It’s never a good idea to get into a rut and eat the same kinds of food week in, week out — or always order the same drinks. Apart from anything else, it means we can all too easily miss out on some of the best things in life.
I enjoy beer tremendously and think it is almost as complex and fascinating as wine. But I never drink it at home because instead of having the occasional beer, I’d be having one every day — and sometimes two or three.
So I have a glass of red wine every day with lunch (keeping to one glass per day is easy peasy ) and during the hot weather I have a caña when I go to a restaurant to do the review.
In the recent past, when summer changed to autumn (which is later and later every year) I went back to having red wine with my restaurant meal. But I enjoyed that weekly caña so much I was eventually drinking a caña throughout the year with my restaurant meals. One caña per week and every time I had one it was like the best drink in the world.
But on two recent restaurant outings I was forced to change my order for the usual caña. The first time was at the Moroccan restaurant Muaré in Calle Barceló I Combis (Tel:971-127572) where they don’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own wine for which there is a charge of €5 per bottle for corkage.
We didn’t know that. They have zero-alcohol beer but I consider that a complete travesty and ordered a San Pellegrino sparkling water instead. And I was so glad I did because I rediscovered that this Italian sparkling water (along with the French Perrier) is the best there is in this line.
I loved it so much that I had two half-litre bottles with lunch. Since then I have been taking a bottle of San Pellegrino to the office and drinking it as I read the day’s newspapers. It is so much better than a soft drink from one of the machines. And cheaper and healthier — so I gain in every way.
The second time I dropped my weekly caña was at the recent visit to the Japanese restaurant Quinta Avenida ((Tl:871-043066) where we shared a €14.90 menú del día and ordered two other dishes. As the menú del día price includes a drink, I had a glass of white wine, a verdejo from Rueda served in a tallish slim and elegant glass. It was very cold and paired nicely with the Japanese dishes, especially the grilled salmon with stir-fried vegetables.
I had almost forgotten how superb Spanish white wines are, especially during the hot weather when our fatigued tastebuds need something to wake them up with a jolt. Dry Spanish wines such as verdejo, albariño and sauvignon blancs are guaranteed to do just that.
Spain’s most memorable whites are made from grapes grown in relatively small quantities in the northwest of the country, especially Rueda and Galicia.
The verdejo grape, a native to the Rueda area, gives crisp highly aromatic whites that are perfect for summer drinking. They make excellent aperitifs with nibbles of all kinds and also combine nicely with seafood dishes for lunch and dinner.
Rueda also grows fine sauvignon blanc grapes and produces some excellent whites that aren’t as well known as the verdejos. Nor are they so easy to find, but they are well worth looking for. You will find them at La Vinoteca in Calle Bartolomé Pou 28, El Corte Inglés and other specialised wine outlets.
The Spanish sauvignon blancs available in Palma have two things in common: they are reasonably priced and are good value for money. Most of those I prefer are priced at €5-€8 and some are even more economical than that.
These sauvignon blancs are well made and tinglingly fresh, with fruity aromas and flavours. The best way to buy them is to ask the advice of the wine shop attendant or simply pick one up at random. Either way you won’t lose. Here are the names of a few sauvignon blancs I have liked.
The first Spanish sauvignon blanc I tasted was Mantel Blanco. I loved its aromas and sharp clean taste. Many years ago the second one I came across was a Marqués de Riscal — and it continues to be one of my favourites. Its crisp fresh taste is impeccable.
The Rueda sauvignon blanc I drink most frequently is Martivillí. It has a perfect brilliant colour and it continues to improve in the bottle. One of the reasons I drink it on a regular basis is that even in expensive restaurants it is reasonably priced. It is the white I invariably order — even when I’m not paying.
Sanz Sauvignon is another Rueda to look out for. It has an excellent pale yellow colour with green highlights. It is one of the most aromatic of the Rueda sauvignon blancs and its lovely touch of acidity makes it delightful on the palate.
Spain’s first sauvignon blancs were made in Rueda but the grapes then travelled to Catalonia, Granada and Bierzo. The Catalonian sauvignon blanc you must try is Fransola from the Miguel Torres bodega in Penedès.
It is usually made from 90 per cent sauvignon blanc grapes and 10 per cent parrellada and is partly fermented in oak casks, which gives it extra complexity in aromas and flavours. Its aromas are exuberant with strong fruity touches, especially melon and passion fruit.
If you want to spend a bit more, at some of the better outlets (La Vinoteca and the Club del Gourmet of El Corte Inglés) you will find sauvignon blancs from France, Australia and New Zealand. They are a good deal dearer than the Spanish varieties.
If it’s Down Under sauvignon blancs you want to try then you must go for those from New Zealand. Most experts are are agreed that New Zealand’s are well ahead of those made in Australia — or anywhere else, for that matter.
Australian research scientists have found that the herbaceous content of sauvignon blancs depends on the amount or alkyl methoxypyrazines in the grapes. New Zealand sauvignon blanc grapes contain more of these compounds than those from Australia.
The finest New Zealand sauvignon blancs are made in the Marlborough region in the northern part of South Island. Producers to look out for are Cloudy Bay and Hunters, both of whom make distinctive wines bursting with character that have won critical and popular acclaim all over the world.
In recent weeks I have also rediscovered that draught Guinness is one of the great unique beers. I have started drinking one every week. But that’s another story for another day…possibly next week.