Monthly Archives: November 2013

Valencia International and Ricardo´s Blog….New Wine Tasting Sessions Established!



Talking about Wines from Bodegas Flors.

Talking about Wines from Bodegas Flors.

Valencia has a new series of wine-tastings now firmly established and taking place monthly in the capital of the Community.

A collaboration between Bob Yareham of VLC International, a new on-line service offering articles on events, personalities and news in and around Valencia and this blog the tastings are an extension of a service which has been offered for some time. There are many Spanish professionals with a need to speak English as part of their everyday working lives, whether they be lawyers, teachers, wine-makers, marketing executives or whatever.

Often there is a need to socialise with clients and being able to talk about wine in English confidently is a helpful  tool. It carries a number of other not immediately seen benefits as well. Sadly it is a fact that many Valencians still do not know their own excellent range of wines very well. These tastings will only use wines from the Valencian community as a way of aiding their promotion in another format. It is also an enjoyable way of doing a bit of learning!!!


The tastings are being held in restaurants in Valencia as a way of offering them both potential clients and the chosen bodegas  to their wine lists. All round  the format has the potential to be a big winner for all concerned. But we are also flexible and tastings can be held on business premises if there are sufficient staff needing or wanting the training.

Nor are the tastings too complicated. The aim is to provide a service where the emphasis is on client participation in the use of English rather than a detailed examination of wine-making techniques although there is an element of education in the accompanying presentation! Wine is the vehicle and it is proving a popular one at that!

The first tasting in September showed the four wines from Finca Collado in DO Alicante ( ) and was held in de Calle restaurante in Conde Altea (  .)
Blanco, Finca Collado

Blanco, Finca Collado

The white from Finca Collado is the flagship wine, a winner of three awards with the  2010 and 2011 vintages. The 2012 is still available and the 2013 promises to be the best yet! It is a fresh, fruity blend of Oak aged chardonnay with moscatel, unique in the Valencian Community. Moreover for a white which is usually drunk young, it has good ageing potential as a special tasting for Pedralba wine club showed, the 2009 white still being well-balanced!
We also looked at the rosado, a pure Merlot, fresh and fruity with an underlying touch of bubble gum and boiled sweets and a mineral dry finish….excellent with seafood dishes!
The two reds also came in for scrutiny. The 2010 tinto is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Soft and easy drinking the wine is very popular and versatile for drinking on its own or with a good meal. The 2010 pure Merlot has just won a bronze award at the San Francisco International wine-fair and is a wine aged in a 3500 litre oak cone. It is a big, round wine with long ageing potential.

The second tasting on 22 October was also held in de-calle and showed the wines of Daniel Belda, the Fontanares based bodega which is in DO Valencia.

Tasting Outside the Belda Bodega.

Tasting Outside the Belda Bodega.

The new 2012 Chardonnay with barrel fermentation and light crianza is fresh, dry and was very popular. But of the whites the Verdil 2013 ( the first wine to be released each year in the Northern hemisphere) was full of gooseberry and elderflower, proved the more popular.

The two reds were the Tempranillo and the Migjorn. The former is an intense red colour with a nose redolent of red fruits. It is a well-balanced fruity and oaky wine. The Migjorn has 12 months in French oak and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is a deep cherry red coloured wine with a violet edge. Mature fruit and oak vie on the nose and in the mouth it is fruity, fresh, and round, a big mouthful!

For the third tasting we moved on to `Abierto´a restaurant in Carmen where C/ Caballeros meets C/Quart.

In keeping with the theme of finding wines from across Valencia we chose three reds from Bodega Vicente Flors from Les Useres in Castellon.

The first was the Flor de Clotas a Tempranillo with 5 months crianza in French and American oak from vines with 70 years of age. The wine has a complex fruity nose  with truffle, chocolate and liquorice and in the mouth is round, fruity and has a long finish.

The Clotas Tempranillo is blended with about 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and has 14 months crianza. A deep opaque wine with fruits of the forest on the nose, the wine has fruit and balsamic notes, chocolate and a long persistent finish. Both of these wines are good with artichoke dishes.

Wines from Flors.

Wines from Flors.

