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April 29, 2010

Torre de Falasco Amarone, Italy

2005 Torre de Falasco Amarone della Valpolicella DOC
Cantina Valpantena, Veneto Italy
ca 30 € (got it as a gift, have no exact price)
♥♥

Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella
15,4 % abv

Too much. Just too much for me. Many wine enthusiasts will love this wine.
Intensive dark red color, very intensive aromas of raisins, chocolate and plum that also reflect on the palate, together with a little bitterness. Full bodied and with soft tannins, ok acidity. A never ending finish, dominated by the alcohol.

Deep, heavy, bold. A killer. A food killer. You read tons of recommendations for this wine to serve with steak and stews, etc. I can only offer it to a nice antipasti plate, with lots of different hams and salamis. And good company, so you are distracted by nice conversations.

Amarone is a wine from the region of Valpolicella. The grapes are dried under some (ca 4) months and then fermented. When there is no sugar left, and the resulting wine is dry, it is called Amarone. Wines, where the fermentation is stopped with residual sugar are called Recioto.

Amarone is very popular in Sweden, though this one is not listed at the monopoly. We got it as a gift from some Italian business people. Nice gesture.

Cantina Valpantena is a cooperative with about 300 members and ca 600 hectars of vines. And some 150 members producing olive oils, located around Verona. Veneto lies in the north-east of Italy and is definitily on the list for 'region to visit'.

How do you like Amarone and which is your favorite?

April 26, 2010

Pio Cesare Nebbiolo, Langhe, Italy

2006 Pio Cesare Langhe Nebbiolo
Piemonte, Italy
125 sek (ca 12€)
♥♥♥

100% Nebbiolo
13,5 % abv.

Medium intense, dark red color. Interesting! blend of aromas coming to my nose. Violet and roses, some spices, cherry and roasted tones. Drink it! A medium-bodied wine, bringing lots of cherry and oak notes with hints of the flowers. Fruit and oak tannins are clearly speaking their language, and albeit soft, giving a mouth-drying feeling. The acidity is typical Italian-high, so good!. The alcohol blends in, makes for a nice finish. A wine just perfect to food, like steaks, stews, and dishes with tomato sauces. I really like this one.
Langhe belongs to the Piemonte, the area in the mostwestern part of Italy. Much cooler temperatures than the more southern parts of the country make for wines with good structure. The nebbiolo grape variety is what makes the famous Barolo and the Barbaresco, the little brother.
Christian Schiller has recently written about other Pio Cesare wines, click here to learn more.

April 25, 2010

Grove Street Chardonnay, USA

2007 Grove Street Chardonnay
Grove Street Winery
Sonoma County, California, USA
109 sek (ca 11 €)
♥+

95% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Blanc
13 % abv

Yellow golden in the glass. Intense nose. Lots of oak aromas, yeast tones, buttery and apple and pear fruit. On the palate, it is a dry wine, medium-to-full-bodied, with a good acidity, but again: oak dominates. Tropical fruit and butter, maybe little nutty flavours, finished off by alcohol. To me a not-so-well-balanced wine. Too much oak and a little to 'hot'.

I was out after a buttery wine to the fish dish. When I opened this wine on Friday, it was shouting oak at me, with an almost perfumy note. Boy. Saturday, (when I took a little while cooking) the yeast tones were dominating and today it was all a little more moderate. So, decanting might help this wine a little...

April 23, 2010

Doktorenhof Fine Vinegars

V-i-n-e-g-a-r.

Feel your mouth watering?


The last 5 years have been all about vinegar for me. I was having a great time importing this speciality from my home region, the Pfalz in southwestern Germany, to Sweden. And now, that I am in the process of moving back home (after 7 years in Sweden), I have just sold my business and last night all the remaining bottles and glasses were moved over to their new seller. So - now, that I am not selling them myself any longer, I can finally write about them in this blog. Not so easy to be holding back for so long....


Doktorenhof vinegars are very fine and elegant drinking vinegars made mostly of wines of Trockenbeerenauslese quality. Made to drink as an aperitif, between courses or after a nice meal. In an all natural process the wines are fermented to vinegar, which happens in old big wooden casks. After ageing in up to 10 years in small barrels, the concentration of flavours and components is unbelievably intensive. Now the vinegar is only waiting to be filled in eye-pleasing designed bottles, to finally be enjoyed in mouthblown glasses on very high foot.


