Rain boots and coffee cups?

Well, all good things must come to an end and yesterday the rain returned to Santiago with a vengeance. So what do I do when the weather gets bad? I turn to coffee as my coping method of choice. Massive amounts of coffee.

Which is why it might seem that “Rain Boots and Coffee Cups” would have been a more apt name for this blog, as it seems that I’m spending an inordinate amount of time talking about the coffee-and coffee culture- in Santiago. I promise I’ll move onto more wine-centric posts soon (I just bought two new to me bottles of Mencía (D.O. Valdeorras and Bierzo) today, so reviews to follow), but for now, in support of why the perfect cup of coffee is always on my mind, I present this article from La Voz de Galicia, probably the most important daily newspaper in the region, called “Nadie se queja del café malo”.

http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/noticia/vigo/2014/04/17/queja-cafe-malo/00031397760451167249638.htm?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=fbgen

In Engish, the title means: “No one complains about bad coffee.” And they’re talking about all of Spain, not just Galicia. And they’re not wrong, which is yet another reason why my quest to share the best coffee I try with the blogosphere is, in my mind, such a righteous cause. Ha.

Here are some of my favorite (well, more like “thanks for confirming what I long suspected”) quotes, translated, from the article:

  • 90% of all bars and cafés don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee.
  • “In a restaurant, if your steak or fish are not cooked right, you tell the waiter right away, but if you don’t like your cup of coffee, you suck it up and deal with it.”
  • “Coffee is not like wine, which comes in a bottle so all the waiter has to do is open it and serve it. With coffee, you have to know how to roast it, prepare it, cook it, and you can easily ruin it, just like most places in Spain do.”

All of this according to Galician barista Francisco Luis Blanco Valverde, the runner-up in the Spanish barista championships this year (he’s from Nigrán, near Vigo, so there’s a lot of local pride).

He works as a barista (well, technically a waiter, since the profession of barista is pretty much non-existent here) at a restaurant and hotel called Queimada, and also offers workshops on coffee tasting… I feel a road trip coming on. Here’s the link to the restaurant: http://queimada.com/

And for some of my favorite cafés in Santiago, here’s a link to one of the first posts I wrote, listing my top 5 in terms of coffee quality and overall ambience:

https://rainbootsandwineglasses.wordpress.com/what-to-seea-donde-ir/

I think for the best cup of coffee, though, it’s a toss up between La Industrial and Tertulia (both places are described in-depth in the above link). Probably better quality coffee at La Industrial (only Illy espresso is used) and better preparation at Tertulia.

Happy cupping!

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¿Me guardas el secreto?/Can you keep a secret?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Galician Tourism Board (TurGalicia) had an ad campaign last year that I loved called “Galicia, ¿me guardas el secreto?”

Literally translated to English, it means something along the lines of: “Galicia…Can you keep a secret?” Which just sounds…weird. So I like to think of it more along the lines of “Galicia, just between us…” which sounds more enticing and exclusive and less, well, creepy.

Normally I don’t worry about keeping my beloved Galicia a secret. The rain does the work for me. But on days like today, when every angle of the Cathedral is bathed in the most brilliant sunlight, I start to get worried. I mean, look at this:

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The Plaza de Azabachería facade of the Cathedral. Not the best picture of the architecture, but google images has plenty of those pics. Focus on that bright yellow instead…

Or this:

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San Martín Pinario Monastery, opposite the Cathedral. One of my favorite facades in the city, today with the extra bonus of a busker.

Or, later in the day, from the balcony of the Alameda facing out towards Campus Sur:

 

 

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I love, love, love this view. While it’s really just a short boulevard with a near-defunct government building at the end, it has such a grand, big-city feel to it, no?

Even Poppi (my dog) agreeably posed for pictures in the Alameda, only taking off once to greet (and by greet, I mean “run up to barking wildly, stop 5 feet away, continue barking, and then freak out when other dog attempts to approach him) his archnemesis, a beagle named Churro. He then patiently waited for me to apply filter after filter to the originals until he looks like he was photoshopped into one of those Wild West photobooths at a country fair.

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I’m trying to have a lighter hand with the editing tools at my disposal. Remember, Stacy: Just because you CAN use it, doesn’t mean you HAVE to.

