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Spain and North Africa


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Notes from a largely Spanish Mediterranean dinner. I have always enjoyed the way many red wines play of some quite spicy foods, and wanted to use that as a theme.

The starter wine was not in theme:

Clos du Ch. de Mosny Brut Montlouis-Sur-Loire – a dry sparkling wine made from Chenin blanc, this was something I’d wanted to taste, or I’d have done the obvious and pulled out a Cava. It had nice fine bubbles, a good bunch of fruit in the nose, which followed through on palate, and a nice crisp dry finish.

with duck breast stuffed with foie gras.

2003 Petalos de Bierzo – not many people will be familiar with this Spanish wine, made from the Mencia grape (possibly related to cab franc). Lush dark fruit nose on a middle weight ready to drink wine makes this a great summer (or any time) bottle. The hint of bitterness in the finish added to the interest.

with tortilla Espanola (potato omelette, served cold)

1986 Pesquera Crianza – I got that lovely old Tempranillo note from the nose, a little sweet pudding thing and vanilla, and in the mouth it was supple and quite tasty, falling off perhaps a tad too fast at the end. Very nice.

1998 Pesquera Crianza – much more primary nose, basic black fruit, not bad, but not yet with much differentiation. At first this showed tannin but lacked fruit, but the fruit opened up with time in the glass. I thought it still showed on the lean side and a touch sour at the end and doubt it will ever be the wine the 86 was.

with Harira – a chickpea, coriander and lamb soup.

The next wines were Gran Riserva Riojas from three consecutive years.

1994 Marques de Riscal – best nose, with custard and spice,. This wine is still firm with significant tannins and will continue to develop, but showed well now, a classic style from an excellent vintage.

1995 Faustino V – much less happening in the nose on this one, and the wine was soft and ready to drink, riding on acidity, not tannin. Lighter style, didn’t fare well against the competition.

1996 CUNE Imperial – lots of vanilla in this nose the wood in the nose was still a bit obtrusive, I thought, though it should be better with a few moiré years on it. Quite smooth and mellow in the mouth, it went down well but I doubt it has the future ahead of it that the Riscal does.

with sliced harissa crusted (cumin, chilli, caraway) beef served rare with green beans with spiced (cumin, paprika) almonds

1978 De Muller Priorato – before Priorats became the darling of some reviewers, they were inexpensive rustic wines that needed to be cellared for at least a decade before you could see through them. I am not kidding, they were absolutely opaque, and you could have held them up to the sun without detecting a hint of light through them (I tried). They were also unfiltered and (eventually) threw vast amounts of sediment. I once ‘opened’ a bottle that had left the winery without a cork. There was so much solid matter in the wine that although a very small amount of wine wept out past the (unperforated) lead capsule, once that dried the bottle self-sealed and had lasted 15 years with no cork. It smelled just fine, but as it had an old style lead capsule I thought it best not to taste it and was unable to persuade anyone else to try it. This one, now almost 30 years old, was deep ruby coloured with no hint of browning, and had developed a nose I’d never before experienced with this wine – a definite mint element.. Warm on palate (the label admitted to 15.5% alcohol) it was finally ready to drink and would hold for years more. No longer as animal as it was, it was still rustic but interesting and it served well with cheese.

De Muller Aureo Semi-Dulce – this dessert wine, only ‘half sweet’ according to the label, was made by solera method starting with wines from the 1930 and ending in the 1970s (I bought it in 1986). It was the equivalent of a fine old Madeira, not too sweet and with fascinating nuance in nose and palate. Impossible to say at this point whether the grapes were red, white or a combination, but it was a very interesting experience.


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