Let’s face it, each and every Summer we all feebly attempt to beat the humidity. The Warmth. The Sun. Those things are all good and fine. But when the air begins to resemble tomato bisque, that’s when you have to get strategic. We have a solution and it comes from the Basque Region.
Txakolina, or Txakoli (chock-o-lee), is from a special area in the north of Spain, nestled between Bilbao and San Sebastián. It is arguably the culinary epicenter of the world as it twinkles with Michelin stars and incredible restaurants (looking at you Mugaritz, Etxebarri, Elkano & Arzak). It’s also a region that happens to make some of the most refreshing wines imaginable out of two very hard to pronounce grapes: Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza.
These wines are a little lower in alcohol, light & bright, with lemony notes, and have a classic little bit of *spritz* that cools you off faster than a misting fan. No longer just a local wine to drink on your vacation, we currently have 8 different Txakolina(s) in our shop between $16.99-$24.99/bottle. Great on the beach. Perfect for a park picnic. Just the right perky pick-me-up after a long, hot day. The ultimate humidity fixer.
Spain just got a whole lot closer in one sip.
A spotlight on two incredible bottles that should be on your dinner table.
Xosé Lois Sebio is making impossible to miss wines in the oldest wine-region in Galicia, DO Ribeiro. Away from fashions and conventions; his sole intention is to respect and express the terroir. He discovers vineyards that are difficult to farm producing wines with soul and personality.
Super Héroe 2015 is a Galician field-blend of 20% Ferrol, 20% Sousón, 15% Caiño Longo, 10% Bastardo & 35% of other local varieties. A feast for the senses, it is delightfully aromatic with notes of violet, black fruits, figs and plums, combined with subtle hints of black pepper and mineral tones. Elegant and expressive. Rich yet vibrant on the finish.
Sip on this with a traditional paella, Chuletón de Ternera, or with oven-made pulled-pork sliders on a brioche bun with crunchy pickled red onions and slaw. $48.99/bottle.
From the first moment we tasted Bodegas Fulcro “Finca A Pedreira” Albariño we knew there was something magical about the producer. The wine has a salinity and minerality unlike other Albariños out there, a sense of razor-sharp precision.
In April and we were lucky enough to spend a whirlwind afternoon with winemakerManuel Moldes (aka Chicho) in his vineyards – more like small parcels – dotted throughout the hills in the subregion of Salnés, in Rías Baixas.
You could think of Chicho akin to Bill Nye Science Guy – with unending energy and curiosity about the world and the vines around him. His approach to viticulture is environmentally friendly. He farms with the health of the plant in mind and uses very minimal intervention. His winery is a small garage off the side of his house. There he uses mostly steel tanks and favors the freshness of wines that do not undergo malolactic fermentation.
While he makes a few small cuvées, we find that his 2017 Albariño is a wine that we have on repeat not only in the Summer months but all year round. It’s the type of “house wine” you’ll always want to have in your fridge. If you happened to make a grilled shrimp salad with fresh corn, avocado, and red peppers, or rosemary-lemon roasted chicken this would wash it all down nicely too. $21.99/bottle
There is a lot of confusion around what type of glass is appropriate for drinking sparkling wine.
Traditionally (and widely accepted) as the correct glass is the champagne flute. Noted for a long stem; slim, tapered, & elongated bowl. Technically speaking, it reduces surface area (retaining the bubbles and creating a beautiful presentation) while also concentrating the aromas minimizing the oxygen-to-wine ratio. The glass was developed in the early 1700s and still is used for most New Years and wedding celebrations. We can all agree seeing this glass means “party!” more than anything else.
A more current idea is to use a wine glass. Specifically a white wine or “AP” (all purpose) wine glass. Benefits here are for those very interested in *what* they are drinking. The aromas are more prevalent, the color is easier to see, you taste the wine better (and possibly appreciate it more one might say). While the bubbles may gradually diminish visually, you can still experience the sensation of the secondary fermentation (or carbonation) on the palate. Still just as celebratory! A bonus is also that you may get a large pour of bubbly than in the traditional 4oz pour in a flute.
The coupe is another glass that is commonly used in bars for cocktails at the moment, but also a nod to the speakeasy times of yesteryear. Everyone knows the alleged origins of this glass–modeled after the fashionable French Queen Marie Antoinette’s chest size, however, England is technically responsible for this glass about 100 years earlier in 1663. If you’re throwing a Great Gatsby themed party this would be a great choice for stemware. You’ll just have to keep refilling it, as the vintage glasses only hold about 120-220ml of bubbly.
Ever see the tulip glass? It is a semi-hybrid stemmed glass that couples the elegance of the traditional flute with a bit more of a wide bowl and then tapers to a smaller opening at the top. This both provides the wine to “breathe,” thus the taster to gains better aromatics, while at the same time preserving the gorgeous little bubbles. Perhaps the best of both worlds, if you can find it.
