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Recipe and Wine Pairing: Salmorejo Soup with Manzanilla Sherry

I’ve been writing recipes with wine pairings for Wine Enthusiast over the past year and decided I should start sharing my inspiration on my blog. Enjoy!

Salmorejo, a chilled soup hailing from the warm climes of southern Spain, is gazpacho’s heartier cousin. Originating in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, it’s creamier and less acidic. It’s also perfect for utilizing abundant end-of-summer tomatoes and day-old bread. The key to building flavor in this otherwise simple preparation: ripe tomatoes, high-quality olive oil, and sherry wine vinegar.

Pair It: Manzanilla Sherry
On a hot afternoon, match this cold soup to a chilled glass of Manzanilla. Produced near the ocean, the sherry’s saline tang and light acidity highlight the bright tomatoes and salty jamón, while echoing the sherry vinegar.

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
Salmorejo Soup
2 cups of water
½ tablespoon salt
½ loaf of day-old baguette or 2 slices of white bread, coarsely torn
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes
½ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garnish
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
Two slices Serrano ham, chopped

Directions
1. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a medium bowl. Add bread and let soak for 10-15 minutes. Remove bread, squeeze excess liquid from it, and set aside. Reserve soaking liquid.
2. Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Make a cross with a knife on the bottom of each tomato and put them in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and cool slightly. Peel skin, seed, core, and roughly chop. Set aside.
3. In a blender, add tomatoes and garlic. Run 30 seconds on high-speed or until crushed. Add bread and 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, blending for another 30 seconds on medium speed. Add reserved soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thick to blend. Once mixture is smooth, add olive oil while machine is running. Add additional tablespoon sherry vinegar, to taste, and blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cover and chill, at least two hours, up to 1 day.
5. Divide into bowls and top with chopped egg, Serrano ham, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

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Filed under Recipes and Wine Pairings, Salmorejo Soup

Why Ancient Roman Vineyards Are Reopening in Eastern Galicia

Vineyards of Guimaro in Ribeira Sacra.

In case you missed my article in The Independent, here’s your chance to read…

I’m perched on the retaining wall of a narrow vineyard in Ribeira Sacra, sipping a glass of local red wine made from mencia. Joined by winemaker Pedro Rodriguez of the Guimaro vineyard, we peer over the ledge into the canyon, perhaps hundreds of metres down, to the thin ribbon of river below. I toss a rock. It disappears.

We stroll through his vines, careful with our footing. Rodriguez explains he’s in the process of attaining organic certification. “We practise farming like they did in the past,” he says. He’s not kidding – the first people to make wine here were the Romans. Two thousand years ago, the Roman army worked this same site. They built the stone terrace Rodriguez has rehabilitated – as well as others – to grow grapes and make wine.

Rainy and green, Galicia was incorporated into the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus, around 29-19BC. To slake the thirst of troops forging the largest gold mine of the era – Las Medulas in nearby Bierzo – they created their own industry. In this mountainous zone there was no flat land; instead, they carved cascading terraces in surrounding canyons and down the steep riverbanks of the Sil and Mino to plant vines.

The vineyards were abandoned during the Dark Ages, but in the centuries to come, monks moved into the valley and replanted. Land passed from church to civilians, but after plant disease was followed by the Spanish Civil War, their owners abandoned both the vineyards and the countryside. Galicia is full of ghost towns.

To see the region is to understand why they left. While Ribeira Sacra has one of the most breathtaking landscapes in Europe – think of the Mosel Valley in Germany – its beauty belies the treacherous work required to tend its fruit.

Working manually on an incline is backbreaking and dangerous. Many sites are remote and barely accessible to small vehicles, let alone tractor equipment that could mechanise planting and picking. Myriad roads remain unpaved, combining hairpin turns with steep angles. These improbably difficult conditions can yield only tiny quantities of wine. Not large fortunes.

Steep vineyards make picking laborious.

Yet over the past two decades, the Roman vineyards have been making a comeback.

Fernando Gonzalez Riveiro, who owns the Adega Algueira vineyard, spent nearly 30 years buying up fragmented abandanados (what locals call the abandoned vineyards) to quilt together enough land worth farming.