Georg Wiedemann, founder and owner of Doktorenhof, has started this business almost 30 years ago and at that time this was a very innovative concept. The idea of taking best wines (instead of some bad wine or wine that had gone bad) to make such fine a vinegar that you would want to drink it! At the same time though, Georg is a man with principles and with very high traditional values. He has always been very connected and interested in history, in people and happenings that are part of our roots today. Besides, he cares about clean food, free of chemicals and ill-making substances. And last but not least, he and his wife Johanna are people with excellent taste. All of this together is reflected in every bottle of this wonderful drops.

I used the vinegars in many years before, selling them was new to me. My Swedish customers asked me lots and lots of questions about this special product, I just had to dig knee-deep into it. This is also how my tastings came to live and because of those I got to meet several thousands of really interesting and interested, fun and nice Swedish people. Wonderful! I cannot thank this people enough for how they did enrich my life in Sweden.

Journalists have called the vinegar 'explosion of flavours' and much more. And it is true: you need to taste and experience this, it is impossible to describe.

Of course, this vinegar is also used for cooking. From easy daily food up to gourmet cooking. Every dish and every cook will find countless of ways to use it. There are some 40 different flavours, from fruity over herbal to spicy and neutral. All ingredienses are real and pure. There is nothing artificial in a bottle.
Balm of figs, a sweeter version, and a dream over icecream, fruitsalad, to cheese and over machésalad, to chicken salad or just over some honey melon... you name it.


Ginger balm, definitely ginger! Two drops add wonderful spice to your dish, from soup, sallad, chicken, asian dishes over to your sweet desserts.

From sweet to stingy - all intensified by the vinegar itself, as are the dishes these drops get in contact with.

Vinegar tastings at the Doktorenhof are very popular and unique. If you get to the region, you should really make a stop there. And already now, you should look at their website to get your tastebuds stimulated.

And if you are in Sweden, you can find them here.

April 22, 2010

Sherry Amontillado

Vintry's Amontillado Superior
Pale dry Sherry
Pernod Ricard, Jerez, Spain
49 sek (375 ml) (ca 5 €)
♥♥♥
18,5 % abv

Nice! Amber colored sherry wine with wonderful aromas of hazelnuts and dried apples, hints of burnt aroma, all of it also detected on the palate. A dry medium-bodied wine, which we served to pork tenderloin with dark champignons. Other than that, we just took a little sipp here and there until the bottle was finished. Very nice with a bit of medium-aged Manchego cheese.

April 20, 2010

Finally! Naked man in wine shelf

Girls get ready! Finally! A naked man in the wine shelves. It was about time....!

It is a German Riesling, from the winery Wuertz in Rheinhessen that comes to Scandinavia in a bag-in-box. 'Mein Wein' was launched in Oslo today, I assume it won't take long until it comes to Sweden.

Had it been a naked girl, the wine would not have had a chance - too strong are the feministic powers up here. But a naked man! won't offend the girls (most likely rather make them happy) and the boys won't care too much - as long as the wine is good and has some alcohol.

Too bad, I do not like BIB. And I am not sure, I like the naked man picture. It is a little intimidating to have seen Dirk without clothes before I ever got to meet him personally. (I guess, my face will be flashing all red, when I see him somewhere in Germany, once I am back) But, thanks to social media, where I got to see his winetastings and more, I sure think he is a fun and innovative guy!

And whether I personally like it or not - from a marketing point of view, this is a success already. His name and winery will be remembered and referred to for a long time to come.

If you want to see the BIB, go to http://wuertz-wein.de/wordpress/2010/04/20/nackt-auf-der-box/.

Sherry Fino - Manzanilla

While in Andalusia, it was of course easy and natural to drink a sherry here and there before our meals and in between and without food. The habit became to take the dry, light ones and not everywhere would the restaurants tell us what their housewine was. Too basic for them. (They would hardly say if it was Manzanilla or Sherry Fino...) And we did not really care. As long as it was good to our tastebuds.

