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It´s official- Autumn/Fall is here (in the Northern hemisphere), and what a beautiful time of year it is indeed! And with the colder, shorter days we are craving rich food and wine!


For gourmets, some wonderful spots in November include Piedmont (it´s white truffle season, basically culinary Nirvana!), lovely Lyon (gastro paradise) and La Rioja (think lamb chops roast over grape vines and served with velverty Rioja reserva, yes please!)….



Autumn food, especially in cooler climates, has traditionally been calorific and intensely satisfying; rich in glorious meats and seasonal vegetables to help the body prepare for the cold of winter. It is undoubtedly one of the gastronomic highlights of any culinary calendar and something any self-respecting foodie looks forward to. Yet the change occurs almost without anyone noticing – restaurant menus suddenly start to emphasize heartier, richer dishes like venison, pheasant and guinea fowl, while our thoughts at home also turn to roasts, rich soups and pies -in other words, decadent comfort food.


Traditionally, some of the main highlights of autumn include game, particularly wild duck, pheasant and grouse, in addition to a great bounty of orchard fruits like plums, blackberries and damsons. Late harvest vegetables are also eagerly anticipated – such as celeriac, swede, cabbage and leeks – as are the great variety of the autumn squash like butternut squash and pumpkin – which makes a delicious soup. But in Italy, the main highlight of the season is mushrooms, glorious mushrooms. Many different varieties can be found all over Italy in autumn, when groups of people can be seen foraging for porcini (ceps), chanterelles, and other delicious species all morning. Porcini go extremely well with Risotto, another one of our favorite autumn dishes.


Of course, as our menus and eating habits change with the seasons, so too does our wine choices as summer ends and autumn begins. Chilled rosé suddenly seems quite incongruous on a cold autumn evening, whereas well-hung grouse and a glass of Chambertin fits the bill nicely.

So to celebrate the arrival of this glorious season, we have prepared some delicious autumn food & wine pairings for your enjoyment. Sante!!


muga and cabrales


Starters (Appetizers)/Vegetarian dishes

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

There are few gastronomes who wouldn’t salivate over the thought of risotto topped with exquisite porcini mushrooms, newly arrived from an exciting morning’s foraging trip. Ordinarily, risotto pairs well with low tannin, fresh and fruity wines such as Dolcetto or Barbera d’Alba. But the addition of porcini calls for a more refined approach, mushrooms work well with a variety of top-class reds, including Pomerol, Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and top Burgundy. Our first choice though would be Barolo, surely the prince of Italian reds.

Winter Squashes – Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, etc.

Winter squashes make ideal soups, or even better yet they are divine in fresh pasta such as Ravioli. Of course, that requires major patience on your part! On the wine front, they fit well with full-bodied, fruity off-dry whites, we’d stay clear away from reds in this instance. Some good bottles would be a new-world Viognier or Marsanne, South African Chenin also works a treat – try the De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc. Failing that, demi-sec Vouvray or Italy’s Gavi are two reliable alternatives.


C. The Culinary Institute of America

Great recipe here for Butternut squash and apple soup, yumm.


Meat dishes


The classic pairing for duck is Pinot Noir, whether it be a mature Burgundy or a fruit-driven, silky example from New Zealand. And yes, it does tend to work very well, albeit how the duck is prepared will strongly influence the ideal choice of wine on the table. Duck and goose, both delicious but quite fatty meats, deserve wines with plenty of acidity to cut through that fattiness and contrast with the rich flesh. Confit de Canard works best with a young, tannic red like Priorat or a young Medoc. Roast duck without a strong sauce needs a big-scale red, such as Rhone, a top Burgundy, Californian Cabernet or even Australian Shiraz works very well.

However, if there’s an orange sauce, white is more ideally suited – Grand Cru Alsace Riesling is a match made in heaven. And if you’re in the mood for some fizz, try mature vintage Champagne which works surprising well with duck and orange sauce.

The Italians in contrast, like to braise their duck and serve it with olives, in which case only a top Tuscan red will suffice. Try Antinori’s Tignanello.

Game Birds – Pheasant, Grouse, Guinea Fowl

The pinnacle of autumn food is game, and the good news for oenophiles is that roast game birds work with many different wine styles, allowing you great flexibility when deciding what to open. St-Emilion works tremendously well with roast game, as does red and white Burgundy – our top choices would be Chambertin or Corton Charlemagne. But if we’re talking about older game birds in casseroles, then you need something slightly more robust and less fine; Pommard, Ribera Del Duero, or Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect. And with well-hung game, you’ll need a very powerful, weighty red. Vega Sicilia is ideal, as is a great Rhone like Cote-Rotie.

Of course, when pairing wine with game the sauce is equally as important, but again the meat can be adapted with sauces to match almost any fine wine.


One of the supreme delights of the autumn season, venison lends itself to a variety of cooking methods, yet always retains its wonderfully rich, gamey flavor. Roasted, it deserves a big-scale red, and loves a good Rhone wine like Gigondas or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Bordeaux is another surefire hit, particularly if there’s a sharp berry sauce – for a real treat try a good St-Julien like Chateau Talbot. Stewed Venison is another matter, the red should be more gutsy and robust – full of flavor but not necessarily very refined. A southern Italian red fits the bill nicely, try Venison stew with Puglia’s Primitivo grape. It’s ripe, plum, damson and black fruit flavors will cut across the stew’s gamey richness nicely.

Or, if you’re feeling slightly adventurous, white can work equally well with roast Venison. We love it paired with German Riesling, or even an Alsace Pinot Gris. Off-dry works best, the sweetness of the wine finding a natural home with the richness of the venison.

Wild boar

Another autumnal treat, wild boar’s wonderful rich texture and intense gamey flavor will obliterate lighter reds and whites – a ripe, structured red is called for. We love wild boar casserole with Priorat or a top Chianti.



Apple pie, Tarts or Strudel

Apples are ripe and plentiful at this time of year, and lend themselves to a variety of mouth-watering desserts, including the traditionalists delight, apple pie. They deserve an equally stunning dessert wine, an Austrian sweet Riesling would be ideal. Canadian Ice wine is another delicious pairing.



Blackberry based desserts

Our favorite autumn fruit, blackberry tarts and flans deserve a rich, sweet wine like Monbazillac, sweet Vouvray or German Trockenbeerenauslese. Port, believe it or not, is another superb match.


Oporto 6

Wine Recommendations for Spring Barbecues

Posted by gen On March - 6 - 2015

Spring is in the air! And what better way to celebrate it then with friends, family, food and wine outdoors?


Spring can be a wonderful season: cities hum with the sound of family and friends moving outside to drink and dine on pavements cafes, the weather can be gorgeous but not stifling and BBQ’s are dusted off and fired up. It’s time to start marinating, planning and smoking your favorite foods; alfresco dining is one of the real joys of the first warm spring weather, and something we should all do as much as possible, while that sun lasts!

Traditional wisdom dictates that beer is the safest bet for BBQ’s, as it won’t clash and can cope with the cornucopia of tastes often presented. But to negate wine is to miss out on some potentially spectacular and delicious combinations – a great wine pairing can transform a mundane BBQ into a memorable one. Wine can work extremely well with a variety of BBQ foods, you just need to remind yourself of a few facts and recommendations for a memorable pairing.

So above all, don’t waste your prized bottle of Vega Sicilia or St-Emilion on a BBQ. Smoked, grilled food needs robust, fruit driven and easy drinking wines, fine wines and certainly older wines will be smothered by the strong flavors and aromas. Equally, it’s important to remember that often you are pairing a wine with the sauce, not the meat or fish.  Strong, especially spicy sauces destroy many red wines, off-dry lighter whites are a safer bet. Which is why BBQ wine lists should always include plenty of options from hot climates as those riper, sweeter fruit flavors match the heat, smoke and spice of a BBQ perfectly. Just like Indian cuisine, sugar is your friend, not enemy and away remember that smoking and blackening transforms the food.

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Prosecco is the ideal way to start your BBQ feast. Who could resist the charms of a racy, pear drop flavored glass of fizz sat in the sun on a Saturday afternoon? With its light, not too acidic style it makes the perfect alfresco aperitif, try Bisol’s Crede Prosecco for a real treat.

But what to serve with your first course of juicy, BBQ king prawns or shellfish?  A chilled glass of Chablis, or even better rose is simply heaven, contrasting nicely with the warm, savory flavors of grilled shellfish. It’s a terrible cliché but also an undeniable fact: nothing matches the vast range of BBQ flavors like a chilled glass of rose. It works as a party aperitif, with salads/seafood and won’t clash with strong meat dishes. It’s the perfect all-rounder and cannot fail to please everybody – our favorite is  Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé, packed full of red fruits, almonds, vanilla, so heaven in a glass!

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If your BBQ includes some gorgeous, fresh sardines or other oily fish then only one wine will do: a chilled glass of Galician Albariño. This racy, citrus infused wine is a marvelous match for oily fish, as the usually refreshing acidity of an Albarino cuts the the fish’s oiliness and leaves the palate desperate for another glass. Seek out the wines of Bodegas Fillaboa for a reliable, fruit-driven Albariño wine, typically displaying plenty of moreish pineapple, apple and citrus notes on the palate.

Aromatic, un-oaked and clean-cut whites like Albariño also work fantastically well with tomato based salads, asparagus and other salad vegetables. Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is the standout choice and works equally well as a thirst quencher.

BARB 4Wither Hills do a fresh, vibrant and great value example. In contrast, grilled vegetables like red peppers and courgettes need a completely different pairing, their smoky, sweet flavors require a full-bodied and ripe red. Modern, fruit-driven Rioja is ideal, as is new-world Tempranillo. The tannin and silkiness inherent to Tempranillo balance out the oil and sweetness nicely. Give the Valenciso Rioja Reserva a try, packed full of delicious red berry fruit, with just a hint of spice, it’s a princely wine for a memorable BBQ.

