A bit of all white


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Belondrade y Lurton has been deftly showcasing its enthusiasm for the Verdejo grape since 1994. Here the winery’s technical director and oenologist, Marta Baquerizo Mesonero-Romanos, discusses its unusual approach to crafting a white wine of immense refinement and complexity.

Didier Belondrade came across the Verdejo grape in 1992, and saw the incredible potential for a crisp young wine that would be able to mature in bottle. He also appreciated there was an opportunity to do a more serious style – not just a refreshing wine for tapas but one which can be enjoyed with a full meal, and drink up to six years after the vintage.

Our philosophy is we work 100 percent with our own vineyards. Everything we do is ecologically orientated, even though we don’t want to sell our wine as “eco wine” as such – the process is a means rather than an end. We intervene with the wine as little as possible. We do not use yeast, instead we wait until the fermentation begins spontaneously; in this way the terroir is able to express itself and write a little of the history that has taken place that year.

The goal was to create an estate winery, but at the beginning the vines weren’t aged enough to produce grapes that could ferment in barrel. Now we’re at that stage where everything is from our own vineyards. This allows us to do all our treatments exactly as we want to, and to have low yields that permit us enough structure to cope with barrel fermentation – an important tool that leads to a wine with the structure and capacity to age in bottle.

Rueda has a very continental climate. We’re at 750 metres above sea-level, which makes for very hot days in the summer, but also cold nights that ensure we can preserve acidity and display that freshness that’s needed for white wines. When Didier saw all these things, he decided to take a different approach that’s more in the vinification style of Burgundy, and Belondrade y Lurton became the first wine in Rueda to be made using barrel fermentation. Marqués de Riscal was the first to adopt ageing in barrel, but we were the pioneers of fermenting in barrel – not to give the touches of oak, rather to provide the wine with the capacity to age in bottle.

Ours is not a commonplace winery in Rueda. The average kilos that the Denominación de Origen permits is 10,000 kilograms per hectare, but we achieve around 5,500 kilograms per hectare. Everything is harvested by hand with sorting tables, and we vinify each plot separately because we have 19 different sites, each with its own unique soil type. We try to let each one express its personality – and then we assemble those lots to create a final wine that has a little of the characteristics of each site. It’s more than chemistry, it’s art.

Explore our spotlight on Spain further on bbr.com.

Category: Spanish Wine

A Spanish recipe from our kitchen


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As we focus on the wines of Rioja, Rías Baixas and beyond, our Head Chef Stewart Turner takes his inspiration from the country, combining salt cod, morcilla and chickpeas in this delicious recipe.

As autumn arrives so does our spotlight on Spain and when I was asked to provide a suitably-themed recipe, I was more than happy to oblige. My grandparents came from Granada in Andalucía and only last year (for the big Four-Oh) I went on a bit of a culinary pilgrimage to the Basque Country. With its nearly 40 Michelin-starred restaurants, the Basque Country is one of the best fine dining destinations in the world. From traditional to experimental dishes, it’s all there. We dined at the world famous Mugaritz and the new kid on the block Azurmendi – modernist cuisine at its best.

Lunch is the new dinner and leaves the evening to explore the old town of San Sebastián; it’s like a culinary Tardis, a warren of bars serving amazing Pintxos, which in essence is Basque for tapas. A foodie nirvana that reveals more of itself with each visit, although this brings problems of its own; having visited your favourites and sampled the specialties of each, there is little room for the new sensations that are hidden around the next corner. It’s not really a place for the calorie-conscious. Modern touches are not exclusive to the high-end dining either; there are some great wiz-pop experiences to be had in the old town. If there was a list of gastronomic wonders of the world, San Sebastián – in my opinion – would be right up there.

This recipe is my homage to Spain and the ingredients are those that spring to my mind when I think of Spanish cuisine: salt cod, morcilla, pulses (Spain produces fantastic pulses) and calçots – a thick green onion, the season of which will start next month and that has its own festival in January.

Seared pavé of salt cod with morcilla and chickpeasServes 6
  • 900g centre-cut cod loin – skinned
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • ½ lemons – zest and juice
  • 3 morcilla sausages – cut in half lengthways
  • 12 fat spring onions
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Unsalted butter for cooking

Mix the salt, sugar, lemon zest and crushed garlic; rub the mixture into the cod loin, cover and leave in the fridge for about two hours. Wash off the salt mix and pat dry, then cut into six 150g portions and return to the fridge.

