Friday, December 30, 2011

Why corks are popping once more - - The Guardian

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(Click on the line above, includes a slide show on cork.)

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 "Cork-makers are feeling buoyant as the wine industry turns away from screw-top bottles and back to traditional corks."   - - The Guardian

Carlos de Jesus of Amorim in Portugal explains the process of preparing cork
that will be made in natural cork wine stoppers.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / contact for publication rights.
(Note: the photos in this blog post were not a part of The Guardian article.)

"Corks are on the way back, as 70% of winemakers favour them over screw-tops or plastic stoppers.

Forget screw-caps, the old-fashioned cork is making a comeback. This week, as the wine industry gathers at Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine fair in Bordeaux, traditional cork-makers are feeling buoyant.

"Today, 70% of winemakers have chosen cork over screw-caps or plastic wine stoppers," says Carlos de Jesus, head of communication at Amorim, the world's biggest cork producer.

So why the sudden comeback? Are consumers increasingly associating screw-caps with cheap wine? 
Not according to Valérie Hamon, of the wine retailer Nicolas. Light summer wines are still preferred in screw-cap bottles and, she argues, "cork doesn't always mean quality".

Nonetheless, winemakers from South Africa to California are making the switch back from screw-caps to cork.

Proof, according to De Jesus, that cork is back and here to stay."

Origin information:
The Guardian

Gerry Dawes

Premio Nacional de Gastronómia 2003 (Spanish National Gastronomy Award)

Food Arts Silver Spoon Award December 2009

Gallery of Chefs & Food Personalities: Portraits by Gerry Dawes

Web Pages:

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

Adventures in Spanish Taste: Insider's Food, Wine, Cultural and Photographic Travel in Spain

The Traveling Gastronomer: A Celebration of Food, Wine, Life, Photography & Quixotic Musings

Thursday, December 29, 2011

LA Times: Some France makers of wine go natural, and fight the system

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"Many natural winemakers have been ejected from the French regulatory system; others leave because they believe certification methods reward low-standard industrially and chemically produced wine."

By Devorah Lauter, Los Angeles Times

"Standing by the wood-burning oven in their kitchen, Claire Cousin rips apart the frame around a photo of her husband, Olivier, kneeling beside Romeo, the lazy draft horse he uses to plow his small vineyard in France's Anjou region.

Preoccupied, his hand on his beard, the real Olivier sits at the large kitchen table musing over several open bottles of wine. "Yeah, get rid of the frame," he says, without looking.

Claire hangs the unbound portrait back on the cluttered wall. They both approve.

PHOTOS: French wine industry battle

Olivier Cousin, 51, doesn't like being boxed in. He calls himself a
paysan, or a small farmer, the sort seen before tractors and industrialized farming pushed so many off the fields.

"I'm for freedom," he says. "We got rid of our kings awhile ago. We cut their heads off."

Cousin is fighting a raft of battles: Against the system. Against chemicals. Modern technology. Money, as in, the need for it. And against the idea of putting sugar and other additives in wine.

More concretely, he is in a legal battle with the French authorities who regulate winemaking. Although the issue appears to be about wine labeling, it really is about
terroir, the land, or the identity it gives to fruit, as well as its people. . ."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Remembering the Great Donn Pohren: Spain, Flamenco & Adventures in Taste: The Wines and Folk Food of Spain

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11/07/2007 08:35AM
Contributed by: WMC_News_Dept.

Madrid, Spain - American writer and well-known Flamencologist Donn Pohren died in Las Rozas [a Madrid suburb] on November 5, 2007. His wife, Luisa Maravillas provided a brief statement: "I regret to inform you all that Donn passed away the 5th of November, during the night. Sometime in the near future I intend to organize a gathering of friends and aficionados in Las Rozas."

Donn Pohren was regarded as one of the leading experts in Flamenco in the English language and wrote several influential books about the subject. "Donn Pohren's book was the first thing I bought when arriving in Andalucía, before I even knew how much my life would be involved with and changed by flamenco. It helped me understand a lot that was to come," says British expatriate Kate Edbrooke, who runs a recording studio in Granada and has produced several Flamenco recordings by local artists.

The Significance of Flamencologist Donn Pohren
and His Impact on Spanish Wine & Food
Que descansa en una juerga de “pura ma're” with a copita in front of him
and Diego del Gastor playing alongside him.
Copyright by Gerry Dawes, Montebello, NY November 07, 2007.