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Of course the mainstay – unless you’re a vegetarian – of any great BBQ is meat. This is where your options are considerable, as plenty of both European and new-world wines can handle the variety of flavors floating around, from chicken to rib-eye steaks. But remember that poultry always takes on a lot of flavor from the BBQ, so you need a suitably robust wine to match. South African Pinotage handles BBQ Chicken, even adorned with a smoky BBQ sauce, very well; try Ken Forrester’s Petit Pinotage. If, however, you’ve been sparing with the sauce then BBQ chicken deserves a rich, full bodied Californian Chardonnay, or perhaps Australian. Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay from Russian River Valley would do nicely! Such a wine would also love grilled pork chops and chicken marinated in herbs. Indeed, it would go perfectly with this recipe for Mexican chicken.

What self-respecting BBQ is without succulent hamburgers and delicious steaks? Their rich, caramelized, smoky flavors are divine and cry out for similarly spicy, full-bodied new-world reds. Australian Shiraz from Barossa is a classic choice, that fruit-driven profile and acidity matching grilled foods perfectly. Another contender for a pairing made in gastronomic heaven is Malbec, Argentina’s greatest success story. Top examples are bursting with racy, plummy fruit and that touch of peppery spice ensures that Malbec takes kindly to steaks and burgers. Our top choice – Zuccardi Serie A Malbec.

rioja food and wine

Zinfandel also comes into its own at BBQs, especially if heavy sauces are present. Piquant sauces can overpower even ripe Shiraz and Malbec, but Zinfandel cuts through the richness and spice wonderfully. Ravenswood old vine Zinfandel is a very safe bet. However, if you lean toward Indian or Oriental sauces – Tandoori is currently a real favorite – then you’ll need something very specific. The flavors aren’t easy to match with wine, but Loire reds or again oaky new-world Chardonnay usually comes out on top.

Finally, Rioja Crianza in general, for instance Juan Alcorta (the number one selling Crianza in Northern Spain) is a great, good value bet, especially with grilled veggies and lamb chops.

Happy grilling and sipping this Spring!


Top Spanish Wine Cocktails

Posted by gen On January - 27 - 2015

Recommended Cocktail Recipes from Spain- Liven up your dinner parties!


Riotous, colorful celebrations are very much a part of Spanish life, and no Spanish party is complete without a great selection of beers, wines, and cocktails. Indeed, alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) drinks are an integral part of Spain’s gastronomic and cultural traditions; the country has been growing grapes for many centuries. Many drinks festivals run throughout the year, including the Vinoble Wine exhibition this May in Jerez and the Feria de la Manzanilla, a surefire way to get very well acquainted with gorgeous sweet sherry.

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But despite the historical origins of these festivals, a great revolution has taken place in the last decade, shaping the way Spaniards drink in the 21st century. Traditionally, friends would meet at cervecerias, bars and perhaps cider specialist’s siderias for a convivial drink, often male only affairs. Today, however, trendy cocktail bars dominate the scene in larger cities, often hosed in 5-star luxury hotels. The Spanish have developed a keen appreciation of great cocktails in recent years, which go far beyond the tourist staple of Sangria; ubiquitous across Spanish resorts! Wine naturally features heavily in most Spanish cocktails, red wine being the traditional cocktail base, adding color, boldness and significant flavoring. So whether you’re staying at Madrid’s latest boutique hotel or sipping cocktails on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas strip, the following selection of Spanish mixology at its best is bound to please everyone.




Served long, over ice, this is the ultimate thirst quencher and a native drink of Seville. During the Feria de Abril in Andalucia’s proud city, natives request Rebujito by the gallon – a wonderfully refreshing mix of sherry, sparkling water and mint.

You will need:

250ml Fino or Manzanilla sherry (can be substituted with white wine), 250ml sparkling water or soda, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 4 tablespoons sugar, ice cubes, mint


Pour the sherry and water into a large glass jug. Add lemon juice, sugar and mix well to dissolve the sugar, then add ice. Serve in long glasses, with a few mint leaves in each glass.


Agua de Valencia

Valencia’s signature cocktail has stood the test of time. It was created by Constante Gil, an artist and bar owner who founded the drink in 1959, it has since caught on as the only cocktail of choice when visiting the city’s many lively bars.

You will need:

250ml chilled Cava, 125ml orange juice, sugar, ice cubes, 1 teaspoon Cointreau.


Mix the chilled Cava, Cointreau and orange juice in a large glass jug. Add some sugar, stir well to dissolve it, then add ice. Serve cold in wide, classic cocktails glasses.

Food pairing: fun ideas here.


Jerez Cocktail – Coctel de Jerez

The sherry region’s favorite cocktail, perfect for a refreshing rest-bite from pure sherry in the warmer months. It heralds from one of the historical noble houses in the zone, although which one has been forgotten in the annals of history!

You will need:

250 ml Fino Sherry, 100ml peach brandy, 1 teaspoon Cointreau.


Mix the ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice cubes and stir to chill. Serve on the rocks in a classic tumbler.

coctel 4

The Barcelona

Inspired by Catalunya’s intensely proud capital, the Barcelona cocktail omits the local bubbly Cava for white wine – ideally produced from nearby Penedes, the region’s biggest wine region. It’s the perfect drink for Barcelona’s numerous roof-top terrace bars.

You will need:

300ml chilled white wine, 100ml Gin, 50ml Grand Marnier, 50ml Elderflower syrup, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon orange juice, sprite, fresh citrus fruit slices


Place fresh fruit at the base of a large mixing jug. Add lemon and orange juice, elderflower syrupy, white wine, and other ingredients Mix well. Add ice cubes and garnish with sliced strawberry and mint. Serve in tall glasses.

Speaking of Barcelona, check out the Best Wine Bars in Barcelona here

BARCELONA Casa Batllo corporate events small


No guide to Spanish cocktails would be complete without the mythical Sangria, staple of holiday hangovers since time memorial. However, there is a more sophisticated side to this much-maligned cocktail; the Basques for example infuse the mix with juniper berries and spice. Here is our favorite recipe below:

You will need:

400ml Spanish rose, 1 bottle Spanish red wine, 50ml Grand Marnier, 50ml Madeira, 2 tablespoons sugar, seasonal fruit, 2 cups club soda, ice cubes


Mix the wine, juice, Grand Marnier, Madeira and sugar together in a large pitcher. Cover, and leave overnight in the refrigerator. Before serving, add the club soda and ice. Serve chilled, with chopped fruit as the garnish.


Tinto de Verano

The simplest of Spanish cocktails, Tinto de Verano’s popularity remains unchallenged and is far easier and quicker to make then Sangria. The perfect summer party cocktail.

You will need:

1 bottle of red wine, 1 bottle of sprite, lemon slices


Add the pre-chilled red wine to the sprite in a large jug. Mix well. Serve with ice and lemon slices to garnish.



Bodegas Hermanos Peciña is one of our preferred wine estates in the gorgeous region of La Rioja, in Northern Spain.

We love this winery  for its stellar wines, the great hospitality and exuberance of the hosts. We had the chance to chat to winemaker  Pedro Peciña Gil, and thought you might enjoy reading the interview.


Pedro Peciña Gil

Here goes>

CELLAR TOURS- When did you become passionate about wine?

PEDRO- I remember visiting the vineyards with my father when I was 5-6 years old right before  the harvest time. I was very young, but I felt something special at that moment, and from then I decided that in the future I would like to produce grapes myself.


CELLAR TOURS-When did you join the family business and how long has your family been involved in wine?

PEDRO- Today I´m 35 years old, and in 1992,when I was 14, I started helping my father elaborating our first bottling. I remember it was difficult, because it was our first year to produce wine between my father and me… it was very funny!!!

CELLAR TOURS- Did you study winemaking in Rioja or elsewhere and have you worked in other regions/countries? If so, how did the experience shape you?

PEDRO-I studied  enology at the University of La Rioja in Logroño, but in my opinion  the best wine / enology university is the real practice in growing grapes and making wine with my father´s help since I was a child. I have experience in helping other wineries in Rioja too; also I did a harvest in Messina Hoff Winery, one of the most important wineries in Texas USA. It was a very funny experience, all was different, grapes, winery, work philosophy, the language, the people.. very interesting experience in which I learned a lot.


CELLAR TOURS-How would you describe the winemaking philosophy at Bodegas Hermanos Peciña ? Are your wines traditional, modern, etc etc?

PEDRO-The first lesson that I learned from my father was ” to make a good wine you only need to follow 3 rules: TO BE CLEAN, TO BE CLEAN AND TO BE CLEAN”. Of course you also need  good grapes, choose the perfect moment of harvesting …Our wines are very classic, due to we follow making our wines as people did them 100 years ago, as very natural as possible, no using any artificial yeast, (only wild yeast from San Vicente de la Sonsierra) or any Enzymas, any tannins, any poliphenols.. we never add nothing, our wines are completely natural. 3

CELLAR TOURS-What distinguishes your estate to other wineries in the area?

PEDRO-The main difference is that our wines are like the wines of100 years ago, completely natural, and their unique flavour is wine… OUR WINES TASTE LIKE WINE!!! We never filter the wines, we never fine the wines, and we never do any cold stabilization of the wines; so, to get stabilized wines we keep them  a lot of time in barrel, and every 6 months we make rackings by means of the traditional technique from barrel to barrel by gravity, cleaning the wines in a natural way.

CELLAR TOURS- Have you seen many changes in winemaking and viticulture in La Rioja in recent years, in which way?

PEDRO-I think Rioja has changed a lot in the past 10 years, many wineries have lost the identity of Rioja, and they try to make wines with more color, more complex, more full-bodied… in a word,Parker style wines.. and this is not Rioja. They are using new barrels, French barrels, making very long macerations… all of that to get hard wines.

CELLAR TOURS-What are your most important established markets and which new markets are you trying to break into, China for example?

PEDRO-We are working very good in all North America ( Mexico, USA and Canada), because they like the authentic classic Rioja, and in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Poland…), countries that are discovering the traditional Rioja. We started selling in Chine a couple years ago, but only in high level markets, where high quality wines have recognition.

Et.Reserva´ 01

CELLAR TOURS-Have you experienced any challenges with climate change and global warming?

PEDRO-Yes, in my experienced 20 years, I have noticed how the harvest start earlier; the maturation of the grapes is earlier than some years ago, ( although 2013 harvest has been a little bit later)… and it´s a fact that 30 years ago it snowed 4-5 times every winter, and that´s very unusual nowadays.

