Posts Tagged ‘Vega Sicilia’

Cuisine: Contemporary seasonal Spanish tapas.

Visit: March 2013

Price: Medium (very reasonable for central London as both the quality of food and the portions you get are well above average).

Refreshing Spanish salad at Fino

Refreshing Spanish salad

Food: Contemporary twist on traditional Spanish dishes. If you select from the classics such as the Jamón de bellota senorio (Bellota ham), ham and  piquillo croquetas (deep-fried and battered potato balls with ham or not spicy sweet red peppers) Pimientos de padron (small green peppers fried and served sprinkled with crunchy salt) and sliced Manchego cheese (hard sheep cheese from Spain), you cannot  go wrong. All these tapas are indeed very good and authentic.

Choosing something perhaps less common for a Spanish tapas bar table might be interesting for those of you preferring innovative and less oily dishes in the style of the popular London-based chef José Pizarro. One such treat are the Crisp fried artichokes, that look like a lovely flower decoration, but taste like real artichokes. Fried just enough, with no oil dripping from the crisp vegetables and the mayonnaise-based dip is rich yet spicy with some hot paprika powder sprinkled over it.

Crisp fried artichokes

Crisp fried artichokes

Another, more refreshing contemporary tapas is the Fennel, radish & pomegranate salad. It is so crisp and zesty that it reminds me of spring and sitting on the beach by breezy see. Lovely salad that can freshen up your palate between the fatty meaty, fried and cheese dominated spanish dishes.

With wine the bruschetta-style toasted bread goes very well. The Pan con tomate is great with young red wines or refreshing white Verdejos. It is rather a big slice of bread and not a tiny piece of baguette, so be ready for a proper sized plate. The juicy tomatoes spread over the crunchy bread balance the dryness of the toasting process.

Pan con tomate

Pan con tomate

From the seafood the grilled Octopus & capers served on a wooden tray is very good, although a larger portion than is common for a tapa. The multiple pieces of baby octopus were tender, not chewy and spiced just right.

Fino sandwich

Fino sandwich

The deep-fried Fino sandwich is as its name suggests the signature dish of Fino so we had to try it. The name of the sandwich is also a bit deceiving, but you have to try it. I will not tell you what it is all about, but picture below can give you a hint. Just come to Fino and try it for yourself, it is quite interesting and if you like something crunchy and are not a vegetarian you will probably like it a lot.

Drinks: The mostly Spanish wine list is very good. Depending on how deep into your pocket you have, select one of the the top ranked Ribera del Dueros (such as the Vega Sicilia Unico), the middle-of-the-road Priorats or one of the more affordable Riojas. Red wine is in general a better choice because of the richness of the food, nevertheless a crisp Verdejo or deep Godello for an aperitif is a great start and both will surely go well with the seafood dishes. We went for one of the newer wines of the Alvarez family, of the Vega Sicilia fame. Their Alión Cosecha 2006 is deep and structured Tempranillo expressing in its concentration the dry climate of the  Duero area. Complex wine with very long finish that calls for intense dishes to match.

Ribera del Duero with jamon

Ribera del Duero with jamón

Atmosphere: Modern, fresh, fun and vibrant. There are many people coming straight after work, so you will see some ties there, but overall you can wear something casual. Comfort lovers will love the cosy booths, bar fans appreciate a corner bar area with views of the restaurant, curious minds will surely often peak into the open kitchen and exciting interiors seeking crowd will be amused with interesting decorative finishes. It is a great place to go with friends, business partners not relishing overtly pretentious gastronomic restaurants or bringing there a first date since it does not feel too intimate.

Cosy interior of Fino

Cosy interior of Fino

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00–2:15 pm, 6:00–10:15 pm, Sat:6:00pm-10:15pm , Sunday: Closed.

Address: 33 Charlotte St  London W1T 1RR, United Kingdom

Contact: Tel: +(44) 20 7813 8010


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Primum Familiae Vini is an association of eleven leading families from the most distinguished wine-growing regions on the world.

