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.
We’ve started a new series here at Vinos Y Más. Many of you have seen our various vintage Butcher’s Block tables in our two stores in SoHo. We have over 600 selections in our wine shop so we’re doing a weekly series where we highlight 5 bottles that are drinking great. Bottles from producers we love, and with a cool story to tell.
This week check out the following:
What Comando G can do with the grape Garnacha is basically limitless. They have certainly hit there mark here again with this delightful Gredos-creation. As per their model: old vines at a minimum of 50 years, from a few select parcels grown in the mountains and in this case harvested a touch early to avoid overly ripe and alcoholic grapes. The wine tastes like a purple parade down flavor town. Or more seriously, like a wine you would like to drink with Ultra Crispy Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder. Elegant, lithe, and unlike any Garnacha you’ve ever tried.
To those that know, Juan Antonio is THE Prince of Bobal (the grape) coming from Manchuela. We’ve loved his wines for years at this point and often carry his entire lineup. The “Pino” is 37 year old, organically-farmed Bobal fermented with natural yeasts and whole-clusters. This brings out a complex and multi-faceted note that is not found in younger Bobal-based wines (i.e.: not the simple fruity style but something more serious and delicious). Its deep, dark, with a hint at floral notes and some savory notes. You want this with charcuterie or with a spicy-sausage pasta.
It seems almost ridiculous to write about the wines from Sara Perez and Rene Barbier Jr. They are gifted, with expert winemaking genes coursing through their veins. It doesn’t hurt that their parents were also winemakers, thus passing down guidance and insight on the terroir of Priorat, Montsant, and Cataluña. ‘Venus’ is the project that came after “years of searching for beauty and looking for femininity from the earth.” Sounds like something you might like to drink, no? “Mystery, seduction, balance, and passion” describe this Garnatxa/Carignan/Syrah blend that is the perfect Mediterranean red, on the fuller-side.
From northern Tenerife in the Canary Islands, comes this fantasy tale of farmer-turned-winemaker, Dolores Cabrera. For years she cared for grapes organically, partially certified which is very costly, and sold them off to other wineries. The soil here is very special, all decomposed volcanic ash, which is rare and only found in a few other countries like Italy and Greece. In 2013 she began to vinify and bottle herself. And we’re so glad she did! Listan Negro is the king grape in these lands, which she de-stems and eventually lets it rest in old Burgundian barrels. Filled with all those lovely red-foresty fruits, with cracked peppercorns, and lingering minerality. Grill up some octopus, make a wood-fired pizza, or serve it with a slight chill on its own. Mmmmm!
Prieto Picudo is not (yet) a grape that rolls off the tongue. Hailing from Castilla Y León, and basically no where else in the world, this is a grape that is packed with dark, dusty earth, very strong tannins, and a far amount of acidity to boot. Sometimes we describe them similar to the grape Tennat (equally as obscure to most people). Basically, open this wine with plenty of time to breathe and order a half-pound of brisket from Mighty Quinn’s and you’re all set!
We are constantly on the hunt for special and rare bottles with some age. After all, that is one of the many things that makes Spain so unique in the wine world. Historically speaking, Bodegas would cellar their wines until they were ready to drink; never releasing wine too young.
Recently we found the holy grail straight from a private cellar, virtually untouched, outside of Madrid. There was a gentleman who owned a restaurant and was a bit of a bon vivant/gourmand. He excessively collected cases of Rioja upon release and slipped them quietly into his underground cellar for decades. Most people had no idea he was even amassing such a collection!
He passed away a year or so ago, leaving his goldmine in the hands of his sons. There is more wine than time to drink it, so they have been selling off small quantities of their father’s stock. Moved only once from the bodega to the cellar and then a second time to NYC, these bottles are in impeccable condition. If you’re a fan of aged wine – the great old Barolos, Burgundies, and Bordeaux then this is a virtual candy shop of treasures. The prices are also fantastic, for the amount of age and condition the bottles are in.
The wines we purchased are from the late 50s – 80s, a time when labeling and rules were a little different, especially in Rioja. You will not find the same designations as in modern times. Although bottles were commonly aged in barrel beyond the level of a Gran Reserva in the past, by labeling it a ‘Crianza’ meant you paid less in taxes to the government. Clever vignerons! This is the first email in a series that we will send, giving you first access to these rare bottles before we list them online.
Quantities are incredibly limited on these wines so let us know if you’re interested.
Berberana Carta de Oro 1966
Researching blends is difficult for wines of this era, though it appears likely that this Crianza has some Garnacha and Mazuelo in addition to being predominantly Tempranillo. As with aged wine, this is crimson-garnet with clarity at the rim. The nose is that perfect combination of sweet mature fruit, dried flowers (petals) and cigar box. Much like us as we age into maturity, we begin flesh out and become lean. The body on this bottle is a gentle medium. With a gorgeous nose like old Burgundy, this aged Rioja is rare treasure from the cellar.
This wine is very much alive, with lively acidity and delicate, silky red fruit. The tannins have softly matured. A sheer pleasure for those who enjoy older wines. We recommend using a Durand key to open this with care, as corks are delicate at this point in its life. We’ve tasted through several bottles of the gem and are very happy with the harmony showing here.
A special dinner of Filet Mignon in delicate béarnaise sauce sounds like something we’d like to be eating with this wine. But it would also be lovely to drink a bottle with a close friend and think about food later.
CVNE Cune Monopole, Rioja Blanco, 1981 (375ml)
This is a crazy bottle of Rioja Blanco, made of mostly Viura with a fantastic addition of Manzanilla from Jerez. Yes, you read that right. CVNE is one of the top Bodegas in Rioja Alta, and this style of wine, as classic as it was, is almost unheard of nowadays. Color is light pale golden with aromas of apple, pear, and ground almonds. Remarkably it has a serious amount of acidity, and drinks rather youthful and vibrant.
