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Gastronomy and Wine Portal

The Azorean Volcanic wines

Olga Verchenko is a wine professional living in Barcelona and working in wine business since 2012, when she graduated from the Msc Wine Programme at Burgundy School of Business. Today she is a founder of ViniComm wine project: having a wine job title, she also shares her wine passion and knowledge on the blog @vinicomm and conducts wine tastings in Catalonia.


This summer I had an enormous pleasure to visit a true Atlantic gem the Azores – an archipelago composed of 9 islands that used to be ancient volcanos. It is small wonder that a myriad of local wines was tasted, still exotic and rare for many wine fans. Here are the most fascinating stories you should know.

azores islands

Indigenous varieties

The local volcano terroir is without a doubt the Land of white wines with the 3 main traditional varieties:

  1. Verdelho(not to be confused with Spanish Verdejo) is responsible for a crunchy acidity and contributes to ageing potential of the blend.
  2. Arinto dos Açores is the most widespread on 4 islands where viticulture is practiced (São Miguel, Pico, Graciosa, Terceira) and is used for both light fresh and aged on the lees full-bodied wines.
  3. Terrantez do Pico is the hardest to grow grape variety planted only in Pico island since the 15th century. Its origin and parents are still not clear. There are only 89 strains of Terrantez on the island and this unique breed is in danger of extinction. This is the corpulent body of the local wines.

red wine Isabella

Red wine apologists will not be disappointed either: 15 red varieties are officially permitted, however one of the most unusual ones is the experimental Isabella a Proibida by Antonio Maçanita – the succulent red made of the American hybrid forbidden in the rest of the European Union.red wine with a view

UNESCO heritage made of magma 

As if the islands landscape was not diverse enough, the vine growers once had created the UNESCO Heritage “curraletas” – the black dry-stone walls that protect the vines from the ocean wind and sea salt capable of burning the vine leaves on the sun. Interesting fact, after the eruption the black magma rocks had to be removed from the soil and transported somewhere anyways, so the locals killed two birds with one stone forming black basalt plots that later became vineyards.

almost ripe arinto dos acores

What Atlantic volcano tastes like

We all heard that volcano wines have special and recognizable notes. In Azorean wines, however, not just volcano terroir, but the Atlantic influence makes the difference.

terrantez do pico

The local Terrantez is the saltiest and the most resin expression of the terroir. Add some tropical flowers, hazelnuts, marzipan plus amazing crispness you will have the idea.

Volcanic verdelho

In Verdelho, the mineral notes remind basalt stone and iodine ocean breeze smell coming right from the glass. The palate varies depending on the style: fresher samples amaze with vibrant acidity, salty almond and pear, while aged in bottle wine develops notes of ripe stone fruits and biscuit.

verdelho biscoitos

Arinto dos Açores is a very versatile in styles and can surprise you with orange confiture, baked apples, lemon blossom and honey in combination with aromas of the wet stone, sometimes reminding a high-level Riesling, yet with a salty touch.

aged verdelho with view

The unique nectar of Pico island

Island Pico is a home not only to the highest Portuguese peak, but also to the unique wine “Czar” that broke the world record in 2017 with the highest degree of alcohol (20.1%) ever obtained naturally in wine without fortifying it.

Pico island vineyards

We interviewed the winemaker Fortunato Garcia who passionately shared the “Czar” story. In the 17th century, 200 years after the vines had been brought to the islands, the Azores thrived thanks to an enormous amount of wine export, including to the Czar courts. The high-ranking elite of that time fell in love with the intense white wine called “passato” which was also the most expensive and prestigious one.

picowines

Since then, it has been produced exclusively on Pico island in limited quantities. Fortunato emphasises that is not a sweet wine as we used to know it, neither a conventional fortified wine. In average, it reaches 18% of alcohol naturally thanks to the high sugar concentration in late harvested traditional white varieties (Verdelho, Terrantez do Pico and Arinto dos Açores). On the other hand, the inherent high acidity of 3 varieties helps to create an amazing balance of sweetness and acidity (The residual sugars vary between 24 to 30 g/l only). A minimum 6-years ageing in French used oak adds to the complexity likewise.

vines Pico islands volcano view

With this being said, do not miss the opportunity to get a bottle of “Czar” when travelling to the islands, as only around 2000 bottles are produced per harvest, while the ageing potential is a lifetime!

All photos are provided by author and are subject to copyright

Olga Verchenko told about traveling to a true Atlantic gem the Azores – an archipelago composed of 9 islands that used to be ancient volcanos. It is small wonder that a myriad of local wines was tasted, still exotic and rare for many wine fans.

How to choose a beer (and not be disappointed!)

In her article for Drinks+, Lotte Peplow shared information about which criteria should be considered first when choosing a beer.


With hundreds of different beer styles and literally thousands of different beers now available making a choice can be overwhelming.

drinking beer

One tried and true approach is to seek out beers that win top honours at notable international beer competitions like the World Beer Cup, European  Beer Star  and Brussels Beer Challenge.

Judging beer is a serious business that takes years of practice and refinement of skill.  Imagine being the referee for the football World Cup – it’s a bit like that!  From the appearance of a beer in the glass, to the enticing aroma on the nose and flavour on the palate, beer judging is the pinnacle of a beer lover’s sensory acumen and a true test of knowledge and skill in which all the senses are deployed.

woman with beer

Beers submitted to international beer competitions are judged blindly against other entries based on their ability to meet criteria outlined in style guidelines like those produced by the Brewers Association or those they define themselves. Based on historical significance, authenticity, and profile in the current commercial beer market, each style guideline will dictate the appropriate aroma, appearance, taste, and mouthfeel of a beer style. Judges will often also include an element of their overall impression and enjoyment of the beer. In larger competitions, like the World Beer Cup, beers will be judged against potentially hundreds of other entries in a category. Those making it to the final rounds and ultimately selected for a medal have been deemed the most exemplary and outstanding in their class.

glasse of beer

As someone associated with American craft beer it’s great to see the number of American craft beer entrants winning top honours at beer competitions around the world.  The World Beer Cup® in America, International Beer Cup in Japan, European Beer Star in Germany, Brussels Beer Challenge in Belgium, Australian International Beer Awards in Australia, and many more have all seen American craft beer winning medals and gaining accolades from the best judging palates in the business.

