a journey into spanish wine over long lunch
By Beth Bicknell
I was going to attempt to share everything there is to know about every Spanish wine, but the internet just isn’t big enough. And then all of that thinking about Spain and wine made me hungry and so I just decided to curate my dream Spanish long lunch instead. Honestly, what is wine without food?
To set the scene, we’re in Barcelona. Around an old wooden table on the hidden, top floor terrace of an eccentric, local artist (ok ok ok FINE, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz are there). The day is warm and languid, the table is set with flowers and spilling bowls of fruit, and we won’t stop eating until the sun has fallen, our cheeks are flush, and candle wax is pooling at our feet.
(If you can’t get to Barcelona, this would be just as delicious around your very own dining table at home, with all of the people you love, and a decent set of speakers.)
To drink: Cava, Penedès
Fizzy wine is a classic aperitif the world over, and the Catalans’ offering is Cava. Made from local varieties of macabeu, parellada and xarel-lo (say that three times fast!) in the champenoise traditional method, the world of Cava is broad and deep. For the first drink of the day/night - we’d suggest splashing some cash and enjoying it (preferably) out of a magnum.
To eat: Pa amb tomàquet (Pan con tomate)
One of Spain’s most iconic dishes, and certainly Catalunya’s. It’s everything and nothing. Bread, rubbed with tomato and seasoned with oil, salt and maybe garlic. Bueno!
To listen: “Entre Dos Aguas” by Paco de Lucia
Sticking with a (slightly over-played) classic here - because it’s actually that good. And in Spain, it will likely spark discussion - everyone has a favourite version.
To drink: Albariño, Rias Baixas
Moving now to the Atlantic coast - it has to be an Albariño from Rias Baixas to accompany the iconic Pulpo á Feira (Pulpo Gallego in Spanish). Zippy, aromatic and minerally, it’s a good next step from Cava and balances the rich texture of the octopus.
To eat: Pulpo á Feira (Pulpo Gallego)
Ideally freshly caught Galician octopus, cooked, sliced into rounds, and topped with olive oil, salt and paprika. Don’t mess with perfection.
To listen: “Volando Voy” - Chambao
Keeping it calm so early in the day with a cover of a very famous Flamenco song, originally by Cameron de la Isla.
To drink: Merenzao, Ribera Sacra
As the first and lightest red (tinto) of of the day, Merenzao is a little-know grape local to the Ribera Sacra area (still in Galicia). Is this Spain’s answer to Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo? If you find an elegant year, and a quality producer, we think so. The brightness of the wine will balance the fat content of the jamón
To eat: Jamón
A simple plate of top quality jamón (from Joselito perhaps? Widely regarded as the best in the world). Great jamón requires nothing but your love.
To listen: “La Cocinera” by Mala Rodriguez
She’s a bad-ass Spanish rapper and the chorus goes “I’m the cook of your best dishes”... It’s edgy as f*ck in Spain, a nice little halftime pick-me-up.
To drink: Tempranillo, La Rioja
As the food moves to north, so does the wine. Rustic stew meets rustic tannins. This is a classic Rioja, and it’s got big fruit to match those big tannins. It will warm your cheeks deliciously as the classic Asturian dish Fabada (pork and bean stew) warms your belly.
To eat: Fabada Asturiana
Spain’s answer to baked beans. No, not at all, that’s a horrible insult. These are slow cooked beans with pork shoulder, chorizo, morcilla (blood pudding), and saffron. Best served with crusty bread and a hearty appetite. The key here is to not throw the baby out with the bathwater - use the cloudy water from the jar of beans in the dish. Correct, no straining.
To listen: “Plantado en mi Cabeza” by Luz Casal
The day is progressing, the shadows are long, the mood is high. So we’re kicking back to 1995 and a song to get the table bopping/ laughing/ nostalgic for their Doc Martens.
To drink: Pedro Ximenez, Jerez
Liquid Sultana - need we say more?
To eat: Tocino de Cielo
Like a flan but made with just three ingredients. Egg yolk, sugar and water. It’s a tender and light and unbelievably smooth custard. Heady. This beautiful little film captures its place in Spanish culture quite perfectly: https://vimeo.com/50877334
To listen: “Caminando por la Calle” by the Gipsy Kings
At this point, the liquid sultana juice is flowing and cheeks are aflush. Someone starts this one a capella. Soon the whole table is singing. Don’t worry, you’ll catch on with or without the Pedro Ximenez, it’s a song of two lines only.