And to top it all off, a bottle of this was waiting for me in the fridge when I got home from teaching:

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This is my go-to wine: Señorío de Rubiós Condado do Tea.

This wine is perfect. And I’m not the only one who thinks so:

http://bodegas-cotoredondo.com/noticiasDetalle_en.asp?id=19. (Seriously, it was named the best Galician white wine–out of, you know 180 or so wines–at last years “Túnel do vino” at the Santiago Parador, which I attended. And yes, “Túnel do Vino” does mean “Wine Tunnel.” It is as spectacular as it sounds and I will blog about it again this July).

The Señorío de Rubiós is 4.25 cents at my local Gadis (grocery store, Galician owned), and if I’m ever too lazy to sort through the sometimes-overwhelming wine selection, this is the bottle I reach to, because I know it will never disappoint me.

Embarrassing anecdote to finish this post: I found out about this wine thanks to Abastos 2.0, one of Santiago’s best (new-ish?) restaurants. My best friends got me a gift certificate there for Christmas/New Years/Reyes. I took a friend, and it was a spectacular meal, with 8 courses and a wine pairing for each course. When the waiter poured a glass of this to accompany a dish of meijillones a la marinera (mussels, ummm…a la marinera?), I was eager to impress him with my wine knowledge, and I drunkenly read the label and thought “Hmm, Condado do Tea”, what can I do with that? So I took a sip and said, “Wow, you can really taste the tea”. Except really, the Condado do Tea is actually just a wine growing region within the Rías Baixas known for being the “cradle of Albariño.”

…The More You Know (Oh, and more than 10 bottles later, I actually stand by that initial assessment: There are definitely notes of white tea present there).

 

 

A Caffeinated Easter Miracle

I love a well-made café con leche, I do. I love them so much I can drink upwards of 5 or 6 a day. They’re so small, so easily swallowed in one or two gulps (maximum 4, but that’s only if I’m having a coffee with Spanish friends and want to impress them with how delicate and ladylike I am, how very un-American), that they must be harmless, right? Wrong. Those little guys are loaded with a lot of really strong espresso, and then when you dump half a packet of sugar into them, they start to really pack a punch.

Plus, one or two might be a bargain, price wise (the average price is around 1-1,20 euros for a café con leche in Santiago, but expect to pay more if you sit outside, if you go to a tourist hot-spot, if you go anywhere on Rúa do Franco, or if you speak loads of English and/or really bad Spanish), but buy four of these babies and you’re spending around 5 euros.

Which is why I broke down and bought myself a single-serve coffee dispenser (Tassimo, if you must know, and I really like it. It’s a sassy red color, and the coffee options are great. Some nice fair trade organic blends) for my apartment, because you guys, I was going broke writing my thesis at cafés. Plus, you know, all the weird stares you get for bringing your laptop to a café like a clueless foreigner. It sounds like a complaint, but about 90% of the time, I actually LOVE the restaurant/bar/café culture here: people actually sit and talk to each other and pay attention to their fellow human beings. But that other 10% of the time, I really wish I could just order a bottomless cup of coffee, pull out my laptop and dissertate/blog/email away without the aghast stares of an 80 year old woman boring into the side of my head.

But that life is not my life now, and I’m a better person for it (except when I’m not).

Enter the “Easter miracle” part of this post, lest you think I’d forgotten, and yes, it does have to do with coffee.

A Hazelnut Latte…To Go!

Un avellana latte de Mercerdes Mora/A hazelnut latte from Mercedes Mora

Un avellana latte de Mercerdes Mora/A hazelnut latte from Mercedes Mora

This is a significant discovery in Santiago for a few reasons:

  • That is a proper to-go cup with a lid and everything. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen one of those? (easy answer: since the last time I was in the US). Plus, when I asked for it “para llevar”, I wasn’t greeted with the normal side-eye that accompanies such a request.
  • They have other flavors as well, including: canela (cinnamon), vainilla (I’m hoping you can guess that one), almendra (almond) and dulce de leche (self-explanatory).
  • And my favorite: They come in two sizes, XL and XXL. OK, so the XL is “only” 12 ounces, but guess what? That’s about 8 ounces more coffee than I normally get. And the XXL is a mind-blowing 16 ounces.