Glass of beer

American craft beer is able to deliver unparalleled flavour due to a number of reasons –  the use of high quality raw materials, technical brewing expertise and an unswerving commitment to quality from production to throughout the supply chain to ensure it reaches the beer drinker  exactly as the brewer intended.

In America itself, the most recent World Beer Cup®, a biannual competition presented by the Brewers Association in conjunction with the Craft Brewers Conference®, attracted more than 8,000 beers from more than 2,500 breweries representing 66 different countries.  This September the Great American Beer Festival® (GABF) competition  will attract more than 9,000 American craft beer entries to be assessed by more than 100 professional judges.  The GABF gold, silver and bronze medals are recognised around the world as symbols of brewing excellence.

beer on the table

Award-winning American craft beer can be found throughout Ukraine and is renowned for its full-flavour, use of top quality ingredients and world-class taste.  Look out for beers from   Firestone Walker Brewing Co, Lakefront Brewery Inc, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Rogue Ales, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Spencer Brewery and Stone Brewing Co in Silpo or Good Wine stores.


Lotte Peplow is the American Craft Beer Ambassador in Europe for the Brewers Association and is based in the UK.  She is a Certified Cicerone®, BDI accredited Beer Sommelier and experienced beer judge who enjoys nothing more than sampling beer and pairing it with food. In addition, Lotte conducts meetings and beer tastings, organizes large-scale beer events and is an active supporter of beer food pairing.

In her article for Drinks+, Lotte Peplow shared information about which criteria should be considered first when choosing a beer.

HOPS ACROSS THE POND!

Lotte Peplow, the Brewers Association’s American Craft Beer Ambassador for Europe, takes a deep dive into hop usage in American craft beer.


The annual hop harvest in the USA is an exciting time.​It’s not only brewers who are excited, beer lovers around the world wait in heady expectation for yet more innovative, incredible tasting American craft beers packed full of the highest quality raw materials, to be launched.

In the 1980s American craft beer innovation and creativity kickstarted the craft beer revolution that we now see emulated all over the world. Bold, full-flavoured, hop forward beers ‘wowed’ the beer drinking public and today ground-breaking, style-diverse, high quality American craft beers can be found throughout Ukraine.  Examples are worth seeking out because American craft beer regularly wins top honours at high profile beer competitions around the world that are judged by international panels of experts.

The proximity of many American craft brewers to hop fields allows them to spend time with the hop growers and in the hop yards before, during and after harvest to constantly evaluate hops and select what they need.  Tim Matthews, VP of Global Brewing for the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective whose brand portfolio includes Oskar Blues from Longmont, Colorado and Cigar City Brewing from Tampa, Florida, explains: “Interaction with growers is a huge focus  and all brewers should have constant communications with their suppliers. We spend a lot of man hours getting all over the place and having face to face time with our suppliers so they understand what we’re asking for and what is the most economically sustainable strategy to achieve a product we want and that works for everyone.

“You’ve got to understand what makes a hop tick,” he says.  “Traceability is key. All hops have a QR code giving age, the Hop Storage Index and how it has experienced processing.  We smell them, touch them, break them up – we don’t just want essential oils, terpenes, and alpha components, nowadays we want glycosides and especially polyphenols (molecules most often involved in haze formation).”

American craft brewers’ proximity to desirable hops in the United States means that only 13% of hops used in the U.S. are purchased from abroad.  What’s more, the amount of hops being used by American craft brewers is increasing – during the last 10 years the average amount of hops used by craft breweries has increased 87% to 1.72 pounds per barrel.  Last year (2019) 163 hop varieties were used by American craft brewers, nearly double the quantity of 2009*.  The combination of increased hop usage and a wider hop variety allows brewers to craft ground-breaking new beers that push the boundaries of taste and flavour.  American craft brewers have also developed packaging expertise to minimize oxygen in beer and preserve flavour for longer.  This is essential when beer is exported overseas.

Hops are an agricultural product and a single hop varietal varies widely from year to year, farm to farm depending on terroir, weather and conditions.  Even at the highest ‘quality’ the hop profile will change hence why brewers visit the hop farms regularly to maintain grower relationships, select hops and adjust recipes.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, from Chico, California is one of the pioneers of the American craft brewing revolution and was instrumental in changing the beer drinkers’ perception of American craft beer from the 1980s onwards.  Their flagship beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale using the cascade hop, was one of the first examples of American craft beer to be exported overseas.

Scott Jennings, Innovation Brewmaster for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, adds: “It’s very important to build close relationships with our hop farmers and we track variations in the hop character along with them.    We visit several times a year – just before the harvest to get a sense of the quality availability, then again at harvest time where we can make selections of the varieties that harvest early and one again after the harvest so we can select the late harvested varieties.”

But what happens when it comes to crafting a new beer? Does the recipe come first or the hop selection?  Scott Jennings explains: “It goes both ways depending on the source of the inspiration!  Sometimes a clear mental flavour profile is the way forward other times there is a beautiful new hop that needs a beer to go in so we build it that way.”

