Category Archives: Spanish Wines

Spain’s Cava best for Seafood Scampi

This week for our wine recommendation we’re heading to a European country that has more land dedicated to vines than any other country.

As a result, it’s safe to say this country probably also has more styles of wine than any other country. Along with the traditional dry red, white, Rose and sparkling wines, this country also produces 14 different styles of Sherry.

So where is this magical wine country we speak of?


There’s one wine in particular from Spain that we thought would be the perfect match for either of Ann Vogel’s recipes: Cava.

Cava is a medium-bodied sparkling wine from Catalonia, Spain. It was developed in the 1870’s after Cordorniu winemaker Josep Raventos was inspired by a visit to France’s Champagne region.

Taking the information learned from his visit, Raventos used the Champagne method of winemaking but with different grapes.

Traditionally Cava is made from three indigenous grape varieties most people may not be familiar with: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. And, no surprise here, since it was officially authorized in 1986, Chardonnay is now used increasingly.

Cava has a lovely freshness and distinctive flavor of apples and a hint of earthiness.

It is especially delightful with fish, tapas and fried foods, which is why we recommend it for either the Seafood Scampi recipe or the Langostinos Casserole. And it’s kind to the wallet — about $8.

We recommend the brut from either of these quality producers: Codorníu, the oldest and largest cava producer, with a variety of products available, or Freixenet, another large Cava producer. Their most popular brut is the Cordon Negro.

Weekly wine defined: Flor

You may have noticed, or you may not, that we used this term a few weeks ago when defining a different wine term (Solera System).

What is Flor?

Translated from Spanish and Portuguese it means “flower.” So what does that have to do with wine, you ask?

It’s also a winemaking term that refers to a film of yeast on the surface of wine. It’s also critical to the making of certain styles of Sherry.

Flor is a naturally occurring film when certain winemaking techniques are used. It comes from indigenous yeast found in the Andalucía region of southern Spain.

As we described in our Solera System post about the making of Sherry, unlike other winemaking processes Sherry winemakers allow air to touch the young wine. When the air mingles with the yeast, it creates the flor. There’s a lot of chemistry involved from here on out, but essentially the flor works to form a protective cover, or blanket, over the juice, preventing it from mingling with oxygen.

This lowers the acidity of the wine. Interestingly studies have shown that flor is picky about its weather and alcohol conditions. Flor prefers cooler climates with higher humidity. It also only survives between the alcohol ranges of 14.5 to 16 percent.

If the alcohol by volume level is lower, the sherry will turn to vinegar because the yeast doesn’t develop in a way to protect the wine from oxygen. Above the 16 percent limit the flor can’t survive and the wine becomes an oloroso, which is another type of Sherry.

While the term for is specific to Sherry, other winemaking countries have a similar technique by a different name. In the Jura region of eastern France the term is called “voile” (translation: veil) and is used in the production of vin jaune, or young wine.

In Hungary’s Tokaj wine region they call the technique “hártya”, which means film.

Weekly wine defined: Solera System

Brynn writes:

Sorry guys, I’m running a day behind, so you’re getting our weekly wine word on Tuesday instead of Monday. I promise I’ll do better next week.

This week’s word is: Solera System

Here is a traditional winemaking process that is really out there.

In Spain, Sherry is made using the Solera system of blending to get its unique flavor. But Sherry is unique in several ways.

Normally, winemakers guard against letting air make contact with their wines, however Sherry is the exception. Barrels aging Sherry are not filled to the top, nor are they topped to keep air out; the bung is actually left loose enough to let air in.

Some styles of Sherry develop a protective yeast layer (or flor) that floats on the wine in barrel. This flor is also unique to the wine and area.

Using the Solera System, wines are aged through continuous blending of different vintages for a “house” style. Fractional blending is also done in part to keep the flor alive. At bottling time, they leave a “mother” in the barrel, no not the body. Mother is the base for the new vintage of Sherry.

Stick with Sherry for Spain’s gazpacho

We’re guessing gazpacho is the creation of the hard working farmers of the Andalusia region of Spain who needed a new way to use up all those fresh veggies they were growing.

So they created a cool summer lunch and named it gazpacho.

Andalusia is in southwestern Spain near the hot and sunny Costa del Sol (hence the name, Sun Coast). This is an area where a lunch starts at 2 p.m. and can be had up until 4 p.m., and dinner never starts before 9 p.m.

Incidentally the region also is Sherry country, which is why we’ve decided to introduce you to the age-old custom of Sherry with soup.

And because Ann Vogel’s White Gazpacho recipe calls for the addition of Sherry and Sherry vinegar, we thought the best wine recommendation for her dish would be what you’re already using to help make it delicious.

The most popular Sherry in Spain, and what we’re recommending with this soup, is the dry, pale straw-colored Fino. Fino is served chilled and sometimes diluted with lemonade for an especially refreshing drink.

We’ve written about Sherry before, but in the context of a dessert wine — which is what most people probably think when they hear the word Sherry.

But Sherry comes in many styles, ranging from very dry to cloyingly sweet.

We don’t know about you, but when it’s hot the last thing we wan tot drink is something sugary sweet. Instead we seek out cool, crisp, refreshing drinks to help cool us off.

That’s why we’re recommending a dry Sherry to accompany the gazpacho. It carries the cooling off on a hot day theme — now all we need are some hot days!

Try the Emilio Lustau “Solera Reserva” Puerto Fino for $17 or Hartley and Gibson Fino Sherry $11.