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.
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.
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.