Manzanilla pasada and milk chocolate 

Top pairing this – the zingy manzanilla lifts the milk chocolate, which in turn really brings the nuts and fruit of the manzanilla pasada out. The result is creamy, nutty, fruity, and salty.

Lets be honest it is a good excuse to eat chocolate buttons – my daughters will understand (or never find out at least).

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Michelangelo’s second law

Michelangelo was a genius in many ways, but I must admit I have struggled to come to terms with his second law: “no anchovies, dude” (it is to Michelangelo the mutant ninja turtle that I refer, not to be confused with Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the sculptor, painter, architect, and poet).

He was referring, of course, to pizza (the first law being “never pay full price for late pizza”) and for years I have tried to find sense in this. I love anchovies, and I find it hard to believe that a sophisticated and fun loving reptilian oriental assassin such as Michelangelo did not. So what did he mean?

It may of course have been a reverse homage to the supreme pizza ingredient, pepperoni sausage, and an ackowledgment that adding any other source of protein when you might have pepperoni would be a grievous error, but why not say that directly? And why pick out anchovies? Why would Michelangelo’s laws stay silent on the numerous other deranged and inappropriate ingredients being used on pizzas, from onions (never, never) to frankfurter sausaes, merguez or kebab, or even leafy salads? Or was his opposition to the delicious anchovy founded on his concerns about the possible pairing issues for which anchovies are famous? Was it that he had been lead to believe that your only realistic pairing was a mediterranean white or rosé?

I suppose we will never know the answer, but my preferred interpretation is that what he meant was that we shouldn’t misuse anchovies by letting them roast in a sea of cheese, but that rather we should enjoy them as nature intended, preferably with a nice glass of chilled manzanilla, like this lovely Manzanilla Zuleta.

 

Oloroso el Galeon

A delightful wine and a delightful pairing. We were having a spot of lunch in la Chula de Chamberi and this magically appeared in the centre of the table ar more or less the same time as a bevy of grilled razorclams (navajas a la plancha). Or maybe I should say hoved into view, because this is Oloroso el Galeon.

It is a 100% palomino, 20 year old oloroso by Sanchez Ayala in Sanlucar (better known for their Gabriela and Gabriela Oro manzanilla, not to mention the special bottlings of their wines by Equipo Navazos and Sacristia AB) and it was indeed delightful. It is, as you can see thanks to my much improved photography, a beautiful red amber colour – just look at the brilliant reflections in the glass. On the nose it had a nice salty caramel effect – very appetising indeed – then on the palate it lived up to that billing and them some: tasty, light on its feet, salty but with an almost delicate acidity and lovely balance.

Really good stuff – and an excellent pairing with the salty, juicy razorclams.

Oloroso Rio Viejo (with callos)(in the sunshine)

  

Didn’t take many notes but when I asked for an oloroso to accompany my callos it was a nice surprise to see the Rio Viejo coming out and, just as I expected, it was a delicious combination. 

Can’t find a ficha for this one but it doesn’t seem a particularly old wine – dry, nice touch of acidity, nutty caramel aromas and flavours, nicely integrated alcohol. A very drinkable wine indeed. 

Sherry Christmas

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Just about everyone is having a go at recommending sherries for these next couple of weeks so I thought I might share my tuppence worth even if, as is certainly the case, I will certainly not be allowed to choose the wine chez mes parents.

With nibbles you of course want a nice light, refreshing fino or manzanilla I reckon the optimum wine would be the Callejuela Manzanilla de Añada 1/11 but given the scarcity it might be better to settle for a nice elegant fino like Tio Pepe or the Fino Maestro Sierra I had the other day. There are a lot of more intense wines (such as my favourite fino) but you probably don’t want to start too big.

The prawn cocktail and its marie rose sauce are a famously tricky pairing and in theory you would want something nice and fruity. Riesling is the classic and along those lines the fruit and suggestion of sweetness of the Exceptional Harvest might be a good bet (I had originally thought of the Forlong blanco for this role but going back to it I don’t think it has enough sweetness) or, just maybe, the Alba Sobretabla (Lot I).

With the turkey, taters, carrots, sprouts, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, stuffing and chipolatas  I would go Amontillado Fino. Specifically, my number one call would be el Tresillo, but a Fossi or a classic Viña AB would go down very nicely too. You could also try a manzanilla pasada but you would want one at the fruitier end of the scale like the lovely Maruja.

With the Christmas pudding, and all that brandy, brandy butter and cream, you need something that will stand up to it and as balance you might even want a big dry oloroso – a Villapanes or an El Cerro. If you can cope with the sugar rush it could also be an excuse to go sweet: my top pick would be the majestic Noe, which has masses of backbone to balance up all that sweetness. A happy medium might be one of the excellent PX olorosos: Gran Barquero or the Asuncion.

Don’t ask me why, but quite often in our house a second round of dessert then appears – Christmas cake or a Yule log. If it is a log, then this is your chance to definitely hit the Noe (or maybe the Callejuela PX), but if it is a Christmas cake I reckon it would match up pretty well with an Apostoles.

With the stilton, a decent Port and some walnuts (some things just can’t be improved upon). However, once the cheese is cleared away it may be time for a drop of Privilegio or even some Toneles. At the very least, a spot of Tresillo 1874.

And then it would be time to rest one’s eyelids for a few moments while enjoying a comfy sofa.

Pedro Ximenez Callejuela  

Well this is a sad sight – I can’t believe this bottle is over.

The last week or so we have had a glass of this with a chocolate from the Cacao Sampaka complete edition – a collection of 64 different pieces of high-end high-cocoa chocolate from one of my favourite stores in Madrid. The chocolates are great, the wine is really great and together just another level altogether.

It is a dark, not black brown, has a thick, syrupy consistency and a raisin and yeast, uncooked Christmas pudding aroma. It is sweet and sticky with lots of raisin flavour then burnt sugar and sweet, black coffee bitterness. Lovely, serious flavour to it.

Really superb wine by any standards.