These families and the brands they created are:

  • Marchesi ANTINORI (Italy – Tuscany, etc.)the old Tuscan Antinori family
  • CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD (France – Bordeaux, etc.) – of the world-known Rothschild banking family
  • Joseph DROUHIN (France – Burgundy) – Mr. Drouhin is one of the biggest producers of quality wines from Burgundy
  • Egon MÜLLER-SCHARZHOF (Germany) – the leading wine making family in the Saar region of Germany
  • HUGEL & FILS (Alsace) – the family behind the unmistakable yellow-labeled wines in the tall & lean ‘Alsatian’ bottle  
  • POL ROGER (Champagne) – the de Billy family taking care of the most preferred champagne of Sir Winston Churchill – what’s intriguing is that, the first bottle of P.R. was sold in the UK
  • Perrin et Fils – owners of the Château de Beaucastel (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) – the most distinct family in the French Rhone Valley
  • Symington Family Estates – Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Warre’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio, Altano, Quinta de Roriz, Chryseia, Blandy’s Madeira (Portugal) – there aren’t many families owning                  as many wine-related brands as the Symingtons in Portugal
  • TENUTA SAN GUIDO – producer of SASSICAIA (Italy) – the Incisa della Rocchetta family were the pioneers of the gripping Bordeaux-style wines or the “Super Tuscans” in Italy
  • Miguel TORRES – Mas La Plana (Spain, etc.) – in Robert Symington’s words “he’s managed what nobody else managed in the wine industry”; I think he meant: keeping top-quality while producing quantity in many parts of the world
  • VEGA SICILIA (Spain) – the Alvarez family known for creating the iconic Spanish wine in Ribera del Duero

The members strive to achieve honorable goals:

  • To promote and defend the moral values that are the backbone of family businesses .
  • To exchange viticultural/oenological information and promote traditional methods that underline the quality of the wine and respect for “terroir”.
  • To promote the moderate consumption of wine, which is considered to be a cultural tradition of conviviality and of “savoir-vivre”.
  • To exchange useful information on all aspects of their businesses.

[Source: Pfv.org]

Annual gathering

Once a year, they organise a charity-themed dinner on which a collection of their wines is being auctioned. I’ve attended the recent one at the restaurant Galvin at Windows in London’s Hilton hotel. Not only the food was paired tremendously, all the wines we were drinking were just great! As Serena Sutclife, M.W. and International Wine Specialist at Sotheby’s said during the auction: “Great wines are always made by great personalities.” Well, I must agree with her. All the family members who attended and spoke during the dinner did not lack a sense for humour, friendly attitude as well as open-mindedness.

Outstanding people

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild was the queen of the event, with her outgoing speech, which I would call a Tony-award deserving theatrical performance, made a big impression on everyone present on the dinner. The only person who did not show a wicked smile on his face was her son Philippe SEREYS. Standing next to her, he probably knew her talent to entertain, therefore he kept the serious facade. They were an amusingly charming duo, indeed.

Rotating leadership

Each year, one of the families takes the chairmanship and leads the tasting. This year (2012) it is the Drouhins, so the dinner started with his talk about the values of PFV members. He said: “Families make the business more ethical and valuable.”  Again, I cannot disagree with him, also this point is one of the main reasons why I intend to make a documentary film about this feature in the wine industry. This event is the prove as it is organized in the name of charity and the families indeed care a lot about the products that bear their names.

The wines served at 2012 dinner

They were all great, as I mentioned above. To everyone’s palette though there were some outstanding sips at our tables. Most of ladies were ravished by a sweet Riesling Goldkapsel Auslese 1995 from Egon Muller Scharzhofberger. The Goldkapsel is not produced every year, only outstanding vintages of top-selected grapes go into the bottle. The result is a sweet affair with crisp acidity. Almost like a chateau D’Yquem, yet different. Paired perfectly with a home cured & slow cooked Loch Duart salmon, Dorset crab avocado purée and dashi, it was my favorite wine & food match of the evening.

Antinori’s Tignanello and Sasicaia from tenuta San Guido has never disappointed me.

Torres’ brought his special Mas la Plana with its velvety smoothness this Cabernet Clon 15 had a distinct “Catalan” concentration.