Still. At one restaurant, it tasted best and that is where I insisted to see the bottle, when we returned for another couple of glasses. I can buy it (and already did) here in Sweden (like anywhere else, I guess) and this is it, my favorite Manzanilla:

La Guita,
Rainera Perez Marin, Spain
94 sek (ca 9.5o €)
♥♥♥
15% abv

Pale straw color. Perfect balance, to my taste. Light, dry, elegant, wonderful aromas of almonds, little yellow apple, yeast that also show on the palate, completed by this special little saltiness. Served chilled and just so, so good with the green olives, they will traditionally serve it with. But of course, it will fit the classical tapas plate and can be served to nice sallads and other lighter dishes, with fish, chicken, white meat.


This Manzanilla is world known and nothing new at all to the winelover. I am afraid, it is a mass-production product, with 12.000 bottles being filled in the hour. This is not the small little romantic bodega thing. And I am just falling for the average taste, I see. *sigh* But, what can I do?

La Guita, an old word for money, is the name of this brand since 1907, done by the winery Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín in Sanlucar de Barrameda. Since 1985, the new owners have refined the style of the wine to suite the modern palate and since then the sales of this wine has been soaring. The bodegas cover some 64000 m2. Dimensions! (Info taken from the website.)

La Guita was not only best of the Manzanillas we had, but it pleases my tastebuds also more than these two Sherry Finos:


Tio Pepe,
Gonzales Byass, Jerez, Spain
109 sek (ca 11 €)
♥♥
15% abv

Tio Pepe, another world famous brand, located in Jerez. Read about my visit, if you like. Also a giant.

This Sherry Fino also has the nice and typical almond aromas and flavours, little apple and yeast, but lacks the saltiness, which I like so much (and is special for Sanlucar de Barrameda). Compared to La Guita this one seems a little less well balanced, little 'thinner'.

And now, the wine connoisseurs are going to hit me, because, I like La Guita also more than this singel vineyard sherry:

Inocente Dry Sherry Fino
Valdespino, Jerez, Spain
59 sek for 375 ml (ca 6 €)
♥♥+
15% abv

Pale color. The aromas more intense than with the other two wines above, again: almond, apply, yeasty, a touch earthyness (no salt). Expectation increases! But then, on the palate, it does not live up to it. It gets 'thin' (in relation to the nose), although the flavours are again the typical Fino ones. Nope, does not beat 'my' La Guita.

I will try more Finos and Manzanillas.

April 19, 2010

Sherry introduction

Sherry comes from Scheris, the old (muslim) name of the city that is today called Jerez. Jerez belongs to the region of Cadiz in Andalusia, and together with the cities Sanlucar de Barrameda to the west and El Puerto de Santa Maria to the south, this region is commonly referred to as the Sherry triangle. With each area having their own microclimate, thus setting the distinctions of their own wines.

map: winesfromspain.com

The soils around Jerez are called albariza because of their shiny white color, especially when under sunlight. Very chalky, those soils give good drainage and retain moisture very well, something highly needed during the hot summer periods.


The main grape variety is Palamino, a grape with thin skins and thus sensitive to damage, hand picking is required. The other important variety is Pedro Ximenez, which is also the name of a very sweet wine. PX grapes are laid out under the sun to dry and thus concentrate their sugar contents. (Think raisin)

Before, I used to think Sherry was always medium-to-sweet wine. But in reality, there are several different styles of this wine in different categories. And only two of them are sweet from the beginning: PX and Moscatel. All other sherry wines are fermented dry, meaning that all sugar ferments to alcohol. Sweetness, where desired, is added later in the process in form of grape juice from i.e. PX.


Sherry belongs to the category 'fortified wines', because alcohol is added after fermentation, before ageing. So, the first step of the process is to make a 'normal' dry white wine, (which does not seem to be any appealing wine at this stage). The fermentation is done at higher temperatures than normal white wines. After the fermentation, the wines are tasted and split into two categories: Fino, the finer, more delicate wines, and Oloroso, the richer ones. The barrels are marked with / for Fino and // for Oloroso.

Fino is dry, light sherry that ages under a flor cover. A special kind of yeast that needs alcohol and oxygen to grow. This flor gives this wine its very special own yeasty flavour and it prevents the sherry from oxidation. That is why a Fino is light in color. The max alcohol content will be 15,5 %, because the flor cannot take more alcohol than that. (Fair enough) Almond aromas are typical.

