Monthly Archives: July 2012

July, a Month for Eating Well in Valencia!

Deconstructed Valencian Salad at Galbis.

For reasons I am not entirely sure of why July has become a month for eating well, both at home and in local restaurants in the Valencia Region! This year has been no exception and we had the opportunity to taste traditional dishes, modern interpretations of them and enjoy good company and good wines.

Rosti with Mushroom and Grilled Goats Cheese.

The month started with a trip to L´Alcúdia, capital of the Ribera district, to the cookery school, sometime restaurant and take-away owned by Juan Carlos Galbis Olivares. Juan Carlos is a well decorated master chef who has dedicated his life to a study of rice varieties, their uses in culinary dishes and comparing their flavours and absorption rates in differing circumstances. He is considered an expert in cooking paella and has a modern interpretation of a number of classic starters and everyday food, including snacks.

Tartlet of Botifarra and Ajos Tiernos.

His restaurant/ school is called La Cuina Meditterànea and we were to enjoy a wonderful meal here to get the month going.

We started with a deconstructed Valencian salad, a peeled local variety of tomato, stuffed with roasted aubergine and topped with a slice of boiled egg, baby pickled cucumber and an anchovy. It was then given a few drops of the tomato juice and oil.

Juan Carlos Galbis and Paella de la Ribera.

This was followed by a grilled potato tartlet topped with minced wild mushroom and a slice of goats cheese roasted. Next was a tartlet of pastry topped with botiffara ( a local sausage) and pine nut over ajos tiernos ( baby green garlic tops) this latter in homage to the humble breakfast bocadillo!

All the starters were served with local vegetables ( cucumber, olives, green tomatos and peppers )  preserved in salmuerra which is a pickling mixture. This was followed by a tour de force of a Paella de la Ribera, basically a Valencian paella with the addition of pelotas ( meatballs) made from liver, pine-nut and spiced with cinnamon. For pudding Juan Carlos served a piñacolado with the liqueur in a jelly! There followed a class on the different rice varieties and their various properties but I am glad to report that he had used espiga de albufera, the local cross between Bomba and senia which is much prized by local chefs for its absorption of flavour.

Fideuà at Casa Ricardo.

Later in the month it was time for a fideuà, the seafood dish with macaroni at Casa Ricardo with some friends. On this occasion humus and batons of fresh vegetables such as multi-coloured peppers were served with plates of jamon, cheese and ibericos before the main course which contained squid, clams, mussels, Dublin bay prawns and langostinas . Essentially a simple dish to prepare the skill is in preparing a good stock from local fresh fish, leek, carrot, a little wine, baby crabs and of course saffron. These fumets are different in every restaurant and household in the region!

Tartare of Salmon and Avocado.

Eduardo Frechino, chef and proprietor at El Castillo in Godella played host to the `Fin del Curso´of the Platform for Gastronomic Information, ostensibly a tasting of good cavas from Cataluña, accompanied by a range of his own tartares.

We began with Torello Brut Nature Gran Reserva a blend of Macabeo, Xarel-Lo and Parellada. With 36 months in contact with the lees, the wine is pale lemon yellow, with small fine, persistent bubbles. On the nose patisserie and in the mouth round, nice attack and a long dry finish. This was served with a tartare of salmon and avocado, with mushroom and onion.


The second wine was Recaredo Brut Nature 2007 a blend of Xarel-Lo, Macabeo and Parrellada. This has also spent considerable time in bottle with about 3% of the wine in wood. A little deeper yellow in colour it also is bright with fine persistent bubbles. On the nose balsamic notes and mature fruit and in the mouth citrus fruits, lively, fresh and well structured. This was served with a tartare of tuna and black cuquillo olives with onion, yoghurt and olive oil and with salazones ( thin slices or air-dried tuna loin in a tomato and oil salsa.)

Tartare of Ternera.

