In 2019, I was invited along with a group of folks from the Spanish wine world to check out the Canary Islands in person - the first time that I had ever been! It was an eye-opening adventure in a landscape like I’ve never seen before. I’m thrilled to share some of my favorite wines from the Canary Islands with you for the May wine club shipment!
The Canary Islands or Las Canarias is an archipelago of small islands located 100 km off the Moroccan coast. It’s home to a wide variety of grapes growing nowhere else in the world. The islands themselves are other-worldly, formed by volcanoes and battered by Atlantic trade winds, helping to define some of Spain's most unique wines. Many vines are planted almost upside down, in holes that help protect them from the winds. They are knotted, gnarly and strong - signs of the toughness the maritime climate requires. In the Canary Islands, you’ll find some of the oldest vines in Spain. During the phylloxera blight in Europe in the early 1900s, they were largely protected because of their isolation.
The varietals in this shipment are most notably found in Las Canarias - you may not recognize them!
- Listán Blanco & Listán Negro: much variability in style, from rose wines to low-tannin reds
- Albillo Criollo: a white grape with a delicate fragrance and fresh, citric palate
- Malvasía Volcanica: an obscure variant only grown on the island of Lanzarote, fresh and floral followed by a slight spice and acidity
- Negramoll: universally described by winemakers as the Pinot Noir of the Canary Islands
My good friend and guide to all things Las Canarias is Jessica Gualano. She’s no stranger to Asheville - she used to run a wine shop in town called Wine Studio. Before Cúrate opened, she was kind enough to let me use the shop to meet wine reps and taste wines when I was creating our first wine list. Now, Jessica manages national sales for Bowler Wines, a small importer with a diverse portfolio focused almost exclusively on small growers, especially ones who employ a non-interventionist approach in the vineyard and cellar. Jessica has been in the wine industry for nearly 20 years, with a career spanning restaurant, retail, wine education and consultation. Bowler Wines is well-known as the most important US importer of wines from the Canary Islands.
Walking through the grocery store, you might see the word "natural" on a huge variety of items. But what does it mean in reference to wine? Natural wine is a sweeping trend in Spain at the moment. As our education through Spanish wine continues, this is one section that we can't skip over. We've discussed and tasted several regions, wine making methods from stainless steel to amphora, sparkling wines, and even Asturian cider. In March, we are diving into Spain's natural wine movement.
Natural wine is a new world for a lot of us. I will acknowledge that they have a bad reputation in some circles. We're here to break down that barrier. After all, natural wines have always been there – they're the foundation that modern wine was built on today. And, they are making a resurgence for good reason – they're intricate, interesting, and delicious. We love natural wines as well as the other styles mentioned above. There's room for everyone at the Cúrate table.
Enter, Alvaro with Selections de la Viña! My friend and partner in crime. He's bringing the best of Spain's natural wines to the US right now, and he's the guide for this journey. Alvaro chose three beautiful and highly regarded examples of natural wines for this month's shipment.
We'll begin with Cauzón, a tempranillo wine by winemaker Ramon Saavedra. Ramon believes that his terruño – his land – "speaks for itself," without much of what we think of as winemaking required. Next is MicroBio, and aromatic 100% Verdejo with a hazy sunrise color in the glass. Winemaker Ismael Gozalo has been named "El Mago de las Verdejos," or, Wizard of the Verdejos, after the way his process resembles pure sorcery! This is a winemaker that exceeds all expectations even when we think we've seen it all!
Lastly is the beautiful, golden Toledo Pampaneo Ancestral; made with a grape that we normally see in Spanish brandy, the Airén grape. The result here is an herbaceous, bubbly sparkling white.
Prepare to taste wine rooted in tradition. Grapes are handpicked, native yeasts are used alongside natural fermentation. You won't find any additives here. These wines are intact and alive! Alvaro calls them "Viños Vivos!"
February is here, and soon we will be welcoming spring in the mountains. Before that happens, we're sure to have a few more chilly nights in quarantine - February's wines will be there to warm you up!
This month, we partnered with importer Nuria Garrote i Esteve of VinºVi & Co. to bring you a selection of memorable wines! Nuria was born in Barcelona, so she's from the same area of Spain where I was born - Catalunya. Her portfolio is exciting. It's a roster of small growers and producers that are on the cutting edge of modern wine-making in Spain. All three of the wines in this shipment are harvested by hand and have small production – the 2018 ONA Penedes Blanc being the smallest at less than 500 cases! Sticking with ONA Penedes Blanc for a moment, it's bright and exceptionally clean and structured, with acidity that complements a variety of foods. Winemaker Raimon Badell Rosés makes this with 100% Xarel-lo, a native grape used primarily for cava, but used here in a still wine that’s also organic and low sulfite.
Moving on to the reds - Castell d'Encús Thalarn is a red Costers del Segre from the Pyrenees – farmed at about 2,950 feet (about the same altitude as many locations around Asheville!) This wine is made from 100% Syrah by winemaker Raül Bobet, who also makes some of the most well-received Priorat wines in Spain at the moment. If you're looking for an option to cellar – this would be great! This wine is a true “Vin de Garde,” and continues to develop with age. This wine is really unique, in Raül’s winemaking process the wine is fermented in recovered 12th century stone pools called “Lagares” in a historical monastery in Catalunya.