American craft brewers are renowned the world over for their innovative use of raw materials and brewing techniques.  Stone Brewing Co from Escondido, California has a two-pronged approach to hop selection – ‘core beers’ and ‘hop innovation.’ Joel Grosser VP Brewing Operations and Brewmaster at Stone explains: “Core beers hop selection is focused on consistency.  We select lots that deliver the exact same flavour profile year over year and want every Stone IPA to be the same amazing experience no matter where you have it.  We accomplish this through our relationship with the growers and suppliers.

For ‘hop innovation’ we’re looking for something new and exciting.   Innovation is part of the Stone DNA and staying at the forefront of hop varieties and flavour is critical to our success.”

By way of an example, Jeremy Moynier, Senior Manager Innovation and Supply Chain for Stone, adds: “We had an interesting discussion about a particular newer hop that has gained a lot of attention recently and is still expanding to meet demand. We are split on this hop but what intrigues me is that it’s different.  More strawberry and herbal notes than the tropical and citrus forward hops that have gained acclaim in the last few years. We look at what you can blend it with – other hops, yeast, other ingredients to make a really special beer. This is part of Hop Innovation.”

American craft beer is now available in dozens of countries internationally and in 2019 exports were valued at $69 million. Canada is the largest global export market for American craft beer accounting for 25.8% of all exports, followed by the UK with 11.9%, Sweden with 6% and the rest of Europe with 11%.

Top Ten U.S. Hop Varieties 2018*

  1. Centennial
  2. Cascade
  3. Citra
  4. Mosaic
  5. Simcoe
  6. Chinook
  7. Amarillo
  8. El Dorado
  9. CTZ
  10. Azacca

So next time you pick up a can of,  Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing containing six hop varieties or Stone IPA hops with eight hops appreciate the time, care and attention that goes into sourcing the highest quality raw ingredients to produce the finest quality American craft beer worthy of export all around the world.

Award-winning American craft beer can be found throughout Ukraine and is renowned for its full-flavour, use of top quality ingredients and world-class taste.  Look out for beers from   Firestone Walker Brewing Co, Lakefront Brewery Inc, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Rogue Ales, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Spencer Brewery and Stone Brewing Co in Silpo or Good Wine stores.

*Brewers Association Hop Usage Survey 2019. The Brewers Association undertakes an annual hope usage survey to help hop growers to make important planting decisions. Members providing input since 2007 have shown the market completely shift from 20% to 80% aroma acres.

Lotte Peplow is the American Craft Beer Ambassador in Europe for the Brewers Association and is based in the UK.  She is a Certified Cicerone®, BDI accredited Beer Sommelier, beer writer, international beer judge, beer communicator and beer lover who enjoys nothing more than sampling beer and pairing it with food.

Lotte Peplow, the Brewers Association’s American Craft Beer Ambassador for Europe, takes a deep dive into hop usage in American craft beer.

New Wave Spanish Wines

If when thinking about Spanish wines Rioja, Albariño, Cava or La Mancha is all that comes to your mind, it is time to broaden your wine horizons. Here are four starting points to commence your journey exploring wines of talented Spanish winemakers.


Undiscovered Catalonia

For many wine consumers, Penedès region is under-radar when talking about premium range wines. However, there are at least two autochthonous varieties (white Xarello and red Sumoll) capable of making excellent wines when treated well in the vineyard.

Besides, more and more prominent wineries experiment with winemaking techniques creating unique and award-winning wines. To name a few: using selected harvest from old vines, extended lees contact, fermentation in barrels; ageing in new French oak, cement eggs, amphorae, or a combination of the three. The results are impressive for a growing number of wineries.

CELLER LA VINYETA

CELLER LA VINYETA – VINYES VELLES

For a superb Xarello with ageing potential check: Can Bas Domini Vinícola, Can Ràfols dels Caus, Celler Credo, Enric Soler, Venus La Universal. And for Sumoll: Heretat Mont Rubí, Sicus, Partida Creus, Puiggròs.

As opposed to mono-varietal wines, Empordà and Costers del Segre winemakers go for using international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah to create elegant blends with old vines Carignan and Grenache aged in French oak. The best examples are capable of competing with their high-profile counterparties from other wine regions. Look out for La Vinyeta, Tomás Cusiné.

High altitude Grenache

Disposing only of 6% of total Spanish vineyards, Grenache yet has enormous potential in higher altitudes of several mountain ranges. Well-known examples include Priorat and Montsant located in Serra de Montsant. And other than that, have you heard of Sierra de Gredos located near Madrid, becoming home to one of the best Grenaches in Spain?

Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia, the two friends and winemakers, were among pioneers who believed in the success of Grenache in this zone. In 2008, they started a project Comando G, purchasing small plots of 50-80 years old vines.

Today, they take care of 3 hectares, located on the altitudes 800 to 1200 meters, where vines are thriving on well-drained granitic soils. In combination with mild temperature, this provides slow ripening and moderate alcohol levels. All plants are treated biodynamically and produce few, yet concentrated grape clusters.

Xarello

The resulting wines with limited production is an essence of fresh fruit, and to preserve it, the usage of oak is moderate: ageing takes place maximum 12 months in big barrels and “foudres”.

Winemakers and wine critics tend to agree: Gredos wine region represents one of the finest Grenache expressions in Spain, comparable with elegant cold climate Pinot Noirs. So, this is something not to be missed when coming to Spain, as internationally this zone is represented in a limited way.

Comando G

Sherry as never before

What is now known as a successful commercial project Equipo Navazos started as a hobby in 2005. Two friends, a professor of criminal law and Sherry lover Jesús Barquín and the technical director of Grupo Estévez Eduardo Ojeda equipped with talent, passion and access to the hidden Sherry gems discovered and shared a unique wine from Andalusia.

The classic sherries are produced in a solera system where barrels are placed in several layers (soleras), and wine is circulating from the top layer (youngest vintage) to the bottom one. However, a couple of friends would source for a single Jerez cask with particular characteristics and potential (“Bota”) to bottle this 500l straight to one limited batch.

