Friday, September 30, 2011

An Introduction to Spanish Wines

A guest post by Bruno Cumar, Maddalena Vineyard

A Spanish vineyard
The wine industry in Spain is as old and established as that of France. Despite this similarity, the wines produced by these two countries are vastly different. Spain produces a large amount of red wine, sparkling wines, and Sherry, now widely popular because of their high alcohol content compared with other wines. The wines of Spain started with lengthy dormancy and underachievement but today, Spanish wines are considered one of the leading producers of great wines in the world, and have become very popular in the U.S.A.

There are more than 50 recognized wine regions and hundreds of native grape varieties. 
Interpreting Labels
At first, trying to make sense of a Spanish wine label may seem to be a daunting task; but it's not really that difficult. Here are the basic terminologies. 
1. Vino de mesa: table wine without a geographic denomination
2. Vino joven: young wine, usually from a qualified DO region, sometimes with a bit of aging
3. Roble: "roble" means oak, some regions allow this term on the label for lightly oaked wines that don't reach "crianza" standards
4. Crianza: aged 2 years, at least 6 months in oak
5. Reserva: quality wine, normally aged at least 3 years, at least 1 year in oak casks, 2 years in the bottle, made from top vintages
6. Gran Reserva: quality wine, aged at least 2 years in oak plus 3 years in the bottle, made from exceptional vintages.
Cava sparkling wine
Some of the most well-known regions and their wines are:

• D.O. Catalonia: Even though this region does not share the same world recognition as Rioja, it is where most Spanish wines are produced. Recently, more standard wines like Merlot and Cabernet are made in Catalonia, yet this region also has its own traditional wines. Catalonia also specializes in the production of Cavas, or sparkling wines, made with Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada, and more. This sparkling wine presents a good alternative to French champagne and is very high quality. Some other known red grapes for still wines are: Granacha, Cariñena, and Monastrell. 

D.O. Ribera de Duero: Contributing to the quality of grapes in Ribera del Duero is the region’s altitude. Vineyards may be planted at heights of up to 2,800 feet, although most are at 2,400 – 2,600 feet, on either side of the Duero, where in high summer daytime temperatures may reach 100-104 degrees F.
*Reds: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot

Spain's red wines are justly famous
D.O. Rioja Calificada: This is one of the best-known wine regions of Spain. When the Phylloxera epidemic struck France many of its wine makers moved to northern Spain in order to continue their trade. The French taught the local Spaniards how to make wine from their local red Tempranillo grape. The result was a series of red wines that are very flavorful and strong. Enjoyed globally today, many of the Rioja reds are aged for ten years in large wooden barrels. This process gives these wines a distinct woody taste that many people find appealing.
Reds: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo
Whites: Viura, Malvasía Riojana, and Garnacha Blanca

To save you the time and cost of storage, they're not released until ready to drink. In fact, some of the new releases are already seven years old. Often considered the best food wines on earth, there are more than a thousand Rioja wines with choices for every style, occasion, and price point.

D.O. Rueda: Rueda is one of the best white wine producing areas, famous for its Verdejo grapes. Translated, it means "greenish," or that might be derived from verdugo, meaning "green shot," Since harvest, the grapes and subsequently the fermenting juice are kept under constant inert gas (nitrogen) to prevent oxidation until bottled.
Whites: Verdejo, Palomino, Viura, and Sauvignon Blanc

D.O.Utiel-Requena: Location: Province of Valencia - interior foothills
Whites: Chardonnay, Macabeo, Merseguera, and Planta Nova (Tardana)
Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache, Bobal, Cencíbel (Tempranillo), and Garnacha

Authentic sherry is from Jerez
D.O. Jerez-Xeres-Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda:
Wines from Jerez-Xéres-Sherry are in a class all their own. Located in the Southwest Atlantic coast, just above Gibraltar, the special sherry taste is due to the unique production methods. The Palomino grape is the main ingredient of the best Sherries. The wines are aged in casks, where a special yeast growth known as "flor" prevents oxidation, while adding that special taste. When the time comes to end the maturing process, the flor is killed off by fortification (the addition of alcohol) and the wine is moved to the "solera," a vertical row of oak casks, designed to gradually mix old wine with new to achieve a consistent final product, year after year. 

Typical wines:
* Manzanilla - very dry sherry
* Fino - dry sherry
* Amontillado - premium aged sherry
* Oloroso - aged sherry
* Palo Cortado - aged sherry (very little is produced)
* Pedro Ximénez - sweet sherry
* Cream - very sweet sherry

Bruno Cumar is the Southern Division Manager for Maddalena Vineyard, a Los Angeles producer and distributor of fine wines from all over the world. Having worked for the company for almost 18 years, he also teaches wine appreciation classes at MiraCosta College.

