If the thought of wine dinners, tasting notes and food pairings conjures up ponderous images of stiff and formal affairs where wine experts and their protégées swirl, sniff and spit and then reflect on the finer points of every sip of wine interminably, then a wine dinner experience like the one held on March 1, 2016 at La Fonda del Sol just might change these misconceptions. Informative and relaxed, this is the quintessential wine dinner series for oenophiles, novices and the wine oblivious alike, not to mention foodies.
If you don’t know your Pinot Grigio from your Pinot Noir don’t worry; it doesn’t get overly technical and there’s not a lot of wine jargon. Plus as much attention is paid on the food as on the wine. And you will leave knowing a little more about the region in focus after a highly palatable journey through its food and wine.
First some food for thought by way of head sommelier Christian Jui’s short and informative introduction to the Priorat wine producing area in Catalonia. Wines from Priorat have gained prominence in the past three decades partly because of improved methods of wine production.
Garnacha and Cariñena are the primary grapes used to make the oak barrel aged, full-bodied and complex wines characteristic of reds from Priorat. International varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are also planted in limited quantities.
The white wines of Priorat are made from Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximenez and Chenin Blanc. Chardonnay is one of the international white grapes that are also grown in Priorat.
He also provided overviews of each wine and food pairing as they were served. Small bites ranging from lamb meatballs to foie gras and mushrooms on toast were paired with a refreshing sparkling Llopart Brut Nature Gran Reserv 2005 that revealed soft and subtle citrus fruit notes.
Then came a French oak aged Francesc Sanchez Bas Blanc de Montsalvant 2009 with honey and herbaceous notes that showed the complexity that comes with an aged white wine without the heavy buttery and strong woody flavors that are characteristic of some other oak barrel fermented white wines. It complemented the mild and subtly sweet flavors of a sinewy crab meat stuffed piquillo peppers.
A home style Catalan sausage over white bean stew, a signature dish of the region, was served next and paired with a lively and well rounded Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses VV 2013 that was dominated by ripe red fruit notes and a hint of spice.
Another local specialty, a hearty rib eye steak with roasted potatoes, followed. It was the perfect dish to accompany a robust but balanced Cellers de Scala Dei Cartoixa 2009 with dark cherry, plum and pepper notes.
A soft and aromatic Priorat Natur Vermut NV, was chosen to accompany a Spanish style French toast, to end the meal on a sweet and satisfying note.