The Bota #1 was Amontillado, bottled privately and designated for the sole enjoyment of friends around the world. Today, their Bota #86 of Palo Cortado or #83 of Manzanilla Pasada are quick to sell in selected wine boutiques at a considerable price level.

…and another Southern treasure

In the land of fortified and sweet wines, it can be challenging for a dry red wine to stand out. It has only been a few years since young and ambitious winemakers have waged on the native Cádiz variety Tintilla de Rota for distinctive red wines crafting.

Tintilla (genetically identical to Graciano) is a late-ripening and low-yield grape with high sugar concentration.  Performing well in regional fortified wines production, it requires remarkable effort to make 100% Tintilla dry wines in Cádiz. Harvesting usually takes place at night to avoid the berries heating in the day. The best selection is from chalky-soil vineyards benefiting from Levante and Atlantic winds. Winemaking techniques follow the principles of minimum intervention, using entire-clusters fermentation, natural yeasts and going as far as bottling unfiltered wines. No sulphites added, of course.

Majority of the wines are coming out as micro-wines of IGT Cádiz /Tierra de Cádiz, perfumed on the nose and intense the palate (blackberry, mulberry, chocolate). To extend your wine repertoire, taste: Mahara by brothers Gómez Lucas, Nude by Barbadillo (unfiltered) mono-varietal wine from Bodegas de Forlong, Atlántida from Vinos de Atlantico.


About the author

Olga Verchenko is a wine professional living in Barcelona and working in wine business since 2012 when she graduated from the MSc Wine Programme at Burgundy School of Business. She also shares her wine passion and knowledge on the Instagram-blog @vinicomm and conducts wine tastings in Catalonia.

Here are four starting points to commence your journey exploring wines of talented Spanish winemakers.

Honey Badger: Own marks upon a map!

Founded in 2015, the family enterprise Honey Badger is the latest discovery and passion for D+, and we are ready to share the information.


The owners of the Honey Badger brand, Yulia Kalenskaya and Artem Skubenko, are the representatives of the millennials generation, who, as we know, thus choosing the best. So, when a couple of young Ukrainians founded their own enterprise for the production of the traditional drinks according to the revived recipes, it is reasonable that the credo of their company was: «To collect and preserve the best from the heritage of Ukrainian cities and villages». A simple idea turned out to be a brilliant one. The best local ingredients multiplied with the best local recipes.

map

The nastoyankas and nalyvkas of Honey Badger have already been appreciated by the professionals. Today, restaurateurs are paying specific attention to Honey Badger drinks, including due to their universal gastronomy. The nastoyankas are especially attractive for the bartenders who are interested in making trendy cocktails based on old drinks created from local ingredients. The story of the young brand is only being written. The founders have big and ambitious plans: to expand the collection of recipes by filling out their own map of Ukraine by Honey Badger, as well as to enter the export markets. And the brand has enough trump cards for this!

иуу

BEE INFUSED NASTOYANKA

This is a special drink for a family company. The recipe that comes from the village of Kalens’ke in the Zhytomyr region has been passed from generation to generation for centuries and has been finally passed from the father to children. The family owns not only the recipe but also the apiary. The nastoyanka of the «pidmore» is healing, tasty, soft, aromatic, with a honey-floral aftertaste. Alc.: 37%. Paring: meat dishes, game.

current

BLACK CURRANT INFUSED NALYVKA

Blackcurrant nalyvka was created according to a recipe recorded by the old residents of the Carpathians. The drink is full-bodied, moderately dry, has a magical aroma. It possesses a good balance of acidity. Alc.: 17%. Paring: dishes of the Carpathian cuisine – banosh, potato pancakes, mushroom broth.

cherry

CHERRY INFUSED NALYVKA

The relatives from Torkanivka village, the Vinnytsia region, shared the secret of producing the nalyvka. The nalyvka has a signature cherry flavour with a spicy touch of a kernel. It has an elegant purple colour. Alc.: 17%. Paring: dishes of modern Ukrainian cuisine, cheese and desserts.

kossak

COSSAK`S OAK NASTOYANKA

This is an old recipe retold by the acquaintances from the Cherkasy region, where a famous thousandyear-old oak grows in the Kholodnyi Yar. It is a symbol of longevity. Alc.: 37%. Paring: depending on the sauces, it can be combined with both fish and meat dishes, perfect for game.

raspberry

RASPBERRY INFUSED NALYVKA

The recipe for the drink was received by the father of the founders of the company from his friends who live in the Kharkiv region. The nalyvka is vivid, with an ideal balance of colour, taste, and aroma. Alc.: 17%. Paring: pies, halushky, pancakes, sweet dumplings.

honey

HONEYCOMB INFUSED NASTOYANKA

This is an old, but a modified recipe for a strong honey drink from the homeland of Cossacks – from Zaporizhzhia – created on the basis of a unique bee product. Beeswax contains over 300 nutrients. Alc.: 37%. Paring: grilled meat dishes, smoked meat, kulish.

cornelian

CORNELIAN CHERRY INFUSED NALYVKA

A drink was created according to a recipe that was passed from the relatives from the Crimea. This nalyvka has a light coral colour and is characterized by a perfect balance of taste, pleasant aroma and excellent gastronomy. Alc.: 17%. Paring is very broad – from meat dishes to the refined desserts.

gin

U.Gin (Ukrainian Gin)

This is a drink from a new line, from a collection of recipes called ‘‘Modern Ukraine’’. With exceptionally natural juniper berries and spices, they managed to create a product that 100% meets the philosophy of ‘‘Honey Badger’’ – uncompromising quality. Alc.: 37%. Paring: aged cheese or mouldy cheese. It is perfect for cocktails.

