Oct
30

Spanish Grapes Far From Home

My love for Spanish wines is no secret and in my opinion the country produces some of the most versatile whites and some of the most diverse and ready to drink reds any country can offer. Sure, Spain has a massive budget when it comes to marketing their wines and thus their popularity in Hong Kong has soared in the last 5 years, but my love comes from my first taste of Marquis de Riscal 1986 on an occasion when I was much younger than I care to remember.

For me, when it comes to Cantonese food there aren’t many that rival German whites, but honestly, there’s not many wines better than a nice fresh Albarino, Viura or Verdelho to compliment a dim sum lunch. Youthfulness is the key to Spanish whites and age is the key to their reds (although this most certainly is not scripture as I had some amazing young Priorat reds when in Barcelona this summer).

The Spanish have travelled and conquered many areas of the world and were, until the mid-1500’s a force to be reckoned with; thus it would come as no surprise that there are indigenous Spanish grapes growing all over the planet. Countries such as Argentina boast remnants of former colonization; Tempranillo vines there bear testament to this. But what if you were to find an Albarino in New Zealand? For sure the Spanish never colonised New Zealand, and having recently found an Albarino from Marlborough we were intrigued to taste it and find more about its origins.

s3

The wine is made by an Englishman called Steve Pellett for his own label Intrepid and the Albarino is a consequence of having spent a lot of time in Spain some time ago.

“We used to make Albarino in Spain when we lived there”, Steve tells me. “We always ate loads of seafood and with that we’d always drink Albarino”.

Steve is absolutely right, it is a wine for seafood and that means that it’s a perfect wine for Hong Kong. Having got my hands on a bottle I headed down to the beach for what was probably the last BBQ of the year and drank this wine with friends and it was outstanding – in fact, the only fault I could find was that the bottle eventually emptied and there was not another one for back up. It has a little more fruit sweetness to it than some of the traditional Spanish and, whilst you can’t compare the two, is a little more ‘new world’ thus a bit more aromatic and feminine.

But why Albarino I wanted to know from Steve when I asked him when he last in town?

“We got to appreciate the grape variety and when we took over the vineyard in New Zealand, we wanted to do something different. We are the first producer of Albarino in New Zealand”.

Bravo I say! Having met this lovely wine back in May this year I have been waiting for it to arrive for sale here in Hong Kong and am so happy that it finally is. With the cooler weather on the way, perfect for sitting out with a nice glass of wine I look forward to a few more glasses of Intrepid Albarino before the year is through.

But anyway, back to Argentina. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jose Zuccardi, owner of one of Argentina’s finest wineries and during the tasting we did prior to the interview (which will be published soon) I noticed that they made a Tempranillo on the estate.

“The Spanish introduced Tempranillo to Argentina 70 or 80 years before Malbec was introduced”, Jose Zuccardi tells me. “Our vineyards of Tempranillo were planted by my father in 1974”.

“Argentina is a big market for our Tempranillo, over 50 per cent of production is sold there”, Jose goes on to say.

s2

I must say that it is a fantastic wine and one that tasted blind would almost certainly be mistook for a Spanish wine. It has a fantastic richness but is also smooth and silky on the palate and is a wine that is almost certainly suited to almost any kind of food.

I took it to the BBQ together with the Albarino and we had lamb skewers, pork neck and beef with the red – all of which made delightful pairings to the wine and complimented wine in more ways than one each time.

“Wine is food”, Jose finishes by telling me. “We don’t consider wine as alcohol – it is food and there is always wine on the family table”.

Certainly these are two wines, food or not, that can be paired very easily with food and yet can be drunk very easily without. They are both great value for money (both under $200 a bottle) and I seriously recommend that if you, like me are a lover of Spanish wines, then you should certainly give both these wines a try and expand your horizons as to how Spanish grapes can be made outside of Spain.

Intrepid Albarino is exclusively available from Heritage wines in Hong Kong. For more information contact Roberto Cioaca on roberto@heritagewines.com.hk or visit their website www.heritagewines.com.hk

Zuccardi Tempranillo is available from Watson’s Wine Cellars city wide or on their website www.watsonswine.com