CELLAR TOURS-Are you experimenting with any new wines, and any exciting projects on the horizon?

PEDRO-We love the Tempranillo grape and for making white wines, we strongly believe in the potential of the Viura. I think it´s  not good for the Rioja the introduction of foreign white varieties.

CELLAR TOURS-Do you find the strict rules put in place by the Consejo Regulador to be helpful or a hindrance?

PEDRO-I think these rules even need to be more strict, because in Rioja you can find low quality wines that have the warranty of Rioja. And that´s not good for the image of the Rioja.

CELLAR TOURS- For guests coming to visit you in Rioja, do you have any favorite restaurants in the area, any secret gems?

PEDRO-My favourite luxury place is Restaurante Alameda in Fuenmayor, only using fresh products, with a magnificent grill.  Restaurante Jose Mari, in Rivas de Tereso and 4 km far from our bodega, is the perfect place to taste traditional dishes from Rioja: Patatas con Chorizo, chuletillas al sarmiento, bacalao a la riojana…, And with very reasonable prices!!!

CELLAR TOURS-Which wine should we lay down and save for a special occasion?

PEDRO-I think our most special wine is our Pciña Reserva Seleccion Harvest 2001: soft, harmonious, delicate wine…. You love it from the first moment, but it´s changing every minute at the glass, remembering nuances of chocolate, coffee…. wonderful!!!!!

Pedro Peciña Senior

Pedro Peciña Senior

For more information on this outstanding winery, contact Mikel Martínez at BODEGAS HERMANOS PECIÑA, Carretera Vitoria Km.47-26338 San Vicente de la Sonsierra (La Rioja)
Tel +34-941 334 366  –  Fax +34 941 334 180   [email protected] https://es-es.facebook.com/BodegaPecina

Top Basque Gourmet Restaurants in Pais Vasco and Pays Basque

Cellar Tours recommend:

The Basque country – and in particular the glamorous resort of San-Sebastian – is now a must visit destination for lovers of fine gastronomy traveling in Spain. Its inhabitants, the fiercely proud Basque people, have always enjoyed spending money on food and drink, and lots of it! They are privileged to have access to an abundance of superb raw materials – fish, seafood, excellent game, vegetables, mushrooms, fine wines and other delicacies can all be sourced locally. Moreover, over the past thirty years Basque cuisine has been going through a phase of creative renewal, inspired by the French nouvelle cuisine cookery school. The result is that the region is now Spain’s uncontested gourmet stronghold and a paradise for visitors looking to immerse themselves in good food and wine.

pays basque in autumn

Unsurprisingly, there are more Michelin starred restaurants in the Basque country than any other part of Spain and with standards ever rising; the number is set to increase in the future. The city of San-Sebastian alone has 8 Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famous Arzak, one of the pioneers of the new Basque cuisine school of gastronomy. Of course, plenty of superb restaurants can be found across the region without a Michelin star and not having a star does not mean that the restaurant does not work to the highest gastronomic standards. As a guide for discerning visitors keen to sample one or two of the finer points of Basque cuisine, we have selected our top Basque country restaurants below:

1. Akelarre, Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS


With over 38 years experience of wowing diners, head chef Pedro Subijana rarely hits a wrong note with his incredibly refined, exquisite take on traditional Basque dishes and cuisine. This 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in San-Sebastian simply has it all: spectacular views of rolling hills which plunge into the sea, sublime food, a lengthy wine list and professional, but not overly formal service. To savor Subijana’s star dishes, you must try the seven course menu de degustacion. Every dish is a gastronomic treat, but particular highlights include the Sauteed Fresh Foie Gras with Salt Flakes and Grain Pepper and the utterly irresistible Roasted Baby Pig with Tomato “Bolao” and Iberian Emulsion. One for that special occasion! And a personal fave were our clients get extra special service here.

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2. Arzak, 273 Avenida Alcade Elosegui, 20015, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

arzak 2

Considered to be one of the word’s best restaurants in any gourmet guide worth its salt, and, judging by the consistently excellent standards at this icon of modern Basque cooking, we’d have to agree. Founded in 1897 as a house by the current owner’s grandparents, Arzak’s fame can be attributed to one man with a great vision – Juan Mari Arzak. After returning home from the army, Arzak trained in his mother’s kitchen and founded what would become Spain’s first restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars in 1989. Today, he works with his equally passionate daughter Elena to bring diners a taste of his incredible take on Basque dishes – Arzak literally is the godfather of new Basque cuisine. Signature dishes include his marvelous Rape Marea Baja, which is Monkfish with mussels and nori flavored shells and his sublime Pichon con Chia, a moreish concoction of roasted pigeon with a Mexican Chia seed cracker and chia spheres filled with broth. A venue everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

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3. Azurmendi, Corredor del Txorierri, Salids 25, Barrio Legina, Larrabetzu, 48195- THREE MICHELIN STARS

azurmendi eneko-atxa-pequena

If Azurmendi were up for sale then it would pull in a fortune for its location alone! A spectacular hilltop setting 10 minutes drive from Bilbao airport houses a modern glass and steel building that serves 3 Michelin-starred food of the highest quality. A relatively new kid on the block, Azurmendi was founded in 2005 by superstar chef Eneko Atxa who cut his teeth at such prestigious venues as Andra Mari and Mugaritz. Its fame quickly rose and in 2013, the venue was awarded a third Michelin star. The restaurant, in addition to being celebrated for its Nouvelle Basque cuisine, is noted for its exceptional and well stocked wine cellar, which is also excellent value. A bottle of the superb Alion from Vega Sicilia can be obtained for €60 for example, which is equivalent to the retail price. Atxa’s prize winning dishes include his roast lobster with a tapenade of lobster, mushrooms, black olives and spring onion emulsion and the already legendary Confit of pork on a breadcrumb base salted with pork bones and acorns, garnished with pork jus, herbs and pork crackling. Divine!


4. Berasategui, Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria, 20160, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

A living legend in Basque gastronomy, Martin Berasategui currently holds more Michelin stars than any other Spanish chef. He opened one of the Basque country’s leading restaurants in 1993, in a charming converted farmhouse. He quickly earned a Michelin star and was awarded his third in 2001. This is a restaurant that strives for perfection and easily achieves it; the service is some of the best in Spain, each dish is meticulously crafted and most importantly, Berasategui will happily substitute any dish for something more to your liking. He will also design a menu to fit your budget, which is a rarity in Michelin-starred establishments. Add into the mix an extensive wine list and beautiful setting, and you have the recipe for gastronomic perfection. His signature dishes include a cold potato soup with smoked bacon and the award winning roasted Araiz pigeon, with fresh mushroom pasta, spring onions and light touches of truffle cream.

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5. Elkano, Herrerieta Kalea, 2, 20808, Getaria


This restaurant is justly celebrated for being a seafood lover’s paradise. Located in the charming Basque village of Getaria, head chef Pedro Arregui, aided by grill master Luís Manterola are famous all over Spain, in fact Europe and beyond for their exquisite shellfish and grilled fish dishes, washed down with the local Basque wine, Txacoli. Their secret is simply only using the freshest, seasonal and locally caught produce which is clearly reflected in the menu. The undisputed highlight at Elkano is the turbot-rodaballo, whole turbot cooked on oak charcoal ashes very slowly, without touching the fire, the result being the finest turbot we have ever tasted. Visitors must also try the delightful kokotxas pil pil, which is grilled hake jowl served with a sauce prepared with its own gelatin, olive oil, parsley, and garlic. Finish with the delicious helado de queso de Idiazabal, ice cream made from a mascarpone-like local cheese served with fresh strawberry coulis.

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6. Etxebarri, Calle de San Juán, 1, 24549 Atxondo– ONE MICHELIN STAR

etxebarri 66Head chef and founder Victor Arguinzoniz is the master of Asador style cooking, which is a traditional Spanish method which cooks everything over a large charcoal grill, including dessert! Located in the beautiful Basque countryside, the restaurant offers new culinary creations based on classic techniques and Arguinzoniz is not afraid to grill baby eels, rice, clams, anchovies and black truffles in his quest for culinary perfection. At the heart of this gastronomic temple, however, is a love of freshness and flavor rather than aesthetics for aesthetics sake or overwrought creations.  The wine list is a similar delight, packed with diverse offerings from Spain’s finest regions. Start your feast with his signature grilled baby eels. Follow with baby sea-cucumbers and green beans and tartar of fresh lobster, then move onto the obligatory chuletón or gilled rib eye. This restaurant, although off the beaten track is an essential visit for lovers of great food and wine!


7. La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais, 1 Avenue de l’ Imperatrice, 64200, Biarritz– ONE MICHELIN STAR

One of France’s greatest restaurants, the Michelin-starred Villa Eugenie can be found in the stunningly beautiful Hotel du Palais in the glamours French resort of Biarritz. The hotel was founded in 1855 as a private villa (known as Villa Eugenie) for the Empress Eugenie. In 1880 the villa was sold and subsequently converted into a hotel casino and then the luxury hotel we see today. It is now a must visit destination of gourmets traveling in the Basque country and the favourite of many Parisians, who say it exceeds the finest restaurants in the French capital. Head Chef Jean-Marie Gautier is a culinary master, but unlike some of his contemporaries prefers to serve classical dishes and is not a slave to the inventiveness of the new Basque school of gastronomy. The ornate, opulent dining room is a sight to behold and one of the most romantic destinations in France. Diners come from far and wide to enjoy his wonderful creations, including the sangria poached duck foie gras and sautéed sucking lamb with artichoke. As expected, the wine list is extensive and a Bordeaux and Burgundy lovers delight.

La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais

8. L´Atelier, 8, rue de la Bergerie – Quartier St Charles, 64200 Biarritz– ONE MICHELIN STAR

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Another fantastic example of fine gastronomy in the resort of Biarritz, L’Atelier is run by a husband and wife team who recently gained their first Michelin star. A deserving accolade for one of the region’s finest restaurants, presided over by head chef Alexandre Bousquet, while his wife runs the front of house. This small, intimate restaurant serves modern, refined cuisine which mixes the best elements of its French and Basque heritage. Some dishes that must be tried include the sea bream and mashed potato with a pistachio sauce, fried oysters with coconut foam and his divine veal sweetbreads. The wine list offers many gems from both France and Spain, including a great selection of vintage Champagnes. Magnifique!

