Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not everyone will be aware that the Cabernet Saugivnon grape of France’s great red wines has an older sister in Cabernet Franc. Or that the latter has been used for more than 2,000 years up in Galicia’s hills to produce a wonderfully fruity red wine, called Mencia. I mention this not just to bring this under-valued wine to readers’ attention but to endorse an earlier point that an imminent recession reveals its colours in all sorts of ways. Walking past a place with a higher-than-average menú del día yesterday, I noticed the board said you’d get a glass of Mencia with it. Which is another way of saying you won’t be getting a glass of more-expensive Rioja. How much lower can things sink?

I contend Spanish banks are deficient as regards customer service and Spanish readers point out they’re very successful and profitable – in the UK as well as Spain. Yesterday, I needed the address of a bank in town but could only find a phone number in the directory. Needless to say, it was premium rate. Which seems to suggest we are all right.

Bullfighting is something I can take or leave but, whatever else can be said about it, I’m in no doubt that the men who go up against the enormous beasts are brave. I was hoping to bring you a photo of one of them with about 6 inches [15cm] of horn in his thigh from the Culture page of yesterday’s ABC but it’s not on its web page. So here's a video clip instead.

And a photo I did find. By the way, the bullfighter [Frascuelos] is 60 years old. Possibly his last corrida, if he’s got any sense. Which he obviously hasn’t.

Here’s a final reference to the Eurovision contest, albeit in the context of geo-political developments. Specifically, Europe’s eastwards drift. Which should at please the British historian Norman Davies, who’s long argued that our Continental perspective is too western-centric.

Galicia Facts

The organisation which impounds cars in Pontevedra says it towed 371 vehicles between 1 January and 20 May. Or about 2.6 per working day of eight hours or more. On the face of it, this seems to justify the obvious belief on the part of drivers here that the cost of using an underground car park is not worth it, compared with the miniscule risk of getting your car towed. Even, apparently, if you use ambulance waiting bays, bus-stops or zebra crossings. Or if you double or triple park but have hazards lights which make your car invisible when they’re flashing.

Why aren’t there parking meters, you ask. Because an earlier scheme failed when the entire population declined to put coins in them. Or so they say.

The Anglo Galician Association – open to all who speak English – now has a Forum on the web. If you have a query about Galicia, why not register and post it.


Duardón de Albaredo said...

Now that you say it, Colin, I had a bad experience with Mencia wine. One time I bought a bottle and er... it was authentic "vino peleón".

I hate to say it, but this never happens with Rioja wines. And I say "hate" because I don't like Riojas: they are acid (main characteristic of this wine or should I say grape [?]) and I don't like acid wines.

So here is a tip for all the foreigners who read your blog (and er, who like wine). Let's say you want to buy a bottle of wine (in Spain that is). So you go to the supermarket. You will see literally tons of bottles of wine (different brands). Danger! Many of them (if not most) are "vino peleón" (low quality ergo atrocious taste). I have been victim of this "oh, let's try that one" quite many times.

Another rule of thumb which usually works. The bottles which cost 4 euros or less are most of the time "vino peleón". And these are the bottles that you will see in supermarkets.

So choose these bottles at your own risk. BUT if you choose a Rioja (or Albariño, etc.) you know 100% that you are buying quality, or at least you are NOT buying shit.

I repeat again, I do NOT like Rioja wines, it's just my own experience (well, not only mine).

Weird enough, a French cousin of mine told me that the Spanish "vino de mesa" (common wine) is better than its French counterpart (which is atrocious, according to him). But the high quality French wine is better than its Spanish equivalent.

Colin said...

I beg to differ. A bit.

You can get Rioja for 2 or 3 euros in Carrefour. Another reason to avoid the place. You are certainly not always buying quality when you buy Rioja. Or Albariño. There is some awful Albariño around - for as 'little' as 4 euros in Carrefour, again. The best of this wine are fantastic but even the rubbish Albariño is overpriced. In a very competitive world, it should not cost 11 or 12 quid a bottle in the UK.

The better Mencias cost 7 or 8 euros upwards.They are very drinkable, especially with stews [except bloody Cocido] and even with curries. If you must drink wine with a curry.

It's all very personal and I fully intend to keep on researching the subject until I pop my clogs. Hopefully, they are right that the research will delay this a bit.

Graeme said...

"You are certainly not always buying quality when you buy Rioja. Or Albariño."

The problem of classifying wines by the region they come from - there can be a huge difference of quality across a region. I think you can buy quite drinkable wines for less than 4 euros, but it is a lottery. A lot of the lesser known wine regions of Spain are improving rapidly, I think because they've decided to go for an export market.

Duardón de Albaredo said...

Colin, I didn't know there were low quality Riojas and Albariños. I was assuming that you must pay at least 5 or 6 euros minimum for them (10 euros for a Martin Codax).

Well, then we only have to apply my "rule of thumb" mentioned on my previous post: "€4 --or less-- wine = possibly shit wine".

Anyway, Riojas at 2 or 3 euros...

Graeme, it is a "lottery", indeed. And most of the time you lose.

Xoan-Carlos said...

I'd strongly recommend the "Guía de viños, augardentes e bodegas de Galicia 2006-2007", by ASOCIACIÓN DE SUMILLERES GALLAECIA, (ISBN: 978-84-9782-517-7, Xerais, available from the very good Galician language book club, biblosclube.com) which covers pretty much every wine produced in Galicia. As for Mencias, I've generally found that they're of a more consistently higher standard in O Bierzo, in the Leon province, neighbouring Galicia.

Lenox said...

S'funny - in the bars you never get the same product twice in your 'vaso de vino tinto'. At least a Martini or a beer is standard.
One of our local places buys wine 'a granel' and keeps it in a cow-skin. Rough old Jumillas and so on. The second one is always better...