Manzanilla
is like Fino, but from Sanlucar de Barrameda, which lies directly by the sea. These sherries have a salty flavour to the almond aromas.

Oloroso is of amber color, due to oxidation. It has no flor cover and the flavours and aromas will be of oxidative nature, more robust. Hazelnut is typical. Oloroso has 18% abv and the basic style is dry and full-bodied. Sweeter styles have a small part of PX, giving raisin aromas.

Both types are aged individually in the famous - and unique - solera system. Barrels lie on top of each other in several (often 4) rows, each called Criadera. The youngest wine (incl. the added alcohol) is filled into the barrels on the top, evenly devided by all barrels. The wine for bottling comes always from the lowest row, called the solera, it is drawn in equal parts from each barrel. In between, wine is transferred from each barrel of the upper row to each barrel of the next lower row and so forth. Earlier, this was done manually, today help is taken through a system of pumps and pipes. This way, sherry wines are always a mixture of older and younger wines. This is done to ensure the style of the bodega or brand and explains also why vintage years are not of the same significance as i.e. with a Port wine. Ageing within the solera varies with the styles, Fino 3-5 yrs, Amontillados and Olorosos up to 10 yrs, but you will find 25 yrs and older fine wines.

Amontillado
is a Fino sherry, that first lies under flor and, when the flor naturally after ca 7 yrs has died away, is aged under oxidation. It has amber color and is medium-full bodied. The alcohol varies between 16-22 % abv. Aromas of walnuts are typical. Never cheap in price. This wine can be often found as medium or medium-dry.

Palo Cortado
is between Amontillado and Oloroso in taste and body. Originally, this is a failure of a wine that was supposed to be a Fino, but did not develop the needed flor. It is popular and also produced on purpose. 17-22% abv.

Pedro Ximenez (PX)
is a almost black colored natural sweet wine, where the fermentation stops before all sugar is fermented. It is rather thick and sirupy with up to 400 g/l of sugar. (Tastes great over ice cream!) Raisins and dry figs are the typical and very intensive tones of this wine. It is also used as a sweetener to the other styles, and can be detected by the raisin aromas.

Moscate
l is another sweet wine, but of lighter colour, that can also be used as sweetener.

Cream sherries
are typically blends of the above styles with PX and done commercially.

VOS (Very Old Sherry) indicates minimum 20 years of ageing, VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) stands for 30 yrs.


Go to the label 'Andalusia' for more information about the region, if you are interested.


My next post will be about Fino.


Footnote: The exact % are from the website www.winesfromspain.com.

April 18, 2010

Cava Gramona Celler Batlle, Spain

Gramona Celler Batlle Gran Reserva 2000 Brut
Saint Sadurni d'Anoia, Spain
ca 50 € (got it as a gift)♥♥♥
grapes: 70% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo
12% abv.

Yesterday we sold our house. It had been on the market for 2 weeks and the first showing brought the deal. Great news that needed to be celebrated! When we got back home (still, for a few more months...), we opened a bottle of Veuve Cliqcuot - only to discover it had a cork defect. How disappointing. But! The solution was at hand: we still had this Cava that I had gotten as a present. After quick-chilling it in the freezer, we were able to finally adequately toast to our done deal.
In the glass it shows straw-golden color. The bubbles are somewhat bigger and not quite as plentiful as in many champagnes, in the centre, though, a stream of smaller bubbles is constantly ascending towards the surface.

Smelling into the glass, I get mainly yeasty tones, much bisquit - actually, I am thinking of freshly made ice cream waffles, lying on an oak-barrel. Yes, there is vanilla too. On the palate, it spreads quickly, filling the mouth, the bubbles feel distinctly more and finer than what they looked like. Surprise! Again, the yeast-tones, biscuit, dominating. Some hints of ripe pear. Definitely brut. The finish is long, ending with a very subtile bitterness.

I like it, because it has its own character. It is a little rougher and tougher, not this elegant kind of sort, little stubborn and not giving in, trying to be like others. And I like it even today, while typing this, enjoying what was left over from yesterday.

Cava is made the same way as a champagne, meaning the 2nd fermentation, which leads to the bubbles, is happening in this very bottle. Generally, Cava is a little cheaper than Champagne and thus can make for a good alternative.