9. Mugaritz, Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, Errenteria, 20100 San Sebastian- TWO MICHELIN STARS


Andoni Luis Aduriz, who founded Mugaritz in 1998 has a pedigree like no other in Spain. This incredibly talented chef worked at the legendary El Bulli in the 1990s and also trained under Martin Berasategui in 1996, another of the Basque country’ leading chefs. He is widely acknowledged to be at the forefront of the new Basque haute cuisine of the region, following the template set out by chefs like Arzak, who wished to investigate the science behind food preparation in their pursuit of perfect molecular gastronomy. Dining at Mugartiz – a mere 20 minutes drive by car from San-Sebastian – therefore, is an experience rather than just an evening of great food. Expect such creative delicacies as noodles of milk skin wrapped in lard served with a tomatoes and pumpkin emulsion, hake with cauliflower and marscarpone cheese and lamb with brain ragout! Service as you’d expect is flawless and attentive throughout and the wine list is a monument to every major Spanish wine producing region.

Mugaritz - gnoc

10. Zoko Moko, 6 Rue Mazarin, 64500, St Jean de Luz– ONE MICHELIN STAR

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This elegant and beautiful venue is now undoubtedly St Jean de Luz’s best restaurant. Presided over by head chef Remy Benedeyt since 2011, his cooking is a veritable showcase of sophisticated Basque cooking, and is well worth the visit to this delightful seaside resort on the French Basque coast. The emphasis is squarely on providing diners with a warm personal touch, service is friendly rather than overly formal and the restaurant is only too happy to accommodate your personal requests or preferences. Highlights include prawns on a bed of a julienne of avocado and courgette and the famous cannettes (female duck) which comprises of a pan fried breast and a confit leg. Desserts are also splendid, as is the carefully prepared wine list. Prices are reasonable considering the quality on offer and if this fantastic restaurant has a drawback, well then we can’t see it!

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11. Zortziko, Calle Alameda Mazarredo 17, El Ensanche, Bilbao, 48001– ONE MICHELIN STAR

zortziko class

The legendary Zortziko remains today Bilbao’s finest Michelin-starred restaurant; founded by Daniel Garcia in 1989 it continues to wow visitors with Garcia’s superlative, contemporary haute cuisine. The destination is worth the price of admission alone, a gorgeous and elegant building which was actually declared a historic monument. Garcia keeps the menu seasonal, allowing diners to return and sample different innovative dishes, which are always sublime. Service is totally professional and the wine list impressive. Start your meal with the signature langostino con risotto de perretxikos (prawns with wild mushroom risotto), followed by the suprema de pintada asada a la salsa de trufas (guinea fowl in truffle sauce). Finish with strawberry soup and rhubarb ice cream for real gastronomic heaven.

Zortziko comedor

12. Zuberoa, Araneder Bidea, Barrio Iturriotz, 20180 Oiartzun- ONE MICHELIN STAR


Another of Spain’s best restaurants, Zuberoa is set in an idyllic 600 year old farmhouse in the Basque countryside. Founded by the Arbelaitz brothers, the restaurant has maintained over the years a flawless consistency in its culinary artistry, head chef Hilario Arbelaitz is a devotee to the new Basque school of cookery, although he never forgets the traditional origins of Basque cooking which shines through in his creations. Service is perfect, complimenting his delicious, inventive cooking. Signature dishes include: foie gras with chickpea sauce, roasted Norway lobster, vichyssoise and vanilla ravioli, roast duck foie gras with a red fruit sauce and his legendary strawberry and tomato soaked gazpacho.


Top Ten Rioja Wines for Collectors

Posted by gen On October - 11 - 2013

Top La Rioja Wines for Collectors

Although the renowned Rioja region has increasingly had to fight off competition from the likes of Ribera Del Duero and Priorat, it is still justly considered Spain’s most important and finest producer of premium red wines. Over a decade of serious investment and a transformation of the established winemaking styles has left region with a bewildering array of options for the wine-lover – today, Rioja literally has it all! International fame, beautiful countryside full of hill topped medieval hamlets, rising prices and both traditional and new wave wine styles. Many winemakers have rejected the old mantra of long periods of ageing in American oak barrels and now use new French oak and concentrated, ripe fruit to great effect. Winemakers are also increasingly abandoning the classic Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva classification system and instead flout the appellation rules to make the wines they want to make!

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In recent years, a combination of high scores from Robert Parker and the minute volumes produced by these new wave ‘cult’ Rioja wineries has ensured that prices remain buoyant. Top Riojas now present a very attractive investment for wine collectors, particularly the less conservative collectors who can see beyond the bright lights of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The best wines are made to last, for decades in fact and whether you buy for pleasure or to make a good return, premium Rioja is definitely a safe bet.

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Here are our favorite top 10 Rioja wines to recommend for collectors:

Artadi: Viña el Pisón

The Cosecheros Alaveses winery, under the brand name Artadi is today producing outstanding, modern style Riojas: taut, powerful and built to last! Their top wine, the famous Viña el Pisón is made from just 2.4 hectares of unique vineyards cultivated bio-dynamically. It needs at least 10 years cellaring after release and owner Juan Carlos Lopez De Lacalle is confident that his top wines will last at least 30-40 years.  The winery was founded in 1985 as a cooperative, but de Lacalle turned it into a private business in 1992. After Robert Parker awarded the El Pisón 100 points in 2004, the wine’s asking price soared and is today highly sought after. Volumes are low so expect to pay, over $250 a bottle usually.

artadi vina pison


Contador is a new kid on the block, having being released as recently as 1996. Owner Benjamin Romeo produced the now legendary 96 in a centuries-old cave beneath the castle of San Vicente de la Sonierra. He has since turned his parent’s garage into a tiny winery and his 2004 and 2005 vintages were awarded 100 points by Parker, sending the wine’s reputation (and price) into the stratosphere. However, perfectionist Romeo refused to produce a vintage in 2006, sighting indifferent fruit as the reason which superseded any commercial concerns. Truly, this is a man who cares about quality, which clearly shows in his powerful, expressive and totally exquisite Rioja. Expect to pay around $320.

contador benjamin romeo

Contino: Vina del Olivo

Respected wine maker Jesus Madrazo continues to take Contino to new heights, his single vineyard star wine, the Vina del Olivo, has won awards far and wide for its velvety, supple texture and intense length and depth of flavor. This forward thinking property is part owned by the wine giant CVNE, although Jesus is left to his own devices when it comes to the wines! The bodega (winery) has 45 ha of vineyards planted around a 17th century manor. The wine is typically dominated by Tempranillo and the winemaking methods are modern rather than traditional, French oak taking precedence over American. The resulting wine is stunning, balanced and complex, typically retailing for about $100.

contino 0livo

Finca Allende: Aurus

One of the very best producers in Rioja, mainly sourcing fruit from their own vineyards in La Rioja Alta. Owner Miguel-Angel de Gregorio is a passionate advocate of using New French oak and modern winemaking methods, the resulting wines are rich, concentrated but also structured and will last for decades after release. His top wine Aurus is sumptuous, produced from 60-year old vines the wine is unfiltered and vinified with whole bunches to the highest standard, with a lengthy maceration adding weight, depth and a supple texture. A complex, impressive wine that retails for about $180.


La Rioja Alta: Gran Reserva 904

Bodegas La Rioja Alta are traditionalists in a sea of ever-increasing new wave wineries wishing to abandon Rioja’s historic wine style and winemaking methods. Their top Gran Reserva wine, the 904 is a monument to how sublime traditional Rioja can be: aged for six years in America oak and four in bottle, this fantastic wine is only produced in the best vintages. A blend of 85 percent Tempranillo, plus Mazuelo and Viura it has a complex, deep aroma and classically a bright, brick-red color. Although approachable on release, old vintages of this venerable wine are highly sought-after, making it a great value investment option for the savvy collector. As volumes are not low, a bottle can be obtained for as little as $54.


Marques de Murrieta: Castillo d’Ygay Gran Reserva Especial

One of Rioja’s oldest Bodegas, Marques de Murrieta was established in 1852 by the great pioneer Luciano de Murrieta who was the first person to export Spanish wine in barrels. They are still staunch traditionalists, ageing the wines for long periods and at one time, the wines were bottled immediately from the barrel before shipping. And despite their concession to modernity with the fruit-driven Dalmau, their star turn remains the incredible Castillo d’Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, only made in exceptional years. This expensive and sought after wine is made from 70% Tempranillo, 12 per cent Garnacha, 13 percent Mazuelo and 5 per cent Graciano. At its best, the wine is splendidly rich, complex and of a different order. A true Rioja icon, available for a mere $102.

murrieta ygay

Marques de Riscal: Baron de Chirel

Rioja’s oldest Bodega, Marques de Riscal was founded in 1860 by Don Camilo Hurtado de Amezaga and was the first to introduce the Bordeaux vinification system. But despite their long heritage of producing classical Riojan wines, Marques de Riscal were also one of the first wineries to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Rioja and blend it into their superstar wine – Baron de Chirel. Made with 50 percent Tempranillo and Cabernet, it is still today one of the region’s finest and long-lived wines: rich but structured and firm in its youth. It demands at least 5 to7 years’ bottle release to be enjoyed at its best. Prices, however, have remained reasonable considering the quality on offer, a bottle can be obtained for $80.

riscal chirel

Muga: Aro

This long established, classical name in Haro continues to produce Rioja’s most aromatic and balanced reds. Muga was founded in 1932 and in 1972 moved to a new bodega near the railway station in Haro. It is a small family run winery making some excellent, traditional Riojas, however, their approach is wisely multifaceted; a fiercely traditional bodega has also embraced modernity with its thoroughly modern-style Aro Rioja, a wine of great depth, elegance and power. A blend 60 year old Tempranillo and Graciano, the wine is aged for 18 months in new French oak. The result is an extremely impressive new wave Rioja, loaded with vibrant blackberry fruit and velvety tannin. If you have the patience, give this beauty at least 5 years bottle age. Available from $180, this should be on any collectors shopping list!

muga ar

Roda: Cirsion

An impressive, modern bodega near the railway station quarter in Haro has been producing serious Reserva reds from low yielding Tempranillo for over a decade now. The property was established in 1986 but much of the vineyard is over 40 years old. This shows in the pedigree of the Roda I Reserva: powerful and concentrated but with the characteristic freshness and supple texture of Tempranillo. However, it is the super-cuvee Cirision that causes the most excitement amongst collectors and connoisseurs. It is undoubtedly one of the very best new style Riojas – rich, structured and cedary, a wine of real finesse and breeding. Unsurprisingly, prices are high so expect to pay around $230 for a bottle.

roda cirs

 Remirez de Ganuza: Trasnocho

Top-quality Rioja bodega which was established by Fernando Remirez de Ganuza as recently as 1989. Today, they work with over 80 hectares of vines in the Rioja Alavesa sub-zone, producing three excellent reds and one super-cuvee – Trasnocho – of real class and destination. It is the epitome of modern, supercharged Rioja: opulent, exotic, massively extracted but balanced too. Yours for the princely sum of $150 a bottle.

ganuza trasnocho

Best Wine Bars in Barcelona – Cellar Tours Shortlist

Posted by gen On September - 22 - 2013

Our selection of fave wine bars  in Barcelona….