Monday, August 29, 2011

White Sangria for Warm Summer Days!

Café Sevilla’s white sangria is a huge hit in the hot summer months. Sevilla bartenders and wait staff estimate that in their first 20 years in San Diego, they have served more than 2 million sangrias — an average of 191 sangrias every day for twenty years!

White sangria used to only make its appearance on Sevilla’s menu on a seasonal basis. It’s typically a summer drink in Spain, and in the southern and eastern parts of the country year-round. Since we used to make it only for the summer months, there were years that the recipe differed; many times it reflected the latest creation by one of Sevilla’s popular bartenders. A few years ago, we compared all recipes and unanimously selected the current recipe to represent Sevilla on a permanent basis. A lead bartender out of the Long Beach location traveled between our three locations--San Diego, Riverside & Long Beach--and asked the bartenders for their ideas and favorite recipes.

At Sevilla we use flavored liqueurs to enhance the fruit flavors. Just for you, we’ll share that a special ingredient in Sevilla’s white sangria is Licor 43, which adds citrus essences rounded by a delicate vanilla touch. Our white sangria is made fresh daily and is ready to drink immediately; unlike red sangria, white sangria tastes best freshly made.
With plenty of hot weather remaining in our beautiful San Diego summer and fall, we though we’d share our recipe with you. It’s perfect for a late summer garden party or BBQ with friends. And of course, you can find it at Café Sevilla every day.

Café Sevilla’s White Sangria 
Mix together a 32-oz. Pitcher (average size of most pitchers):
  2 oz brandy
  1.5 oz Apple Schnapps
  1.5 oz Peach Schnapps
  1 oz Triple Sec
  1 oz Licor 43
  8 cinnamon sticks
  1/3 cup granulated sugar
  ¾ cup 7-up or Squirt

Fill the rest of the pitcher to the top with a dry white wine (chablis is best). Stir well until sugar is totally dissolved. Add slices of red apple, green apple, and oranges. Chill, serve and enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Best Party Ever!

An hour before the doors opened, the line to get into Sevilla’s Grand Opening Party on July 27 was already stretching down the block. It was the start of a tremendous evening hosted by Sevilla and Partying for a Purpose, which saw more than 450 people turn out and raised more than $11,000 for the local nonprofit It’s All About the Kids!

Guests in their hottest attire paused to get their pictures taken on the red carpet before entering the beautiful new Tapas Bar to enjoy complimentary tapas, paella, and sangria, and wine tasting in the elegant mezzanine. They were excited to check in on social media for a chance at generous giveaways. Live Flamenco guitarists entertained in the Tapas Bar, and later in the evening the adorable students of Paloma Aragon Arte Flamenco, led by their teacher, Rocío Carrera, performed top-notch Sevillanas, Rumba, and Bulerías on the stage in the glamorous new nightclub.

Students from Paloma Aragon Arte Flamenco
Teacher Rocío Carrera leads the fiesta
The party continued well into the night as revelers stayed for free salsa lessons and dancing in the club. We at Sevilla couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our return to the Gaslamp Quarter than to party with all our friends and raise money for a great cause, thanks to you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Win Tickets to the Grand Opening Party!

After nine months of re-creating Café Sevilla at its new location, reconnecting with our staff and training new ones, and opening our doors to a sold-out weekend of sangria and tapas, we’re finally ready to let loose….and PARTY.

And we want you to party with us! Here’s another chance to win a PAIR OF TICKETS to our grand opening celebration on Wednesday, July 27. Take a scan through our latest blog posts and answer these three questions. We’ll pick a winner from all correct answers on Monday, July 25.

1. Jamón ibérico derives its unique taste from what food the pata negra pigs traditionally gorge on?

2. Manchego cheese is made with the milk of what animal?

3. Where did Flamenco dancing originate?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

From the Spanish Table: Manchego Cheese

A guest post by New York fromager Dimitri Saad.

Queso Manchego
Spain’s most famous cheese is Manchego. Officially known as “Queso Manchego,” it is estimated to have been around for 2000 years. The designation Queso Manchego has been protected under Spain's Denominación de Origen (DO) regulatory classification system since 1984. The cheese has also been granted the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union. Accordingly, a real Queso Manchego will meet the following criteria:

1) It will have been produced in the Spanish region of La Mancha.
Perhaps most know as the setting for Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel, "Don Quixote," La Mancha is a plateau more than 600 meters above sea level, located just southeast of Madrid, and encompassing the provinces of Toledo, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, and Albacete. The Moors were the first to name this region, and called it “Al Mansha” or “waterless land” due to the predominantly rocky terrain resulting from the harsh and extreme weather that buffets this high plateau. 