A true treat from the past – history in a small bottle – that would be great with seared scallops or omakase sushi because of the complexity and length on the finish. Serve chilled, but not too cold, to capture the nuances here in this special wine.
An easy way to distinguish between the two is the fruit on top.
Sangria is wine (red, white or rose) mixed with Brandy, Triple Sec (sometimes), soda of some sort or Cava, and fresh fruit as garnish (apples, oranges, grapes, berries, peaches, etc) all over ice. Usually this is made overnight or earlier in the day to allow the flavors to combine nicely before serving. Everyone has a different way to make it. And everyone is convinced theirs is the best. In our Tapas Café we are incredibly proud of our Sangria. Our Cafe Manager, Victoria, makes small batches with her special secret recipe and we’re convinced it is the best we’ve ever tried! (see what I mean). For the rest of us at home, we’ll include some easy recipes to try out below.
Tinto de Verano (quite literally ‘red wine of summer’) is a much simpler combination of red wine and fizzy/soda-type drink over ice. In Spain this is usually Casera, but you can substitute it state-side with Kas Limon soda from Despaña. We’d suggest using an inexpensive bottle of fruity red wine with low to no oak influence. Bodegas Sommos “Xiloca” is a perfect juicy Garnacha from Calatayud that tastes great on its own, but could be combined into a spritz with ease.
Here are a few creative recipes to test out this summer. Invite a few friends over and give one of these sunny “cocktails” a try!
Mango-Peach Sangria with Costers del Sio “Petit Sios Blanco” a lovely blend of Viognier from Cataluñya.
Strawberry & Lemoncello Rosé Sangria with Enanzo Rosado from Navarra.
There is something so thirst quenching about gulping down glasses of cool red wine in the sultry days of summer. And while every red wine should be served “cellar temp” (easily mastered with about 10 minutes in a refrigerator) there are some wines that beg to be chilled a little further and enjoyed frivolously. There is a term “Glou-Glou” that gets thrown around often which means essentially the same thing.
Here are a few options that we’re loving right now:
Celler del Roure “Vermell” 2012
With the temps rising we look to other sultry places for inspiration. Travelling from Valencia, this blend of Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera & Mando (!!!) that is a brilliant purple/ruby color in the glass. Purely expressive of red berries, licorice, and aromatic herbs. Dry, with a medium-body. Light, candied red cherry skin notes. Tasty & easy to chill and drink with clam pizza!
Finca Parera “Fins Als Kullons” 2016
Brilliant ruby colored in the glass. This is a red & white co-ferment (Sumoll, Garnacha Blanca & Xarello) made in a quaffable, non-interventionist style from biodynamically farmed, estate owned fruit & no additions of sulfur. Dry, light bodied with savory black cherry & cherry pit notes, and a bright, tart finish. 1 Liter size makes it even more BBQ friendly!
Suertes del Marques “7 Fuentes” 2014
2014 was an easy, healthy harvest without rains or excessive mist (panza de burro). This is mostly Listán Negro with some 10% Tintilla, sustainably farmed with some vines up to 180-years-old. Fermented in cement or small 700-liter open vats, some destemmed, some with full clusters, but always with the indigenous yeasts. Forty percent of the volume matured in well-seasoned, 500-liter French oak barrels and the rest was kept in concrete, and blended before bottling. Ruby with brilliant reflections in the glass. Pronounced fresh red berries, floral notes & incense on the nose. Medium bodied with subtle red fruit, cassis, white pepper and angular mineral notes.
Bodegas Fulcro “Pescuda” 2015
From Valtuille de Abajo in Bierzo by Bodegas Fulcro from native varieties (60% Alicante Bouschet & 40% Mencía) with minimal additions of sulfur. Fermented with stems and aged partially in used oak & partially in stainless steel. Deep ruby in color. Subtle red fruit, bramble & mineral notes with lively acidity and a sharp, precise finish with fine tannins.
Partida Creus “VN Tinto” 2016
A wine that we can’t even keep in stock (but with good reason)! It seems like half of Manhattan has already caught onto the Partida Creus bug, and honestly, we can’t blame them.
From a younger vineyard planted in calcareous clay, farmed biodynamically. Fermented using indigenous yeasts. Grapes here are a virtual laundry list of: Trepat, Sumoll, Garrut, Queixal de Loop, Ull de Perdiu, Garnacha & Samsó. The varietals undergo whole cluster fermentation separately, in stainless steel where it’s aged 7 months on its lees. Bottled unfined, unfiltered & without any added sulfur. Pale ruby colored. Light-bodied & refreshing with bright acidity & minerality.
As mercury rises you’ll reach for all the Whites and Rosés that are humanly possible. Keeping cool with endless rooftop parties is one of the great parts of Summer in NYC. When you’re ready to explore the realm of flavor, stop by our shop for a bottle of something Tinto to chill with.
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 seriously love the Thanksgiving holiday–the food, friends, football and especially, the wines. Since the menu tends to be a standard mix of turkey/stuffing/mashed potatoes/candied yams/pumpkin pie we’ve selected a group of wines that are anything but the usual suspects. Also, they are insanely food (and people) friendly.
The breakdown: 1 bubbly Cava, 1 mineral-driven crisp aperitif white, a light bright red, a red with a bit more body and spicy oak, and 1 lovely naturally sweet half dessert half bottle for pumpkin pie.
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.
A few weeks ago we hosted a very special event in collaboration with Palacio de Canedo winery, from El Bierzo (León). This estate has been associated with wine since 1730, when they would make and store 30 thousand liters of wine from the vineyards surrounding the Palace.