Cava D.O. is the official appellation for the sparkling wines of Spain made the traditional way (método tradicional). 85 % of the Cava production comes from the area around Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in southern Barcelona province, but Cava is actually produced in 7 regions of Spain. The main Cava grapes are called Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo.

I will get back to Cava later in this blog...

About Gramona, the bodega: A history, going back more than 125 years. I suggest you watch this very informative and entertaining film: click here!

April 16, 2010

WSET L 3 Advanced Certificate

Today came not only ashes from Iceland, but also my long awaited WSET certificate from England. Others decorate their restaurants, I decorate my blog - right? For me to always remember how much fun I had entering the world of wine, this document is now officially a part of my blog. Ta-taaaaa:

My Swedish document will be following too...

April 15, 2010

Marques de Caceres GR 2001, Rioja


Marqués de Cáceres Grand Reserva 2001
Rioja DOC, Cenicero, Rioja Alta, Spain

ca 20 € (airport CPH)
♥♥♥

85% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano and Garnacha Tinta

I am pouring this wine into the glass and giving it a moment to settle. It is of intense darkred color, the edges a little brighter, tawnier.


Then I am slowly and carefully taking a noseful of it: Yes! Definitely Rioja!* I close my eyes and see that I have moved over to a wonderful wine cellar under the earth, all those aromas getting to me first. Only to be followed by intensive dark berries and the (expected) vanillatone, combined with little spicyness.

I open my eyes and take the first sipp: Yes! Again! Rioja. The dark berries have teamed up with wonderfully ripen cherries and some subtile spicyness with little herbal touch. It is filling my mouth, accompanied by a nice acidity, that is refreshing, and together with the still friendly oak tannins giving this wine its structure. The alcohol is in perfect balance with all of this, and the warm finish is really giving me time to enjoy this wine.

I smile, I am happy. And so is actually my husband too. So: this wine was worth every cent. I would and will buy it again. (And will keep the receipt to remember its price.)

We served it with a classical Spaghetti Bolognese, which we all needed after two weeks of Spanish food. The combination worked really fine, so would any steak or beef-, lamb stew!

This wine was aged on French barrels for 2,5 years and maturing for 4 more years in the bottle, before it was sold. Gran Reserva, the highest quality of a Rioja wine is done in excellent or outstanding vintages only. 40.000 oak barrels and 10 mill bottles are to be found at the winery. They were among the first to use French oak instead of the tradionally American oak (giving more vanillin and coconut aromas). The family Forner came 50 years ago from the Bordeaux area, where they already owned two Grand Cru Châteaux. Read more here.

* About definitely Rioja: this is what _I_ associate with Rioja.

April 14, 2010

Swedish World Best Wine Magazine on German Wines


Världens Viner (wines of the world) is a Swedish magazine that just got rewarded 'Best Wine Magazine in the World' (Gourmand World Cookbook Award). Congratulations!

And: the current issue is all about Germany and its wines. Good summary of the 13 wine regions, leading (at least some of them) wineries, wines.

The motto 'better and better wines from the wine country nearest to us'. 140 German wines available in Sweden have been tested. (A good start?)

And finally it is being recognized and stated: 'Now the quality of the red wines is increasing.' (Although that is no news)

Thank you, Karsten Thurfjell (whom I had the pleasure to meet some years ago) and colleagues, for some good work done! Prost and Skål.

April 13, 2010

Help save the Mosel valley!!

Do you like to enjoy a glass of some of the world's finest Riesling wines?

Then here is a chance for you to help protecting the wonderful Mosel valley. There are plans for a huge bridge to be build, crossing parts of the valleys, thus risking to influence negatively the area's very special microclimate and soils. Besides, it just plainly distroying the natural beauty of this important wine region and we won't let that happen!


Watch this film with two of the leading German winemakers, Prüm and Loosen, in an interview with one of Germany's two master sommeliers, Hendrik Thoma:




Here you can find the page to the petition (I'm afraid, it is in German only), where you can sign up against the project, even if you are not German. Please distribute this to all your friends and contacts. And even if you do not care about the valleys: millions of EU money is being put into this project... Time is running out by May 11, so we need all the help we can get!

Thank you for helping us saving some of the finest Rieslings there are!

