My family and I have stayed in Spain over Christmas for the last few years as I get a lot of work at this time of year. In fact, I had tours everyday from the 26th to the 31st December with tapas tours in the evening on two days as well. For Christmas and New Year we go to my wife’s parents’ house. They live an hour away from us, a few kilometres outside the city of Huelva. As my parents-in-law prepare most of the food, we supply the wine.
In most of Spain the big Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve in the evening. Lunch the next day is, however, another big meal. On Christmas Eve we usually start eating a few hours before dinner. Either my brother-in-law or I spend quite a bit of time slicing acorn-fed Iberian ham, caña de lomo (cured loin), chorizo, cheese, etc. Friends and realtives usually stop by for a drink and something to eat. After a beer or two, I opened a half bottle of Barabdillo’s manzanilla en rama saca de otoño 2012. This is a very fine manzanilla that has only been fined with egg whites and is a deeper colour than msot manzanillas. It is also very complex with aromas of iodine, yeast, roasted nuts and mineral notes. It was a perfect accompaniment to the ham. Sitting down to eat we started with prawns and red king crab legs, known in Spanish as “patas rusas”. We always start with a bottle of champagne which this year was Pol Roger NV. This is one of my favourite non-vintage champanges as it combines body and elegance. We had roast lamb for the main course and started with a disappoinitng bottle of Imperial Reserva 2005. I have drunk quite a few bottles of this wine and they have all be good, but the one we opened was lacking in all departments. Thankfully, the next bottle I opened was excellent. It was a wine from El Bierzo, Tilenus Crianza 2006. It had that wonderful freshness that the Mencia grape often gives to a wine. The wine was silky with the fruit, tannins and acidity all well-intergrated.
We had two good wines with lunch the next day. The first was a Pouilly Fumé, Jean Pierre Bailly Les Girarmes 2010. I love Sauvignon Blanc wines from this part of the Loire as they combine fruit with flinty aromas. The second wine we had was a a Rioja, Luis Cañas Reserva 2005. This was another winner with good lively red fruit together with toasted and balsamic aromas
We left for Seville on the evening of the 25th and returned to my parents-in-law for New Year’s Eve at a little before 9 p.m. after a long day’s work. Dinner started with another bottle of champagne, which this time was Mumm NV. A bit lighter in style than the Pol Roger but with good fruit it was very enjoyable. With the acorn-fed Iberian pork loin we started with a bottle of Viña Tondonia Reserva 2001 which I had decanted an hour before drinking. The wine was very elegant with aromas of red fruit, leather, cinnamon, dried flowers and very soft tannins. I spent as much time smelling the wine as drinking it. The second red I opened was a wine form the Ribera del Duero region although without D.O. status. It was Mas de Leda 2008 and unfortunately was corked. The back up wine was from the Ronda area, Chinchilla 6+6 2009. This is a wine that I know well as I have been to the winery many times and the owners are good friends of mine. The wine was as good as ever with aromas of cherry and plum with some unobstrusive toasted oak in the background.
In Spain the custom is to eat twelve grapes at midnight on 31st December. Each grape you eat shoud coincide with one of the chimes of the clock. There were lots of pips in the grapes this year which made the task that much harder!
For lunch on New Year’s day we started with a botlle of Pazo de Señorans 2010, an albariño from Rías Baixas in Galicia. Good albariños improve with a few years in bottle and this was no exception. They take on more weight n the mouth and lose a bit of acidity. This one had aromas of grapefruit and peach with herby and floral notes. The red wine we had was supplied by my parents-in-law and was a young Ribera del Duero wine that had had 5 months of barrle ageing, Aster Roble 2010. Lots of blackberry and dark cherry and a very easy drinking wine.
Well I wish everyone who reads this a prosperous 2013. I hope the year brings lots of memorable meals and great bottles of wine.