 

The family enterprise Honey Badger is the latest discovery and passion for D+, and we are ready to share the information.

Wines in vogue

Olga Verchenko is a wine professional living in Barcelona and working in wine business since 2012, when she graduated from the Msc Wine Programme at Burgundy School of Business. Today she is a founder of ViniComm wine project: having a wine job title, she also shares her wine passion and knowledge on the blog @vinicomm and conducts wine tastings in Catalonia.


Unlike, fashion industry where trends are usually set by big empires, wine tendencies are often those followed after small dedicated producers. It clearly takes a while for a “wine stream” to spread, yet it tends to stay with us for quite a bit, encouraging many producers to make a shift in the production once and forever.

I would distinguish 5 international macro trends that are quite evident in 2018, some coming as a result of wine makers efforts during last couple of years.

Terroir-driven wines

Not news for wine geeks, but the idea of finally saying au revoir to over extracted and over oaky wines looks appealing to more and more wine producers and wine consumers. The goal is to create a fresh fruit wine with medium tannins and quite high acidity that would reflect the grape variety and the vine growing zone. Some local examples would include wines made by Sara Perez (Mas Martinet, Venus la Universal), Raül Bobet (Castell d’Encús), Enric Soler.

The magic of amphora

Inspired by the international success of amber wines, more and more wineries start to commercialise both white and red wines fermented/aged in clay. In many regions, like Alentejo or Empordà, the ancient amphorae had been used to make wines for their own family or restaurant since forever. The fact that the world production is still very limited makes it a sought-after wine. You could try famed wines of Josko Gravner or less famous juices of an excellent QPR like Bodegas Puiggròs, Piteira Vinho de Talha and others.

Her Highness CAVA

It is pretty simple: you get the traditional méthode champenoise at a very fair price which makes this sparkling very competitive at export markets. (Great picks cost around 12€).

And those who fell in love with local and unique blends, willingly seek for premium specimen. What also helps is the Cava positioning, not only as a festive aperitif, but as a wine to PAIR with MEALS. NB: to Ukraine, for instance in 2017, it was exported 104.5% more than in 2016. Some of the most reputed producers are Recaredo, Gramona, Pere Ventura, Torelló, Codorniu, Sumarroca, Llopart.

Autochthonous unknown grape varieties

Let’s face it: some of us can get bored in front of CS or Chardonnay label and our natural curiosity always leads us towards the unknown when we see the exotic words such as Nuragus, Jampal, Savagnin, Rufete. And we usually do not get disappointed when savouring those hidden wine gems. Even if it is not our cup of wine, we appreciate the uniqueness. Italy and Portugal are 2 wonderful examples with the world highest amount of local autochthonous (and often lately re-discovered) varieties.

Made for Millennials

Unconventional packaging, odious labels, the use of augmented reality and collaboration with young bloggers to promote their brand are all ways to involve the Y-s in the fascinating world of wine.

“19 crimes” would be a great example, with “live” labels telling a story of the British sentenced prisoners, exiled to Australia.

Or, Cupcake vineyards, it could seem like a crazy name for a wine brand, but the link to a young working woman who rewards herself with a cupcake after a hard day brought the commercial success.

Unlike, fashion industry where trends are usually set by big empires, wine tendencies are often those followed after small dedicated producers.

Festive wines from around the globe

verchenko

Olga Verchenko is a wine professional living in Barcelona and working in wine business since 2012 when she graduated from the MSc Wine Programme at Burgundy School of Business. She also shares her wine passion and knowledge on the Instagram-blog @vinicomm and conducts wine tastings in Catalonia.


Chilling weather, winter activities and festive traditions will most likely switch your focus towards warming wines! Here is my selection for your cozy nights in snow-covered chalets and memorable celebration moments. Grab a bottle from those 7 well-known wine regions and discover 3 less obvious choices.

Crémant D’Alsace

FRANCE. Hard to find a better way to celebrate than with the finest bubbles and this time I am opting for Crémant D’Alsace. Extra Brut by Bott-Geyl produced using biodynamic practices is delicate and fresh blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Creamy texture and fine bubbles will set up the mood! It is also perfect as a final accord of the evening being served with cheeses or light desserts. Superb value with an average price of 15€.

ITALY. Collepiano di Montefalco DOCG is not an evident choice from Italy as this zone within Umbria is not on every wine lover’s wine map yet. Though, I just could not pass by this 100% Sagrantino, an indigenous variety from Umbria and Central Italy. Arnaldo Caprai made an excellent job taming the bold tannins of this grape. As a result, one enjoys structured matured wine, full-bodied and with a velvety aftertaste. Get your hands on vintage 2009 if you can, other good vintages currently available online are 2011, 2012 and 2013 for around 47€.

Spain

SPAIN. Powerful yet elegant Priorat red will be the best companion for the merry gatherings around the table. Deeply rooted in tradition and in licorella soil (specific slate of the region), this masterpiece Destí by Merum Priorati will reveal its nuances every sip you make. The star of the blend is Grenache (60%) that in combination with Carignan, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon offers multi-layered notes of red cherry jam, ripe black fruits, balsamic and mineral hints. Long final and evolution in the glass. An excellent vintage 2016 is still available for an average price 28€.

Portugal

PORTUGAL. Lesser-known wine region Beira Interior keeps catching my attention. Last time it happened with a buttery, rich-textured white made of 100% Fonte Cal (Reserva), the autochthonous regional variety, once almost extinct and revived mainly by Quinta dos Termos. Enjoy minerality, confiture pear, ripe yellow lemon and almond hints in the taste. I recommend vintage 2016 or earlier as this wine ages beautifully. A remarkable value at a price point from 10€.