My weakness for Moutons has to be acknowledged here. I loved the 1989 vintage! Baroness Rothschild was perhaps right when she said that “1989 was the best of the century”. I’ve had some Moutons before and this one was my favorite so far. My nose is always enchanted by its ‘poppy seed’ aroma and the elegant balance of a 30-something woman is what I seek in an outstanding wine.

Port is perfect to finish any dinner and the 1970 vintage of Graham’s was with a chocolate dessert what a well-fitting dress is on a lady with a great figure. Nice on this own (the chocolate), yet stunning when the earlier comes with it (the port).

That was a Dinner with a giant D. It is truly rare, that one drinks so many magnificent wines in the course of three hours! Literally, next year, I am going wherever the PFV annual dinner will be taking me.

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A state-of–the-art architecture, modern winemaking techniques and giant underground cellars – If I forgot to mention the name of the region in the title of this piece of writing I dare to assume that most of you would not identify the place I have just described. Many Spaniards though would today proudly call this region the wine hero of the Iberian peninsula.

And they, indeed, have a compelling reason to boost about the Ribera del Duero’s wines. The region hides the most precious gem from all of the Spanish wineries – the bodega of Vega Sicilia. Interestingly, when it was founded in 1864 it earned its fame status for production of brandy, the spirit made from grapes favoured by the European royalty at that time. It was decades later, that the premium red wine started to be made there.

Vega Sicilia: crossing strictly forbidden

You could not miss its majestic building while trailing the almost desert-dry hills of Ribera. Not because it would stick out from the horizon after you leave the curvy roads you had to pursue after exiting the highway from Madrid. But its alarmingly tight security in a no-man’s land speaks loudly, that this must be some kind of an exceptional place.

Indeed, it is. The pioneer of high quality winemaking in Spain, Vega Sicilia, releases its Único wine only in great years. If the vintage doesn’t seem good enough for the wine maker, there will be no wines produced under this label in that specific year. Ageing is also regarded as one of the top priorities there. Wines stay in large casks made mostly at the winery’s own cooperage located inside the estate. In the case of Único a minimum ageing period of seven years before they are bottled. Then they are kept in the winery’s cellars for as long as necessary so they can be ready to drink once they leave the winery. It can take even 10 and more years for this to happen. Such a cost-demanding approach to winemaking is surely reflected on the final price of one bottle. In some years it can exceed even the premium Bordeaux depending on the vintage.

Ribera is not just about Vega Sicilia though. There are many other, more affordable, magnificient producers in the vicinity of the region’s most important industrial town Peñafiel. Right below the eye catching hill crowned by the Peñafiel castle is a bulding that will once certainly be in the texts inside history books. A recently built ultramodern winery housing Bodegas Protos still remains in accord with its surroundings. It was designed by a renown English architect Richard Rogers.

This winery has made its mark in the region’s history already. Its original name was Ribera Duero, the motherly term which gave birth to the entire wine region. The new label ‘protos’ means first in Greek, therefore its prominent role is sealed in the current name.

Bodegas Protos below the Penafiel castle

Over time it became one of the regions biggest wineries bosting with vast underground cellars built in the rock under the castle. Over 11,000 barrels are lying in the depths below the old (picture above) and new Bodegas Protos winery today. The new building (picture below) transmits you to the 21st century wine making.

Bodegas Protos

Protos Roble

I have tasted samples from most of their range. A smartly priced Roble is the most popular from the Protos’ range. And, I understand why – it is not complicated, it is rich, fruity and smooth – it surely pleases many palettes. It is made from Tempranillo grape and equally six and six months in oak and bottle.

The Crianza is fresh and youthful as is typical for this style. The Reserva is more pronounced with wood accents. The Gran Reserva is as big as its name suggests perhaps due to its source – a 60-year-old vines. And, finally the newly released special selection Selleción made also from very old vines was my personal favourite.

Ribera del Duero has so much to offer that I would recommend anyone passionate about Spanish wines to visit it. One of the newest projects is a hotel and winery in a former monastery Abadia Retuerta, which will start accommodating guests this fall and it looks already very promising. The restaurant inside the Abadia Retuerta is excellent. It offers the highest sophistication of dining, privacy and truly magic atmosphere.

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