Madrileños will strongly disagree, but there is no doubting that Barcelona‘s nightlife and bar scene is now one of the most vibrant in Europe. For while the citizens of Catalonia’s capital are all too happy to culturally distance themselves from their regional neighbors, they have in common with all Spaniards a love of social drinking that supports the highest number of bars per capita in the world. So banish those clichés of pitchers of Sangria on Las Ramblas and instead be prepared to party in a city that continues to sizzle with creativity: Barcelona’s wine bars and restaurants speak more of bold contemporary design than tradition!

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Today, Barcelona’s wine bars run the gamut from trendy, design led hotel bars to wood-paneled wine cellars and backstreet local haunts. An explosion of nightlife has occurred in recent years in the City’s waterfront area, which continues to attract large volumes of tourists in the summer. Cava and wine bars, some elegant and cool, some funky and style conscious are also reaching new heights of popularity, especially in the trendy Born district east of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. These bars vary enormously in clientele and vibe, but all are extraordinary atmospheric.

Just don’t expect things to get going before 10pm, especially at the weekend as people get into their night-time stride. Of course, not every venue in this captivating city is worth a visit, so we have done the hard work and listed Barcelona’s best wine bars below:


The Bankers Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 38-40 Passeig de Gracia

Since opening in 2009, this world-class hotel has won pundits far and wide for its service and has emerged as one of Barcelona’s finest and most sought-after hotels. Housed in an old bank vault, the Mandarin’s classy and refined Banker’s Bar has become a popular choice for both locals and visitors wishing to sample a range of Spanish and international wines by the bottle or glass. There is a real sense of sophistication about the space – sleek, softly lift with a black bar counter and black leather chairs. The service is exemplary and a range of high-quality tapas compliments the extensive wine list.


Monvinic – 249 Carrer de la Diputacio

Could Monvinic be the best wine bar in the world? It certainly comes close, as Monvinic has an incredible selection of both Spanish and imported wines by the glass or bottle. The emphasis here is on merging the traditional and cutting edge – visitors are handed an iPad like device instead of a wine list, however, a very large wine library is free for anyone to peruse at their leisure. The space is relaxed, elegant and refined, with soft cream colors and chairs replaced by loungers. There are over 60 selections by the glass and unusually for a Spanish destination; there is no bias to local wines. The bite-size accompaniments are also some of the best to be found in the Catalan capital – try the langoustines!

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Hotel Omm’s Lounge and Terrace bar – 265 Carrer Rossello

Hotel Omm led the way in re-defining Barcelona’s hotel and bar scene with its extremely smart, sophisticated urban accommodation for discerning travelers. It’s informal but chic lounge bar has become a firm favorite with Barcelona’s night crowd at the weekends, in addition to the hotel’s guests. Relax in the ridiculously comfortable sofas and peruse their extensive wine menu, which includes some brilliant cava options by the glass. An ultra-trendy club occupies the basement, whilst in the summer months the action takes place on Omm’s fantastic terrace, with views straight over to Gaudi’s masterpiece La Pedrera next door.


La Vinya del Senyor – 5 Placa Santa Maria

Still in a class of its own, La Vinya del Senyor occupies a space on the delightful Plaça de Santa Maria del Mar right in front of the extraordinary Gothic cathedral, gorgeous spot. Hoards of both tourists and natives come here to taste a wide variety of red and white vintages, accompanied by great value tapas. A good and varied selection of around 300 Spanish and imported wines, including some great cava and sherry, is served at the counter; or in the summer months on the fantastic outdoor terrace. There is no finer spot for people watching in Barcelona. Don´t miss it!


La Vinoteca Torres – 78 Passeig de Gracia

Torres’ global wine empire now extends to serving excellent tapas and pretty much every Torres wine by the glass at this deservedly popular wine bar on the city’s famous Passeig de Gracia Boulevard. The place’s secret is its ability to be things to all men: purchase wine, stay for a glass, and sample a few tapas or a full-blown 5 course meal. The venue is sleek and stylish and the tapas are some of the finest and most inventive in the city –  Vinoteca offers a great opportunity to enjoy the top-end wines of Torres without having to commit to a bottle. Service is uniformly excellent too.

Cata 1.81 – 181 Carrer de Valencia

The clean, modern interior of this ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ underground venue in Barcelona’s Eixample district suggests that this is no ordinary tapas bar. It is in fact a haven for oenophiles and mini gastronomic surprises. Cata 1.81 serves more than 250 wines by the bottle, with a clear emphasis on wines from every major Spanish region, and a list of over 25 by the glass that changes every 15 days. The only drawback is that space at this wonderful wine bar is quite limited so get there early!

barcelona cata 181

El Xampanyet – 22 Carrer de Montcada

Barcelona’s best-known cava bar still packs them in with its inviting atmosphere and selection of tapas and cava by the glass. Discover the finer points of Spain’s bubbly by sampling the wares of different produces by the glass, accompanied by perhaps a selection of sardines or a Jamon platter. The colorful tiles, stacked casks hung with a variety of bottle-openers and well-worn interior bespeak the informal, fun atmosphere for which this family run operation is well-loved. There is nothing cutting-edge or trendy about the place, which only adds to its timeless appeal.


Top 5 Spanish Wines to say Adios to summer

Posted by gen On September - 4 - 2013

Great wines from Spain to bid farewell to the summer.

By Mary O’Connor, Planeta Vino

de Nit cava copa

The last days of summer are just behind us, and we need some nice wines to see us through the tricky transition into autumn.  It’s too early for big Spanish reds, but we are a little tired of drinking so many summery whites, so what Spanish wines will soothe us now?

Some of my favorite Spanish wines are great at this time of the year:  rosados and cavas.  These are very versatile wines; they go with lots of everyday food, and especially the lighter foods we still eat at this time of the year.  The beginning of fall is also a nice time for some lighter, mineral red varieties, maybe a nice Mencía?

So check out my five favorite Spanish wines to help you say adios to summer and ease your transition into fall.

5.  Let’s kick it off with a cava.  There should be a rule that we all have to drink sparkling wine at least once a week!  It just makes you happier!
Cava has developed an unfortunate reputation as a cheap and cheerful alternative to champagne.  It can be that, but it can also be so much more.  There are many beautiful wines that do the style proud.
Gramona is one of Cava’s top houses and makes cavas that can compete with top champagnes in blind tastings.  But it’s one of their entry-level cavas that I love to always have on hand for my bubbly fix.

Gramona Brut Imperial Gran Reserva Cava 2007:  This cava is elegant and very wine-like, with a creamy texture and great length.  It’s crisp acidity and fine, discrete bubbles balance all that richness out perfectly.
It’s great with fish dishes, many tapas and typical Spanish fried foods, and also a surprising number of cheeses.   It’s great value for a top-flight sparkling wine, at about 15 euros in Spain and 25 dollars in the US.

4.  Next up is a classic Navarra RosadoNavarra is most known for its rosé or rosado wines even though it also makes amazing whites and reds as well.  Also due to its relative obscurity in the shadow of superstar neighbor Rioja, you can find some amazing values.

Artazuri Preto

Atazuri Garnacha Rosado 2012:  Strawberry and red fruit aromas in the nose while the mouth feels fresh and crisp.  Good Spanish rosados are very fruity but dry, leaving a nice clean finish in your mouth.  They combine some of the best elements of a red wine and a white wine.  The Artazuri is a perfect, refreshing Navarra Rosado.
These wines are ideal with the grilled fish and seafood that are so much a part of summer life in Spain.  They are also the wines of choice to match with most paellas and rice dishes.  Amazing value at 5 euros in Spain and less than 10$ in the US.

3.  Now for our token red!  Mencía is a top-notch grape variety from northwestern Spain.  Styles can vary, but the grape variety can make some lighter, floral, mineral reds that are perfect for this time of year.   It also often has a smoky quality, which can make it a great wine for those last summer barbecues. I’ve chosen a simple, but stellar wine from superstar winemaker Alvaro Palacios, who makes some memorable Mencías in the Bierzo region.

Petalos del Bierzo 2010

Pétalos del Bierzo 2011:  This wine has been a consistent darling of the critics even though it is just the baby in an impressive portfolio of Mencía wines from Palacios.   It’s a very elegant wine and showcases the intense fruit and minerality of the Mencía grape.
This wine is super food-friendly and matches with every day food choices.  It goes well with egg dishes, roasted vegetables, and lighter meats and poultry.  It remains really good value at about 15 euros in Spain and between 15-20$ in the US.

2.  Another rosado, but this one is so dark, you could mistake it for a light red.  It is made by one of Spain’s most exciting winemakers, Gregory Perez, and is the most intriguing rosé wine I’ve had in a long time.  He makes many exciting wines so look for anything from him and if you live in the US, look for anything from his importer, José Pastor.
The wine is from the relatively obscure region of Tierras de León and it’s made from the Prieto Picudo grape variety.  This grape variety has lots of potential, but there are still many rustic wines out there.

