Delving into Spanish food and wine highlighted Spain’s Great Match in Los Angeles. This event focused on two seminars that showcased various types of cheese, Jamón, and wines of Spain. The first seminar, Spanish Hams, Cheeses, and the Wines that Love Them!, was led by Evan Goldstein, MS, and the other, The Many Faces of Tempranillo, led by Chris Gaither, MS. In addition, many Spanish wineries participated in a walk-around tasting.
Spanish Hams, Cheeses, and the Wines that Love Them!
I learned more about cheeses from Spain than I ever thought I would. In the north, one finds cows’ milk cheese, sheep’s milk cheese is found inland, and goat’s milk in the coastal area. Mixed milk cheeses are produced across the entire country.
The climate plays a role in cheese as it does the cultivation of grapes. The north is rainy and humid, while the central plateau is continental leaning towards. The mountainous areas around the pyrenes are cold, and Andalusia is mild in the winter and hot in the summer.
Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world. Its vineyards cover the largest area. With 250 varieties, Spanish wine history dates back 3000 years to 1100 BC. Today wine production utilizes approximately 20 different grapes. The country has 130 official wine designations, including 70 D.O.s and two DOCa. The latter represents Rioja and Priorat.
Spanish Food and Wine: The Cheese, Jamón, And Wine
Our cheese, Jamón, and wine journey began by tasting the cheeses, Jamón, and wine from different regions.
Mahón and Cava
We started with Mahón, a medium intense, lightly salty, and sharp, semi-firm cow’s milk cheese from the Island of Menorca. Although originally created from sheep’s milk, during the 1800s, a British invasion of the island brought Friesian cattle, and the recipe changed to cow’s milk.
The cheese ages from two to twelve months in salty and dry conditions. The cheese we tasted is called Curado because it is cured or aged and rubbed with oil to create a stone-colored rind.
The Mahón was paired with the 2019 organic Cava from Roger Goulart. This Cava combines Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. I found one of the best and most balanced Cava I have ever sampled.
Muria al Vino and Sauvignon Blanc
Murcia al Vino is a medium intense, soft, delicate goat’s milk cheese from the region of Murcia, known by its brand names of Drunken Goat or Winey Goat. This cheese from Spain’s Mediterranean coast is cured for 48-72 hours in Doble Pasta red wine, followed by an additional 90 days of aging. Curing in wine gives the cheese rind a violet color.
The wine paired with Marqués de Riscal 2021 Sauvignon Blanc. This creamy wine from Rueda’s Castilla y León region paired nicely with the soft texture of the Murcia al Vino.
Manchego and Bodega Urbina
Manchego is one of 26 kinds of cheese designated as a D.O.P. – Denominación de Origen. The cheese is produced only from the milk of Manchega sheep that graze in the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, and Toledo, part of La Mancha. The cheese is produced when milk is the richest, from August to December. Manchego ages for 60 days to two years and have a firm, compact consistency. This medium-intense cheese delivers a buttery texture. With age, the flavors sharpen
I found another excellent pairing between the Manchego and the Bodega Urbina Selección 2000. This Crianza wine blends Tempranillo, Mazuelo, and Graciano from Rioja. After aging in oak, the wine returns to stainless steel and, in this case, ages 18 years. Returning the wine to stainless steel gives the wine a youthful and fresh demeanor.
Idiazábal and Garnacha
Idiazábal is a semi-firm sheep’s milk cheese coming from the Basque country. It is a strong, intense cheese with a smoky flavor due to curing by gently smoking and drying by a fireplace. Latxa sheep bask on the Basque hillsides. The cheese is designated a D.O. – Denominación de Origen.
Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha 2019 paired with the Idiazábal cheese. The grapes, Garnacha, come from the Campo de Borja region of Aragón. The subtleties of the wine paired nicely with the sharpness of the cheese.
Spanish Food And Wine: Jamón And Wine
Jamón is a central part of Spanish food culture. You will find it everywhere in Spain as it crosses all regions. This cured meat dates back to pre-Roman times is typically dried and cured lightly with salt and never smoked.
We sampled to Serrano and Iberico Jamón. The Serrano, a saltier Jamón paired excellently with Godello. Alvaredos-Hobbs Godello 2020 is a project involving Paul Hobbs from the Ribeira Sacra region in Galicia. Godello, as a white variety, creates a nice balance between the Serrano Jamón and the wine.
The Jamón Iberico paired with a classic Tempranillo, Bodega Bela ‘Arano’ 2019 from the Ribera del Duero region. In this area, Tempranillo is called Tinta del Pais.
The Many Faces of Tempranillo
Tempranillo in Spain makes up 90% of the plantings of this variety in the world. The grape prefers calcareous soils.
