromas and full flavours. We drank it with a spiced vegetarian dish and for me the combination worked very well – the ‘heat’ was momentarily taken out of the dish whilst the spices and fruit flavours got to know each other but then returned integrate fully with the combined tastes. Super wine and lovely dish!
So, roll on the next series (probably in the Autumn) linking Ethnic Cuisine with Spanish wines.
The second in the series, Ethinic Cuisine Meets Spanish Wine – A Marriage Made In Moraira, was held at Moraira’s excellent Indonesian Restaurant, Bajul. This family owned business can boast thirty years of experience with restaurants in Holland and for the last four years in Moraira, where Mum Maria, son Frans and Daughter-in-Law Sandra delight their regulars with exotic dishes from the land of Maria’s birth.
I wonder if my friend, one of the diners at Bajul on the night in question, will now slightly change his ways when he next goes to the restaurant? His comment to me when he reserved for the evening was that on the previous occasions when he’s been to Bajul he’s usually ordered beer with the food. It’s an understandable comment – I do it myself from time to time when I eat Ethnic cuisine.
However if I’m trying to improve the overall dining experience, when I’m intending to make a memorable meal even better, then it’s wine I choose. Last week’s article made the same point and it’s a point that I hope I’m getting over to the diners who have, without exception it seems, enjoyed these evenings immensely. Ethnic Cuisine can be quite happy with well chosen Spanish wine as a bedfellow.
The panoply of aromas, flavours and spices in Indonesian cuisine makes it the prefect dining experience for me – I love it! And with carefully considered wine choices the whole deal is enhanced immeasurably. But, you have to have a supportive, sympathetic wine list from which to choose and, I have to say, in some Ethnic restaurants I’ve frequented this has been lamentably absent.
Not so Restaurante Bajul, whose chef/patron Frans has a keen interest in wines, in general, and in particular in those wines which will complement his and his Mother’s cooking. And, this includes the house wine – another crucial, integral part of any restaurant.
Our choices of wines to complement the various dishes favoured white wine drinkers – why, well white wines are often, though not exclusively, best for this style of cuisine. Indonesian cooking contains elements of chilli heat, both delicate and bold spices, gentle fragrance as well as strong aromas plus there can be a subtle sweetness as part of the deep flavours. If a cuisine can be described as elegant, this is it!
However there are red wines that can match the food and complement it too. And let’s not forget rosado wines whose subtle perfume can mingle with the fragrance of the dish and add to the overall pleasure.
Indeed it was a rosado with which we started proceedings – Mas Donis 2011 from Celler Capçanes, DO Montsant (subject of a Cork Talk some months ago). Made with Garnacha, Merlot and that especially fruity Spanish-grown Syrah, this rosado was served with Chicken Satay, accompanied by an Indonesian salad and boiled rice. The peanut sauce, both a sweet one and one of a more savoury style was lovely with the quite darkly coloured and full rosado. A hit combination, for most – though not all!
Convention is of no concern to Frans. Taboos of not serving white wine with meat are not important, it’s the overall flavours that have to be matched in Indonesian cooking. So the house white, Libalis, made with Chardonnay, Viura and the telling Muscatel was the wine of choice for the super Pork dish cooked with coconut that followed.
This was served with a fruit salad, which enjoyed some palm sugar and ginger, and aromatic yellow rice. The wine’s aroma coming largely from the Moscatel and its depth of flavour was a really good match for this dish and was universally enjoyed. Note also that this wine is the House White of the restaurant, selected deliberately for its ability to match many of the restaurant’s dishes.
Well it follows, I guess, that Frans would like (with my full approval) to accompany a fish dish with a red wine! Filapia (probably incorrectly spelt!), a fleshy freshwater fish from South Africa, was covered in Japanese breadcrumbs and cooked in a dark, sweet soy sauce. It was served with a chilled chilli cucumber salad and accompanied by Celler Capçanes’ young red wine Les Sorts Jove.
This Garnacha, Mazuelo (called by its Catalan name, Samsó) and Syrah based red is a young wine with sweet tannin and big up-front forest fruit flavours. The absence of any harsh acidity and tannin means that there is no clash with this fish, whose strong slightly sweet flavours are complemented by the red.
Finally, blowing convention out of the water, Balinese Beef with mixed vegetables cooked in coconut milk, but whose ingredients are a chef’s secret, was served with a white wine! But what a wine!
Bodegas Viñas del Vero in the mountainous DO Somontano region make a wonderful dry Gewurztraminer – a grape variety, whose difficulty in pronunciation is well worth the effort, is one of my favourites! It has exotic lychee flavours and the sort of perfume that is perfect with so many Indonesian dishes. Like me, Maria and Sandra love it!
Did it go with the beef? Well for me it didn’t just ‘go with it’, it was a marriage made in an Indonesian enclave in