Rosado Preto 2011:  This blew the competition away recently at a rosé tasting I attended.  So aromatic in the nose, with violets and black pepper notes, then so bold and fresh in the mouth.  Very complex for a wine in this category, and one of the few Spanish rosados that can age.   It has all the flavor intensity of a red wine with the crunchy acidity of a white wine…beautiful!
Super versatile food matcher…it can match with chicken and pork dishes, even grilled fish.  It has a smoky, savory element that will go well with most grilled foods.  About 10 euros in Spain and 15$ in the US. Love it!

1.  My top wine to stave off summer’s-end depression?  Both an attractive rosado and an elegant cava, this is a wine I could enjoy everyday!  It is happiness in a bottle…and at a great price!
Rosado cava is a trendy and fast improving category, but it’s still a bit of a minefield.  Raventós i Blanc is a top producer that recently decided to leave the cava appellation due to perceived quality and image issues.  You can always count on consistency from their bottles.

Raventós i Blanc de Nit Brut 2010 Cava:  I always look for excuses to break out a bottle of this wine.  It’s easy to polish off by itself, but it also matches with almost any meal!  It has all the elegance of a great white cava with some the added richness and complexity of red fruit aromas from its rosado side.
It goes with cheeses and lighter fare like any cava, but as a rosado cava it can also handle heartier fare such as rice dishes, grilled seafood, and salads.  Truly great value in sparkling wine at 13 euros in Spain and about 20$ in the US.  de Nit cava


Top 10 Godello and Albariño wines

Posted by gen On April - 26 - 2013

Fine White Wines from Galicia

It is hard to believe that until recently these two wonderful and increasingly popular white varieties – Godello and Albariño, grown in Galicia in north-west Spain – have languished in obscurity.  Of course, local growers and Spanish connoisseurs championed their virtues for decades, but it is only over the past 10 years or so that wine lovers across the globe have been able to enjoy these aromatic, delicious and refreshing wines. And with exports rising, it looks like a new generation of wine drinkers are going to fall in love with Spain’s answer to the Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc craze.


The origin of the Albariño and Godello grapes is still disputed, although German oenologists and supporters like Miguel Torres claim that Albariño was taken from the Rhine and Mosel vineyards by German Monks in the 12th century. This would seem to make sense, as the name Albariño means “The Rhine white.” Its home is the Rias Baixas region in western Galicia, which is divided into 5 sub-zones: Val do Salnes, O Rosal, Condado do Tea, Soutomaior and Ribera do Ulla. Godello is found to the west of the town of Ourense in the Ribeiro and Valdeorras regions. The best results arguably come from the Valdeorras D.O (appellation) which was re-planted with Godello in the 1970s.

Uva Gallega

The above comparisons between Albariño and Godello with that much-loved variety, Sauvignon Blanc, are reasonably accurate, for all three varieties can produce aromatic, charming wines with varying depths of fruitiness. Like Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, most of their class and fruitiness is developed while the wines are still young, although experiments are increasingly been undertaken with barrel and lees aging. But generally, an old Albariño will taste flat and monotone, although Godello can age successfully for several years.

However, the flavor profile of Albariño is perhaps closer to Riesling, while Godello usually has good acidity, soft fruit and a spicy bouquet. Its structure is not dissimilar to Chardonnay, meaning that the winemaker has some license to coax out what flavors or aromas he sees fit.  Both of these grapes deserve pairing with the finest seafood and light fish dishes – they are divine with scallops or sea bass!

As you might expect, quality does vary but the best producers can always be relied upon to craft excellent wines of real class and distinction.

The following are our favorite 10 Godellos and Albariños. ¡ Salud!


1. 2011 Louro do Bolo Godello

One of the undisputed Kings of Godello production, winemaker Rafael Palacios has crafted a Godello to rival the finest white wines of the world. Vinified and matured in oak foudre from Normandy, this example from the Valdeorras region shows great complexity, elegance and finesse. Expect tropical fruit, a smooth texture and a smoky finish!

louro do bolo

2. 2011 Valdesil Godello

A beautifully balanced and clean Godello from the Valdesil winery, showing lovely citrus and pineapple fruit, underpinned by that dependable Godello freshness and acidity. Light, elegant and moreish – what more could you ask from a white wine? Try it with squid or mussels.


3. 2011 Peña das Donas, Almalarga Godello

This small, family owned estate is today producing some of the best Godello from the Ribeira Sacra region in Galicia. Owner/winemaker Antonio Lombardía takes meticulous care of his vineyards, crafting an un-oaked but weighty Godello that displays peach fruit and almond characteristics – Smooth, aromatic and delicious.

4. 2011 Bodegas Godeval Viña Godeval Blanco

An energetic, crisp, pungent Godello from the respected Godeval estate in Valdeorras. The 2011 vintage displays complex notes of citrus, grapefruit, lanolin and spicy herbal notes – a vibrant wine with a strong mineral finish. A brilliant accompaniment for salmon or Asian cuisine.


5. 2011 Telmo Rodriguez, Gaba do Xil Godello

Telmo Rodriguez is one of Spain’s superstars, making superlative wines in many of the country’s best wine regions. His recent foray into Godello production is already giving spectacular results: the 2011 is a serious, fleshy wine of real depth and complexity. Expect floral, pear, citrus and lemongrass notes.



6. 2011 Santiago Ruiz Albariño

Galicia’s long established Albariño pro – the so called father of Albariño –  Santiago Ruiz releases year after year excellent and great value Albariños from its superior vineyards in the Rias Baixas zone. The 2011 is another great example: floral aromas are complimented by wonderful citrus, apple and pear flavours on the palate – Delicious with Shellfish.


7. 2011 Adegas Galegas Veigadares Albariño

Undoubtedly one of the finest estate today in Galicia, Adegas Galegas was established relatively recently in 1995 and continues to produce top class wines. The 2011 is aromatically complex, balance and refined, with powerful green fruit and mineral flavors.

8. 2011 Bodegas Fillaboa Albariño

Fillabao was established in Galicia many decades ago, and is today a consistently impressive producer of pungent, crowd pleasing Albariño from their 70 hectares of vineyards. Even in weaker vintages these wines are a dependable buy, displaying classic pineapple, apple and citrus notes.


9. 2011 Martin Codax Albariño

A widely awarded family business producing excellent quality wines at affordable prices. Much investment has been put into the bodega and it shows – the wines have been getting steadily more impressive over the last 10 years. Their 2011 Albariño is a bright, fresh, modern example from the region, offering intense aromas of grapefruit, citrus and rose petal. An all time classic.


10. 2011 Zarate Tras da Viña Albariño

A family firm dating back to the 1920s, Zarate make a range of Albariños including the thoroughly modern and stylish Tras da Vina that is subject to over 25 months lees ageing, a practice which is becoming increasingly fashionable. An unusually rich and complex Albariño, with yeasty notes and a creamy texture that complements the classic citrus fruit.

Vinos Dulces

Posted by gen On January - 17 - 2012

Vinos Dulces

LOS OTROS VINOS– Alberto Coronado

Vinos Dulces

Existen en el mercado “otros vinos” que no  son, ni con mucho los más consumidos, ni tampoco los más conocidos por el gran público. Es un totum revolutum de clasificaciones y de elaboraciones; también de zonas de producción, de denominaciones de origen, de países, de climas e incluso de culturas. Son los llamados “vinos nobles” y sin duda cada uno de ellos tiene su leyenda, su historia y hasta su cruz particular. En cualquier caso son vinos inclasificables por su tipicidad y personalidad, pero si todos tienen algo en común es su altísima calidad. España aporta a esta lista algunos de los vinos más peculiares del mundo.

Se les denomina “vinos nobles” porque muchos de ellos han sido durante siglos tesoros únicos en las mesas de los mejores salones imperiales europeos. Destacan por ser originales y sublimes y dan reconocimiento y prestigio a unas contadísimas zonas vitivinícolas del mundo. Entre ellos se encuentran las “rarezas” enológicas más logradas, las producciones más escasas y en muchos casos los precios más astronómicos.

Se elaboran en todos los continentes, pero es en Europa donde encontramos los más representativos. Son difícilmente clasificables por su peculiaridad y por ser los vinos más artesanales y más personales que existen. Algunos son frutos de la casualidad, otros de la desidia y otros de la adversidad climática incluso política de una determinada zona de producción.

Para hacer una primera clasificación muy somera habría una gran división entre vinos generosos y dulces o licorosos.
A continuación vamos a detallar las principales tipologías en las que se pueden englobar dichos vinos:


Se denominan vinos generosos los que tienen un contenido en alcohol entre 14º y 23º, a muchos de ellos se les suele añadir alcohol vínico y sus crianzas son habitualmente muy prolongadas, como en el caso de Jerez, Montilla Moriles y Málaga mediante el sistema de soleras y criaderas. En este tipo de vinos es su elaboración lo que los hace realmente únicos, por encima de las variedades de uva utilizadas o las influencias climáticas de cada cosecha.

Vino Generoso

Asombrosamente y a pesar de ser uno de los grandes vinos del mundo y nuestra única aportación al panorama internacional de vinos representativos de una zona reconocida durante siglos en España, el vino de Jerez es mínimamente conocido y consumido. Hasta tal punto que bodegueros y “entendidos” en la materia se confiesan poco conocedores de este tipo de vinos. Hace algunos años la prestigiosa revista “The Economist” hizo una encuesta entre sus suscriptores sobre sus preferencias a la hora de tomar una bebida alcohólica. El Jerez se alzó en el primer puesto por delante de la ginebra o el whisky o incluso del vino francés. Claro, eso en el Reino Unido. Nadie es profeta en su tierra.


El segundo grupo estaría formado por los vinos dulces o licorosos ,aquí deberíamos hacer más subdivisiones, ya que el azúcar residual que nos encontramos tiene orígenes y modos de obtención muy diferentes. Según el procedimiento empleado y las zonas de producción. En cualquier caso en esta clasificación todos los vinos son dulces.

Por fermentación parcial

Cuando el mosto inicia la fermentación, esta se detiene mediante la adición de alcohol vínico. Generalmente pasan posteriormente a barricas para continuar su crianza y algunos son sometidos a largos envejecimientos o a altas temperaturas para conseguir un enranciamiento posterior.