2) It is made from the milk of the Manchega breed of sheep.
An ancient breed of sheep called Ovis aries ligeriensis was the ancestor of today’s Manchega sheep. This sheep crossed the Pyrenees and wandered through various regions of Spain before eventually settling in the region of La Mancha. The Manchega are well suited to life on the high plateau. The flavors of the native grasses and herbs of La Mancha come through in the milk and are what gives Manchego its classic flavor.

A popular tapa: Manchego bocadillos
3) It must be aged for a minimum of two months in the natural caves of La Mancha.
The maturation and ageing, or affinage, of Manchego has big implications for the flavor. The longer the cheese is aged, the drier and firmer the texture becomes, and the flavors become more pronounced and complex. Manchego is generally sold at four different stages of maturation:
a) Fresco – aged for only a couple of weeks, this cheese is rarely found outside of Spain.
b) Semi-curado – aged for about three months, this cheese is semi-firm and still a bit buttery and mild.
c) Curado – aged for about six months, this cheese is firmer, and has developed more nutty and salty flavors.
d) Viejo – aged for a year or more, this cheese develops more sharp, peppery flavors and is good for grating.

Most Manchegos found in the United States are semi-curado or curado, and pasteurized. Other Manchegos are available, and some may be raw milk (which generally tastes better).

In addition to these three standards, all Manchego cheese is produced through enzymatic coagulation using natural rennet, with a paste that is pressed and uncooked. Each wheel is barrel-shaped, about 5” tall, 8.5” in diameter, and weighing approximately 6 pounds. The rind is marked with a zig-zag pattern that was originally caused by the plaited esparto grass baskets used to mold the curd, but is now reproduced by the molds in which the cheeses are pressed. The milk can be pasteurized or unpasteurized.

Although not officially Queso Manchego, as delineated by the PDO, there are several other cheeses produced in Spain that could provide a similar yet interesting alternative to Manchego:

Campo de Montalban: Also made in La Mancha, it was considered a Manchego until 1985, when the PDO specified that Manchego  could only be made with 100% sheep’s milk. This cheese uses a blend of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk, adding another layer of flavors but losing the right to be called “Manchego.”

Roncal: Made in the seven villages of the Valle de Roncal in the Navarre region of Spain, this cheese is made from the unpasteurized milk of the Latxa and Aragonesa breeds of sheep. This cheese is also protected by a PDO.

Idiazabal: Also from the region of Navarre, this cheese is made with unpasteurized milk from the Latxa and Carranzana sheep. It was granted a PDO in 1987, and includes the option of external smoking at the end of the aging process, resulting in a smoky flavor.

La Leyenda: Made in La Mancha, this cheese is essentially a Manchego that has been rubbed with oil, or lard, and fine herbs, then soaked in solera brandy for 4-5 days. 

Zamorano: From the region of Zamora, this raw sheep’s milk cheese is similar in flavor to Castellano or Manchego, and also comes in a cylindrical shape with a distinctive zigzag pattern.

Dimitri Saad is the fromager at Casellula Cheese and Wine Cafe and Elsewhere, both in Manhattan. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

All Around Spain: Castile y Leon

Known as “the land of the castles,” Castile y Léon is the largest region of Spain, with a population of about 2.5 million. It is the home of much of Spain’s storied history and the land of origin of the pure Spanish language, Castilian.

Many of Spain’s myths and legends are interwoven with its history. The ancient kingdom of Castilla (or Castile) was first united with the neighboring kingdom of Léon in the early 11th century. Its name comes from the many castles built by the Christians as a defense against Moorish invaders in the 8th and 9th centuries. 

Together with the other Christian-ruled Iberian monarchies, the kingdoms of Castile and León participated in the Reconquista, the re-conquest of Spain from the Moors, its medieval Muslim rulers. The most famous champion of the Reconquista was El Cid el Campeador, born in Bivar near the city of Burgos, whose coffin lies in the city’s 13th-century cathedral.

More medieval castles can be found in Castile y Léon than anywhere else in Europe, including the Moorish fortress in Segovia that inspired Walt Disney’s design of Disneyland’s famous Sleeping Beauty castle. The legendary cities of Segovia, Salamanca, and Avila have been granted World Heritage Status, as has the Santiago Way, the famous pilgrim trail that crosses Castile y Léon on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

Visitors to Castile y Léon can find a wealth of historic sites to visit, from medieval villages to Gothic cathedrals and historic cities. Running through Segovia is one of the best-preserved aqueducts in the world, constructed by the Romans from 20,400 stones that have stood for more than 2,000 without a speck of mortar. Segovia’s Moorish Alcazar palace, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, has been replicated in 20th-century Disney cartoons and theme parks.