The third wine was the Clotas Monastrell. Also from 70-year-old vines the wine has 14 months of ageing in French oak, but this time barrels which have been used before and thus impart softer tannins. Cherry red it has jammy red fruit on the nose and a hint of violet, whilst in the mouth it is well structured, smooth, balanced, with a long finish. Another wine to drink slowly and enjoy with pure chocolate!

Around 20 places are available for each of the tastings and dates are being considered for a December meeting. Get your name on the list for the next four Valencian wines from a quality local producer!!!!!


Autumn..Time to Visit Valencia for Wine and Food Fairs!!!

Torrijas in Utiel.

Torrijas in Utiel.

September , October and November is definitely the right time to visit Valencia if it is good food and wine you are after. These three  months are  full of gastronomy fairs, the weather an average of 4.5º above average, the sun shone continuously and all over the community people were out in the streets and plazas, eating top quality artisan food and drinking the best wines produced in the regions five denominated areas.

Here follows my  round-up of some of the activities.

Mariscada at the Feria de Mariscos.

Mariscada at the Feria de Mariscos.

Though strictly not a celebration of Valencian cuisine September got off to a start with the Feria de Mariscos, which showcases seafood from Galicia. This is a good opportunity to try various fishy dishes, mainly from shellfish which you may well see in the local markets but not know how to cook yourself. ( The plancha is the key here!) Great plates included the goosefoot barnacle ( people still get killed harvesting these off the rocks) and the obligatory Mariscada….a platter of lobster, large prawns, razor clams, scallops, queen scallops, mussels etc and wash it down with Albariño, the dry white of the region whilst watching local dancers accompanied by a traditional Galician folk band.

Mid-month sees the International Paella cooking competition which was covered in my 20 September post.

Gastronòmo is the professional fair for the restaurant and hotel trade although the public are allowed in the first two days. Here you can immerse yourself in all the latest gadgetry, try wines from sponsoring bodegas or attend any number of cookery demonstrations and discussions.

Joan Carlos Galbis and Gastraval.

Joan Carlos Galbis and Gastraval.

The fair this year was a bit smaller than previously reflecting the crisis in Spain. Nonetheless there was plenty to keep you interested.

The rise of craft beers was well represented with `birra and blues´,  Socorrat and Nispra beers all represented. Socorrat , the Xativa based brewery were showcasing their new `Boquerone´ brand, made with a dash of sea-water! The Nispra brand is made with Nispero fruit ( lowquat) and the Socorrat has a dash of honey and rosemary in the brew whilst the birra and blues from Alboraya has horchata ( tiger nut ) in it. The beers themselves are all natural, fresh and high quality real ales.

I was particularly impressed this year with a new paella company. Fronted by Master rice chef Joan Carlos Galbis from L ´Alcudia and Esther Valero, Gastraval is producing single portion pre-prepared paellas for home cooking.

On a historical note Baetica were showing wines infused with herbs and spices, ( honey, rose petal, violets and Cinnamon ) reproductions of Roman period drinks with a Cabernet Sauvignon base, ( an early variety of the varietal was known to exist during this time). with sea-water!

Boquerone…beer with sea-water!

Gastrofestes de La Dipu is a fair run by the Governments tourism agency. Essentially a roaming fair this year it visited four venues and gave local restaurants, food, wine and other producers an opportunity to showcase their talents. The first of the chosen venues was Gandia, actually at the end of September , where the regional cooking is seafood based and principally Fideuà. 17 participating exhibitors showed off this famous dish as well as a range of tapas, and `reposteria´, sweet dishes of `pastissets de moniato´a pastry made from sweet potato or a traditional local tapas.

Mortuerelo and Gelatina de Cordero....Requena.

Mortuerelo and Gelatina de Cordero….Requena.

The second fair was in Requena, where the gastronomy reflected the production of wine as well as the location in the interior nearer to La Mancha Here the principal dish is Gazpacho Manchego, a plate of rabbit and partridge, stewed gently till the meat falls off the bones at which point `cocas´( these look like Carr’s Water Biscuits ) are added and these absorb the liquid and become like a pasta.  The typical sweet here is `Torrijas´a bread which is deep-fried and covered with sugar and the tapas were varied….ajoarriero, mortuerelo etc.

The third was in Xativa over the fifth and sixth of the month. Here the main dish was `Arroz al horno´  ( see last post ) .