Today’s coffee-induced euphoria brought to you by the bakery, chocolatier, and all around dream maker Mercedes Mora. With two locations, one in the Historic Quarter on Rúa do Vilar (right across the street from the Oficina de Turismo de Santiago) and the other right around the corner from my apartment in the New Town on Rúa Fray Rosendo Salvado, there’s no reason for me to suppress that little voice in my head that whispers, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a ‘Stacy-sized’ coffee today?”

Visit Mercedes Mora online at: http://www.mercedesmora.com/

And if you’re in Santiago this week, be sure to peer into the windows of every pastelería (bakery) you pass; the Easter displays are a thing of beauty. Most of them are made out of entirely homemade objects, all completely edible. Think marshmallows, lots and lots of marshmallows, chocolate eggs, bonbons, rock candy…

This is actually the amazing edible art from Pastelería Herma on Alfredo Brl

This is actually the amazing edible art from Pastelería Herma on Rúa Alfredo Brañas. At least twice a day I have to pass this place–temptation central, as I call it–when out walking my dog. 

Commence diabetic coma in 3…2…1

Semana Santa in Santiago: Come for the Cathedral, Stay for the Culture

Happy Semana Santa, everyone! Now, Santiago de Compostela doesn’t do Semana Santa quite like Sevilla…

A behind-the-scenes glance at Semana Santa 2013, Sevilla

A behind-the-scenes glance at Semana Santa 2013, Sevilla

…with their 24-7 TV coverage of the most elaborate processionals money can buy and hordes of tourists, which I think is GREAT. I prefer the lower-scale, more intimate nature of Santiago’s Semana Santa, plus I’ve never been robbed in an ice cream parlour on Good Friday here either (if you do go to Sevilla for Semana Santa, which you should experience at least once in your life because it is, in the words of my beloved Moulin Rouge “spectacular, spectacular, no words in the vernacular,” I have but two words of advice: Watch yo’self).

Case in point: Last year my dad came to visit me in Santiago and we spent a lovely, low-key holy week in and around Santiago, in spite of the rain that threatened to wash us away at any instant.

Ups! (that's "whoops" in Spanish for you). Just realized you can see more of me than the procession in the background. On the bright side, that's a nice red lip I'm sporting.

Ups! (that’s “whoops” in Spanish for you). Just realized you can see more of me than the procession in the background. On the bright side, that’s a nice red lip I’m sporting.

Don’t I look happy? That’s because for this Maundy Thursday procession at around 10pm we were two of maybe 50 total people watching. I will suffer crowds if I must, but nothing makes me happier (and yes, satisfies my smug inner hipster) than feeling like I walked into a secret event (and seriously, we almost did walk directly into the float carrying the Virgin).

Most people consider Semana Santa to be when Santiago’s tourist season really kicks into high gear. It is when occupancy rates in most hotels go up, like at my beloved Hostal dos Reis Católicos:

Exterior facade of the gorgeous, historic five star Hostal dos Reis Católicos.

Exterior facade of the gorgeous, historic (oldest operating hotel in the world!) five star Hostal dos Reis Católicos. Did I mention I worked there last year? Real talk: this place is amazing. I’ll be doing a post just on them soon.

And to a certain extent, that is true. There are definitely more pilgrims here than in January, for example, and today I ran into no fewer than 4 separate tour groups of at least 15 people each (one was Russian, one Japanese, one Portuguese and one French…don’t let anyone tell you Santiago isn’t international!). But if you take into account the fact that a lot of locals and 99% of the university students have fled the city, it all balances out.

I honestly forgot until now that I was going to use this post to complain about the fact that so many shops and restaurants have reduced hours during Semana Santa. I really was going to whinge, I promise, but somewhere in these past 20 minutes I convinced myself to be happy that I live here and get to experience so much culture, so much history, so much life, during this special week.

And that, folks, is as sentimental as I get.

 

Sunshine and cupcakes…In Santiago?

It has been raining for so long here in Santiago that I had forgotten how absolutely gorgeous the city is when it’s NOT raining. Yes, “la lluvia es arte” (rain is art) here, but sunshine makes life so, so much better.

