Food To Go With Wine – Spanish Tapas

TAPA means TOP, and if we consult the dictionary, we can find, among other definitions: “Spanish aperitif served in bars or similar establishments to eat with the drink.” It is a typical Spanish custom and the important thing is to drink AND to eat.
Typically (unless you look like a tourist…) you don’t have to ask for it because it is expectable that you get it in the moment you walk into the bar.

But what is today served as a tapa is not at all similar to what it used to be a long time ago. Everybody knows that hygiene standards were somewhat different in the past and the tapa actually originated from that. When the taverns were full of insects and flies going around the only way to protect the drinks was a small plate on top of the glass. As this system wasn’t very appealing to customers it became usual to decorate it with an olive (or a piece of sausage if it was a “posh” place).
Over time, this small dish developed into what it is these days – a little pleasure in great variety of form and taste.
Every Spanish bar has a certain selection of tapas, smaller or bigger. The paradise of the TAPASFORFREE is undoubtedly Andalusia (although growing tourism seems to be a temptation to many bar owners to charge an extra coin). In Castile historically you don’t have to pay for tapas and in the rural areas and in the neighbourhoods of the towns the bar keepers are always generous. In the North the food in general is marvellous, and while in the Basque Country you normally have to pay for tapas, they are often delicious.
There’s huge variety: Small dishes of olives (MANZANILLA or CAMPO REAL usually), chips, dried fruits; PULGAS or TOSTAS made with a piece of bread and anything imaginable on top; as well as larger plates to be shared among several people, called RACIONES, with meat or salads or the typical cuisine of the area (which are never for free).
So the little plate of food with the beer or the wine is in principle included in the price, but you have to pay in the moment you feel like eating something more elaborate.

For Spaniards, it is all about socialising with friends in bars while enjoying these little delicatessen.

spanish tapas

Summer Wine

It’s probably fair to say that under the heat of summer, most people are attracted by a well-chilled drink. A straw-coloured glass of white wine, breaking the rays of sun in countless little condensation droplets. A rosé in the most brilliant rose hip colour, looking as fresh-fruity as it tastes.
In May, I’m really looking forward to that. In August, I realize that no substantial red wine has crossed my path anymore since Christmas or so. Everybody, everywhere is drinking LIGHT whites and rosés. (Light not necessarily in alcohol anymore, many of those take easily on a Chateauneuf-du-Pape in that department, and I almost can’t remember when I saw the last time a white wine with well below 10% alcohol.)

I just did a little test. I went through the catalogue of a major wine trader, and kept an eye on the word “summer” in the suggestions and descriptions.

31 white wines are coming up here, 12 rosé wines, and 4 sparkling wines (of which 3 were white, 1 rosé).

The first two reds “ideal for summer” come in carton boxes, since “those can be taken to open-air concerts and festivals, where glass bottles are banned”.

Another red “can be aged till summer 2018”, two others are grown in areas “with hot summers”, so those are unrelated.

There’s one BBQ package, which contains red wines, and one bottle recommended as a red for summer, “suitable for chilling and with good acidity”.

Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, this merchant is very successful, and has excellent customer service, so I have to assume it’s really a reflection of what people want wine-wise, in summer.

After I concluded that little “test”, air temperature had risen to 35 degrees Celsius. I went to the cellar, passed the fridge with the nicely chilled whites, and gripped into the rack with the aged Rioja Reservas. Dark like a plum, cool (16 degrees Celsius), thick like oil and velvety.

I love strawberries, gooseberries and red currants. Summer!

But pasta, bread and potatoes have their place on the table as well, even during the hot time of the year.