Argentina

ARGENTINA. Like a breath of cold air from Uco valley, Octava Alta will spice-up your night and tasting buds with Malbec/Cabernet Franc blend (80% – Malbec, 20% – Cabernet Franc).  Marcelo Pelleriti from Abremundos crafted an intense wine with pronounced tannins, nice acidity and long-lasting finish. Whether you are looking for a pairing to your steak or a favorite pizza, this wine will do. Tasting notes include black pepper, black fruits, clove, nutty notes and minerality. Average price – 24€

Australia

AUSTRALIA. The increasing popularity of Australian Riesling led me to taste Grosset Alea Riesling 2016 and I was not disappointed. The grapes are coming from a single-vineyard Grosset Rockwood in Clare Valley where the vines are planted at around 570m altitude. This fact contributes to a refreshing acidity, but at the same time, the style of wine is voluminous, succulent and full-bodied. A gastronomic wine that can be paired equally well with Asian dishes, charcuterie or fatty fish. Average price – 25€

USA

USA. Oregon is already a synonym to the finest US Pinot Noir and my choice of the season is Lemelson Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir 2015. The selection includes grapes from 7 organic estate vineyards from Willamette Valley. An impressive level of acidity, well-integrated silky tannins and restrained red fruit make it a sought-after Pinot from the region. Enjoy on its own or pair it with heavier cheeses and gamey. The price tag is around 20€

Offbeat wine-producing countries

livan

LEBANON. Being one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world, Lebanon now producers around seven million bottles per year mainly coming from Beqaa Valley.One of the most famous wineries there is Châteaux Ksara founded by Jesuit priests in 1857. Procure their top-notche Cuvée du Troisième Millénair – a powerful complex red made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Think spices, sandalwood, black dried prunes and licorice. This wine would go amazingly with open-fire meat dishes. Average price – 30€.

Armenia

ARMENIA. A number of evidences suggest that vine growing and winemaking in Armenia dates back to 8th century B.C. being a “wine cradle” alongside Georgia.  The modern wine production is tiny and wine regions only commence to find its path in the today wine world, slowly experiencing the rebirth. Keep an eye on Takar Areni & Saperavi Reserve that is now exported to several countries. Areni Noir is the rare local variety making full-bodied and dense wines. Saperavi, translated as “ink” from Georgian contributes to the rich intense color and fruit. Overall, this is an appealing and worth trying coupage. Priced at 20€.

Slovenia

SLOVENIA. For the sweet moment of your celebration, I suggest an uncommon late harvest gem from Slovenia where a handful of local producers mainly from Podravje and Posavaje regions are specialized in sweet late harvest wines made of Riesling, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer.

The one from Kobal winery is 100% Yellow Muscat, late-harvested in Styria (Podravje) and presenting the notes of white peach, citrus and orange blossom sweetness combined with high acidity. Open it for your Christmas light desserts and sweets. The price is around 11€

Here is my selection for your cozy nights in snow-covered chalets and memorable celebration moments. Grab a bottle from those 7 well-known wine regions and discover 3 less obvious choices.

To eat and drink in Catalonia

With 7 years living in Catalonia, many friends refer to me as “local” in this region. And even though there is still a lot for me to discover and visit around here, I will gladly share the best gastronomic and wine experiences of my second home.

Catalan breakfast

Catalan breakfast

The day starts with…no, not eggs & toast, tea & coffee. Think cheese, jamón, seasonal fruits, pan con tomato, garlic and nuts. Depending on where you are, this could be accompanied whether with a caña (330 ml of draft beer) or a glass of let’s say dry Muscat that is served to you during the first meal at the local winery (Can Bas Domini Vinícola is a good example). After this, you are ready to dive into the vineyards or start a Barcelona tapas tour.

Барселона

Ruta de tapas with Cava 

Continue the fully-charged gastronomic day popping in the best tapas places around the capital. Accompany all the finger food with Cava and you won’t regret.

Here is my personal list with recommendations on what to order:

  1. Vinitus. Here tapas are being cooked in front of you non-stop and the array of smells is impressive. Don’t miss traditional local dish escalivada (smoky grilled vegetables) with goat cheese, grilled baby squids and croquetas with jamón
  2. Ciutat Condal. Try their hot montaditos (small sandwiches) – crunchy baguette bread filled with jamón, prawns or tortilla.
  3. Bar Ramon. A small hidden gem operating since 1939. Go for la bomba – the special type of tapas born in Barceloneta and now being of the Barcelona emblematic tapas. It is a deep-fried mashed-potatoes ball filled with meat and served with a spicy sauce.

Барселона

Seafood at the beach

Even though the traditional paella with rabbit is a privilege of Valencia, I could not exclude fantastic sea-food paella that you can find in some Barcelona spots. Local families still gather together on Sunday at the sea-view terraces and share a big pan of paella de marisco. Here is the list of places where you could savor both paella and fresh seasonal fish & seafood. Lunch on a sunny terrace or dinner under sunset sky – you choose!

  • El Cangrejo loco. I love that it’s located outside of the touristic walking path with an unwind top terrace featuring sea and Barcelona coast views. Paella Parellada is a delight. Pair it with a fresh Xarello (still wine), or Cava Rosé Brut.Barceloneta
  • Can Majó is located in front of the Barceloneta beach, so the outside terrace is less peaceful, but the environment around is very vibrant. The restaurant offers a range of fish and sea-food depending on the season. The classic choice includes zamburiñas a la plancha (grilled small scallops) rap al forn (baked monkfish). Albariño is the obvious wine choice, but if you want some local wine – go for Macabeo from Penedès or Costers del Segre.
  • Xiringuito Escribà is famous for all types of rice, especially black seafood rice- arròs negre. Gets crowded on the weekends, reservation is needed. Portions are generous, food is mouth-watering, no surprise many locals come here on Sundays.

