Monthly Archives: September 2009

Vinho Branco

It was not so long ago (10 years, more or less) that the white wines of Spain started becoming well known in the USA. The Galician white wines made from the Albariño grape opened the door for numerous other Spanish white wines that have grown ever more prevalent in the ensuing years.
The white wines of Portugal have suffered a similar lack of familiarity and availability here. Aside from the light, spritzy wines from the northern Vinho Verde region, many Portuguese white wines continue to languish in obscurity.
Fortunately, more white wines from Portugal are finding their way to our shores and we can now explore a wider range of options.
Portugal’s numerous wine growing regions are home to many indigenous grape varieties that go into a broad range of unique and delicious white wines. Grape varieties such as Antão Vaz, Encruzado, Arinto and Trajadura may not yet be not yet be familiar to the American public but the wines made from these grapes are bright, lively, food friendly and easy to love.
This week we offer you a selection of newly arrived Portuguese white wines that will excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences. These wines are all well priced to give you added incentive to try something new.
Please consider the following choices when investigating what may well become your next new favorite white wine.

Gazela This crowd pleasing Vinho Verde is back at a price that makes it easy to please said crowd without busting the budget. The wine displays pale yellow/green color, light texture, with classic Vinho Verde spritzy effervescence, grapefruit aroma, and flinty background minerality. $6.99

Terra Antiga 2008
Vinho Verde continues to excite us, thanks to a consistent ramp-up in quality as the years go by. This is a vintage wine (most Vinho Verde is non-vintage)made from Alvarinho and Trajadura grapes in a finely tuned style. Edgy grapefruit and mineral notes add context to tart green apple fruit character. Light effervescence ties it all together. $9.99

Alornha Arintho 2008
This Ribatejo region white made from 100% Arinto is lush and expressive. Quince aroma and green melon fruit character combine with plump texture and medium acidity. $10.99.

Quinta da Romeira Arinto 2008
The Bucelas region, just north of Lisbon, is best known for white wines made from the Arinto grape. This particular example is a medium bodied wine that displays bright yellow/gold color, ripe pineapple scent, abundant citrus fruit character and light mineral foundation. $12.99

Grilos Branco 2008
The red Grilos has been a big hit and now we just brought in the white version of this Dáo region wine. The scent is reminiscent of ripe strawberries creating a dramatic contrast to the lean, grassy, mineral notes and that come out on the palate. $10.99

Monte da Peceguina Branco 2007
This Alentejo region blend of 60% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto and 20% Roupeiro is elegant and balanced. Made in minuscule quantities (425 cases in total) by a small family winery, this unoaked white wine combines flinty mineral notes with gentle melon and citrus fruit character. $21.99



“Uma autêntica receita de Portugal”

The cuisine of Portugal, like it’s wines, deserves more attention. A recently released cookbook , The New Portuguese Table ($32.50 at The Spanish table) by James Beard award winner and noted Portuguese food authority David Leite gives a much needed boost to the food of his ancestral homeland.
Searching through this gorgeous, full color, hardbound cook book I found a recipe that  not only pairs well with Portuguese white wines, but also coincides with the height of our local tomato season. Try this “tomato jam” as a way to use up some of late summer’s bounty.

Doçe de Tomate
(adapted from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite)

Ingredients:
2 lbs. Ripe Tomatoes (the riper the better)
2 cups sugar
2 Lemons
1 inch long piece of cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup Ruby Porto

Directions:
In a small pot of boiling water, dunk each tomato for 30 seconds, then cool in a bowl of ice water for two minutes. This will make the tomato skin easy to remove. Cut the peeled tomatoes in half across their equator and squeeze the halves gently to remove the seeds. Chop the peeled, seeded tomatoes finely. Peel wide strips of zest from the lemons.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or until the jam thickens.
Remove the lemon zest, cinnamon stick and cloves, spoon the jam into clean glass jars and refrigerate over night before serving. The jam will keep for several weeks in the fridge (for extended shelf life, use the traditional hot water bath canning method just as with other fruit preserves).