Listen to your taste buds.

summer wine

Summer Wine

St Emilion Wine

Saint-Emilion is a small, medieval town, located 30km East of Bordeaux above the Dordogne valley and the Appellation controlee with the highest production among the Bordeaux wine areas. Since the 4th century St Emilion is famous for its wines, exporting them world-wide for more than 800 years. It consists today of about 5500ha vineyards, the climate being less maritime than the one ruling the Medoc.
The first classification of St Emilion wines was done in 1958 and experienced several revisions since then, with Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc placed in the rank of a “Premier grand cru classe A”; the Chateaux l´Angelus, Beau-Sejour Becot, Beausejour, Belair, Canon, Figeac, Fourtet, la Gaffeliere, Magdelaine, Pavie and Trottevieille “Premier grand cru classe B” and more than 80 of the best classified as “grand cru classe”.
Although usually made without Cabernet Sauvignon and therefore softer and rounder than Medoc wines the latter are comparable to leading Medoc cru bourgeois. The best St Emilion wines are not coming short of the great Medoc wines; Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc enjoy the same admiration as the famous Chateau Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild.

st emilion grand cru

The Right Wine Storage Temperature

The ideal place for wine storage is a dedicated wine cellar with a constant temperature of 10-12°C (about 50°F) around the year, well ventilated and with a certain humidity.

Unfortunately, few properties these days provide such a cellar, which does not mean that you can not store and age valuable vintage wine. Seasonal temperature changes between 8°C (46°F) in winter and 18-20°C (up to 68°F) in summer don´t do real harm to good wine even after 15-20 years, although the aging process is significantly slower the lower the storage temperature is.

As a general piece of advice, short term temperature changes are more harmful than a higher, but constant temperature, as with every change a certain amount of air is pressed through the cork leading to an accelerated oxidization.

Storing the wine bottles vibration-free in a horizontal position (to avoid that the corks dry out and shrink) is mandatory.

wine storage

Pomerol Wine

Pomerol, a village 30km East of Bordeaux and Northeast of Libourne, lends its name to one of the great wine-growing areas of Bordeaux. It consists mainly of small producers, even the champion of the newer times, Chateau Petrus, during the last two decades maker of one of the most expensive wines in the world, is represented by a farm house rather than a castle. With about 500ha, Pomerol is as well the smallest wine-growing area of Bordeaux, the best vineyards are in terroir and climate quite similar to its neighborhood of St.-Emilion. Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the dominating grape varieties and partly responsible for the unique character of a Pomerol wine, which can be easily distinguished from other red Bordeaux wines: Although rich and powerful in taste, they are remarkably velvety and smooth, something the French refer to as “gras”. Pomerol wines tend to develop faster than the premium crus of the Haut-Medoc and may not be as long-living. There has never been an official classification, but the best Pomerol wines can only be compared to the greatest wines in the world, and although Chateau Petrus is widely regarded as the leading producer, fetching prices which make even the famous Chateau Lafite or Margaux look like a bargain, Le Pin can even cost more, and Lafleur, La Fleur Petrus, Trotanoy, La Conseillante or L«Evangile are all usually more pricey than a Haut-Medoc Premier Cru.

chateau petrus pomerol

Chateau Petrus, Pomerol

Bordeaux Wine Classification

Much has been said about the shortcomings of the 1855 classification. Many call it outdated, and it certainly does not do justice to a lot of great wines from outside the Medoc, Graves and Sauternes. Still, at least the potential of the estates listed there has a surprising validity, and it seems to be forgotten or widely unknown that the official classification system created for the Paris world exhibition in 1855 was in practice not really the first of its kind, and is with a certain likeliness based on its predecessors used in wine trade for more than 100 years already, ranking the wines of Bordeaux by price fetched. These market-driven rankings show an amazing similarity to the 1855 classification, and most of todays well-known names, especially the premier crus (though then partly known under somewhat different names) were consistently in the highest demand. True is as well that all attempts to reform the 1855 classification weren’t successful, with one notable exception, the (widely regarded as long deserved) promotion of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild into the rank of a premier cru by presidential decret in 1973.

bordeaux wine classification

The 1855 red Bordeaux wine classification:

Premiers crus:

Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
Chateau Latour, Pauillac
Chateau Margaux, Margaux
Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac (since 1973)
Chateau Haut-Brion (in Graves rather than Medoc)

Deuxiemes crus:

Chateau Rauzan-Segla, Margaux
Chateau Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux
Chateau Leoville-Las Cases, St-Julien
Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, St-Julien
Chateau Leoville Barton, St-Julien
Chateau Durfort-Vivens, Margaux
Chateau Gruaud-Larose, St-Julien
Chateau Lascombes, Margaux
Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau Pichon-Longueville (Baron), Pauillac
Chateau Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac
Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St-Julien
Chateau Cos d’Estournel, St-Estephe
Chateau Montrose, St-Estephe

Troisiemes crus:

Chateau Kirwan, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau d’Issan, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau Lagrange, St-Julien
Chateau Langoa Barton, St-Julien
Chateau Giscours, Labarde-Margaux
Chateau Malescot-Saint-Exupery, Margaux
Chateau Cantenac-Brown, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux
Chateau Palmer, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau La Lagune, Ludon-Haut-Medoc
Chateau Desmirail, Margaux
Chateau Calon-Segur, St-Estephe
Chateau Ferriere, Margaux
Chateau Marquis d’Alesme Becker, Margaux

Quatriemes crus:

Chateau Saint-Pierre-Sevaistre, St-Julien
Chateau Talbot, St-Julien
Chateau Branaire-Ducru, St-Julien
Chateau Duhart-Milon-Rothschild, Pauillac
Chateau Pouget, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau La Tour-Carnet, St-Laurent-Haut-Medoc
Chateau Lafon-Rochet, St-Estephe
Chateau Beychevelle, St-Julien
Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Cantenac-Margaux
Chateau Marquis de Terme, Margaux

Cinquiemes crus:

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
Chateau Batailley, Pauillac
Chateau Haut-Batailley, Pauillac
Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
Chateau Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Pauillac
Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
Chateau Lynch-Moussas, Pauillac
Chateau Dauzac, Labarde-Margaux
Chateau Mouton-Baronne-Philippe (Chateau d’Armailhac), Pauillac
Chateau Le Tertre, Arsac-Margaux
Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal, Pauillac
Chateau Pedesclaux, Pauillac
Chateau Belgrave, St-Laurent-Haut-Medoc
Chateau Camensac, St-Laurent-Haut-Medoc
Chateau Cos Labory, St-Estephe
Chateau Clerc-Milon, Pauillac
Chateau Croizet Bages, Pauillac
Chateau Cantemerle, Macau-Haut-Medoc

Premier cru superieur:

Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes

Premiers crus:

Chateau La Tour Blanche, Bommes
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Bommes
Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Bommes
Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau, Bommes
Chateau Suduiraut, Preignac
Chateau Coutet, Barsac
Chateau Climens, Barsac
Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes
Chateau Rieussec, Fargues
Chateau Rabaud-Promis, Bommes
Chateau Sigalas-Rabaud, Bommes

Deuxiemes crus:

Chateau de Myrat, Barsac
Chateau Doisy-Daene, Barsac
Chateau Doisy-Dubroca, Barsac
Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Barsac
Chateau d’Arche, Sauternes
Chateau Filhot, Sauternes
Chateau Broustet Barsac
Chateau Nairac, Barsac
Chateau Caillou, Barsac
Chateau Suau, Barsac
Chateau de Malle, Preignac
Chateau Romer, Fargues
Chateau Romer-du-Hayot, Fargues
Chateau Lamothe, Sauternes
Chateau Lamothe-Guignard, Sauternes

grand cru classe Bordeaux wine

Grand Cru Classe 1985

Chateau Ferriere, Margaux

A 3e cru classe according to the classification of 1855 and with 8 hectares the Medoc’s smallest cru classe.
Chateau Ferriere used to be a rare wine indeed, almost disappeared, after several ownership changes its vineyards were leased to Chateau Lascombes, until the owners of Chasse-Spleen bought the property in 1988.

I had the pleasure two own several bottles of the 1988, which I opened when they were about 10 years old; I still remember a beautiful wine of exemplary Bordeaux red, mahogany at edge, balanced and elegant.

The first vintage under the new setup was the 1992, and since then Chateau Ferriere seems to steadily gain reputation –  if you can get a hand on it, the wine is in Bordeaux terms rather affordable and, as tasting notes show, regularly doing very well in representing the character of Margaux.

chateau ferriere margaux