Masias for meat lovers

Further inland, meat lovers will also find their favorite spots. Look for masias – rural, often old and historical houses. Nowadays, some of them boast restaurants with open fire and an ample yard for the use of the guests. The products are supplied directly from the farmers and garden. Open-air tables, fresh mountain air and delicious food are guaranteed.

Masia La Vinya Nova

Masia La Vinya Nova

One of the most picturesque is La Vinya Nova – located in the foothills of Montserrat mountain. It is not open every day and the table needs to be reserved for the weekend. Must order is lamb ribs (costelles de xai) or pork ribs (costellam de porc). Red dry wine from Monstant, Priorat or Terra Alta is a perfect pairing you will remember for a long time.

La Vinya Nova table

La Vinya Nova 

Calçotada

If you visit Catalonia between December and March, you can’t miss the calçotada. A winter barbeque where the main star is calçots – a local cross between onion and leek – sweet & delicate when grilled and should be dipped in salsa romesco, a tomato-based sauce with origin from Valls (Catalonia).

Calcots 2

 

For the full gastronomic experience and unique environment, it is advised to get to one of the rural restaurants outside of Barcelona. We liked El Mirador de Can Cases located in the natural park of Sierra de Collserola, offering splendid mountain views and a feeling of being on the backyard of someone’s home. Together with calçots you will be served a full menu: local meat, white beans and red wine of course!

village restaurant for calcots

Vermouth land

Had enough of vino?  Head out to the vermouth mecca of Catalonia, an inland town Reus that could be on your way to Priorat wine region.

vermouth

To go deep into it, visit a Museu del Vermut the ancient Vermuteria Rofes (founded in 1890). Alternatively, there are some nice vermuterias in Barcelona. To name a few: Puigmartí Bar, Vermuteria del Tano and Trencalòs.

Photo: Olga Verchenko

I will gladly share the best gastronomic and wine experiences of my second home, Catalonia.

The no-cook guide to beer and food pairing

Our UK columnist Lotte Peplow shared her article on Beer food paring for the ‘lazy’: No-Cook Guide to Beer. By-lined to Adam Dulye, Executive Chef for the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers. Dulye is one of the world’s leading experts on beer and food pairing and in this article he explains how to create mouth-watering pairings without any cooking!


Adam Dulye

With eating-out options limited in the current climate we’re looking to expand our culinary experiences in other ways.  If cooking at home every night is losing appeal this handy guide to pairing American craft beer with no-cook food will have your tastebuds tingling and your senses salivating.  Cheese, charcuterie and chocolate make perfect partners for the multitude of flavours found in American craft beer.  Here’s why…

  • Acidity, carbonation and bitterness in beer cut through fat
  • Malt found in beer complements creamy, nutty, earthy or caramel flavours and contrasts with salt
  • Ingredients used in craft beer (especially carbonation and alcohol) can alter the texture of both the rind and the paste of cheese and provide complementary and/or contrasting flavours for each.

beer and cheese

Here are a few guidelines for getting started:

  • Cheese, like beer, should be served at the correct temperature. Take cheese out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature before pairing.  Keep beer at the correct temperature for the style.
  • Match intensities. Delicate, lighter American craft beers often pair well with young or mild cheeses, while stronger flavoured beer tend to work better with full-flavoured, mature cheeses.  The same applies to cold meats.
  • Look for common ground. For example, a malty craft beer pairs well with a nutty cheese, or a hoppy, bitter beer cuts through a cheese with a high fat content
  • Think about other sensations and interactions such as acidic or salty cheese with a hop-forward beer
  • Charcuterie refers to smoked, cured or cooked meats and generally involves salting (preserving) and air-drying, and this effects how they interact with beer
  • Palate balancers – nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit, honey and pickled items all make great additions to craft beer and cheese
  • Aim for 25g of cheese per 100ml pairing of beer.

cookies

Suggested American craft beer and Cheese Pairings:

CHEESE STYLE BEER STYLE DESCRIPTION

 

Soft Cheese Wheat beer, Lambic-style beer Mascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella, goats cheese will match the delicate notes of the beer without overwhelming the palate
Semi-soft Cheese Kolsch, Pilsner, Pale Ale Cambozola, Reblochon, Fontina, Provolone can be enhanced by a high level of carbonation.  Salty cheese like Feta needs a thirst-quenching, refreshing style to combat its dryness
Hard Cheese Brown Ale, Imperial Stout, Bock Cheddar, Gruyere, Emmental, Parmesan, Manchego echo the nutty, earthy notes of a brown ale or stout.  These beers  add creaminess on the palate to a hard cheese
Blue Cheese IPA or Imperial IPA, Barley wine Strongly flavoured cheeses such as Roquefort,  Stilton, St Agur, Danish Blue can be successfully balanced with bolder beer styles
Natural Rind Cheeses Golden/Blonde ale,
Pale ale
Brie, camembert, gorgonzola have a rich creamy base that can be refreshed with a golden, blonde or pale ale.
Washed Rind Cheeses Belgian-style ales Vacherin, Taleggio, Port Salut Beers bring out the cheeses’ delicate sweet note and can cut through the funk of the washed rind

And if you’re a fan of cold-cuts, smoked meats and charcuterie this guide is for you:

TYPE OF CUT DESCRIPTION BEER PAIRING
Prosciutto di Parma

(pork)