Once all the components are ready, drizzle the onions with olive oil and season. Char them on a hot griddle pan, turning occasionally until cooked and nicely browned. Place the morcilla, cut-side up, on a baking sheet and cook under a hot grill for about five minutes. Place in a dish with the spring onions and keep warm.

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat a good splash of olive oil. Cook the fish over moderately high heat, turning every few minutes until golden brown all over. Add a good knob of unsalted butter near the end of cooking and baste with the foam. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, then place in the dish with the morcilla and keep warm.

Place a nice pile of chickpeas (recipe below) on each plate. Drape the spring onions over the top and sit the morcilla alongside and top with the cod (spoon over a big blob of romesco, if you have some).


  • 200g chickpeas – soaked overnight
  • 1 red onion – peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic clove – peeled and chopped
  • 1 red chilli – peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 pinch smoked paprika
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 6 tomatoes – peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 handful flat-leaf parsley – chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 15ml Sherry vinegar
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley – chopped

Place the soaked chickpeas in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then drain and rinse in cold water. Return to the pan and cover with the chicken stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer until tender (about an hour), topping up with water if necessary.

While the chickpeas are cooking, sweat the red onion, garlic and chilli in a good splash of olive oil until soft, then add the paprika and cook for a further minute. Add the tomato purée and again allow this to cook out for a few minutes, then pour in the Sherry vinegar. Mix in the diced tomato and cooked chick peas. Cover with a lid and allow the residual heat to just start to soften the tomato.

Finish with the chopped parsley if using imminently: if prepared in advance, the chickpeas can be chilled until needed but I would add the parsley after reheating.

Explore our annual spotlight on Spain at bbr.com/spain.

Category: Food & Wine,Spanish Wine

Gamay: Burgundy’s other red grape


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Moulin à Vent, photograph: Jason Lowe

Moulin-à-Vent, photograph: Jason Lowe

Martin Hudson MW expounds upon Gamay, the grape behind Beaujolais. Sometimes seen as a Burgundian outcast, this fruity varietal may be known for its confected Nouveau incarnation, but has a much more serious side.

Gamay is a relative newcomer to the world of wine, emerging as a result of a natural crossing between Pinot Noir and an unsung hero of the world of wine, Gouais Blanc, around eight centuries ago. Interestingly, the same coupling on another occasion produced Chardonnay, proving that reproduction in grapes is as random as it is in people. It was seized upon by the Burgundians for its resistance to disease, easy ripening, and ability to maintain fruit character at high yields, in marked contrast to its red parent. The rise in popularity of this newcomer at the expense of Pinot Noir was decried by some, including Philip the Bold, who in 1395 ordered that all Gamay vines be grubbed up by the following Easter – an edict that clearly was not followed.

Over the succeeding centuries, Gamay has found its place in Burgundy, in a supporting role in Passetoutgrains, but as the star of the show on the granitic soils of Beaujolais. The granite seems to add a backbone and weight to Gamay that the limestone soils of the Côte d’Or do not give. The Beaujolais region is split into three zones. In the south, the land is flatter, and the soils more clay based, giving the lighter, straightforward Beaujolais wines. Further north, granite hills surround the 10 villages that give their names to the Cru wines – St Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, the recently promoted Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. The more rolling terrain surrounding these hills and villages, with sandier granitic soils, is the source of Beaujolais-Villages. As ever in France, any DOP region with the suffix “Villages” is regarded as having better terroir than its suffix-deficient sibling.

So what are the wines like? Common threads are an abundance of red fruits and a refreshing character with relatively modest alcohol. A straightforward Beaujolais will often be made using a technique called “carbonic maceration”. The grapes are loaded into the fermentation tank as whole bunches, under a blanket of carbon dioxide. An enzyme-driven reaction occurs within the grapes, extracting masses of fruit flavour and colour from the inside of the skins, but very little tannin. One characteristic of this process is the creation of esters that are reminiscent of ripe bananas. Eventually the grapes burst open, and a more conventional fermentation completes the process of converting the grape juice sugars into alcohol, but those characteristics of abundant fruit and colour, but very low tannin, remain. This is the essence of much Beaujolais – light, fruity and easy-drinking, the perfect summer or lunchtime red.