In 1972, Donn Pohren, a Minneapolis-born American who lived in Spain for decades and was the world's greatest foreign expert on flamenco, published his idiosyncratic underground classic, Adventures in Taste: The Wines and Folk Food of Spain. I was living in southern Spain when I first encountered Pohrens's book (privately printed in Spain) soon after it was published and it had a profound effect on me. In the early years, I never traveled without it. At first, I merely wanted to have some of the wine and food experiences that he had described. Soon, I was having new experiences of my own, experiences that would eventually lead to my becoming a widely published writer on Spanish wine and food and a recognized authority in the field.

Pohren wandered around the Iberian Peninsula in the 1960s exploring the nooks and crannies of Spain's 4,000,000 acres of vineyard lands, the largest acreage of any country in the world. He would pop into a village bar, ask for a glass of the local vino, then casually ask who made the best wine in town. On many occasions, Pohren would soon find himself being offered several samples as one vintner after another vied to show this foreigner that his wine was the best in the village. In his book, Pohren described encounter after encounter with artisan winemakers who were making excellent wines, many of which were unknown to the outside world in those days.

However, many of the wines Pohren described were wines whose charm soon faded if anyone tried to transport them beyond the boundaries of their home region. The winemaking techniques were often primitive. In many places the grapes were still crushed by treading, then fermented in open stone or cement vats, and aged in less than meticulously cared for barrels. The result was a flawed wine, which often tasted good with the local food, but was simply not stable enough to "travel" and was not the stuff to thrill sophisticated wine connoisseurs. Still, Don Pohren swore by the inherent quality of many of these Spanish wines and he was right.

His experiences have always been in the back of my mind and have served me well on numerous occasions, such as an encounter on my first trip to then unknown Priorat in 1988. Firmly in Pohren's shoes, I entered an old-fashioned, untidy cellar, where I was given a flawed wine to taste, but the underlying base wine was clearly very good. I judged the prospects for this region to be so promising that I came back wrote the first major article about the potential of Priorat. Alvaro Palacios and crew arrived the next year and began to make history. Recently, in Ribeira Sacra, I have run into some flawed wines (less so every year), just as a did in Priorat nearly twenty years earlier. Tasting "underneath" the sometimes inexperienced wine making techniques, I found enormous potential. I know Donn would have as well.

What Pohren tasted in those wines while researching his book forty years ago was the materia prima (raw material; grapes, soil and climate), the exceptional juice from grapes which often came from old vines, whose average yield of wine per acre of vines was less than half that allowed by the best appellations of Burgundy and Bordeaux.  Even backward winemaking techniques couldn't keep the underlying quality from showing through; Pohren's Spanish wines were diamonds in the rough.

In the years since Donn Pohren wrote his book, exciting things have happened which promise an incredible future for both Spain's traditional wines and those of emerging wine regions. Spain's nearly four decades-old democracy has been the catalyst for a modern renaissance in fashion, art, literature, cinema, and gastronomy and it has ushered in a technological revolution in wine making as well. A key element in this was Spain's acceptance in 1992 as a member of the European Economic Community, the Common Market (now the European Union), which posed a special challenge to Spanish wine producers: compete on a quality level with the other wines of Europe or enter the over-saturated European wine "lake", and be lost in the crowd.

Fortunately, Spain opted for quality. Many forward looking people in the Spanish wine trade began to see Spain's entry into the European Union as both a new challenge and a new opportunity for their wines. These challenges and opportunities would require a reassessment of their positions in both the domestic and export markets, an upgrading of their winemaking technology, and consistent quality in their wines. Emile Peynaud, Alexis Lichine, and other consultants were brought in from France to advise winemakers in the Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Rueda. The best enologists from Rioja, Penedes, and Navarra traveled to other regions share their expertise. Young Spanish winemakers trained in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and at the University of California - Davis. Miguel Torres Riera, the maestro of Catalan winemaking, and Jose Peñin, Spain's foremost wine authority, wrote important books about Spain's future in the wine world. New wine books, periodicals, and gourmet journals proliferated. Seminars, international wine symposiums, and wine competitions began to be conducted on a regular basis. And, importantly, wine clubs and societies were formed as an increasingly affluent and growing middle class in Spain began to appreciate the wines of its own country.

During the past two decades, investments in new wine making technology (especially in the area of fermentation control), better barrels, experiments with new grape varietals, and the replanting of vineyards in some areas have begun to have a geometric effect on the overall quality level of Spanish wines. This progress in winemaking technique in Spain would not in itself account for such a dramatic effect–in fact, it is now often a detriment to authenticity--if it were not for the fact that Spain is a splendid natural vineyard endowed with many areas whose grape varietals have become perfectly acclimated over centuries to the micro-climate and soil in which they grow. 