A classification of ham from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  Known for its umami flavour Pilsner, Doppelbock or Saison
Bresaola (beef) Dark red cut of beef, thinly sliced.  One of the leanest cured meats Brown Ale
Speck (pork) Smoked, cured meat, milder and firmer in texture than prosciutto Smoked Beer, American Pale Ale
Saucisson Sec (pork) A French-style salami.  Typically dry-cured and rich in flavour Robust Porter
Chorizo (pork) A distinctive bright red colour due to addition of smoked paprika. Smoked Beer, Pilsner
Mortadella (pork) Cooked sausage made from ground pork meat, garnished with pistachios and small cubes of fat for extra flavour Belgian-style Trappist ale
Salami Piccante (pork) Can be spicy to mild. Spiced with paprika and hot to mild red peppers known as peperoni Imperial IPA
Pâté Usually made from ground pork, duck or chicken liver and spices Stout
Salo Pork fat speciality Pilsner,  Golden Ale, Kölsch

Finally, if all you want to do is kick-back with a bar of chocolate and a beer remember to match intensity of flavour.  Here’s a basic guide:

White Chocolate – creamy texture, no cocoa solids, usually contains 20% cocoa butter, sugar and 14% milk solids.  Pair with Witbier, Brown Ale, Sweet Stout, fruited Wheatbeer

Milk Chocolate – usually around 35-45 cacao solids. Pair with: American pale ale, Brown ale, Amber ale

Dark chocolate – at least 35% cacao solids but commonly above 70%.  Pair with:  Robust Porter, Imperial Stout, Dubbel, Lambic style beers.

glass of beer

Look out for beers with speciality ingredients such as coffee, chocolate, peanut butter and many more that offer endless possibilities for pairing with chocolate.

Many American craft beers such as Firestone Walker Brewing Co, Lakefront Brewery Inc,  Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Rogue Ales, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Spencer Brewery and Stone Brewing Co.  are available in Silpo or Good Wine stores.


D+ File

Lotte Peplow is an ambassador of the Brewers Association (BA) in Europe. Lotte is also a certified beer sommelier and beer-writer, beer judge at many professional contests, as well as she brews beer. In addition, Lotte conducts meetings and beer tastings, organizes large-scale beer events and is an active supporter of beer food pairing.

The Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. The BA represents 5,500-plus U.S. breweries. The BA organizes events including the World Beer Cup®, Great American Beer Festival®, Craft Brewers Conference® & BrewExpo America®, SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, Homebrew ConTM, National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Brewer® magazine, and Brewers Publications®.

Photo provided by Lotte Peplow

Our UK columnist Lotte Peplow shared her article on Beer food paring for the ‘lazy’: No-Cook Guide to Beer.

The Vaud Land

Olga Verchenko is a wine professional living in Barcelona and working in wine business since 2012 when she graduated from the MSc Wine Programme at Burgundy School of Business. She also shares her wine passion and knowledge in her own Instagram-blog @vinicomm and conducts wine tastings in Catalonia.


Olga visited one of the most fascinating wine regions Vaud in Switzerland. She gladly shares her experience and wine picks with us.

When stepping in the vineyard overlooking Leman lake and Swiss Alps, I could fully understand why this land is entitled to be the World UNESCO Heritage Site. Steep man-made terraced vineyards stretched between Lausanne and Montreux is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe.

swiss view

Vaud is Switzerland’s second wine-producing canton with around 4,000 ha of vineyards, 8 appellations and 6 wine-producing areas.

The total annual production accounts 40 mln bottles per year from various AOC appellations including the Grands Crus Dézaley and Calamin in Lavaux.

swiss

The grape king of the region is famous Chasselas, producing about 70% of all Vaud wines. The typical profile is aromatic and dry with soft silky structure due to the usage of malolactic fermentation soothing the high acidity and occasionally adding the sugar to increase the alcohol content.

One of the reds worth attention is Salvagnin made of local Pinot Noir and Gamay.

Interesting fact, unlike watches or chocolate, the Swiss keep all those wines for themselves – only around 2% of the wines produced in total leave the country.

varchenko vino

Wine Experience

Wine tourism has been actively developed in the French part of Switzerland since recently. Not long ago after a significant change in the winemaking law had happened, when in 2006 the Swiss law forbade blending imported wine with a locally produced one. Lately, the legal requirements and consequently the quality of wines notably improved with Swiss wines gaining international medals and creating a buzz. So, both experienced wine connoisseurs and tourists come to see where the rare wine gems come from.

switzerland

For us, the best way to explore the region was going by car to every small village nestled in between the slopes and visiting small family wineries. Not all of them are available for visits throughout the year, so here is my recommendation list to choose from:

  1. Domaine Henri Cruchon near Morges  – a reputed biodynamic winery recognized worldwide that cannot be missed. Without any booking, you can pass by Mon-Fri from 10h – 12h/14h – 18h and have a tasting of 6 wines for CHF 15.
  2. Domain La Colombe led by renowned Raymond Paccot would open for you their vintage Chasselas, Pinot Noir and much more Mon to Fri from 13h30 to 17h00 and Saturday morning.
  3. Marc & Jean Duboux winery located in Riex would propose you tasting their top Grands Crus Chasselas and Syrah from AOC Calamin Grand Cru and AOC Dézaley Grand Cru respectively. The cellar is open all days including Sundays, however, the phone reservation in case of a group is required.

If you have only a couple of hours in the area, ride a Lavaux Express departing from Lutry, a panoramic touristic train that will bring you directly to a wine cellar where you will be offered several wines from different producers in one go. Breathtaking views on the way are guaranteed!

Provided that you want to dive deeper into the world of Swiss wines, choose of the annual public events:

  • Fête des Vignerons from July 18 to August 11, 2019, in Vevey – one of the biggest wine events with a range of tickets from CHF 79 to CHF 299.
  • Salon VINEA: 6 and 7 September 2019 in the village La Ville de Sierre with 130 wine growers presenting their wines.
  • Vinumrarum: 6 and 7 December in Bern. About 70 Swiss independent winegrowers and winemakers participate with their best wines.

Olga visited one of the most fascinating wine regions Vaud in Switzerland. She gladly shares her experience and wine picks with us.