Photo by Tara Stevens
Los Aguilares, Pago El Espino
No me digas…spectacular reds from Andalucia?
It’s true. I’ve been experimenting with a few and these power-packing tintos are starting to shine, especially for more adventurous tipplers, but you’ll have to wait for me to get back to my local bodega for more on those.
Meantime, more sips and slurps from my feast days in San Sebastian, this time from the tiny Bar Alex (baralex.net) in the Antiguo (the elegant barrio that sits directly behind the curve of La Concha beach).
Although San Sebastian has a reputation for being the gastronomic centre of the universe (or Spain at least), I beg to differ. Multi-starred restaurants aside, when it comes to tapas I think that others towns and cities are starting to give the Basque gastrotown a run for its money, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, the lion's share of the pintxo bars are no better, no worse than anything you’d find in Barcelona or Madrid; the point is when they are good they are never less than excellent.
And so it is that I find myself at Bar Alex feasting on “miniature cuisine” such as lamb morcilla and squid- and ink-stuffed empanadas, and sipping some truly eye-opening wines to go with it, from aged white Riojas and taut, minerally malvasias from Lanzarote. But perhaps the biggest surprise was this bottle of Los Aguilares from Ronda in Southern Spain. Who knew? Those in the know evidently, as Ronda is hot on the heels of Granada with a small explosion in boutique wineries around the newish D.O. Sierras de Malaga.
Using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, female winemaker Bib Garcia has garnered startling reviews. A member at verema.com asks “Does the perfect coupage (blend) exist? Perhaps in the form of Pago El Espino…” El Mundo went on to accord the winery best of the rest in a tasting dedicated to Andalucian reds. For my part it showed unexpected restraint and balance in the fruit for a region blessed with so much sun, a touch of peppery spice and herbaceousness (particularly wild thyme and rosemary that immediately transport you to them there hills), a streak of nicely structured tannin and a rounded, velvety finish. It was great with the morcilla, perfect with the squid and ink, and definitely one worth shelling out for (expect to pay upwards of €16) and definitely a region to watch.