All that was needed in many cases were winemakers dedicated to quality and the technology to achieve it. The grapes produced in the best wine areas of Spain–Rioja, Jerez, Cataluna, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Rueda, and in many up and coming regions–have shown they are capable of producing wines which can stand alongside the best of France, Italy, and California. The Tempranillo of the Rioja and Ribera del Duero, for example, is coming to be recognized as a grape which can produce wines to rival those made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Pinot Noir.

The established, classic wine regions of Spain like Rioja and Jerez, while refining the techniques and polishing the skills which made them famous, also created exciting new areas of interest with small estates like Remelluri and Contino in Rioja and the emergence of such high-quality wines as the almacenista sherries of Emilio Lustau and the late harvest Navarra moscatels from Julián Chivite, Ochoa and Viña Aliaga. Other areas whose wines were once underground legends in Spain, like those described by Donn Pohren, but whose viticulture was based on tiny artisan producers and ill-equipped cooperatives, began to realize their potential for making great wines.

Ribera del Duero, home of Vega Sicilia, Pesquera, Mauro, and Viña Pedrosa; Navarra, the producer of perhaps the world's finest rosés; Priorato (Cataluna) and Toro (Castilla-Leon), whose rich, concentrated, blockbuster red wines have drawn international attention; Rueda, a surprising white wine region; and Rías Baixas, whose Albariños now count the U.S. as its most important export market, are just the most visible of the emerging wine regions capable of making first rate wine from native grapes. There are many more to come. 

Previously unknown regions–not many of which unknown to Donn Pohren–such as Bierzo, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei, along with Jumilla and many others–have either jumped onto the world wine stage or are just in the wings awaiting their call to stardom. Producers like Miguel Torres in Penedes, Julián Chivite in Navarra, Carlos Falcó at Dominio de Valdepusa and Codorniu's Raimat estate, just to name a few examples, have achieved new heights with foreign varietals, though even the best examples often fall short of the intriguing, delicious, uniquely Spanish wines made from indigenous varieties–the kinds of wines that Donn Pohren loved.

Embedded in me like a memory chip is the spirit of Donn Pohren and his book. Following his example, I still ferret out little known producers and drive many kilometers out-of-the-way just to eat a dish in a little-known regional restaurant and, like Don, look beyond rusticity (or fancy trappings in some places) to find the core of something that is undeniably wonderful and unique to Spain. Only adventurers and indefatigable travelers can do what Donn Pohren did. I can attest to how indefatigable and adventurous he was from averaging six trips a year to Spain (eight per year in the past five years).

Without Don Pohren’s book (and to a great degree, James A. Michener’s Iberia) I may have never caught the spirit of the Spanish road that has sustained me now for more than 40 years. For that I owe Donn a now unredeemable debt of gratitude and so do people such as Steve Metzler, who built a great and exemplary Spanish wine importing company, Classical Wines, based on his Pohren-inspired wine travels. Because of Donn, Metzler was inspired to find not only Pesquera and make Alejandro Fernandez's wine world famous, he even met his wife, Almudena. Neither of us saw Don Pohren as much as we would have liked to over the years, but fortunately several years ago in Madrid, I had an opportunity to let Donn know just how much his work meant to me and to the many who carry Spain in their hearts.

I will miss the fact that Donn is no longer with us in body, but he will never die in the spirits and hearts of those who followed his incredible Quixotesque passion for Spain, flamenco, Spanish wine and traditional food and all things Spanish. (Quixote may have been a dreamer, but not a madman; those windmills he was tilting at were brought from the low countries and represented the domination of the foreign House of Austria, a powerful, inquisition wielding force that crushed those who dissented like Don Quixote after his encounter with the windmill sails.)

Donn Pohren was a dreamer and he may have seemed like a madman when he lived his life like a candle in the wind during his awesome flamenco juerga years, but to me Donn Pohren was a profound inspiration and he always will be. Vaya con Dios, Don Donn. I will raise a copita to you often in my journeys. I can see the angels lining up now for a juerga--a Spanish wine, food and flamenco party--the likes of which even heaven hasn’t seen.