Finally the fair visited Cullera, another fishing port and holiday destination where the range of tapas was at its widest and there were endless arroces to choose from. Here traditionally the sweet is Coca Cristina and of course lots of the local rice, `señorial´ was being sold by the kilo!!!

Tapas in Cullera.

Tapas in Cullera.

All the fairs had cookery exhibitions run by the Governments own training schools and prices were very good…a glass of wine or a beer was 1.50€, tapas 2.00€ or a main plate just 3.00€ making a family day out affordable and fun!! A great way to learn about the regional cooking of Valencia.

The month continued with the Feria Gastronomica in Utiel, held over the weekend of 18-20 October. Food again dominates at this fair and it holds a competition annually for amateur chefs to cook an arroz al horno. The local housewives associations continue to provide the local tapas and there is a tapas trail through the town where each participating bar provides a tapas and a drink for a couple of euros. This year the  trail was matched by one producing  cocktails, reflecting the growing revival of these drinks in Valencia!

Arroz in Utiel

Arroz in Utiel

Moving into November,  the last but one fair of the year is held in Ontinyent and is the Feria Gastronomica de la Val d´Albaida. Normally held in the open air this year it was moved into the towns covered market…..somewhere which for me lacked any atmosphere. The move was made to heighten the involvement of gastronomy in the region but the fair seemed disjointed. Nonetheless it got off to a great start with free sweet bread and hot chocolate! Four bodegas, the Ontinyent coop, the Quatretonda coop, Bodegas Angosto and Heretats de Taverners were showing wines and there was a range of freshly cooked tapas and main courses to complement some of the artisan producers from the area between Xativa and Font de Figueras. There was a superb display of local breads and `cocas´( here these are like pizzas).

Cocas, in Ontinyent.

Cocas, in Ontinyent.

Valencia is also famous for its honey and one of two fairs dedicated to the production of honey, licors etc is held each year in the small town of Montroi. For three days the town plays hosts to honey producers, bakers using honey in their products, the towns olive oil mill and cooperative as well as a medieval market. Here you can buy honey naturally flavoured with orange flowers, thyme, rosemary, nispero etc as well as pollen, soaps, royal jelly and licors such as orujo ( aguadiente) flavoured with honey. Local bakers and turron producers vie for the custom of the sweet toothed!

Honey at Montroi.

Honey at Montroi.

The visitor to Valencia will experience something different at each of these fairs, eat and drink well from the cornucopia that is Valencia and do so cheaply…..and this weekend Castellon holds it´s first Wine and Food fair showcasing artisan products such as cheeses and olive oils from the North of the Community. More on this next week!!!

Arroz al Horno…More Than Just Leftovers!

Arrozes from the Cofradia de Arroz.

Arrozes from the Cofradia de Arroz.

We are now well into Autumn and in the canon that constitutes Valencian gastronomy traditional dishes would include Arroz al Horno…oven cooked rice. It does seem to be a little incongruous however to want a dish which is a `rib-sticker´ when the sun is still shining and the temperatures are still in the mid to high 20´s!

Nonetheless it is appearing on the menus of local restaurants and many visitors to Valencia will not be aware of either its history or what a good meal it is.

Historically it is believed to be a dish of leftovers! The base of the dish is the stock left after cooking   `Putxero´ or `Cocido´ ( See my posts of 10 October and 17 February 2012.)  You are left with a big pan of stock full of goodness and flavour and have to find something to do with it!

Today it is a mainstay in  Valencia with regional variations and ingredients depending on which part of the Community you are in. It is particularly popular in and around Xativa and Ontinyent, the Ribeira Baixa and Alta and parts of Castellon as well as the Horta Oeste and Camp de Turia.

The dish has several names  but essentially `Arroz al Horno´ and `Arros al Forn ´ simply reflect the Castellano/Valenciana languages.

In some  areas I have heard it called `Arroz Paseado´ or `Arros Passajet´ no doubt from the tradition of households without ovens walking their dish to the local bakers to have it cooked for them after the bread was finished….something I have seen for myself  in Vilamarxant.

The dish is nearly always cooked in a Cazuela de Barra, the traditional and immensely popular terracotta oven to tableware which is ubiquitous here! I have however seen it cooked in a roasting pan and some of the trendier Pyrex oven pans which are now available.