Guess I won’t be needing these for awhile! (And by a while I mean until Tuesday, when the rain returns with a vengeance. One positive thing about this weather is it teaches you to live in the moment and enjoy each little ray of sun that comes your way.)

My new Hunter rain boots, which I resisted getting for so long because everyone and their mother has them here in Santiago. Turns out it's for a good reason: these boots don't let a drop of water in!

My new Hunter rain boots, which I resisted getting for so long because everyone and their mother has them here in Santiago. Turns out it’s for a good reason: these boots don’t let a drop of water in!

This guy was so happy the weather was nice he dragged me on a 45 minute walk through the Alameda:

That face is saying, "Walkies? Sunshine! Now!"

That face is saying, “Walkies? Sunshine! Now!”

Which is quite a long time for a 13 year old Chihuahua! (and his out-of-shape momma!)

By far the best part of this walk was getting the chance to actually look at new shops that I would have otherwise missed holding an umbrella and focusing on keeping the spitting rain out of my eyes. (Fun vocab lesson of the day: In Spanish, spitting rain is “calabobos”, which kind of sort of means “shut up, crazy person”).

Look what I found! Tosta e Tostiña!

Look at these cupcakes! Vaya cupcakes!

Look at these cupcakes! Vaya cupcakes!

How cute is this café?

It looks like a cross between an English teahouse and an American bakery, which makes it about the cutest thing ever.

It looks like a cross between an English teahouse and an American bakery, which makes it about the cutest thing ever.

It’s right next to La Industrial, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but this place is a veritable cupcake-lover’s heaven. Plus, the oven looks like an old-school Easy Bake Oven (I was assured it’s fully functional)

The owner does all her baking in this tiny oven and all her decorating on the tiny counter. Talent!

The owner does all her baking in this tiny oven and all her decorating on the tiny counter. Talent!

Not sure if you can read the menu, but they also have iced tea (which I have NEVER seen on a menu here before), fresh squeezed juices and fruit smoothies (again, a rarity)

Not sure if you can read the menu, but they also have iced tea (which I have NEVER seen on a menu here before), fresh squeezed juices and fruit smoothies (again, a rarity)

Apparently this place has been open for two months, but because I’m apparently blind, today was the first time I’ve even seen it. It should go without saying it if I’m already so enamored, but there is indeed free wi-fi. And the coffee is good. And they have iced tea, and goddamn it if I don’t see a “batidos” (fruit smoothie) section on their menu as well!

So there are two morals here: 1) Stay on the lookout for new, creative, unique places in Santiago. They’re popping up all over! and 2) If you’re ever walking through the Alameda and find yourself in front of a restaurant with this adorable logo:

Tosta e tostiña, Avda de la Coruña, 3

Tosta e tostiña, Avda de la Coruña, 3

Go have a cupcake and a coffee! And let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

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Aquí empieza el post en castellano para mis seguidores hispanohablantes:

Son muchas las cosas que me gustan de vivir en Santiago, pero cuando hace sol, este número aumenta de modo exponencial. Os pongo un ejemplo: ayer paseaba con mi perro durante unos 45 minutos por la Alameda cuando decidí bajar por las escaleras a la avenida de la Coruña…por qué? Porque hizo sol y no queríamos volver a casa :)…y vi por la primera vez este logotipo precioso:

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Tosta e tostiña!

Con una pizarra fuera para anunciar el plato del día, en este caso un café + un cupcake. Me pregunté: Ostras, ¿seguro que estoy en Santiago y no he vuelto a mi tierra? Sé que los cupcakes se han puesto muy de moda últimamente en España, gracias a blogueras como Alma de Objetivo Cupcake, pero pensaba que era una cosa más de Madrid o Barcelona, no de aldeas como Santiago. Obviamente me había equivocado y volví a Tosta e tostiña por la tarde (después de darle a comer al perro en casa) para tomarme un café y un cupcake y hacer unos deberes en el ipad, como si estuviera en Portland, Oregon.

Lo pasé genial. El café, rico. El cupcake, rico. El wifi gratis: presente y rápido. El aguantar la presencia de una verdadera extranjera (yo) con su portátil preguntando si hay wifi por parte de la gerente? Muy agradecido 🙂

Para tomarte un cupcake, pasar una hora con amigos en el interior super guay, o para trabajar un rato con su portátil…A Tosta e tostiña!