Lastly, Pas Curtei – a blend of Merlot, Carinyena and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has intense red and black fruit aromas, with a medium body. Overall, it is powerful, but well-balanced, and pairs well with many of the hearty winter dishes we are enjoying this season!
Can't wait to hear your feedback on these – see you on the next virtual tasting and cooking demo, save the date for February 24th!
My dear wine family, it is with optimism and excitement that we kick off the first monthly wine club shipment of the new year! 2020 was hard for all of us, but you've shown us tremendous support and we are forever thankful.
The wines we've chosen for January reflect a little bit of a sentimental side. We're working with a great friend, importer Patrick Mata of Olé & Obrigado to bring you this month's shipment. Olé & Obrigado focuses on fine wines crafted by family-owned wineries in Spain and Portugal. Collaborators Patrick Mata, Alberto Orte, and Rui Abecassis have built Olé & Obrigado into a highly specialized wine importer, with one of the best selections of Spanish wines available to the U.S. Patrick, our partner for this month’s selection, has worked alongside Cúrate for years, and also supplied wines for last year's Cúrate pop-up at Chefs Club in New York. Make sure to check out Patrick’s video that showcases each of the wines in our January Wine Club!
This month, we are highlighting the nuances of the Tintilla varietal - rare, historical and delicious. The two red wines in your shipment have different personalities, but are both made from 100% Tintilla, and both made by winemaker Alberto Orte. Vara y Pulgar and Atlántida are from the area around Cádiz, in Southwest Spain next to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The unique climate in this area makes the soil a salty, pure white chalk that is heavy in minerals; over time it has been found that the Tintilla grape is the most ideal variety to grow in these conditions. The third wine is the beautiful Leirana - an Albariño from the coastal side of DO Rías Baixas. Winemaker Rodrigo Mendez (some call him the “king of Albariño”) takes an approach in his winemaking that honors historical processes of fermentation, and the maritime terroir and minimal intervention methods are evident in this wine. Try it with seafood of any kind or the classic pulpo a la gallega for a beautiful pairing. We are so proud to share these beautiful wines with you. Let us know what you think by tagging us on Instagram @curatewineclub!
Cheers to 2021!
From wine dinners to visits to the vineyard, our relationship with Bodegas Emilio Moro is by far one of our favorites. We selected these wines for our December shipment because they are exactly what Katie and I would choose to drink during the holiday season with our family. All three wines are exceptionally pleasing on the palate, and superb examples of the product from Ribera del Duero.
“Wine is an art; if you know how to listen, it tells you when it needs decanting and how long it needs to rest. Wine is a living being that you must listen to, care for and caress.” – D. Emilio Moro
When making wine, it is important to find a balance between alcohol, acidity, and structure. Bodegas Emilio Moro believes that, in the same way, to create a great winery they must establish balance between tradition, innovation, and social responsibility. Their commitment and passion for wine has extended through three generations of the Moro family for over 120 years, and what they produce is truly exceptional!
The Ribera del Duero region, our focus for December Wine Club, is located in the Northern Plateau where the four provinces of the Autonomous Community of Castile and León meet. Like much of the world’s great wine regions, Ribera del Duero lies on the bank of a major river, the Río Duero. A DO’s terroir strongly helps define the personality of the wines produced, and this region in particular allows for the bold flavor of the Tempranillo grape to shine. The Tinto Fino variety of Tempranillo thrives in this region and lends the wines a distinct character that we love!
All three of these wines are made from Tempranillo grapes, which is classic of the region. The most unconventional of the three is Hito Rosado. It's clean and crisp as you would expect a rose to be, however it has a warmth to it that makes it especially enjoyable for the season. Produced by Cepa 21, a project that began nearly 20 years ago with José Moro and siblings, the third generation of the family wine cellar Emilio Moro. Cepa 21 is recognized as a basis of modern winemaking in Ribera del Duero.
Finca Resalso is well structured and displays the characteristics of Tempranillo impeccably. It tastes established and regal, yet humble. On the other hand Malleolus is more intense and rich, even grand. Both would be perfect with headline dishes of the holiday season - especially with grilled lamb or other red meat. If you have the Curate cookbook, the pairing of the Ribeye Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce, Entrecot al Cabrales, and the Malleolus will blow your mind! These are as warm and honest as the Moro family, and I can't wait for you to try them.
When we talk about the traditions of Northern Spain, there is no better portfolio to pull from than André Tamers with DeMaison Selections. We’re throwing you a curveball with the second wine shipment, so stick with us! With our focus on Northern Spain, we had to include sidra natural from Asturias! Poma Áurea Brut Nature is reminiscent of a traditional dry cider, but with a twist. Unlike most sidras, this one is sparkling, with bubbles similar to a champagne or cava! The Remelluri is a treat - a true mountain Rioja. It’s an iconic Spanish wine with grapes grown in an even more iconic landscape, by wine visionary Telmo Rodriguez and his team. Lastly, Ostatu Blanco. Ostatu delivers incredible quality, value, and soul in each harvest. We have visited this winery with Cúrate Trips in the past, and really admire the Sáenz de Samaniego family’s dedication to both tradition and innovation. Their dedication shows through their wines. Find me on Instagram at @felixmeana to let me know if you enjoy them!