“People talk about ‘handmade’ wine, but for most, that’s a marketing term,” he says. “We have to work by hand – there’s no other option. For example, in the white-winemaking region of Rueda in Castile and Leon, producers can plant thousands of verdejo vines in a day. For us, three.” A former banker, he admitted the numbers don’t make sense, but he is guided by passion, not money. “Passion is like a windscreen wiper – it doesn’t eliminate the storm,” he says. “It allows you to move forward.”

Like Guimaro, Algueira produces fresh, perfumed reds from mencia, the valley’s predominant, most promising grape. They can be pinot noir-like in their delicacy, occasionally sanguine and iron-like, but eminently singular. From the unique circumstances of its cooler climate and soil, Ribeira Sacra reds renounce the richer, riper expressions of Spain’s warmer, southerly climes to produce lighter, elegant, more restrained styles.

Following the Sil river east, I reach the neighbouring, less dramatic landscape of Valdeorras. The name means “golden valley”, a moniker likely attributed to the importance of its precious ancient metal mines. Today, the region mainly trades in wine. The grape that drives this revitalised industry is a white one, godello – another variety that was nearly lost when people abandoned the countryside.

Wine geeks tracking the next “it” grape offering high quality for low prices find godello fits their bill. The finest wines made from this compare to French chardonnay. They can be rich, round, and similarly textured; yet Valdeorras remains a secret. Its remote location has protected it from mass tourism. Not even Spaniards have alighted on the bucolic villages lining the 80-mile stretch of river.

In the hills above the river sits another vineyard, Adega Valdesil. A visit provides important historical context to understanding Valdeorras. Sixth-generation owner-winemaker Borja Prada shows me the thick, gnarled trunks of his great-grandfather’s 1887 godello vines. Propped up with rocks and string, they take on an anthropomorphic quality. Though they barely produce enough fruit to bottle, he keeps them “as a living legacy, hoping to one day put Valdeorras on the world map”.

As the wine world grows increasingly homogeneous, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras fulfil the promise of heritage wines that express a unique time and place. That’s why winemakers have returned – and oenophiles are right behind them.

Visit UNESCO site and ancient Roman gold mine Las Medulas, nearby.

Travel essentials

Getting there 

Ryanair flies direct from Stansted to Santiago de Compostela – expect to pay around £130 return during the summer. From there, it’s easiest to rent a car for the 90-minute drive to Ourense. Use this small city as a base for exploring the surrounding landscapes and vineyards of Ribeira Sacra and its Canon do Sil (Sil River Canyon). O Barco de Valdeorras and Las Medulas are a 90-minute drive east from Ourense.

Staying there

A converted monastery overlooking the Canon do Sil, Parador de Santo Estevo is the best option in Ribeira Sacra. Doubles from £90, room only.

Pazo do Castro is the best option in Valdeorras. Another restored historic hotel, rooms are a touch spartan, but antiques provide authentic charm. Doubles from £65, room only.

More information

Adega Algueira

Guimaro

Valdesil

Galicia Tourism

Winery visits and tastings are by appointment.

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Filed under Galicia, Spain

Finalist for Best New Wine Blog and Best Photography on a Blog

awards-badges.jpg

As if the month couldn’t get any better…I just returned from a brilliant trip to Spain, visiting the town of Jerez for the annual Feria to drink buckets of sherry and gawk at the gorgeous flamenco gowns worn by local women. I spent a few days “studying” the art of and obsession over GinTonics in Madrid. I returned home to find I passed my Diploma exams with Merit in Fortified and Sparkling wines, and now this: nominations for Best New Wine Blog and Best Photography on a wine blog!

In the category of Best New Wine Blog, I am competing against myself because my column Unscrewed in the Village Voice is also a finalist. Vote what you feel is correct, but I encourage you to vote for Unscrewed (yes, painful to write that on my personal blog) and vote for Chasing the Vine under Best Original Photography.  VOTING ENDS FRIDAY! And whatever happens, thank you all for the support this past year. Writing a blog(s) is time-consuming; just being acknowledged for the work is honor enough.

I leave you with a few gorgeous images from the Feria of

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain!

La Chicas de Tio Pepe

Learning to ride
Old Casks in GBHorse drawn carriages and sherry girlsPouring Tio Pepe Finca MoncloaCheers! Old Man

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Filed under Wine Blog Awards