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Tapas and wine

Hello, holidays. Wine days are here again.

The shared history of Spain and Britain, if you look at it from the point of view of sherry, is pretty interesting. Britain’s love affair with sherry, a fortified wine, began in the early 16th century. And despite the Anglo-Spanish War, which was waged on and off for about 80 years, this love continued to grow. So much so that I read in an online article that when Sir Francis Drake captured the harbor in the port of Cadiz, Spain in 1587 he had one goal—to bring butts (a barrel that holds about 600 liters) of sherry back to England, a whopping 2,900 of them.

In The Oxford Companion to Wine, an Englishman, Robert Blake Byass, is one of those credited with initiating an unprecedented sherry boom in the mid-19th century. Byass went into partnership with Manuel Gonzalez, who owned Solera del Tio Pepe (the maker of what is now the most famous fino sherry in the world). The company was renamed Gonzalez Byass, and about 30 years ago began to diversify into wineries from iconic winemaking regions in Spain. Today that includes Bodegas Beronia in Rioja, Cavas Vilarnau in Barcelona, and Finca Constancia in Toledo. In the Philippines, Barcino distributes the wines. In fact, according to Gonzalez Byass Group regional sales director for Asia Pacific Xavier Vicente Tamames, Beronia is the leading rioja wine in the Philippines.

Chorizo, Lomo, and Jamon Ilerico (Manila Bulletin)

Chorizo, Lomo, and Jamon Ilerico (Manila Bulletin)

I had the chance to speak with Señor Tamames during a Wine and Tapas Night hosted by Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila as part of its Wine Days promotion. The yearly series of events aims to celebrate the French wine tradition, ongoing until Oct. 31, so there’s still a lot of time to catch some of the events. They are a great way for people who want to learn more about wines to get a good start. I’ve always believed, of course, that the best way to learn about wines is to taste them. Among the events that the hotel has organized for this year are a Wine Appreciation Class conducted by a French wine specialist at Spiral on Oct. 20, a Full Moon Party on Oct. 16 featuring wines from Straits Wines, Sunday Brunch at Spiral on Oct. 23 featuring 60 wines from France’s top wine-making regions, a champagne event on Oct. 27 featuring Moet & Chandon, Krug, and Dom Perignon, and the Level 1 certificate course and exam of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) on Oct. 29.

But wait, where was I? Spanish wines. One of the tidbits I learned from Mr. Tamames is that it usually takes about a kilo of grapes to fill a bottle of wine. Without stems, skins, and the like, the liquid weight of the grapes is about 0.7 liters. That is one of the explanations for why a bottle of wine is always 75ml.

Finca constancia Parcela 23 (Manila Bulletin)

Finca constancia Parcela 23 (Manila Bulletin)

We started the evening with Vilarnau Cava Brut, NV, a very dry sparkling wine with a very fine stream of bubbles and a finish of bitter almonds. When you’re looking for a wine to pair with a diverse selection of tapas, you can never go wrong with a brut (dry) cava or the Tio Pepe DO Jerez Xerex Sherry, which is a fino and therefore very crisp and dry. Both stood up well to the sharp acidity of boquerones, and marinated Manchego cheese with olives. And, of course, with the La Prudencia Jamon Iberico that was being served generously. In fact, fino sherry is the traditional accompaniment to tapas in Spain.

One of my favorite wines was the Viñas del Vero Chardonnay Coleccion, 2015. The winery is in the north of Spain, near the Pyrenees and the French border, in an area where a lot of foreign grape varietals including chardonnay, are grown. Aromatic, and just slightly off-dry, it tasted of very ripe pineapples and guava. It was closer in structure to a French-style chardonnay rather than the buttery style of an American chardonnay, which I felt made it easier to drink large amounts. The chardonnay paired well with seafood and chorizo paella that was closer to the Filipino style of paella that my grandmother used to make, rather than the traditional Spanish paella. It also stood up to marinated baby octopus with green olives.

Bouquerenos pairs well with cowa or fino sherry (Manila Bulletin)

Bouquerenos pairs well with cowa or fino sherry (Manila Bulletin)

The Beronia Verdejo Rueda 2014 is another white wine that works well in our hot climate. With crisp acidity and the faintest hint of bitterness that is characteristic of the verdejo grape, it reminded me of fresh green herbs and newly cut grass, with just enough fruitiness to balance things out. It’s the kind of wine that you can keep in your fridge and break out after a long day of traffic. Verdejo, I was told, is trendy in Spain right now.

Among the reds, I really enjoyed the Finca Constancia Parcela 23, 2013. The wine is 100 percent Tempranillo grape from a single plot or parcel of land in the Finca Constancia vineyard. Señor Tamames explained that 220 hectare vineyard is divided into 75 plots or parcels, each one planted with a single grape variety. When the grapes from a certain parcel of land grow so well that they express the best of their characteristics, the winery often decides to make and release a wine made only from those grapes. So Parcela 23 is from plot number 23 in the vineyard, and spent six months in a French oak barrel. It was a very round, fruity wine; silky and full in the mouth, with hints of spice and red berries. It’s the kind of wine you can serve with meat, chorizos, or those addictive Spanish croquetas that are often stuffed with cheese or ham. It also went well with churros dipped in chocolate—contrasting sweet with spice and berry tartness, rather than matching sweet with sweet.

The Alfonso Oloroso Sherry, with its nuttiness, hints of leather, touches of vanilla, and a sweet note on the finish, went well with the churros as well. This type of fuller-bodied sherry goes well with meats and heavier dishes, according to Señor Tamames.

The wines are all pretty reasonably priced at Barcino, ranging from about R1,150 to R1,500 (for the cava), and are definitely value for money. They will most likely also be available at Sofitel (even beyond the Wine Days promotion).

​Email me at cbj2005@gmail.com or follow me on Instagram/@eatgirlmanila

 Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila’s Wine Days 02 832 6988 or H6308-FB12@sofitel.com .

​The wines are available at Barcino branches in The Fort, Alabang, Greenbelt 2, Ortigas, Greenbelt 5, Rockwell, Alabang, and SM Aura. Call 02 654 9235 to 37.