April 12, 2010

Alcohol in wine

I was just reading the Decanter. As I stated before, I am very careful when reading (if at all) such mgazines. Really, to me it is almost a joke (sorry...). Journalists trying to outsmart one another. With this, I mean the wine-rating part of such papers. And endless lists of rankings. I very much insist to have my own likes or dislikes about a wine - or not. But I am definitely not letting Roberts and Parkers strearing my very own private wine cellar or run my tastebuds. To me, those ratings also carry the risk of leading to uniformation. How boring!

What I like to read though, is the story about a winery and the people behind. The regions, and to get inspiration about matching food. And when it gets down to facts... Like what I just read about: alcohol in a wine.

I sometimes hear people rejecting every wine that is high in alcohol. Almost, as if you are expected to do so, if you 'know' about wine. But to me, that is only part of the truth. I have tasted wines with 14 and 15% abv where I perceived the alcohol being integrated, because other elements of the wine were holding up against it. The fruit, the acidity, tannins. Then on the contrary, some wines with only 13%, can seem very alcoholic, because the other components are too weak. Often, a wine higher in alcohol will seem bolder and less elegant. But sometimes it can be nice to be bold, right? And how boring would it be to drink elegant wines only! Just as boring as drinking bold wines only...

I like Mr Engerer's (Chateau Latour) quote in the magazine: Please do not see 14% as the yellow line....balanced fruit expression seems to hide behind the fruit.....depends on place and variety.

However, I still would like to learn more about the process of decisions that leads up to the final degree of alcohol. The phenolic ripeness of the grape, the yields, timing of picking grapes, all only factors within a complex process. Maybe go and work for some winery to learn that?

On the other hand, it is said, (and I have heard that from winemakers, too) that the accuracy of the label seems to not be taken all too serious, tolerances can be up to 1.5%. So: what are we talking about after all?

April 11, 2010

Andalusia Pictures

I am back in Sweden. We had a lovely sunny day today, spring has arrived here too!

Andalusia was a good trip. April was perhaps a bit early for a visit, the levante (easterly winds) was tough at some days, even to us who are used to winds, as we live only 1 km from the Baltic sea... However, we got to see a lot and most of all, we enjoyed the nature. The mountainous areas are really worth seeing! The Puebla Blancas (white villages) are incredibly beautiful and the roads leading up to them adventurous. We drove through white mountain areas, where we felt being alone on this planet. The beaches we saw though were not much to us, we are spoiled with our white sandy beaches up here in the north. The food was good, we never went for any real gourmet style, but enjoyed the normal average places. Totally seen, Andalusia seems a bit rough to us, traces of wars and really poor times are clearly visible. A paradise for church lovers, you can spend endless amount of time on visiting such. The autovia and autopista each following the coast line, makes it all very busy and takes away the coziness. The incredible amounts of hotels and appartment complexes make it all look rather unorganized and too cramped. But, as soon as you get a few kilometres into the country, it really opens up and gets beautiful.
I had hoped for more winery visits, but..., traveling with kids you need to adjust and I am fine. We'll be going to many other wine regions in the future, so I can be patient.

As mentioned during my posts before, we have nice photos coming. But they first have to make their way from the Canon to the Mac over to my Dell. In between, work is calling, so this might take some days... I am cheating though, and showing at least a few pictures (taken with my phone only), that are already on facebook, (so not really new) just to show a little...


Criadera 3, the top level of this solera, the very special Sherry system. This row has the youngest wine.

The row furthest down of the solera, from which the wine is taken

A small wine museum in Ronda, one of the white villages
where they offer wine tasting from the fountain

One of the countless towers along the coastline

close-up of a cork oak

Ferdinand under the oak tree - shown in Swedish TV every Christmas since many years

...he loves to smell the flowers instead of going fighting

the view from the terrace (the brown area a result from last year's fire)

April 09, 2010

Andalusia Cueva de la Pileta

We made it to Cueva de la Pileta, in the Ronda area, and this time we managed to be part of the tour.

Amazing! After you get in through the small entrance by bending down, you stand in a rather big room. Oil lamps are being lit and off you go. We were ca 20 people in our group and had some 5 lamps with us. We walked ca 300 metres of a total of ca 3 kms. Everything pass the point where we went, can only be accessed by professionals.