Third wine was Gramona, Imperial Brut Gran Reserva 2005, a blend of Xarel-Lo, Macabeo and chardonnay and best wine of the three. This has had between three and four years in contact with the lees and is pale straw, with gold flashes and fine, persistent bubbles. A much more complex nose has biscuits, apples, spices, flowers, mature fruits and nuts. In the mouth a good attack is followed by a well-balanced smooth, fruity wine with well-integrated alcohol. This was served with gambas rayados, the red langostinas from Denia which cry out to have their heads sucked dry! The flavour is full and distinct. This versatile wine took these and a tartare of tenera with lemon, onion and Lyonnaise mustard easily in its stride! A memorable evening!

Guesta at Casa Ricardo.

Casa Ricardo played host to the third  wine-trade lunch as well. This is set to become an annual event I hope and this year again was enjoyed by friends, the kids taking advantage of the swimming pool as well!

Tapenade Provençal, Endives with jamon.

Starters of grilled endives with jamon and a salsa of thyme, garlic and concentrated sherry vinegar and a tapenade Provençal, accompanied by salads of tuna and of chickpeas with spinach were followed by a paella valencià and fried cod with tomato and onion salsas. Fresh fruit and lemon tart with sorbet of lemon and water melon with vodka finished the day off. These were accompanied by wines from Vera de Estenas and a pair of sauternes, Rayne Vigneau 83 and Nairac 86. Very rich!

Pescaditos Fritos…Baby Hake.

Lunches in Cullera and El Palmar followed with starters traditionally prepared from baby cuttlefish, fried baby hake and lamb or swordfish for the main course.

At El Rek in El Palmar, star of the show was the Paella de Mariscos! This was full of flavour, moist and enjoyed in a relatively quiet restaurant with nice breezes coming off the Albufera.

Paella de Mariscos at El Rek.

July has been a good month, with a good range of  Valencian dishes…some interpreted in a modern way and some prepared very traditionally . All showed why Valencia is such a great place to live….and eat well!

A Visit to Bodegas Coviñas, Requena.

Wines from the Coviñas ranges.

Coviñas is the giant co-op winery on the outskirts of Requena which serves a number of neighbouring hamlets and villages in DO Utiel-Requena. According to the seminal work `El llegado de Baco´( the arrival of Bacchus) by Juan Piqueras and published in 2000 the bodega was originally founded in 1965.

Just twelve years later this giant is far from sleeping. It is a dynamic organisation with a progressive management looking all the time to introduce new products to both the home and emerging markets. But it is not structured like any other bodega I have visited. The 4000 or so `members´of the co-op are actually affiliates of secondary bodegas in the  hamlets and villages of San Antonio, Roma, El Derramador, , Barrio Arroyo, Campo Arcis, Villagordo del Cabriel, Los Isidros, Los Duques, Hortunas, La Portera,  Las Monjas,  and Viticultores de Requena. Nor will you see a single grape, nor growers delivering them at harvest time.

The grapes are grown by the many small growers who own around 11,000 hectares between them. They are required to produce grapes to the bodegas standards, which are then offered for selection to the Co-op who have the final say on what happens to them. The grapes are actually delivered to the secondary co-ops and it is in these ( such as La Portera with its own enologist José Luis Torres Carpes) that the wines are made. This ensures the grapes are dealt with quickly and the selection is made according to the local circumstances as the height above sea level can vary by about 400m as well as soil quality and the age of the vines depending on which part of the plateau you are on.

The tour starts in the packaging plant.

In fact the Requena bodega only deals with the final wines made by each of these co-ops which are then used for varietals or one of the blends, crianzas or reservas depending on quality etc. The wines are called in when required, popped into giant holding tanks, kept cool and used as and when required.

Inside, the bodega can only be described as gigantic, truly industrial! Yet the winemaking team , led by Director of Production, Diego Morcillo Fortea  ( a role which combines heading the team of enologists with `oversight´of logistics, distribution, packaging etc). Yet the philosophy is completely different, the bodega acknowledging its size but adopting the quality and philosophy of a small boutique bodega.