Northern Spain is known for its bold wines and crisp ciders. This month we dive into the DO of Rioja and Asturias, featuring two wines and one cider, with André Tamers from DeMaison Selections, one of our favorite wine importers. André is a French and American citizen with extensive experience throughout all levels of the wine trade since beginning his career in 1985. Having previously lived in France, he moved to Barcelona in 1992, where he studied painting at the well-known Escola Eina. During this sabbatical period, he traveled extensively throughout the viticultural regions of Europe, where he developed the relationships which would form the basis of DeMaison Selections. André's fluency in French and Spanish has been influential in discovering independent, family-owned producers who are committed to meaningful, sustainable, and long-lasting partnerships. DeMaison Selections is the exclusive US importer of exceptional wines, ciders, sherries and spirits from a family of independent producers in Spain and France. We love these wines and look forward to sharing them with you!
The Rioja wine region, home to two of our November selections, is known for being one of the oldest and most famous denominations of origin in Spain. Settled between the Sierra Cantabria and Sierra de la Demanda mountains in the northern part of the country, Rioja’s rolling landscapes and incredible wines have resulted in it being touted as “the Tuscany of Spain.” This DO is broken into three separate regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa. The vineyards of Rioja are spread along the Ebro River, from the town of Haro to Alfaro, totaling over 158,000 acres of planted grapes! The climate in this region is influenced by the surrounding Cantabrian Mountains, which provide shelter from the Atlantic Ocean. This results in a warmer and drier climate than areas more north of Rioja. Soils range with each plot of land, but the finest contain high levels of limestone. Rioja Alavesa, where our November wines are produced, is known to produce wines with a full body and high acidity.
Our featured cider, or sidra, comes from Asturias, a Spanish hub for apple orchards and cider production, where more than 80% of Spanish cider is made! Sidra has been an important part of Spanish tradition for many centuries, dating back as early as the 1st century B.C. Part of the Spanish sidra experience is watching your drink be served – the traditional way involves holding the bottle about 2 feet above your glass while pouring, incorporating extra air bubbles into this effervescent drink. You won’t want to do this with the Poma Áurea though, it’s a traditional cider that’s been through a secondary fermentation, bringing us a carbonated cider with bubbles similar to champagne or cava. Don’t forget, sidra pairs wonderfully with tapas!
Meet Josep of La Vinyeta. Two of the wines in our October shipment are from Empordà - my hometown. It was a pleasure to meet and get to know Josep and Marta a few years ago. It's amazing and exciting to watch their winery grow. La Vinyeta is a small vineyard and olive farm located in the heart of the Empordà, in Mollet de Peralada. It is a young, family company that is the fruit of effort and ambition. The origin of this project dates back to 2002,when two old Carignan and Grenache vineyards —aged between 55 and 80 years were purchased. From that moment on, more and more vines were planted, up to the present 30 hectares. The project was consolidated in 2006 with the construction of the winery and the production of the first wines. In 2009, La Vinyeta became one of the first wineries to adopt Integrated Production, an environmentally friendly cultivation system.
Josep! We're so happy to feature your wines!
Welcome everyone! Felix here.
I was born in the town of Roses, Spain - on the Costa Brava - just northeast of Barcelona. If you've been, you love it. The beaches of the Mediterranean Sea lie on one side, and on the other, the Spanish wine DO of Empordà. Salty breezes and mild weather make this top destination for wine and seafood lovers, and a perfect place to take a vacation and submerse yourself in the culture.
The Costa Brava is named for its rugged and rocky terrain. It's part of Catalonia, so natives speak Catalan as a primary language rather than Castillian Spanish - if you're reading a wine label from this region and the language looks unfamiliar, that could be why! The coastline is breathtakingly beautiful, and the tourism economy of the seaside towns and villages supports restaurants and wineries alike. Roses is the site of the former elBulli by Ferran Adrià - well recognized as one of the best restaurants in the world at the time. It's a place close to our hearts, because Katie and I spent a couple of seasons there together - it made a tremendous impact on us and helped define the path we're on now! We try to get back there every year to make sure it still feels like home for us and the kids - and it does.
Where better to start our very own Cúrate Spanish Wine Club other than in Catalonia, with a focus on Empordà - my home wine region.
Although not the most well known of Spain's wine regions, Empordà is very special and diverse (I might be partial!). Classically known for easy drinking rose that can be enjoyed alongside the incredible seafood and beautiful beaches, Empordà is attracting a host of young and exciting winemakers. My good friend, Marta Plana (The Winetones) knows the region and the wines like the back of her hand, and is one of our favorite importers to work with. For our first shipment, we'll pull from Marta's portfolio - we can't wait to share them with you!
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