However, the atmosphere was really Indiana Jones like! Only without snakes and secret codes etc. Bats we saw. The cave was big, sometimes the ceilings 50 meters high and at some ponts extremely narrow passages. Small lakes were to be found, and everywhere beautiful stalactites and stalagmites formed during thousands of years. We saw Palaeolithic paintings of horses, bulls, fish, and goats from 20.000-25.000 years ago. And others that were younger, maybe 'only' 6000 yrs. Black layers on the walls of some caves are the remains of fire, indicating where people are believed to have lived.

At the turning point, our guide would suddenly stamp with her foot on the floor beneath and we would hear an impressive rolling sound. Beneath us, the floor was a few metres thick and under that was a hollow area of 40 metres depth and a few kilometres long. That was when I was getting glad to start the walk back out towards daylight, hoping for the lights to hold and the gentleman behind me (breathing little heavy) not to collapse.


While the paintings are not as many and large as in the caves in the Bergerac area, the cave itself was stunning.

A truly interesting visit! Of course it was forbidden to take pictures...

Sent from my iPhone

April 07, 2010

Andalusia Tourists

Blue blue sky. Sun. Sun. Sun. Not one cloud. A soft soft breeze, gently striking the skin. Summer. Now and then some big bird slowly glides through the sky, the smaller ones happily (or annoyed?) beeping in the surrounding bushes. Kids happily in and out of pool. Husband
busy with his blackberry. A chance to turn to my blog.

Tourists. We are real touries today. Nice after days of extensive car driving and site-visiting. Tonight we'll go to the little fancier restaurant Don Giovanni, see what they have to offer!

Probably the 2nd place in 10 days that has some non-Spanish wine. Not that we are seeking, just observing. You can clearly see, why Spanish wine imports are lower than i.e. Germany, which is a wine producing nation too. At the big supermarket here is a shelf 'vino
internacionale'. All we could find here was the Andalucian wines. Maybe we missread. The other shelves were filled with other Spanish wines. So it is well balanced....

However, with only two more days to go, we'll have to make up our minds about whether we want to drive 2 hrs to the Alhambra or if we rather google it later on (drinking some Sweden-bought Rioja). Talking to people at home, hearing them looking forward to 8 degrees C (!), I
dread the thought of wasting one warm day.... What puts me off, is that we have to book our visit there. Hello? Our calendars are packed when we get back, I hate to have to book while on vacation. It all depends, after all!

Sent from my iPhone

April 06, 2010

Andalusia Jerez

Olá! Today we did Jerez de la Frontera. Famous for sherry, horses and flamenco. The town was called Scheris by the muslims way back in time, which is the origin of both words: Jerez as well as sherry. 'De la Frontera' comes from the time of the Christian reconquest, when the
area of Cadiz (where Jerez belongs to) was the frontier of the Christian territory.

We visited the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, the famous school for training of horses and riders. Beautiful horses doing a fabulous show with classic music. We enjoyed it. Impressive is the last part of the show, when 10 horses and their riders perform challenging figures without bumping into each other. Drawback: it was in the middle of the day, so the timing for the bodega visits got difficult and so we made it to one only. However, you gotta take what you can get sometimes...

We picked the most famous one: Gonzalez Byass or Tio Pepe, as their leading brand is called. A huge bodega that delivers sherry to 'every country in the world' as the guide stated. It was impressive to see all the barrels and different bodegas within the bodega. La Concha, once designed by Eiffel (tower in Paris), to Los Reyes, where the mice are happy to be served a glass (one for all the mice) of sherry and some cheese daily. The Kings bodega, where the barrels are signed by kings and VIPs. In the end we get to taste two wines (only!!). Tio Pepe, the dry, light sherry we can drink anywhere and the Croft, a sweet, light pale-cream sherry. No Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, PX... Not much explaination of the different processes, etc. But it was nice to have seen it. We have nice pictures coming soon.

I will get back to sherry on a separate posting because it is a fascinating drink. Stay tuned.

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April 04, 2010

Andalusia Cork Oaks

We went up to watch the sunrise (nice pics following), got ready and left for the cork-oak.