 

Marqués de Terán: el vino y el medioambiente

Una advertencia: De vez en cuando publicaré algunos posts en este blog que no tienen nada que ver con Galicia, a primera vista. El objetivo es intentar abrir un poco mi perspectiva y la de mis seguidores sin preocuparme demasiado por fronteras geográficas. En todo caso, este post sí tiene algo que ver con Galicia: fui a una cata de vinos (de La Rioja, definitivamente una comunidad “extranjera”) con maridaje de comida en el restaurante De Market Vinoteca en Coruña, así cumple con el requisito del blog que cada post tenga un 50% de contenido gallego. 

Vale, chicos. Reconozco una cosa: me encanta el vino, los que me conocen saben que es cierto. Pero los conocimientos que realmente tengo del vino–como catarlo, sobre todo–son muy pocos. Es cierto que no suelo tener problemas a la hora de catar porque soy bastante buena actriz. Fingir saber es un don que poseo desde mi infancia 🙂 Lo que sí sé muy bien son las tendencias del mercado de vino aquí en Galicia, las tasas y leyes de exportación y de precios medios (gracias al Máster que cursé en Turismo en la USC), pero cuando llega el momento de identificar el aroma de un vino, doy una de dos respuestas: si es un tinto, digo: huele a pimienta (y la verdad es que la mayoría de los tintos huelen a pimienta), y si es un blanco comento que huele a frutos cítricos. No suelo equivocarme con estos dos olores.

Pero me gustaría saber más de la enología, y es por eso que me apunté tan rápido al evento–una cata y maridaje de comidas de los vinos de Marqués de Terán, D.O. La Rioja–cuando Victoria Lara y Mar Mirón de Guía Peñín en Madrid me invitaron. Escogieron el restaurante De Market Vinoteca en Calle Payo Gómez en Coruña y no pudieran haber escogido un mejor local, de verdad.

Here's an inside photo of De Market Vinoteca. Love the stone walls and the natural light!

Una foto del interior de De Market Vinoteca: me encantó la luz natural combinada con las lámparas instaladas en las paredes.

Aquí os adjunto un enlace al Facebook de De Market Vinoteca. https://www.facebook.com/vinotecademarket.

Yo, Manuel García, Susan Mann, Mar Mirón en De Market Vinoteca, A Coruña

Manuel García Ortega empezó con una breve exposición acerca de la historia de la bodega pero se centró más–y con mucha razón–en el valor añadido que aporta: la innovación medioambiental. Cuando cambió de tema para hablar del medioambiente y la producción ecológica de vinos, empecé a prestar más atención porque: 1) soy americana y como todos saben, a los americanos nos interesa mucho el tema del medioambiente (nos da la sensación de que seamos consumidores más responsables…) y 2) es un tema importante para la diferenciación de los vinos españoles en los mercados internacionales.

La bodega ganó un premio i&d en 2008 por su uso de la geotermia para calentar los miles de litros de agua que la bodega usa cada día, ahorrando en electricidad y recibiendo el famoso sello de color verde de una huella que se encuentra en todas las botellas de vino que venden.

The famous green footprint! Congratulations to Marqués de Terán.

Esta huella ha sido muy importante para abrir mercados internacionales tales y como el alemán, el chino y el estadounidense.

La diferenciación medioambiental ha ayudado mucho a abrir mercados internacionales, pero el mercado español es distinto: os pongo el ejemplo que nos dio Manuel:

“El mercado español es más complicado…si un vino es ecológico o emplea energía alternativa, te van a decir que les encanta la idea, pero si el PVP final es sólo 50 céntimos más caro, van a optar por el vino más barato, casi siempre.”

Por lo que veo yo, el problema es así: los españoles se han acostumbrado a pagar 3-5 euros (como mucho) por una botella de vino de calidad. Con este precio medio de 3 euros, un aumento de 50 céntimos significa casi un incremento de un 20% del total. Pero en EE.UU., el precio medio de un vino tinto es sobre 10 USD, y una etiqueta o sello tal como la huella de carbano suele aumentar el precio por un poco menos de un dólar, que es, al fin y al cabo, un incremento de menos de 10%.