Many of the original buildings are rebuilt inside and adapted for their new use, but there has been new build as well such as the barrel warehouse. Our tour started in the packaging plant, a place  bottles do not see until they are fully sealed and labelled…and not just bottles as `bag in box ´ is also available for the Northern European market. Here they are packed, palletted and readied for despatch into whichever market it is destined for. Following this we went to see the bottling line with its multiple pieces of equipment, some Spanish, some German and some Italian. Whatever is considered the best is what is bought. The labelling line for example can remember which label is required for a product and be programmed to switch labels if the market for the product changes part way through the process.

Part of the huge bottling line.

From here we went to see the barrel warehouse, filled with barrels as far as the eye can see…at the end of which is another similar sized warehouse full of bottles quietly ageing their contents! And then to a superbly cool room to taste some of the bodegas wines!

The bodegas ranges are `Enterizo´, `Al Vent´, `Aula´ and `Marques de Plata.´ There are other labels and new ranges will be introduced in the future by the bodega´s `new products committee´.

Enterizo is a basic range of supermarket available wines, the Reserva for example still proudly wearing its traditional label which matches the wine style in the bottle. But, the varietals in this range have a more modern label which, according to Diego, have not gone down well with the supermarket buyers.

Al Vent was covered in my post from last month, (see archives) and consists of fresh young wines, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Bobal Rosado and Bobal Tinto in distinct shaped bottles aimed at the younger market but also selling abroad!

Al Vent range and
Marques de Plata Brut Cava.

Aula is a range aimed at the restaurant trade consisting of quality crianza and reserve wines, both varietal and blends.

The Marques de Plata range consists of cavas which the bodega has the right to make under DO rules. However the Catalan dominated DO has had strict requirements imposed on the bodega which has had to renovate old buildings, separate them from the rest of the bodega by building a wall and whilst all this was happening required them to use the Catalan owned bodega UVE to make the wines for them!

The next batch of wines will now be made in the Cava bodega which simply awaits a clean up after the refurbishment to come into production!

We tasted four wines from across the ranges, ( having tasted the Al Vent range in-depth at the presentation last month) as follows.

First was the Brut Marques de Plata DO Cava. This is 75% Macabeo from grapes grown in Requena and the rest being Parrellada and Xarel-Lo from grapes imported from DO vineyards `up the coast´. To the eye a good yellow colour with fine persistent bubbles and solid crown. On the nose white flowers , ripe fruits and hints of fresh fennel whilst in the mouth the wine has good body, full with nice acidity , well-balanced and a wine with depth to drink with food.

The barrel park goes on for ever!

Second was the Aula, a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc from 2008. This is a classic styled wine, quite French although with a mediterranean touch, medium bodied, garnet, long legs. On the nose green pepper, very Bordeaux with a fresh touch, toasted nose over wonderful red and black fruit with lots of raspberry. With 12 months in new oak, in the mouth it is very full, satisfying, well-integrated soft tannins and a long satisfying finish.

The Aula Syrah 2010 with 12 months in barrel, is also medium bodied but a fresher younger deep cherry colour. Initially a little closed on the nose in the mouth it is very good with lovely ripe fruit and liquorice. Much more modern in style and from a classic grape which does well here in Valencia.

Finally we tasted the Garnacha dominated Enterizo 2008 Reserva with 2 years in oak and the same in bottle. This is not the brown edged wine I first tasted eight years ago. Today the wine has a deeper cherry colour with a violet edge! Nonetheless it is what I call a classic Requena style reserva with a nice balance of toasts on the nose with mature fruit. In the mouth it is smooth, velvety, elegant with eucalyptus and a long, persistent finish. An inexpensive supermarket wine with a traditional following. Lovely.

It is impossible to be snobby and dismiss these wines as just being from a co-operative. Bad wine makers don’t make wines which regularly win prestigious prizes at home and abroad which Coviñas do increasingly. Nor do 40,000 bottles of wine sell in the discerning English market in less than a month as the Toro Loco brand for Aldi has just done. I bet the wine-snobs were after this re-branded Enterizo Tempranillo just as much as anyone else!

The tasting suite.

Coviñas currently has a very bright future, is making good wines and is selling them importantly in a number of different markets……..carry on the good work!

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