Tempranillo was found throughout the Iberian Peninsula, but in the 17th century, vines were primarily located in Northern Spain and Portugal. The grape is derived from Albillo, a white grape found in Castilla y Léon, and Benedicto, a rare grape from the eastern portion of Aragona. Today La Rioja and Valdepeñas consider Tempranillo their main grape.
The name Tempranillo comes from Tempano, which means “early little one.” The grape buds and ripens early.
Overview of Spanish Wine
Spain lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Three rivers play a prominent role in Spain’s wine-producing regions. The Ebro flows through Rioja and Catalonia, Ribera lies on the Duero River, and the Tajo runs through La Mancha. Two mountain ranges, the Pyrenees and Cordillera Cantabrica, block the cold winds from France and the Atlantic Ocean. African winds influence the wines of central and southern Spain.
Low yields, old vines, wide spacing between vines, and dry and poor soil characterize vineyards in Spain.
Rioja is the most notable region in Spain and perhaps the most popular with wine enthusiasts. The area is located in the northeast portion of Spain. The region is divided into three areas Alta of which Tempranillo makes up 60% of plantings, Alavesa, with 80% planted in this variety; and Rioja Baja, also known as Oriental, makes up 35%. The climate is Mediterranean and influenced by its high rugged altitude. Rioja gained its D.O. status in 1925 and received its DOCa in 1991.
Rioja Tempranillo Wines
Viña Bujanda Crianza 2018: I found a spicy Tempranillo with a bright demeanor that aged in American Oak
Familia Torres Altos Ibércos Rioja DOCa, Reserva 2015: This Tempranillo comes from the Alavesa region of Rioja. I found a more modern style of Tempranillo that aged in new French oak.
Margués de Riscal Gran Riserva 2016: Considered one of the oldest producers of Tempranillo, the wine exudes a traditional style.
Vino de La Tierra – Castilla
La Mancha is the largest D.O. in Spain. Vino de La Tierra Castilla covers all territory within the Autonomia Castilla in La Mancha. In this area, Tempranillo is called Cencibel. The climate is continental and lacks rainfall. In the past, the area produced a lot of bulk wine, but of late, with changing grape growing standards, the quality excels.
Vino De La Tierra Tempranillo Wines
Dominio de Punctum Lobetia 202: The wine combines Tempranillo with Petit Verdot. I found a fruity wine with lovely florals.
Ribera del Duero and Castilla y León
Ribera Del Duero means riverbank of the Duero. The area sits on the higher part of the elevated Meseta Central. Dramatic continental climate impacts this region. It was Vega Sicilia that brought international fame to the region in 1864. By 1972 Pesquera established the foundation of this region even more. D.O. status occurred in 1982 with 24 wineries. Currently, 300 wineries produce wine in this region.
Ribera Del Duero and Castilla y León Wines
Bodegas Mauro Ribero Del Duero 2019: This wine blends Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The wine ages 15 months in French and American Oak. Grapes are both organic and biodynamically grown. In 1980, Mariano Garcia, the former winemaker at Vega Sicilia founded the winery.
Toro Do, Castilla y León
The region is located west of Ribera del Duero, close to Rueda, DO. Although a continental climate, the area sees drought conditions, and with its higher elevation, one finds concentrated heavy reds. The Tempranillo is called Tinta de Toro.
Toro Do, Castilla y León Wine
Bodegas Numanthia Toro Do 2017: This Tinta de Toro aged in 60% new French and American oak and 40% second-use oak for 18 months. The wine displays dark fruit with more tannin, weight, and concentration.
The Spanish Food and Wine Walk-Around Tasting
The walk-around food and wine tasting brought a few exciting wines to the forefront. Here are some of my favorites from the tasting.
Like the Bodega Urbina Selección 2000, Bodega Urbna produces other wines that also move from barrel to stainless steel for an extended period of time. The Viura 2014 is an example of this process utilizing a white wine. Another is the 2012 Tempranillo blend.
The interesting bottle holding the Pazo Baión Albarinño, Rias Baixas, grabbed my attention. The unique bottling seemed to reflect the quality of the wine within.
Recently discovering the wines of Parés Baltà, it thrilled me to taste more of the wines from this Biodynamic winery. On this occasion, I sampled the Camino Romano, a Tinto Fino from Ribera del Duero, Hisenda Miret, a Grenache from Cal Miret estate
I finished this Spanish food and wine event with two worthy wines from Bodega Numanthia. The estate Numanthia is their signature wine, but the wine that was the piece de resistance of the entire event. The Tinta de Toro comes from 200-year-old vines.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted Spanish food and wine tasting. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.