Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Perfect Pairing: Monastrell & Treats from Despaña
For Christmas, my husband gifted me three Spanish wines that I had never tried before. The first was a Juan Gil Monastrell -- a wine with lots of oomph. The grapes grow on 40 year old vines in the Jumilla region of southeastern Spain. This deep purple-red wine has lots of character: there is a great deal of ripe black fruit flavor, coupled with ample spice. It really opened up in the second glass, when I detected intriguing aromas, including a sweet caramel note—perhaps from being aged 12 months in French oak. The wine stood up to pizza I was eating just fine, and I’m sure it would work with other spicy fare. I’ve since learned that the monastrell grape is the same as mouvedere, which is used in France and elsewhere. I’m not very conversant with this variety, but I likened it to a big Zinfandel—high in alcohol (14.5), rich, and robust.
Planning a small tapas party for later in the week, I’ve been on a mission to hunt down recipes and gather provisions. This led me on a search for authentic Spanish ham—not an easy task! Luckily, I work mere minutes from Manhattan, where Despaña (literally “from Spain”) stocks all manner of Spanish goodies. They import products from one of the only producers of Jamon Iberico who is allowed to sell products in the U.S., because he has converted his farm to comply with U.S. Agricultural standards. That’s good for us, but bad for our wallets—the treasured sweet, salty, tender ham, made from black-hooved pigs who feed only on fallen acorns—sells for…steady now…$159 a pound!! Luckily, they slice the ham very thin, and will sell you just a couple slices if you like. I went with my entire clan into the city yesterday and we were charmed by the store on Broome Street (close to the tourist wonderland of Little Italy).
There were olive oils and vinegars and pates and olives to sample, but, best of all, they have a little take out counter and a small seating area in the back that serves authentic chocolate and churros. For about $16.00, four of us enjoyed small cups of the richest hot chocolate and a plate of 8 churros, plain except for a sprinkling of sugar. Then I introduced my children to the sweet joy of dipping churros into the piping hot chocolate.
I bought winding strings of bright orange chorizo, which I’ll slice into individual servings and only garnish with a toothpick, and a fat log of a deep purple sausage that I’ll serve sliced on country bread. Later in the week, a Manhattanite friend will pop into Despaña and pick up some of the wonderful jamon for the gathering.
I can’t wait to try more of my Spanish wine with authentic Iberian treats. Salut!