The End

Gerry Dawes©2008

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pulpo a la Gallega (Gal: Polbo a la Galega), Octopus Galician Style, is Enjoyed All Over Spain. Pulpo is a Great Match with the Ribeiro Wines of Manuel Formigo

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Polbo (pulpo, or octopus) is so highly estemed in Galicia that monuments such as this public water source 
in the village at Vilanova de Arosa (Pontevedra) is dedicated to Galician women cooking octopus. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

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Perhaps with the exception of lacón con grelos (a dish made with grelos, turnip or parsnip greens, pork shoulder, chorizo, potatoes and Spanish pimentón) and caldo gallego (a stew of pork, beef and or chicken with chorizo and/or bacon; turnip greens, collard greens or green cabbage; white beans and potatoes), pulpo a la gallega (polbo a la galega in Galcian) is the most ubiquitous dish in Galicia.  Although it is a dish now served in many parts of Spain, the Gallegos never seem to get enough of it.

Pulpo that has been steamed, at a restaurant in Ribadavia in the Ribeiro wine district. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Octopus is usually frozen to tenderize it--sometimes it is pounded--then boiled until tender in a stock pot or, in Galician fiestas, in large metal kettles. The steamed octopus is then cut with kitchen shears with bit-sized pieces, placed on a plate (best on the now forbidden [in restaurants, at least] round wooden plates, as served at fiestas; the wooden plates absorb some of the water, instead of allowing it to pool up below the octopus as on a normal plate. After the octopus is plated, it is dressed with Spanish extra virgin olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt, speared with toothpicks and served with good Galician bread. Sometimes steamed potatoes, another adored Galician staple are served with the pulpo.

Steamed polbo a la galega (pulpo a la gallega; octopus Gallician style) dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt, though no prohibited by the health authorities, best served on a wooden plate, which absorbs excess water.  At Bar Pintos, Cambados (Pontevedra), Galicia. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

It is claimed that the best octopus cooks are women from the inland towns of Carballiño and Ribadavia in the province of Ourense.  Since the best polbo a la galega supposedly comes from frozen octopus, this is not as unreasonable as it sounds, even though these towns are at least an hour from the nearest seacoast.  One Sunday morning in the center of Ribadavia, which has an exceptional old Jewish quarter (14th-16th centuries), I encountered a woman in front of a bar preparing polbo a la galega (see photos in slide show).

Galician woman outside a restaurant in Ribadavia (Ourense), Galicia, preparing steamed polbo a la galega (pulpo a la gallega; octopus Gallician style) dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Another day, I was invited by my friend Manuel Formigo de la Fuente, who makes an exceptional Ribeiro wine in nearby Beade, to a special polbo a la galega day at a restaurant in Ribadavia.  The was a wait to get into the restaurant even though this dish can be found in almost any tapas bar or traditional restaurant in Galicia on any given day. 

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

Slide show, Octopus.  
(Double click on images to enlarge.)
About Gerry Dawes   

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

Trailer for a proposed reality television series  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Comments of The Spanish Artisan Wine Group's Gerry Dawes from the Blogger the (z) infidel

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Aged Traditional Rioja: A Journey Into the Past & the Rioja Traditional/Modern Divide

by on

". . .Rioja has been a hot button location in the wine world, where the divide between traditionally made wines and modern styled wines has been widely debated.  I don’t pull any punches with where my heart lies.  It’s with traditional Rioja and it always will be.  And I am not alone.  In fact, I have come across a couple great stories concerning traditional Rioja lately.  The first is a great interview with Gerry Dawes by my friend Tom at Inside RiojaGerry Dawes is a no B.S. kind of guy, and his interview is a great read.  This is a guy who is been in the wine business for many years and has dealt in some of the world’s greatest wines and he rates López de Heredia 1947 Viña Bosconia as the greatest wine he has ever tasted!. . ."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Some men are born out of their due place." The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham

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Manzanilla at sunset on Bajo de Guía beach at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, my spiritual home.

"I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known."
Peregrino (pilgrim) & Irmandinho (Brother) de la Irmandade de Vinhos Galegos 
(Brotherhood of Galician Wines), Santiago de Compostela. (Self portrait.)

"Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deeprooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history."

At Pena das Donas, Ribeira Sacra in the morning light.  
Photograph by Basilio Izquierdo, former winemaker at CVNE.)

Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest." - - The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham (who spent time in Spain in his youth and wrote extensively about it.)

With the Bodegueros Artesanos, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Galicia, producers of natural, native yeast, own-clone, terruño-laced, spoofulation-free Albariños of character, style, grace, balance, charm and breed. The taste of their unique wines is driven by individuality, not what "the market is asking for." They make some of the most intriguing and best white wines of Spain.

About Gerry Dawes
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Trailer for a proposed reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.