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Filed under Portugal, Recipes, White Wine

Cerveza y Sidra

The weather is warm, the Labor Day weekend is upon us, Cal is back in session, everybody but you and me has run off to the dessert for Burning Man and the Bay Bridge is closing for three days. Pick the reason that best suits your purpose but it all boils down to this: it’s Beer O’Clock in Berkeley.
After years of my constant whining about the lack of beer from Spain and Portugal, the local distributors have conspired to shut me up by supplying some really great beers that I now offer to you.
This week we have brought in all the beer we could find from Spain and Portugal (and one from Argentina too!). They are conveniently stacked up tall in the middle of the store and will surely add a new and unique level of refreshment to your weekend plans.
We have a few well known major brands that will be familiar to many of you. We also now carry a  few more esoteric brews including a new version of  Barcelona’s best selling beer designed by none less than Chef Ferrán Adriá from elBulli. We also just received a unique and delicious barrel aged red ale from Argentina.  Additionally, we have re-stocked our Basque hard apple cider, now available in the oh-so-cute half bottle size as well as the traditional 750ml bottles.
Of course we continue to bring in new, interesting  wines including numerous red, white and rosado wines that will refresh your palate and awaken your appetite on a warm evening, but, as they always say to me when I visit the bodegas in Spain, “before we try the wines, would you like a beer?”

Estrella Galicia While Spain has many excellent beers, this well known (in Spain) lager from Galicia was, for many years, the only Spanish beer available here in California. Blond color, yeasty aroma and crisp flavor are just what you want after a hot day. $10.99 (6 pack)
Estrella Damm For those who have visited Barcelona, this beer will be very familiar to you and will rekindle fond memories of that Catalan metropolis. This crisp, lager style beer is now in good supply here in the USA and makes a perfect addition to a Spanish themed party or meal. $10.99 (6 pack)
Estrella Damm Inedit Celebrated chef Ferrán Adriá from elBulli teamed up with Estrella Damm to create this distinctive Spanish beer. The attractive 750 ml bottle comes with a little booklet tied to the neck explaining the concept (“The beer specifically created to pair with food.”) and offering serving suggestions (“It is recommended that Inedit is enjoyed in a white wine glass and kept in an ice bucket after serving.”). A hybrid  of a traditional lager and a Belgian style Wit beer, this cloudy amber colored brew is fairly crisp on the front end with notes of orange peel and baking spice (cloves, nutmeg and allspice) on the finish. A bit of hoppy density adds interest and will appeal to appreciators of local microbrews. $10.99 (750 ml bottle)
Barbaroja Red Ale In the Argentine town of Escobar, 50 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, Cerveceria Barba Roja makes a wide range of craft brews. They make a special barrel aged “strong” (so named due to it’s 9% ABV) red ale that we just started carrying here. Opaque, reddish brown color, aromas of black coffee and wood smoke, and bold but balanced flavors of toasted malt and caramel. A champagne style cork seals this 750 ml bottle of oh-so-food friendly red ale. This is really interesting and deserves your attention. $12.99 (750 ml)
Sagres In Portugal, this is a major brand. Sagres is served everywhere. This classic lager style brew is crisp, light, slightly fruity and perfect on a hot evening.  $7.99 (6 pack)
Sagres Bohemia This dark beer from Sagres starts off crisp and hoppy. The toasted, malty richness comes on quickly and adds a bit of black coffee-ish flavor to the beer. $7.99 (6 pack)
Super Bock Not actually a ‘bock’ beer, this popular Portuguese lager (technically a malt liquor due to the 5.6% alcohol by volume) is light blond color with clean corn flavor and light hoppy finish. Serve this cold on a hot day and taste it at its best. $7.99 (6 pack)

In northern Spain, where the cool moist climate is not always conducive to grape growing, the local drink of choice is hard apple cider. In the bars of San Sebastian they pour sidra from the bottle held high overhead in an outstretched arm into wide glass tumblers. At the local sidrerias the Sagardo (cider in Basque) streams straight from large wooden kegs and accompanies a meal of fried salt cod with peppers and onions, huge bone-in ribeye steaks and walnuts and cheese for dessert. The meal is consumed standing up to facilitate frequent trips back and forth from the barrel room. From time to time a staffer will yell “Txotx!” and everyone lines up to get another glass of cider.
Experience the Basque hard cider tradition at home with Isastegi Sidra Natural. This is not sweet apple juice. Cloudy green gold in color with yeasty apple barrel aroma and tart, fino sherry-like flavor are what you will find here. Once opened this cider oxidizes rapidly so the bottle needs to be consumed quickly (not usually a problem). We now carry the half sized bottles which are great for small groups or when cider is served as an apperitivo before moving on to other drinks (for the full-bore Isastegi experience we also carry the traditional glassware, just like they use in Spain).
$8.99 (750 ml)
$4.99 (375 ml)

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Filed under Argentina, beer, Portugal, sidra (cider), Spain