Madrid wine legend Luke Darraccot gives us a festive wine guide to help us navigate the very long Spanish Christmas Season.
The end is nigh. The end of the year that is. The locals are all going to start gearing up for the Christmas period. Where the Brits might trot out all the classic gastronomic trappings at this time of year – roast turkey, pigs in blankets, sprouts, Christmas crackers, et al. – the Spanish don’t. Not really.
In Spain it seems that the festive period is a chance to splash out a little on the meals and simply proffer the best each household can buy of each food group. Beautifully sweet prawns from Huelva, succulent cochinillo (insert cordero or cabrito as applicable), roasted sea bream, a somewhat disappointing roscón de Reyes that everyone pretends to love, and mountains of turrón.
But what about booze? This is, after all, the country with over 5000 wineries. There must be something afoot in Spain during Yuletide surely. Britain guzzles gallons of Champagne and Prosecco at the end of the year and a lot of families make that old wintry favourite: mulled wine. The Germans throw in their two cents with glühwein and hot spiced ciders. In fact a lot of Northern Europe, where the cold lives, has a panoply of these wines. But so does the rest of the continent. The Scandis tuck into glögg, the Balkans have kuhano vino, the Bulgarians delight in drinking greyano vino, the French vin chaud, the northern Italians have vin brulé, the northerly provinces of our neighbour Portugal have vinho quente. Almost every country in Europe seems to do something with wine and heat and spices. Not Spain.
Now there is a fine argument to be made about climate. Spain is an objectively hot country so it is fair to see why the concept of a simmering hot wine full of fruit, sugar, and spices never took off. But, as those of us who live here know, it really does get rather cold, very cold in fact, at certain points of the year in a lot of the country. The closest the country gets is Galicia’s wonderfully boozy flaming coffee bowl the queimada. If you don’t know what that is, Youtube a video of it and enjoy.
So Spain doesn’t, and probably will never, have a form of mulled wine. But when the cold winds of the meseta whip in through the plains and strike Madrid, what then can we drink? Well, here’s a few tips on how to drink through Christmas in Madrid this year.
Yes, bubbles mean celebration. But also dry sparkling wines are one of the best food-pairing wines in the world. The bubbles combined with the bracing acidity not only cuts through fat, oil, butter, that pervades many Spanish dishes, but the fizz also helps clean your palate in a more physical sense so that every bite of food is like the first time.
Some ideas: Umbretum (15€), Gramona Imperial (21.50€).
When people think of cold wintry days their thoughts rarely turn to white wines. Given this drink is most often served at the very least slightly chilled it makes sense perhaps that when it’s chilly and frosty outside you might not instinctively turn to the vino blanco. But a bold, aromatic, perhaps barrel-aged or fermented white can be bigger and more warming than some reds. The full body and booze doing the work the temperature can’t.
Some ideas: Avancia Cuveé de O Godello (12.50€), The Granite Post Albariño (18€), Ossian Verdejo (31.50€)
This is the mainstay of Christmas plonk in Spain. Sales of Riojas and Riberas skyrocket. People come into the shop asking for their Vega Sicilia or Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva. Classics that cost a lot of money and, to be honest, are a little old fashioned. But big reds are the right idea. The combination of alcohol, bold tannins and a warmer temperature are ideal for the cold snaps of invierno.
Some ideas: Valdigal 2015 (14.90€), Godina (19€), Sentencia (30€).
For more information: https://www.madriddarracott.com/en/