Otro factor importante, y uno que me hizo cliente por vida: Marqués de Terán compra sus uvas de los viticultores locales por un precio justo y bajo condiciones que favorecen a los viticultores. Esta política debería formar parte de su estrategia de diferenciación porque por lo menos en EE.UU., los productos del “comercio justo” han captado un segmento importante del mercado (un segmento que no es muy sensible a los precios).

Marqués de Terán: Vino ecológico y de comercio justo. Un buen vino que te hace sentir bien.

Here are the 6 wines we tried from Marqués de Terán. Delicious!

Son estos los 6 vinos de la línea de Marqués de Terán que catamos. Ricos!

 

 

Marqués de Terán and its “Green” Wine

Note: Sometimes I’ll post about events or products that aren’t strictly Galician but that took place here, or are popular here. I’m not a traitor, I swear, I’m just trying to open up my worldview and at the same time share things that have impressed me without worrying about geographic boundaries.

In this post, I’ll be writing about the Marqués de Terán (from La Rioja, which is to say most definitively NOT Galicia) wine tasting in La Coruña at the De Market Vinoteca (lovely place, definitely Galician).

OK, everyone. It’s time to speak truth to power. I love wine, I really do. But what I actually know—like really, truly understand—about how to properly taste wine could fit on one sheet of paper. One small sheet of paper. Granted, I can fake my way pretty well through most informal tastings (mainly by looking at what the person next to me is doing and copying them) and I can give you a lot of facts about what Galician wines are exported the most, why they’re successful, what the profit margin is for most large wineries, and what my personal favorites are, but when it come down to identifying notes of blank with a nose of huh? in any given glass, I’m lost.

Which is why I so deeply appreciate events like the one sponsored by the Marqués de Terán (D.O. La Rioja) winery this last Thursday at De Market Vinoteca in La Coruña. Not only was it a spectacularly well-organized event (and I don’t throw around compliments like that lightly here, where events are usually entertaining and fun, but rarely so well-planned) in a beautiful restaurant, but the tasting was organized specifically for people who didn’t want to bulls**t their way through yet another tasting on bouquets and noses and mouthfeel.

Here are the 6 wines we tried from Marqués de Terán. Delicious!

Here are the 6 wines we tried from Marqués de Terán. Delicious!

Manuel García Ortega focused the tasting of Marqués de Terán’s line of six wines from a buyer POV. What does that mean? Basically that he knows what most casual wine drinkers want (drinkability, value, easily paired with a number of tapas) and organized the tasting accordingly. Thank God.

I attended with my fellow American and blogger at GastroCamino, Susan Mann, who was invited by Victoria Lara and Mar Miñón from the famous Spanish wine guide Guía Peñín. While Victoria was unable to be in Coruña, together they pulled off a lovely tasting lunch in a perfect setting. Felicidades a las dos!

Here's an inside photo of De Market Vinoteca. Love the stone walls and the natural light!

Here’s an inside photo of De Market Vinoteca. Love the stone walls and the natural light!

Manuel’s talk on the history of the winery was informative, but when he started talking about “eco-friendly” winemaking, this little blogger’s ears perked up. All their wine is made with geothermal energy, which means that they have reduced their carbon footprint by about 85% in the past six years. Very cool, and so is this little guy they get to put on every bottle they sell:

The famous green footprint! Congratulations to Marqués de Terán.

The famous green footprint! Congratulations to Marqués de Terán.

 

The fascinating part here is that this footprint has given them a huge competitive advantage in markets like Germany, the US and China. But for your average Spanish consumer? Not so much. Here’s a little anecdote Manuel told:

“The Spanish market is more complicated. I’ll talk to any given consumer and they’ll tell me they like the idea but if an eco-friendly or organic wine costs even 50 cents more they’ll always go for the cheaper wine.”

For what it’s worth, my two cents on this topic are as follows: Spaniards are so used to paying 3-5 euros for a good bottle of wine that when your base price is 3 euros, a 50 cent increase is almost a 20% total price increase. Whereas in the US, our magic price point is around 10 dollars a bottle, with eco-friendly labels increasing the price by a little under a dollar, which averages out to just a 10% increase on the original price.

