On Wine.

On Wine. A Tragedy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-opaz/on-wine-a-tragedy_b_9073154.html

This person who….opens a wine and enjoys it for what it is panics the minute an expert enters, hoping to not be admonished for their choice. They have been taught that there is a correct answer to the question: is this wine good. The wine industry has taught a generation of wine drinkers that there is a right answer. That there is a possibility to get wine wrong. Shame on us.

This honest, heartfelt article was written by Ryan Opaz from Catavino. Catavino was one of the websites I obsessively followed to educate myself on Spanish wines.  I don’t remember how I found them, but they were and still are an essential reference for Spanish and Portuguese wine.  What I love most about them is the passion with which they talk about wine.  They do so using frank, no bullshit, straight ahead language.   When they describe a wine or talk about a particular producer, region or wine concept, what shines through is their excitement in sharing their discoveries and insights. They never speak down to their audience, though they obviously have extensive wine backgrounds.  They simply share their contagious joy and wonder with the knowledge to back it up.  Nor do you feel inadequate for not knowing; of course you don’t know, since the point is for all of us to learn. My sincere hope is that in pointing out this strict “right and wrong” attitude, we can then put it aside in favor of a more relaxed and authentic engagement with the wine world.  

I come to wine as an awestruck aficionado, eager to share whatever tidbits I can find about wine, specifically Spanish wine.  In the beginning, I was met with a fair amount of skepticism; the unasked question being who was I to assume I could learn and share anything about wine.  Who was I, this black girl from Alaska with no wine background to speak of, to presume I could learn, let alone teach, about wine.  I was asked to show my bonafides before I even got started.  I knew immediately that I wanted to carve out a space in the wine world for folks like me–eager to learn more about wine, excited to discover new wines and looking for fun!  I wanted to make it okay for us to learn and grow into wine together, and to remind us that wine is inherently a natural, social experience.  

When I started Nicole Angela Travel & Taste that was exactly what I set out to do: create wine experiences that were as enjoyable and inviting as they were informative.  It was simply a way to encourage people to fall as deeply in love with Spanish wine, this beautiful land and the amazing people who make it as I did.  I’ve also figured out that wine is a wonderful way to connect more profoundly to your tastes, to discover what those are and find creative ways to express them. Without Catavino´s example,  I wouldn’t have known that this more enthusiastic and unpretentious way of engaging with wine was possible.  Thanks to Catavino for always reminding us of what’s true in this vast wine world.
Intrigued?  Come to a Nicole Angela tasting or tour and see for yourself what fun wine can be.

Tiny Bubbles: Spanish Cava

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The holidays are here and what better way to get into the festive mood than with a bubbly beverage.  While most people go for champagne you will get more bang for your buck and more versatility with the Spanish bubbly, cava.  There is very little difference between the two. In fact, cava is the most champagne like of the all the bubbly wines.  But I would argue there is so much more to love about cava as cava rather than aspiring for champagne.  In Valencia for example, cava isn’t just for special occasions but more often than not is enjoyed as a starter with cheeses and other appetizers before a meal.  

And what exactly is the difference between champagne and cava?  Outside of name and grape choice nothing.  The process of making cava is exactly the same as champagne. The difference between cava and champagne is the type of grapes used and name. Champagne is a region and so only sparkling wines made from this specific area made in that specific way can be called champagne. In Spanish it is known as Méthode Champenoise or Método Tradicional.  The reason why the methods are the same has to do with the phylloxera plague (a nasty aphid like bug) that, in the early 19th century, destroyed all European vines starting with France. The plague drove many French wine producers into Spain. 

People familiar with cava know that it comes from Catalonia specifically Penedes.  Cava also comes from Extremadura, Rioja, Ribera del Guadiana, Cariñena and Utiel-Requena.  I am currently obsessed with organic cavas from Utiel-Requena such as Vega Medien and Vegalfaro Brut Nature Reserva 2013.  Utiel-Requena was the second D.O. (Denominación de Origen aka wine region) to get permission to make cava.  

The traditional cava grapes are Viura (aka Macabeo), Xarel.lo, and Parellada.  There are cavas that are all three, or just two, and in some cases just a single grape variety.  As of late you will find other varieties, most notably garnacha which makes a lovely dusty pink rose cava or bobal which creates a vibrant fluorescent pink cava.

Cava, like champagne, is classified by the amount of sugar added per litre.  Brut Nature has about 3g of naturally occurring sugar. Extra Brut has up to 6g added in the form of licor de expedition which as mixture of sugar, a liquor and wine. Brut has up to 12g of added sugar, Extra Seco between 12-17g of added sugar, Seco between 17-32 g of added sugar, Semi-seco between 32-50 g of added sugar and finally Dulce which has more than 50g of sugar. Brut Nature is the most versatile, it is best for pairing with all kinds of savory foods from cheeses, to seafoods to mushrooms or rice dishes and is especially nice with foie.

Cavas can be white, rose and red and are an ideal wine choice because they are suitable for most all foods.  Go to cava to add a bit more pizzaz to your holiday but even after, cava will be there to make any meal or event an occasion worth celebrating.

I will be sampling a selection of cavas on Saturday, 17 December at V. Manneken from 18:30 to 20.  Swing by for cava and delicious cava cocktail before heading out into a night of holiday festivities.  Sign up here.

Seasons change

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Fall is our transition from summer to winter, bringing warm days and cooler nights. As the season changes it is time to think about changing, not just our clothes but what we eat and drink. The colder temperatures invite us to move away from lighter, thirst quenching wines such as Albariño to medium bodied wines like Godello.

What do we mean when we talk about the wine’s body? How do we know whether a wine is light or heavy?  

Body refers to the way the wine feels in our mouth and we express that in terms of the shape and weight of a wine. A wine can be flabby or lean as well as light, medium or full bodied.  While there is no right or wrong way to enjoy wine, body awareness can help you get the best out of your wine experience by steering you towards the best wines for the season.

Here’s an article from VinePair for more indepth information and to help you figure out the body of your favorite wines.

Come join us this Thursday at @The Toast Cafe to celebrate fall with some wonderful organic wines. Buy your tickets here!

COMING SOON! D.O. Madrid Tour

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Discover the West Sierras, a food and wine lover’s paradise less than an hour’s drive from Madrid. Tucked into these mountains, you’ll find exquisite organic wines and a proud gastronomy based on locally grown vegetables, cured meats and artisanal cheeses. It is a voyage into ancient Spanish history and culture that you must experience! Full day excursions will start at the end of September.

It’s harvest time!

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The hot, bright light of summer is fading to the amber rays of autumn. This is harvest time, the end of the growing season and the beginning of the winemaking process.

This fall brings with it lots of activities, new day trips to mountain vineyards, vermouth workshops and food and wine pairing events. We’ve also discovered a bounty of new wines along the way to taste and share.

We hope you can join us on our wine adventures!