Archive for the 'Spanish cuisine' Category

Sherry Wine of Andalucía

Andalucía is well known for its sherry, a fortified wine made near the town of Jerez. Sherry is a protected designation of origin; and in Spanish law, all wine labeled as "Sherry" must come from the Sherry Triangle, an area between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.

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Andalucían cuisine is defined, like no other in Spain, no other perhaps in the entire Mediterranean, by olive oil. Rare is the Andalucían cook who, in recounting a recipe, doesn’t tell you exactly what olive oil should be used—picual, says one, while another calls for hojiblanca, and a third maybe for arbequina.

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Tapas of Andalucía

While the actual origins of tapas may be lost to history, many people believe that the tapas custom actually originated in Andalucía. The tradition of tapeando — going from bar to bar, catching up with friends, and having a little bite and drink of something delicious — can be enjoyed for very little money, which only adds to the charm of tapas.

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A number of products from this dazzling region deserve to be better known. We will explore some of the specialties of Andalucía, including olives, jamón ibérico, and jamón serrano, sherry wine vinegar, cheeses, and caviar.

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Andalucía’s talented and imaginative chefs, like Dany Garcia at Calima, or Angel Leon at Aponiente, are the rock stars of the region’s cooking. But like most great chefs around the world, they know that cuisine is nothing unless it is firmly planted in traditional ingredients and traditional ways of using them.

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The cuisine of Andalucía, whether honoring traditional dishes or over-the-top modern techniques, is a distinct cuisine defined by location, cultural heritage and the bounty of regional ingredients.

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Join us on a gastronomic tour, as we visit the kitchens of Andalucía's finest chefs and culinary experts, and learn about traditional dishes that belong in every chef's repertoire. We'll taste rich olive oil, crisp sherry wines, and prized jamón ibérico and jamón serrano. We'll also introduce you to some undiscovered gems, like a hidden mountain valley where some of the world's finest sturgeon caviar is produced.

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In this first-of-its-kind Web cast initiative, Spain's most famous wine region comes directly to you. Experience Rioja as if you were there, as you watch interviews with its leading winemakers and chefs and tour the vineyards, wineries and restaurant kitchens that make this region among the most talked-about in Spain. Discover a land of breathtaking beauty and cutting-edge architecture, where the people live for wine. America's leading sommeliers and the professional chefs at the Culinary Institute of America weigh in with their guidance on matching Rioja's expressive red and white wines with food. All in all, it's a delightful immersion in the rich history, culture, flavors and terroir of this storied wine region. Narrated by Jonathan Coleman.

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One of Rioja’s most passionate advocates is Adrian Murcia, the young assistant sommelier at Chanterelle in New York City. Adrian has made numerous trips to the region since his college days—most memorably, with a group of young American sommeliers. Aware than many sommeliers don’t know Rioja firsthand, Adrian was eager to introduce his colleagues to the landscapes, flavors and personalities that have made the region so compelling for him.

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Situated in north-central Spain, between Madrid and Bilbao, Rioja covers a territory about the size of Delaware. For most of its 60-mile length, it follows the contours of the Ebro River, with the Sierra de Cantabria mountains defining its northwest border, and a series of mountain ranges to the south. This dramatic landscape harbors a range of microclimates and soil types, with the northwest part subject to the cooling effects of the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern part more influenced by the warm Mediterranean.

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The Climate of Rioja

The mountains surrounding Rioja affect the wind and rainfall patterns and help to keep summer temperatures moderate. They also encourage the critical night-time temperature drops that preserve acidity in the ripening grapes. Thanks to the mountains, Rioja's footprint resembles an inverted V, with the widest part facing the Mediterranean. As a result, Rioja's vineyards are affected by three distinct climate zones: some vineyards are subject to cool, moist weather from the Atlantic; others, protected by the mountains, experience a more temperate Continental climate; and still others bask in Mediterranean warmth.

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Of course, Rioja's moderate weather is only one factor in grape quality. Soils matter, too, and Rioja's best winemakers have a sophisticated understanding of the region's exceedingly complex geology. From the fertile alluvial soils near the river to the limestone bedrock in the hills, Rioja offers a wide spectrum of soil types, challenging growers to match the right clones and grape varieties to their site.

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Rioja’s Sub-Regions

Because Rioja's rivers originate in its limestone-rich mountains, even the soils on the valley floor contain considerable limestone, or calcium carbonate. On the hillsides, the soils can change dramatically with modest changes in elevation, shifting from chalky limestone to soils rich in clay or iron. These diverse soils produce subtle differences in the wines a boon to the winemaker at blending time. With these differences in altitude, climate and soil in mind, let's look again at Rioja's sub-regions.

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Despite all the refinement in vineyard practices in recent years, one aspect hasn't changed. Rioja remains the kingdom of Tempranillo, the one place on earth where this noble variety expresses itself to the fullest.

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Many red Riojas include varieties beyond Tempranillo. Three other red grapes are permitted in wines that carry the DOCa designation. Garnachaknown in France as Grenachegives strength and warmth to blends. It thrives in Rioja Baja. Mazuelo, known elsewhere as Carignane, contributes tannin and acidity. Graciano, a variety that some winemakers believe could play a bigger role in the future, adds an appealing aroma, and its acidity and tannin help Rioja age majestically.

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The History of Rioja

Certainly Rioja has a long history as a winemaking region, stretching back to Roman times. But its modern history has been uneven, the boom times alternating with periods of struggle. Victor Pascual, president of the Consejo Regulador, or regulatory council of Rioja, divides the past 150 years into three distinct phases. Fortunately, the progressive ideas sweeping Rioja today are a sign of a new, vigorous and prosperous phase underway.

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What is it that keeps Rioja’s sons and daughters rooted here and so committed to the dreams of their fathers? Perhaps that’s the price for growing up in a land synonymous with wine and with 2000 years of winemaking history.

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The two sisters who run Lopez de Heredia are the fourth generation to manage this distinguished bodega, one of the most proudly traditional wineries in Rioja. Change happens slowly here; the sisters’ respect for their family’s past is profound. Visiting the Lopez de Heredia cellars and drinking a bottle of 40-year-old Viña Tondonia, the flagship wine, a visitor can almost sense the watchful presence of past generations.

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Peruvian by birth, the first Marqués de Murrieta spent three years studying winemaking in Bordeaux in the late 1840s and absorbed many French techniques before returning to Rioja to launch his own enterprise in 1852. His was the first Rioja bodega to age wine in oak barrels, a practice considered extravagant at the time. Today, his descendants operate Marqués de Murrieta with progressive ideas but with pride in the history on view in its cellar.

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Rioja's magnificent red wines tend to overshadow its whites, but the region's white wines appeal to many, especially sommeliers and collectors who admire the wines' astonishing ability to age. Made largely from the Viura grape, Rioja whites from traditional producers such as Lopez de Heredia receive oak aging and can improve in the bottle for 15 to 20 years. Other producers, such as Marques de Caceres, focus on preserving the grape's lively aromas and freshness through stainless steel fermentation.

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