No matter what, you should enjoy whatever glass you like to use, with whatever wine you like to drink! Sparkling wine should not be so complicated or off-putting that you don’t drink it on the regular. Remember sparkling wine and buttered popcorn is one of the best pairings of all time. Not only for weddings, graduations, and New Years, this is a beverage that is innately elevating and uplifting in all ways. It virtually makes a good time. And as Lily Bollinger said, “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.”
A few options from our bubbly Cava selections…
For the celebratory: Gramona Celler Battle 2004
You want to taste this wine, trust us. We at Despaña have drank it on so many occasions over the years–fond farewells of staff members in the shop, at BYOB Thai restaurants downtown, in-store tastings at our shop out of plastic cups (thanks Bill, our Verity rep!), as well as tasting it blind next to the great Champagnes like Salon, Dom Perignon, Vouette et Sorbee, & Krug at Corkbuzz. This wine is powerful, hauntingly beautiful, and incredibly complex. The price is a humble $104.99 for 120 months of aging and is worth EVERY penny. Maybe serve this one in your white wine glass…..
A walk on the wild side….with Alba Viticultores Brut Nature Rosado 2013
This is packaged under a crown-cap (aka beer, pop-cap) but made in method champenoise in (of all places) Andalucía, and gaining so much attention from French Champagne grower-producers (like Jacques Selosee) this is an incredible wine to share. We have a meager few bottles to offer in the shop. We tasted through the 2013 (dark glass bottle) and the 2014 (clear, frosted and trendy bottle) and selected the older vintage in fact! It has the most remarkable depth of flavor-aged with a combination of stainless steel fermentation, biological aging in demijohn, and a year later being disgorged without filtration or dosage. If this doesn’t make sense, that is okay, for the few it will and the rewards are plentiful. This wine is very noteworthy, unique, incredibly singular & important. $54.99.
For the traditionalist at heart, wanting dry crisp zero-dosage with a touch of bottle age to add some dimension and intrigue, we have the legendary Recaredo estate making their “Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010.” With is a textbook of depth and complexity. A pure example of Xarello, Macabeo, & Parellada in harmony from biodynamic farming and long aging. This wine is bone-dry, with a fine mousse, lemon, and an herbal mineral complexity. At $33.99 this is a steal and over-delivers most dry French Champagnes (and without all the added toxins).
And further more…..
Sure you can saber it, shake it up & spray it, or consume a lot of juice in it. To each their own. But appreciating this miracle and incredible amount of work that goes into each bottle is outstanding.
A few pro-tips for ease in the wild world of consuming sparkling wine:
1 bottle will give you about 4-5 glasses of wine, depending on the glassware used. If you are at a restaurant and are a party of 4 (and would like it to be simply a *toast* for celebration and quickly move on to another beverage) than 1 bottle is enough.
If you are 5-10 people, you will need 2-3 bottles of sparkling. Technically speaking, you can make 1 bottle of sparkling wine stretch to 11 glasses, but that gives each person about an inch of wine in a very empty champagne flute.
Once you pour your first initial pour of the sparkling wine, on the next pour it won’t bubble up (or over!) as much as before.
This unpredictable May weather has us searching across the spectrum for all sorts of flavors. Here are a few highlights of what’s new on our shelves (and hearts) from Left to Right:
Viñaspral “Honoratus Aurum” Blanco 2008 & “Maisulan” Rioja Tinto 2015
From a small 16-ha dry-farmed, biodynamic estate in the Basque portion of Rioja Alavesa tended by husband-and-wife team Eva & Luis Ruiz.
The white is 100% Viura, fermented in concrete/oak and aged in barrel for 8 months longer. Only 300 cases were made of this wine and we find the flavor of age to be elegantly integrated making it a wine with citrus, subtle minerality, and a “sur-lie” like floral finish. Try it with seafood paella, creamy lemon-basil chicken pasta, or a risotto with chanterelles.
The Maisulan Tinto (which translates to “good hard work” in Basque) is Tempranillo that is electric ruby-colored in the glass, with an aroma of smoky, earthen-berries, floral notes, and plenty of juicy black-cherry flavors that wash over your taste buds. This wine is supple on the tannins, making it pretty much perfect with a slight chill, a plate full of medium-rare cheeseburgers, or grilled tandoori chicken kababs.
Succes Vinicola “Patxanga Rosado” 2016
Really….just look at that label! A watermelon and a beach umbrella. We could just leave the description there, but all jokes aside, this may turn into the “wine of the summer” before we realize it. It is another darling husband-and-wife duo up in the Catalonian DO of Conca de Barberá. “Patxanga” means “party!” according to our Catalan amigos, and boy is this wine ready to rock. 100% Trepat, organic, with vibrant acidity and clean on the finish. Not a sweet rose– this is built for the 90-degree stoop-drinking in NYC with a Picante bocadillo from our cafe next door.