El gran representante de este primer grupo es sin lugar a dudas el Oporto, uno de los grandes mitos y que merecería capítulo aparte. También los moscateles de grano menudo y de Alejandría de Rivesaltes, Setubal, Frontignan o Samos junto con los vinos de Banyuls, Madeiras, Marsalas o Garnatxas catalanes estarían aquí representados. En España hay zonas con gran tradición de moscateles como Valencia, Málaga, Navarra, Alicante o Canarias.

Vino Dulce

Deshidratación por Botrytis Cinerea

La vendimia se retrasa para así exponer la uva al hongo llamado botrytis cinerea. Éste produce la deshidratación del grano y el consiguiente aumento de la concentración de azúcares. Son vinos de una acidez elevada y de una untuosidad inigualable.Para que se produzca este proceso las cepas deben estar ubicadas cerca de ríos o lagos, con brumas matinales seguidas de fuertes insolaciones diurnas. Son unos vinos de color ambarino o dorado muy glicéricos, melosos y con notas de membrillo, orejón desecado y miel de acacia.

Al tener que ser recogidas las uvas en la mayoría de los casos grano a grano se encuentran en esta categoría algunos de los vinos mas caros del mundo; los Tokaj húngaros, Sauternes en Francia y los beerenauslese y trockenbeerenauslese en Alemania y Austria.

Vino Dulce

Vendimias tardías o dulces naturales

La recogida de la uva al igual que en anterior caso se retrasa para forzar su sobremaduración. La concentración de azúcares es mayor con lo que se obtienen vinos dulces naturales de unos 12º a 14º. En España hay experiencias con fantásticos resultados como los de Chivite pero son los Spätlese en Alemania y Austria , los vendimias tardías de Tokaj o los “Selección de granos nobles” franceses los más conocidos internacionalmente.

Deshidratación por asoleo

Las uvas una vez recogidas se esparcen en esteras de esparto y se las somete al asoleo durante dos semanas aproximadamente. El agua que contienen los granos se evapora y los azúcares se concentran, pasificando las uvas. El contenido en azúcar es tan elevado que la fermentación apenas es posible, por lo que se añade alcohol vínico hasta alcanzar los 15º. Estas mistelas envejecen en botas, alcanzando niveles de concentración y de vejez verdaderamente asombrosos.

Son los Pedro Ximenez en Jerez, Montilla Moriles y Málaga los más emblemáticos. También se puede hacer este proceso de pasificación por estufado artificial como los Passitos italianos o  como los Strohwein (vinos de paja) Alsacianos, del Jura o los alemanes y austríacos. Se consiguen almacenando las uvas durante tres meses sobre esteras de paja o juncos o colgándolas de cuerdas y secadas al aire. Y por supuesto uno de los grandes dulces españoles, el Fondillón.

Vino Dulce

Las denominadas mistelas no se podrían considerar propiamente vinos en el concepto estricto de la palabra, ya que para denominarse de esta manera debería haber fermentación alcohólica y en el caso de las mistelas todo su alcohol es por adicción. Por esta razón los vinos amistelados serían  vinos licorosos generosos elaborados con concentrado de uvas, más alcohol vínico autorizado con una graduación superior a los 13º y azúcares residuales superiores a 100 gr/l.

Deshidratación por congelación

La vendimia se retrasa hasta noviembre o diciembre logrando la congelación del agua del grano. Las uvas en este estado son trasladadas rápidamente a la bodega para vinificarlas y conseguir atrapar todo el dulzor del grano congelado. Son vinos de color pálido, de elevada acidez y poca graduación alcohólica.

Son los conocidos Eiswein alemanes o austríacos. Aunque recientemente en Canadá también se hacen estos vinos con muy buenos resultados.

Vino Dulce

En definitiva en esta clasificación puede ser variable según se realice organolépticamente, por denominaciones históricas o por contenido alcohólico. En cualquier caso se podrían incluir los vinos espumosos naturales, gasificados, de aguja, aromatizados, enverados o de aperitivo, pero los mencionados sin lugar a dudas engloban no sólo vinos especiales, sino los vinos históricos de más alta categoría en el ámbito de la enología mundial.


Vinos de Oporto

Vega Sicilia, El Valor de un Mito- Vinos Iconos

El Palo Cortado, el Vino de Leyenda

Vestirse de Etiqueta – Etiquetas de Vino

Dining Highlights Barcelona- Foodie Weekend

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2010

Restaurants in Barcelona- Notes from a Foodie Weekend

Dining Highlights Barcelona

We were in Barcelona last weekend checking out new suppliers, taking in some meetings and visiting some of our favorite foodie partners, here are some notes from our trip and tips for your next visit to Barcelona.

FRIDAY- CASA CALVET- We arrived to town after 9PM but managed to get freshened up before our late dinner at Casa Calvet. What a beautiful place! Located in a Catalan mansion designed by none other than Gaudi for a textile mogul at the turn of the last century, the whimsical dining room is all stained glass, “Modernista” design, mirrors, polished wood and brass. A “brindis” (toast) with cava was in order as we admired the setting and ordered the food. We shared wild mushrooms with chestnuts and Jamón Ibérico, perhaps not the most adventurous, but delish.  Other interesting starters included Bomba rice with conger eel and seasonal veg & Apple and foie gras ravioli with truffle cream. Alvaro Palacio´s “Terrasses” from Priorat was good value here and just gorgeous.  The mains selected were a delicate cod steak confit with porcini mushrooms and arbequina olives, artichoke chips and a rich duck liver with chickpeas and Iberian pancetta, aromatized with cumin. Gluttony, not hunger, made us finish with Apple tart tatin, made fresh to order. The other patrons dining this late were a mix of elegant Catalan couples and tourists. The food was not ground breaking or unique enough to be featured in a Bourdain episode, but was still very good and the setting beautiful, recommend for a special occasion.

Dining in Barcelona

SATURDAY- EMBAT AND FONDA GAIG– While we normally breakfast at the Boqueria market when in town (cava and Joan´s garbanzos with Morcilla at Pinotxo in the market are a MUST), we had a meeting so had a quickie breakfast at “any old bar” of simple pan amb tomaquet (country bread drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and rubbed with tomatoes) and freshly squeezed orange juice as you do when in Spain…

Breakfast in Spain

Lunch was with our friend, writer Tara Stevens who is launching a new cookbook as we speak (more on that later…) at the quite fantabulous “Embat“.  We had heard good things about this swish little eatery, and it was the perfect lunch venue- light, airy, friendly, and not so crowded (dinner is more “sceney” apparently). Dinner was supposed to be the highlight today but lunch stole the show.  The wine list is very, very good, we selected a bottle of the current vintage of Vallegarcía Viognier (one of our favorite Spanish white wines), and it was peachy, fresh and creamy, love that wine.  An amuse bouche of Cauliflower pannacotta with caviar set the tone (mmmmms and ooooohs) and we continued with STUNNING cannelones stuffed with duck (a flagship dish,  Canelons d’ànec amb rossinyols de pi”), seared scallops with apple and pancetta, and followed with heavenly slow cooked beef, lobster rice and pigeon three ways. Simply yum, yum and more yum. I think dessert was actually a favorite dish, a refreshing “Sopa de romaní amb meló i llimona” ( a kind of soupy sorbet of melon, lemon and rosemary). Too delicious to describe in words… We were stuffed at this stage so decided to walk it off and do some gourmet shopping while in town. Visits to Escribà, Cacao Sampaka, the Corte Inglés supermarket were in order!

Dining in Barcelona

Dinner then was at Fonda Gaig, an old time favorite, relaxed, understated and  chic, with traditional Catalan cuisine served in a brasserie setting by mythical Michelin starred chef Carles Gaig (Fonda Gaig is his nostalgic eatery, known for its trad cuisine while “Restaurante Gaig“, located at the stylish Hotel Cram is the trendy, creative Michelin starred eatery.) Don´t ask us where we found room (the more you eat the hungrier you get!), but we managed to have a full dinner and dessert (!):  Salteado de setas de temporada (sautéed wild mushrooms) and Senyor Gaig’s biblical croquettes. For mains Pato con peras  (duck with pears) , Vieiras con salteado de alcachofas  (scallops with artichokes) and Albondigas con sepia  (meatballs with cuttlefish). To finish, nothing else would do but Crema Catalana, sublime. We were dying for a bottle of Artadi Rioja, but they just sold the last bottle so we had a very good bottle of Muga. We waddled back to our hotel, luckily a good 20 minute walk so we were able to digest… a bit….

Dining in Barcelona

SUNDAY- CASA DELFÍN– Our friend Kate who owns the truly wonderful Taller de Tapas chain (in our view the freshest and absolute best tapas in Barcelona!) invited us down to her newest venue in Barcelona, the Casa Delfín, a historic and well loved neighborhood restaurant that Kate recently took over.  Respecting the clientele and traditional Catalan cuisine, Casa Delfín has all the classic dishes on offer, as well as traditional tapas (Padrón peppers, anchovies, Jamón, calamares, you name it). While the inside of the restaurant is darling, kind of Parisian bistro a la Catalana, it was a sunny day and sitting inside on such a beautiful afternoon was not an option! We tasted our way through their tapas menu (major highlights were the savory garbanzos, and the nearly sweet, utterly buenísimo sautéed artichokes) and for mains had absolutely delicious seafood rice and a Sunday staple, liver and onions. They serve zippy Alella by the glass and, unusual for Spain, have some nice half bottles on offer. The crowd inside was all local, many older, elegant Catalan couples, while outside on the “terraza” was a mix of funky, younger locals and tourists like us 🙂 Recommended, especially for Sunday lunch.

Dining in Barcelona

Casa Delfin, Barcelona

For our digestif, we took a long walk from the Borne quarter into the Eixample and sat down for a Campari at  the lovely Casa Fuster, our main hotel partner in Barcelona. They have a beautiful bar which is a stylish, relaxed place to have an afternoon drink or coffee and read the newspaper, listen to jazz. Casa Fuster is the coolest place to stay in Barcelona in our opinion, for location, rooms and setting. And alas, late afternoon called for packing, weighing suitcases exploding with our gourmet shopping, and heading to the airport.  A reveure, Barcelona!

