Spanish wines are so diverse and distinct that they have managed to command a presence alongside the best in the world
Recently, in spite of what the law of the land tries to not-so-gently push, we had a good time, enjoying some good food and wines. The embassy of Spain, and their trade office, organised their annual cultural feature centred around pleasures gastronomic and invited a bevy of superstar chefs to come and cook for us. I was lucky enough to be the one asked to pair wines to go alongside and, thankfully, we have a good gamut of Spanish wines available in India to do justice to such an exercise.
Now, Spanish gastronomy is a force to be reckoned with—ever since the 70s, when a few of their chefs travelled to Paris on a sort of a gastronomic expedition and came back somewhat stunned, but also extremely inspired to revisit and rejuvenate their own local fare, things have never been staid. This is the landmark birth of San Sebastian and its establishment as the undisputed food Mecca of the world. Some of the biggest chefs, no matter where today, at some point, spent time learning under the many great names of the region. Over time, other regions, too, have found innovative and ingenious ways to repackage their cultural diversity through the medium of food.
And then there is Spanish wine, an entity so diverse and so distinct that it has managed to command a presence alongside the best in the world. They have always retained a top spot among the world’s largest producers, but also among the biggest exporters of fine wine in the world. They work with a range of nearly 400 different grapes, many of which are native to their land. And then they have the distinction of having gifted the world several wine styles, which remain unique and special to this day: sherry, among others, comes racing to my mind.
So how does one encapsulate a country as diverse as this over a few courses and in a matter of a few plates? How does one even begin to do justice to the creativity and experience of the chefs of a land that is as old as history and yet as contemporary in appeal as modern art?
By starting small. And this was precisely the agenda at the recently-concluded Spanish Extravaganza, a week-long celebration of Spanish gastronomy (held in Delhi and Mumbai, in both cities at The Taj Mahal hotel), where all Spanish products available in India were collectively displayed and made available for tasting. There were elaborate dinners to further keep the clients enticed.
All in all, it was a merry celebration of culture and craft. As I said above, we managed to have a good time in spite of the laws of the land, which almost impede any sense of enjoyment, repressing or downright banning any joy there is to be had from imbibing good food and wine, all by disguising it in some ridiculous morality-bound garb. But political messages aside, my message to all of you is to go forth and try some Spanish produce today. Did you, for example, know that the original paella recipe calls for chicken and rabbit meat and not seafood as is popularly proposed? Or the fact that red wines from Tempranillo can be enjoyed with tuna, provided they are light, low on oak and served a tad cool? Brands like Torres, Campo Viejo, Marques de Riscal and Felix Solis all made this event possible as did the four chefs (some Michelin-endowed)—big thanks to all of them and to the embassy and cultural office of the country. This was the second time that such an event was hosted nationally and it’s a recurrence that, over time, should only increase in frequency.
The writer is a sommelier