Almost ten years ago, Adam and I spent our very first holiday together in beautiful Barcelona; I can vividly remember those days spent enjoying the sunshine and sipping cava and evenings tasting incredible tapas with a bottle of rioja. So, when Selina and Nick from Oxford Chelt Wine School invited us to join them for their Spanish Food and Wine evening at The Wyastone Town House, we didn’t to hesitate to say si, si por favor!
After a warm welcome from Nick, we quickly kicked off the evening with a glass of The Society’s Cava Reserva NV Brut from Catalonia. I’m certainly no wine buff, but even I could pick out flavours in this beauty. For me, this had a rich creamy brioche flavour which really brought out the flavours of the tortilla and the lemony garlic mayonnaise it was paired with.
What I found interesting is that this cava is a little different to the usual bottles; Nick explained it’s made using a small amount of chardonnay grapes in addition to the traditional Macabeo, Parallada and Xarel.lo varieties. Who knew there was quite so much to making wine? Well, Nick actually.
During the evening we managed to work our way across several more regions of Spain, with Nick explaining how the type and taste of wine produced is dependent on the regional climate and terrain. To demonstrate this regional difference, we just had to experience several more glasses of delicious Spanish wine and some seriously yummy food – win win!
Amongst our favourites was: a Manzanilla (which is similar to Fino Sherry) paired with tasty Banderillas; think briny olives, sharp pickles and peppers on a skewer; a fruity and acidic Albariño with anchovies on toast, and a 12 year old PX Sherry which was intensely sweet; the perfect dessert wine for accompanying rich chocolate brownies or, as served at the tasting, homemade spiced caramelised almonds.
There were two standout pairings for me though. The first was the Garnacha Rosado from Navarra, just north of Rioja in Northern Spain. This rich, fruity rosé was nicely acidic and slipped down far easier than the slightly higher 13.5% ABV would suggest. This was perfectly matched with slices of meaty chorizo, and would certainly be a great choice on a warm evening, accompanied with a selection of charcuterie.
The second stand out was a silky Rioja Reserva which was oaky, with strong notes of cherry and rich leather. That I enjoyed this wine so much rather surprised me; I’ll rarely choose a glass of red if offered the choice. The Rioja was paired with one of my favourite cheeses, manchego, which probably influenced my enjoyment if I’m honest; I just love cheese and anything that brings out the flavours is alright with me!
Who is wine tasting aimed at?
Nick is clearly an expert when it comes to wine, but the evening wasn’t at all stuffy or exclusive. Nick is a really friendly chap and the tasting was perfectly pitched to suit total newbies like me, as well as more educated wine lovers like Adam. I never felt overloaded, and Adam said he felt engaged and had still learnt a few things too.
Happily, Nick even shared his golden rules for pairing wine and food with us. You’ll have to book onto a course for the full list, but one thing that I really took away was to trust your own instincts and go with what you like. If an Albariño or a Rioja isn’t for you, you’ll never enjoy it regardless of what you pair it with. Try different wines and pairings but don’t feel like you are doing it wrong if you don’t like a recommendation; just enjoy it for yourself!
Where can I find out more about Oxford Chelt Wine School?
If you’re keen to impress with your wine knowledge, I’d highly recommend heading along to a tasting evening. Don’t worry if wine isn’t your thing though as they do gin tastings too!
With Christmas fast approaching, you could even give the gift of wine to your loved ones. Check out the Oxford Chelt Wine School website for more details of upcoming tastings.