As for Salamanca, known as the “golden city” because of the sandstone used in the construction of many of its buildings both old and new, is home to Spain's oldest university, founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX. Encircled by 11th-century walls punctuated with nine gates and more than 80 lookout towers, the fortified medieval town of Avila, the birthplace of Saint Teresa, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region.

Going even further back in history, the archaeological site at Atapuerta, near Burgos, is where the 800,000-year-old remains of some of Europe’s earliest inhabitants were discovered. Castile y Léon also boasts some of Spain's loveliest scenery, including dramatic mountain landscapes and protected nature reserves inhabited by the rare Iberian Lynx and brown bears.

The culinary tradition of Castilla y León includes hearty stews and soups, especially Sopa Castellana, a savory soup made with bread, ham, poached egg, and garlic. Another local specialty is Cecina de León, a centuries-old recipe for cured, dried, and smoked beef. Segovia is known for its wood-burning roasting ovens and the high quality and perfect preparation of its Lechazo (baby lamb) and Cochinillo (suckling pig), traditionally roasted until it can be cut with the edge of a plate.

Popular wines from Castile y Léon include Cigales, Bierzo and Ribera del Duero, Rueda, and Toro. As for desserts, there are many traditional recipes, originating in old monasteries and convents, like lazos de San Guillermo (bow-shaped pastries), yemas de Santa Teresa (a sweet made with egg yolk), toscas de la Virgen, bizcochos de San Lorenzo (sponge cakes), and virutas de San José (fritters).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Worth the Price: Jamón Ibérico from Spain

Black Iberian pigs rooting for acorns.
One of Spain’s most well-known and beloved culinary specialties is Jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham), also called pata negra, a rare and expensive type of cured ham. In order to be called Jamón Ibérico, the ham must come from at least 75 percent black Iberian pigs. These pigs have been native to the Iberian peninsula for millennia, primarily in the south and southwest parts of Spain, including the provinces of Salamanca, Ciudad Real, Cáceres, Badajoz, Seville, Córdoba, and Huelva. They are large, with long snouts and slender legs, and their skin is black with very little hair. Their hooves are also black, hence the name “pata negra.” The hoof is left on the cured ham so it can be easily distinguished from less prized Serrano hams.

A Jamón Ibérico ready to slice,
showing the characteristic black hoof.
After they are weaned, black Iberian piglets are fattened on barley and maize for several weeks. They are then turned out to roam in pasture and oak groves, called the Dehesa, to graze on grass, herbs, acorns, and roots. Each pig can eat more than twenty pounds of acorns a day. When released into the Dehesa, at about ten months old, they weigh about 200 pounds each. They gain up to two pounds of fat each day, and after three to four months each pig roughly doubles its weight. The exercise and diet will have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat. In the winter, once they have reached their target weight, it’s time for the slaughter.

The “matanza,” or slaughter, is traditionally a family affair. The pig is slaughtered and the whole family works to preserve the meat for the rest of the year. They make chorizo, salchichón, and morcilla sausages on the spot and set aside choice cuts to be eaten fresh. Finally, the fatty legs are packed in sea salt and hung to dry in caves or special sheds in the cool winter air.

Black Iberian pigs are very fatty, with veins of fat running through their muscles. This allows the Jamones Ibérico to be cured much longer, from two to four years, resulting in a much more complex, intense flavor, with an incomparable note of sweetness. Over the curing period, the hams lose nearly half their weight as the fat drips away. Through this period of heating and cooling, salting and drying, the fats are broken down. Because of the antioxidants in the acorns and the unique curing process, the saturated fats are changed into healthy monounsaturated fats high in oleic acid. The only fat higher in oleic acid is olive oil.

The hams are named according to the pigs’ diet, with an all-acorn diet being most desirable. The finest Jamón Ibérico, cured for four years, is called Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (acorn), and is exclusively from the free-range acorn-eating pigs. Bellota Jamones are prized for their smooth texture and rich, nutty, savory taste. The lesser grades of Jamón Ibérico are called Jamón Ibérico de Recebo, from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain, and Jamón Ibérico de Cebo (or simply Jamón Ibérico), from pigs fed only grain, and cured for two years. When both parents of the slaughtered animal are registered purebreds, the word “puro” can be added to the name.

Jamón Ibérico only accounts for about 8 percent of Spain’s cured-ham production; it is very expensive and not widely available abroad. Prior to 2005, it was not even available in the United States. Like Jamón Serrano and Italian prosciutto, Jamón Ibérico is served sliced very thin with good bread and very little adornment or garnish. The basic Jamón Ibérico can go for upwards of $52 a pound, and the Bellota is priced upwards of $96 a pound, making these hams some of the most expensive in the world.