Beaujolais-Villages wines tend to be more full-bodied, with perhaps half a percent more alcohol and more concentration of fruit. Some producers will use carbonic maceration for part of the wine, to boost the fruit character, others will make the wine as a conventional red, with some tannic structure. The Cru wines are definitely structured, with still more concentration, and individual characters, from the floral elegance of Fleurie and Chiroubles to the more robust wines of Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon and Côte de Brouilly. These are wines worthy of aging, and capable of developing an almost Pinot-like complexity with time.

The phenomenon of Beaujolais Nouveau is perhaps slightly passé in the UK, but is hugely popular in Japan and elsewhere in the world. These wines are made from Gamay grapes picked early but ripe, fermented quickly using carbonic maceration, and immediately filtered and bottled, to enable early release, historically on November 15th, but now on the third Thursday of November following the harvest. The annual race to be the first to deliver a bottle of the wine to London, made public in 1973, was rather spoiled when in the mid-1980s the RAF used motorcycle dispatch riders and a Harrier VTOL aircraft to beat all-comers.

Georges Duboeuf is the most famous producer of Beaujolais, but there are many smaller domaines whose dedication to the cause of raising quality in the region make them worth seeking out, particularly the appropriately named Louis-Claude Desvignes, Julien Sunier, Jean-Marc Burgaud and Cédric Chignard. Château Thivin has long had a reputation for great wines, and more recently numerous Burgundian producers have fallen for the fruity allure of Gamay, notably Olivier Merlin and Thibault Liger-Belair. It is easy to forget that over twice as much Gamay is produced in greater Burgundy than Pinot Noir, so arguably Gamay is in fact the red grape of Burgundy!

Find out more about Gamay on bbr.com.

Category: Burgundy Wine

Bordeaux 2016: vintage update


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Fresh from the vineyards, Buying Director and Bordeaux Buyer Max Lalondrelle reports on the 2016 vintage so far – a year that has proven difficult for Bordeaux but fortunately seems to be producing good quality and decent quantities.

Having just returned from my yearly pilgrimage to check on the harvest, I can safely say that the 2016 Bordeaux vintage is looking good! Not great but certainly good… After a very unpromising start, with a very wet and cold spring, resulting in problems with flowering and mildew, things were not looking great for 2016 and most properties feared the worst. However, August arrived and saved the day: a very hot summer quickly allowed the vines to “catch up” from a very delayed cycle and the vintage started to get back on track.

The usual timing from flowering to harvest is around 100 days but here we are, approaching the middle of October, and yet some properties haven’t even started harvesting. The main reason for the delay is a troubled and wet start to the season combined with one of the nicest Indian summers. There is an almost eerie calm in the vineyards, with the appearance of a dress rehearsal rather than a full-blown harvest, as the properties pick and choose the perfect moment to harvest. The nights are cold, preserving the fruit and bringing freshness, while the days are sunny without being hot.

The 2016 vintage is a game of two halves and will therefore have a degree of uniqueness about it. Driving through the vineyards one can see the effect of the August heat, with some grapes burned on one side and some yellowing and loss of vigour on the lower leaves, but this is generally affecting young vines or plants on sandy soils (see below). The vines affected are also generally confined to the second or third wines and will therefore have very little impact of the overall quality of the vintage. The mildew during flowering did reduce yields in the affected vineyards, but this will have no effect on the quality of the remaining grapes. A common problem across the region was also an unusually high level of grape worms – a very small parasite which attacks the fruit by making small holes in the skin. The juices then escape and rot sets in. There were some severe cases, but most of the top vineyards were hardly affected.

I walked through the vineyards with technical directors from the top of St Estèphe, through Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux, St Emilion, Pomerol and even as far as Castillon: overall the regions have performed equally well. The heat was slightly more pronounced on the Right Bank so alcohol levels may be higher, but otherwise the vintage is consistent across the board. One of the most exciting grapes this year seems to the Cabernet Franc which has performed extremely well.

Despite all these little blips and bumps, the 2016 vintage is plentiful and most properties will have produced much more wine than last year. This in turn should help the properties to maintain their prices across the board. The wines will be different to, but in most cases equally as good as, the 2015s and there should be more of it.


Category: Bordeaux Wine