Jordi Miró “Ennak+” 2014
We could be very technical here-35% Syrah, 33% Garnacha, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Tempranillo. Partial cold soaked, partial whole-cluster, partially early harvested, partially larger 300L barrels, and partial in older French oak, and all dry-farmed organically with a mere 3lbs of grapes a vine! Is your head spinning yet? Only 250 cases produced, but most importantly the wine is in harmonious balance with sour cherry, good acidity, and some grippy tannins. Beautifully rustic ruby in the glass and smells like a clean black forest. If you’re into smoked brisket, white beans with rosemary and sausage, or slowly oven-roasted pork loin over garlic and rosemary balsamic-glazed potatoes and call it a night with a bottle of this. There is also an adorable cat on the label, and believe us, that helps too.
Purulio Blanco 2015
An incredibly unusual field-blend of 8+ grapes from Andalucia and ever so slightly a natural orange wine. Made by Torcuato Huertas under the guidance of his Uncle and natural wine whisperer, Manuel Valenzuela of Barranco Oscuro made with…ready for it…Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeo, Palomino Fino, Chardonnay, Viognier, Albariño, Torrontès, Moscatel de Alejandría & Jerezana. What does this taste like? Tastes like you should chill a bottle and bring it to a BYOB Peking Duck spot and be super happy with your friends. It’s aromatic and clean, but a little tannic and just lovely.
Suertes del Marques “7 Fuentes” 2014
So, for many of you, the wines of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa are already near and dear to the heart. The volcanic ash soils mixed with the Jurassic Park themed landscapes make for some pretty interesting wines. The 7 Fuentes is no exception, chock full of subtle red fruit, saline mineral notes, and dusty earthy tannin that seems to come from wines grown in dried lava. Vines are up to 180 years old of Listan Negro and Tintilla and this is aged in concrete and used French oak. Making rabbit stew with tomatoes or a huge plate of empanadas Gallegas and this wine (with a slight chill) would be marvelous.
Get ’em while you can! Call us (212) 219-1550 if you need more info.
We are thrilled to announce our next special, after-hours wine tasting on April 27th from 7:30pm-9:30pm.
Joining us is Emilio Rodriguez, winemaker for Terras Gauda (in Rías Baixas) and Bodegas Pittacum (in Bierzo).
Enjoy a flight of 6 wines expertly paired with Galician Conservas (those little seafood jewels that Spain is known so well for)
as well as our very own Chef Jaume’s Arroz Negro.
We have very limited space available and tickets must be purchased in advance.
To reserve your spot please call us or send us an email.
Thursday, April 27th (7:30-9:30pm)
It’s that time of year…the nights are chilly and long. We crave the cozy comfort of warm beverages in front of the fire (or wrapped up in blankets on the couch). This is a simple, but heart-warming way, to beat the post-holiday slump and make January a little more festive.
Mulled Wine Recipe (serves 4-5)
- 1 bottle (750ml) fruity red wine (like young Rioja or Tempranillo)
- 1 orange, sliced into rounds
- 1/4 cup Brandy (optional, but much like in Sangria, this adds a little structure)
- 1/4 cup sugar or honey
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- Feeling fancy? Optional garnish: slices of citrus, orange peel, float a star anise or cinnamon stick in the glass or add cranberries!
Combine all your ingredients in a stainless-steel pot and gently warm (not BOIL or you burn out all the alcohol) on medium heat to simmer out all the delicious flavors for 20 minutes (up to 3 hours).
Strain, and serve warm to your guests. Garnish as you like. Incredibly easy, and so soul-warming. Salud!
(photo credit: Rioja Wine )
We know a thing or two about hosting a great fiesta. Make sure to stop by our wine shop and stock up on all the bubbles and party-friendly bottles to help ring in the New Year right (and help wash down all the delicious Jamón!)
Special SoHo holiday hours this week are:
Saturday (NYE) Open: 11am-6pm
Sunday (New Years Day): Closed
Monday, January 2nd: Regular schedule
Happy New Year from all of us at Despaña!
Every vintage we purchase tiny amounts of wines from Envínate, a little winery grown from micro parcels in volcanic soils of the Canary Islands (and also some steep slopes of Ribeira Sacra in Galicia).
Envínate (translated into “Wine Yourself”) is the brainchild of 4 friends, winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez. This gang of 4 formed back in 2005 while studying enology at the University of Miguel Hernandez in Alicante. Upon graduation, they formed a winemaking consultancy, which evolved into Envínate, a project that focuses on exploring distinctive parcels mainly in the Atlantic-inflected regions of Ribeira Sacra and the Canary Islands. Their collective aim is to make profoundly pure and authentic wines that express the terruño of each parcel in a clear and concise manner.