After driving ca 1.5 hrs, we reached the area we wanted to enter the park. Parque Natural Los Alcornocales with its 1700 sq km reaches from close to Gibraltar some 75 km and much of it is covered in the country's most extensive cork-oak woodlands. Alcornocales. We saw countless cork-oak trees, all shaved, almost all of their trunks naked. Like pudels after the dog-coiffeur. Some areas showed rather recently cut stems, in other places, probably half of their 9 year regrowing period that has to be kept between shavings, was over. This looks like a massive and labor intensive job, no tree was left out (except the younger ones). Not only does every tree need to be reached for cutting, but all the bark needs to get transported out of the woods... Fun to see the origin of the wine corks!

We saw lots of storks taking care of their nests, one tree was home to at least 10 of them! Some other birds and few flowers were to be seen as well. And sheep, goats, bulls and cows. No pigs. They are in other regions, the black Iberian kind that live freely under the oak trees
only to end up as pata negra.

The very best ham is jamon iberico Jabugo from the Huelva province. The best of that ham comes from pigs that ate nothing else but acorn, it is marked with jjjjj, my lonely planet guide book says...

After a cork day, we have uncorked a Sauvignon from Rueda - very fresh, crisp acidity, nice gooseberry. Goosebumps from chilly wind coming up, I better finish here for today.

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April 03, 2010

Andalusia Half-Time

Six p.m., we are back from a nice lunch at the beach restaurant. The sun is still shining strong, a breeze makes me needing my sweater, but I enjoy it. Finally, I get an intimate moment with my iPhone and my blog. Sitting on a stone bench, pointing the phone at the wireless station inside the house some 7 metres from me. As soon as I move the connection is gone. Precious moments. Kids are playing around the pool behind me, too cool to jump in. Maybe tomorrow. However they are having fun and it is great to hear them laughing and giggling ... and
singing. Husband Lars is preparing his Canon, we are about to go on a photo tour when the light is ideal a little later. Be prepared for some nice and high quality photos once we are back and got to process them!

As for the wines I will report about. Next week we are going to visit Jerez and hopefully two bodegas there. So far we are really enjoying the Manzanilla. A dry, light Sherry style wine that comes from Sanlucar de Barrameda, by the sea. It has a wonderful nose of Almonds
and tastes of such plus is a little salty. It seduces me and I just have to have it wherever we are eating. Before the meal, with the gorgeous green olives or with salty nuts. If you see a bottle at your supermarket: buy it! Serve it chilled! I am looking forward to try all the other styles of Sherry next week. I remember trying dry Sherries first time at wine school and how it got better the darker and sweeter they got. BUT serving a Fino (or Manzanilla) the right way is a greatnew addition to the world of tastes, I promise.

Yes, and then we did the beach thing yesterday, for the kids to have some fun as they are behaving so well following us everywhere else. Did we pay 10€ for using two sunchairs for some 3 hrs at some lowkeyplace? Andalusia, that is not how to please your tourists! I
remember paying the same at some firstclass beach at St Tropez in France (my real favorite by the way).

However, we have also searched for and found the caves with paintings of 25000 yrs of age. It was too late and they were closed for that day, but we will go back there.

Kids have now jumped into the pool. Well, they are used to the Baltic Sea which is c-c-cold..

Yesterday, we also went to see one of the many Easter processions. It was set for 20:00 and by 20:45 nothing had happened, so we gave up. We were freezing and hungry. And too northern, 8 doesen't really mean 8 in Spain. It all depends.

We found a great restaurant co-owned by a Japanese girl. We had real good Japanese inspired food and felt like in Japanese-Andalusia. Manzilla was good there too, so was the Rioja. Sake we did not order. We are in Andalusia afterall!

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April 01, 2010

Andalusia Day 4

It is getting warmer everyday and right now we are actually sweating. Sky totally blue and clear, no or only little wind, humidity gone. We are starting to feel how the long Swedish winter is leaving our bodies.

We had breakfast with fresh eggs from local chickens and good, crispy toast. Close by is a rooster shouting and it reminds me of old times. There was always some rooster close by, it kind of belonged there. It fills up empty space and makes the surroundings sounding less sterile. However, it was amazing to learn how many different languages they speak. In Germany they say Kikeriki, but in Sweden they shout Kukeli-kuu, says my husband and the kids. Ts! And in the US they claim it sounds Cookadoodledo or how it was. Ts ts. Wonder what our Spanish amigo is shouting? Sounds perfectly German to me.

link to view from here: http://twitpic.com/1cd3wv