Other spots we love in Barcelona: Cinc Sentits (for an elegant but unpretentious Michelin starred dinner delivered in perfect English as the owners are Canadian-Catalan), Abac (for a special “date night” Michelin dinner in glam setting), the old fashioned and pretty “La Dama” restaurant (romantic), Katherine´s Formageria de  la Seu cheese shop (where onsite cheese tastings can be organized), Sergi Arola`s trendy tapas bar at the Hotel Arts, and the tremendous wine selection at the Vila Viniteca enoteca (we organize  Spanish cheese and wine masterclasses here in their cellar). On our next visit to Barcelona we plan to dine again (it´s been a while) at Alkimia and will check out Carles Abellan´s newish Tapaç 24.

Shots around town…

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Wines of the Camino de Santiago- Wine Tasting along the Saint James Pilgrimage

Camino de Santiago

This has been a record year for number of pilgrims on the “Camino de Santiago” with visitors coming from all over the world, and travelling clear across the North of Spain to Santiago de Compostela on foot, cycling, horseback, and those with less time available, by car.  The experience is amazing and even life changing for some, and while in centuries and decades past the pilgrimage was purely religious, these days people from all walks of life and religions take part in the Camino for a number of reasons- spiritual, for their health, as a sabbatical or break between professions, and many, as a unique life affirming vacation. Some of Spain´s loveliest cathedrals and medieval towns are located along the camino. And the bonus for wine lovers is that many of Spain´s best wine regions also crisscross the north of the country.

There are  5 main pilgrim routes to Santiago in Spain, and others originating outside Spain in greater Europe but the most popular and traditional of the caminos is the “Camino Francés“, the French Way which starts in French Basque Country and stretches nearly 800 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela. Here are some notes on wine tasting and traveling along the Camino Francés, for food and wine lovers.


Wines of the Camino French Pays Basque

Sightseeing: If you have a few days before starting the Camino, explore the French Pays Basques-  Biarritz, the darling fishing village of St Jean de Luz, the picture postcard of Ainhoa, etc.  St Jean Pied de Port itself is a lovely small town as is Roncevalles and St Etienne de Baigorry is in  the heart of Irouleguy wine country.

What to drink: Domaine Arretxea, Domaine Brana, Domaine Ilarria, Domaine Etxegaraya

Where to stay: Stay in a simple room at the Hotel Pyrenee and dine at their Relais & Chateaux restaurant

Wines of the Camino


wine tasting on the camino de santiago

Sightseeing: Puente la Reina with its medieval bridge, 18th century Santa Eulalia de Merida church in Etxauri (14 km from Pamplona), the Hemingway trail in Pamplona, the Ermita de Santa Maria de Eunate in Muruzabal, the monastery of Irache (also a winery) with its fuente de vino (a highlight for walkers on the camino with its free wine), the hamlet of Dicastillo, the magnificent fairy tale castle in Olite, the lovely Iglesia de Santa Maria in Tafalla, Ujue with its fortress and the medieval hamlet of Larraga.

What to drink: El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa (Nekeas), Esencia Monjardin, Alzania Seleccion, Ochoa Vino dulce de Moscatel, Calchatas, Guelbenzo Evo, Coleccion 125 Chardonnay fermentada en barrica (Chivite).

Local dishes to try: Bacalao ajoarriero, Esparragos de Navarra, Cordero al Chilindron

Local festivities: The truffle festival in Oloríz in December, The medieval festival of Olite in August and the international folkloric dance festival in Lodosa in July.

Visit wineries (always by appointment): Castillo de Monjardin, Palacio de Muruzabal, Principe de Viana

Where to stay: La Perla in Pamplona, the beautiful Parador in Olite and the Relais & Chateaux El Peregrino in Puente la Reina

Navarra wine map


wine tasting camino santiago

Sightseeing: Medieval villages like Laguardia, Briones and Ábalos; Tapas (Calle Laurel) and some fine churches in Logroño; the hamlet of Navarrete; beautiful Torremontalbo; Nájera; the extremely important monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla (birthplace of the Spanish language; and the  Santo Domingo la Calzada is a major stop on the Camino de Santiago.

What to drink:  Tempranillo is king here and Rioja has some amazing producers making both traditional and modern style wines. We love Benjamín Romeo´s Contador, Sierra Cantabria, Remirez de Ganuza, Roda, Hermanos Peciña, Muga, Artadi, Finca Valpiedra and Señorio de San Vicente.

Local dishes to try: menestra de verduras (fresh sauteed local veggies, Rioja is a big vegetable producing part of Spain), alcachofas frescas salteadas con jamón ibérico (sauteed artichokes with cured ham, Bacalao a la Riojana (cod, Rioja style), Chuletillas al sarmiento (baby lamb chops grilled over grape vines).

Where to stay: The Marqués de Riscal wine resort in El Ciego is the most luxurious property (with wine spa and Frank Gehry design) and the Villa de Laguardia is a solid four star outside medieval Laguardia, with a spa offering wine and olive oil treatments. Also recently opened in Laguardia´s main plaza is the Hospederia Los Parajes Inn.

Visit wineries (always by appointment): Darien, Baigorri, Muga, Lopez de Heredia, Juan Alcorta (Campo Viejo).  Luxury wine tours in Rioja, see sample program here.

Local festivities: the “wine battle” of Haro in June, the medieval festival of Briones also in June, another lesser known wine “battle” in San Asensio and an array of harvest festivals

rioja wine map


wine tasting camino santiago

Sightseeing: The magnificent cathedral of Burgos, the pretty historic center of Lerma, Peñafiel with its castle housing a wine museum, the pharmacy of Peñaranda (dating to 1635!) and the medieval village of Covarrubias.

What to drink: Tinto del Pais, otherwise known as Tempranillo is the main grape in this red wine producing region. Top wines include Dominio de Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Pesquera, Mauro, Dominio de Atauta,  Alion, Emilio Moro, Arzuaga, Viña Mayor, Abadia Retuerta, Viña Pedrosa, Pago de los Capellanes and Pago de Carrovejas.

Local dishes to try: Lechazo asado!! This is the definitive local dish, baby lamb roasted in ancient clay or brick ovens. Also, Asparagus from Tudela, Cochinillo (suckling pig), Morcilla de Burgos (black pudding spiced with paprika) and Salchicha de Zaratán are local specialties.

Where to stay: Palacio de la Merced in Burgos, Convento las Claras hotel and spa in Peñafiel, and the gorgeous Parador in Lerma, a 17th century ducal palace.

Visit wineries (always by appointment): Legaris, Matarromera, Prado Rey, Protos, Abadia Retuerta (who just opened a new gastronomic  restaurant onsite). Luxury wine touring options in Ribera here.

wine tasting camino santiago


wine tasting camino santiago

Sightseeing: Leon´s outstanding cathedral, Astorga, Ponferrada with its fairy tale castle (featured in our most beautiful castles in Spain post), unique landscapes in Las Médulas, the abandoned castle of Corullón, the Cistercian monastery of Carracedo.

What to drink:  The land of Mencia! Amazing value red wines here and top bets include Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas, Paixar, Pétalos del Bierzo

Local dishes to try: “El Botillo” (dating to medieval times), Cecina (cured beef), Cordero asado (roast lamb), Empanada de “batallón”

Where to stay: The Prada a Tope wine estate in Canedo.

wine tasting camino santiago



What to see/do: Dine and spa at Spa Pazo do Castro, visit the outrageously baroque retablo in the tiny church of Rubia, the Monastery of Xagoaza (headquarters to the Godeval winery) and check out the Ancient Roman Cigarrosa bridge near the wine producing village of Petín.

What to drink: Godello is the main grape here and our faves are  Valdesil and As Sortes. Other good ones include Joaquin Rebolledo, Godeval and Guitian Fermentado en barrica (Bodegas la Tapada).


ribeira sacra

What to see/do: This is the prettiest of all Galician wine appellations and the riverside scenery is sublime (the Miño and Sil rivers converge here).  Here is a great website in English with a full list of sightseeing options.  Wonderful area.

What to drink: a host of white and red varietals are grown here including Albariño, Treixadura, Loureiro, Torrontés, etc. Uniquely a region known for reds and whites. We love love love Adega Alguiera, as well as Témera, and Dominio do Bibei.

Local Festivities: There are many wine festivals in the region including the charmingly named wine producing area of Sober.

Where to stay: Located in pristine forest and countryside in this beautiful wine region is the delicious Parador of San Estevo, featured in our post on the best wine hotels in Spain.



What to see/do: The Monastery of San Salvador in Celanova (founded in 936, although much of what you see now is 16th and 18th century add ons), the curious spas in Cortegada (in a modernista palace) and the tiny but interesting Jewish quarter in the small medieval town of Ribadavia.

What to drink:  Ribeiro is known for its fresh whites and we quite enjoy Viña Mein, not to mention the fab estate of Pazo Casanova.



What to see/do:  Stay at the Parador of Baiona, one of the most scenically perched Parador hotels in Spain. Cambados is a quaint fishing village.  And the Cies islands are to die for, rent a private boat to explore.

What to drink: Albariño, but of course! Considered the most elegant white wine in Spain, the Albariño grape flourishes in the vineyards of this area (Rias Baixas translates as “low rivers”, referring to the estuaries in southern Galicia). Top producers include: Fefiñanes,  Pazo de Barrantes (owned by Rioja´s Marques de Murrieta), Pazo de Señoráns, Terras Gaudas, and Lagar de Fornelos. The Martin Codax brand is probably the most popular Albariño abroad, and one you are likely to find back home.



Sightseeing: The cathedral is of course the first stop for pilgrims and the energy here at the end of the camino is amazing, with people from all over the world descending on the cathedral and then the bars and restaurants of the old town. The fun thing to do here is just get lost in the old town and taste food and wine along the way.

What to drink: The tapas bars in Santiago serve Albariño in pretty ceramic cups and it is hard to find a bad house Albarino! The zippy white wine pairs perfectly with specialties like Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus drizzled in olive oil and smoked Spanish paprika).

Where to stay: For us, there is only one place to stay in Santiago itself and that is is at the beautiful Parador, which breathes history and romance.


The Douro Valley is only a few hours south and Northern Portugal is a treat for those looking for fabulous food and wine and unspoiled wine country.

wine tasting on the camino de santiago