So what goes in it? Well, typically my Spanish friends will tell you that it should contain pork ribs, morcilla ( either with onion or `de carne´which are a little more robust in the cooking process) , blanquet ( or white sausage) pancetta ( thick rashers of belly pork) , chickpeas, rice, sliced potato and tomato all crowned with a head of garlic and a good stock.

You may also add pilotas  ( small pork balls with parsley and spices ) around L´Alcudia and  in some cases green beans or artichokes.

Arroz from L´Alcudia, Cooked by Galbis.

Arroz from L´Alcudia, Cooked by Galbis.

I have seen versions that include a whole duck ( La Ribera Alta – Alginet, Carlet ) , rabbit or chicken ( La Marina Alta- Parcent, Pego, Ondara ) and even incorporating pumpkin ( La Plana Alta – around Benissa and Almassora)  . Other friends tell me that there is sufficient flavour in the ingredients and that only water , salt and maybe a little saffron should be used.

What is absolutely clear is that the quality of ingredients is paramount. I have learned that buying mass-produced morcilla or blanquets is a mistake. Going to a traditional, specialist butcher for quality, artisan made products will pay dividends! Valencian gastronomy is after all about the juxtaposition of natural flavours and not about adding flavours to make something taste better! I buy my blanquets and morcilla de carne for the  version I cook from specialist butchers in Carcaixent and Ontinyent. I do not buy prepacked, pre-chopped pork rib from supermarkets, it is too small. The local butcher will chop your `trozos´ to the correct size. pancetta from such a butcher is also likely to be better quality if you wish to use it.

The local greengrocer is also a good source for the individual  ingredients which make up the stock and they generally have a better quality local tomato than the supermarkets who often source theirs from the Canaries or Holland!

Of course you should also soak your dried-chickpeas in water overnight as this is the alternative basis of the stock! Pre-cooked chickpeas work but the stock you use then becomes more important.  There are one or two proprietary brands of pre-prepared stock, or `Caldo´ available and as long as you  buy  the natural ones such as `Aneto´ you will be fine.

Arros Passejat, Casa Ricardo.

Arros Passejat, Casa Ricardo.

Ricardo´s Arros passejat or Arroz al horno.

Ingredients for four People.

400gm Arroz DOP Valencia.

250gm Pork ribs chopped into chunks.

I head of Garlic.

2 Garlic cloves chopped.

4 Morcillas de Carne

3 Tomatos.

2 Potatos

125gm Chickpeas


Olive Oil and Salt.

Thereafter the method of cooking is straightforward. Commencing in a frying pan with the potatos which are sliced thickly and fried on both sides and  set aside  The chopped pieces of rib come next, which are browned and sealed then removed, then the pancetta or blanquets and finally the morcilla.

The pan will now have a lot of fat and juices in it! You need some of this for flavour and texture! In the cazuela on an open heat, add some of the fat to  one chopped tomato and the diced garlic cloves. These should be cooked until you have a sofrito at which point the drained chickpeas are added and then the rice to absorb the flavours.

Add in the pork ribs and warm through. Then start to heat the stock and add it slowly to the rice. The potatos and the remaining  tomatos which have been sliced thickly  are then arranged on top and the morcilla, pancetta and blanquets are pushed into the dish. ( See pictures) . The head of garlic sits in the centre like a crown!

Adapted for the paella!

Adapted for the paella!

The rest of the stock is then poured in and the dish is put into a preheated oven ( 200ºC ) until all the liquid has been absorbed. This depends very much on the rice used. Round grain D.O.P. Valencia rice such as `Señorial´  will absorb 2-3 times the amount of liquid. Normally you will need up to 3/4 of an hour followed by five minutes resting time but check to see that there is either sufficient stock to completely cook the rice or that it is not already cooked.

Competitions are common place, the best known being in Xativa every year, but Torrente also has a competition for its `Arros Rossejat´and in Utiel at the Gastronomic fair every year there is a competition for amateurs. There is also a cod and cauliflower version!

Judging at the Utiel Fair Competition!

Judging at the Utiel Fair Competition!


Whether you try it in a restaurant, at a fair or cook it yourself the plate will not disappoint!

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