And one more good reason to choose Marqués de Terán: they treat their local farmers well, buying the grapes that they need at a very fair market value (trust me, not that many wineries do this, and hardly any in La Rioja) and buying early before spoilage sets in and their value decreases.

Marqués de Terán: Eco-friendly and fair trade. Tell your friends!

And the reason why a winery from La Rioja was in Coruña? Because Galicia, along with Basque Country, Asturias and Madrid, is one of their best, most loyal markets.

Before tasting each wine, we were told the price point, the weather for the year in question, the amount of time it was barrel-aged, the type of oak used (French or American) and the quality of grapes (on a scale of 1-10). Good, solid background information that a lot of tastings skip over.

Stacy’s fun wine fact of the day: The American market is difficult for a lot of Spaniards to really get a good handle on, mainly because we don’t care about really important things like “Denominación de Origen”/D.O.” which indicates what protected region in Spain this particular wine comes from. We tend to know grapes over regions. For example: How many of your order “un Rioja” when in the US? More likely you’ll order the “Tempranillo” (the main grape grown in la Rioja) or a specific winery.

The grapes that Marqués de Terán uses are 95% Temp., 3% Mazuelo and 2% Garanacha.

Of the six wines we tasted (in order of price, cheaptest to most expensive: Ollamundi, Crianza 2009, Reserva 2008, Selección especial 2011, Versum 2010, and Reserva Edición Limitada 2007), I preferred three for three very different reasons:

First recommendation:

For an easy to drink, affordable red, for my money the Ollamundi is your best bet. Glasses are around 2 euros at any bar, and the price for stores is about 5-6 euros (obviously, that price goes up in the US, but still, reasonable). Marqués de Terán said they listened to what their clientele wanted to make this wine, and it shows: it’s their most ordered wine at bars, cafés, and wine shops all around Spain.

The Ollamundi wine came paired with this tasty little tapa: pan tomaca (the Catalán staple of a toasted, sliced baguette rubbed with fresh tomato and olive oil) plus jamón ibérico de bellota (melts in your mouth), razor thin slices of a cured sheep’s milk cheese and a balsamic glaze.

Tapa #1: Pan tomaca con jamon ibérico de bellota y queso con una reducción de vinagre balsámico.

Tapa #1: Pan tomaca con jamon ibérico de bellota y queso con una reducción de vinagre balsámico.

Quick stats: OK year for weather, aged 14 months in an American oak barrel, notes of vanilla, pepper, berries but the taste and texture don’t linger too long in your mouth, making this ideal for drinking while out with friends (the better to talk).

Second recommendation:

The 2010 Versum. Some people at the tasting preferred the Selección especial 2011, since they’re both around the same price point (17-19 euros), but for me, when I order a nice bottle of Rioja, I want the wine to grab me by the throat and give me a nice shake (OK, that sounds a bit more violent than I intended, but you get the point). The Versum does that: it’s a bit more acidic, and it’s a younger wine (only aged 10 months in French oak barrels). Technically the winery says that the Versum is better for tasting, but I found it to be really lovely with the seafood skewer we were served as a second course (with roasted monkfish and crawfish)

Scandalous experiment: Pairing Rioja with seafood! But extremely successful!

Brocheta de rape y langostinos: Scandalous experiment: Pairing Rioja with seafood! But extremely successful!

Third recommendation:

The 2007 Reserva Edición Limitada. Would I drink this with my dinner? Absolutely not. But what I loved about Manuel’s description of this wine was that you could sub out your traditional post-dinner Gin and Tonic with a glass of this velvety, smooth goodness. I love it when wineries think like consumers and come up with “out of the box” uses for their wine, that some might consider sacreligious but that customers will really appreciate.

Quick stats: Great grape-growing year (especially great September for crush), aged 24 months in French oak barrels, only 3,000 bottles made, notes of honey and coconut without being sweet at all (miracle!) and really intense color.

Here’s Manuel posing with the pride and joy of Marqués de Terán:

Manuel García with the Edición Limitada Reserva

Manuel García with the Reserva Edición Limitada.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Manuel, Mar, Susan and myself. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Coruña!

From L to R: me, Manuel García, Susan Mann, Mar Mirón

From L to R: me, Manuel García, Susan Mann, Mar Mirón