My Top 5 Favourite Tapas Bars in Barcelona

Feb 18, 15 My Top 5 Favourite Tapas Bars in Barcelona

Posted by in Food and Wine, Travel

I spent most of last Autumn hanging out in Barcelona and while I was there, I discovered plenty of little tapas bars around the well worn tourist path. There are SO many crap tapas bars in Barcelona. I hope my little list will at least give you brief glimpse into what you can find if you scratch the surface and get away from the tourist ghetto of Las Ramblas and Carrer de Ferran. As Barcelona is full of tapas bars, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one, the ones that I found were, for the most part, recommended to me by friends who live there or colleagues who visit often. So without further ado, here they are in no particular order: Bar del Pla (Born):  I found this place one night after we had visited a few other tapas bars in the area. The Born is part of the Barrio Gotic and Tourist Central but there are still great places to be found. Bar del Pla, while not exactly hidden, is not on a main street in the Born but off one of  its little alleyways and from the outside doesn’t look like much, although it always seemed to be packed with a mix of locals and tourists. Don’t let the tourists put you off, the menu features fresh and modern tapas with a twist and traditional foods as well as fresh salads. I remember ordering grilled calamares with chickpeas – so delicious, we ordered a second round! We also had a sardines on toast combo with mango and rocket, another inspired combination. The wine list is a mix of Spanish and foreign wines as well as house vermouth – which I love! The prices are a bit more expensive than the usual tapas bars but worth it and the staff was very helpful in making recommendations. I’ve been told the staff speak English, although as we all spoke Spanish, we didn’t put them to the test. Carrer Montcada, num. 2, 08003 Barcelona,...

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What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Dec 10, 14 What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Posted by in All, Spain

The world of sparkling wine is many and varied and although I have largely confined myself to the pleasures of champagne, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. So I was game to visit the cava producer Vilarnau whilst I am spending time here in Barcelona. Cava has recently overtaken both champagne and prosecco in the UK marketplace so they must be doing something right. And so, Vilarnau was my first stop in discovering the world of cava. The Vilarnau winery is situated in the heart of Penedes, right outside the town of Sant Sadurni, a short 40 minute train ride from central Barcelona. The winery sits on rolling hills with the mountains of Montserrat as a backdrop to the vines. The day I visited it was a blustery day so we had a clear view of the mountains. Vilarnau was bought by Gonzalez Byass in 1982 and with the considerable resources that GB has, they have completely modernized Vilarnau. The new winery was inaugurated in 2005 and with the help of automation and a robotic ‘helper’ by the name of Manuelito (more on him later) they are able to produce 1.2 million bottles of cava a year with only a staff of 13 and they are considered a medium sized producer. Pretty impressive. One of the two enologists of the winery, Eva Plazas Torné was my guide for the afternoon. Eva first started by telling me about the differences and similarities between cava and champagen. I was keen to know as cava is made in  the traditional methode. Firstly, there are 3 main varieties in cava – xarello, macabeo and parellada. However, they are also allowed to use subirat parent (an old variety that was used in the past and similar to malvasia) chardonnay and pinot noir and for the rosés, they can use indigenous grapes – trapat, monestrell and garnatxa as well as pinot noir. Like champagne,the wine goes through 2 fermentations, the first usually in tank, the second in the...

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Drinking (and grabbing a bite or two) in El Born, Barcelona.

Oct 18, 14 Drinking (and grabbing a bite or two) in El Born, Barcelona.

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, Spain

I’m currently hanging out in Barcelona and getting to know the city. It’s not only a cheap holiday destination but a gorgeous city to wander around. As a wine blogger, I’m always interested in finding good wine shops. Barcelona has some really great wine bars and shops to explore. Of course, Barcelona has also jumped on the natural wine bandwagon and there are a few bars, especially in the Born neighbourhood that cater to the natural wine enthusiasts. I stumbled across two of them one night, L’anima del Vi and El Soplo. I recognized a fair amount of wines from France and Italy as well as some Spanish wines lining the walls of both venues. L’anima del Vi is bigger then El Soplo, having a good sized seating area with tables for drinking the night away. El Soplo is more of a hole in the wall but very atmospheric. L’Anima del Vi has a small tapas type menus to soak up the vino and El Soplo serves free tapas with all the wines they serve. The prices were average for a natural wine bar but more expensive then your typical tapas and vino bar in Barcelona. Both were within a stone’s throw of the Santa Margarita del Mar church which is located in the middle of the Born and dates from the 14th century. The Born along with the Barrio Gotic forms the oldest part of the city and it’s easy to wander the warren of alleyways, stumbling across cute boutiques, restaurants and wine bars.  The Picasso Museum is also in the Born and just around the corner from Santa Maria del Mar church. Another must visit while in the Born neighbourhood is Vila Viniteca. A good sized wineshop, they specialize in wines from all over the world and have extremely knowledgeable staff (one of the requirements to work there is that you must have sommelier qualifications). Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish, the staff there are multi-lingual and are more then happy...

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Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Feb 24, 14 Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Posted by in All, Spain, Travel

When one thinks of Spanish wines, Rioja immediately springs to mind but that’s not the only game in town. I visited the region of Navarra which is just north of Rioja last Autumn and found a diverse and exciting wine region. A region that is producing great value for money wines. Navarra has been producing wines for centuries but after they were wiped out by phylloxera in the late 19th century, they never regained their former glory. Even today, there are only 12,000 hectares under vine whereas pre-phylloxera they had 50,000 vines. Nowadays, if people are familiar with Navarra’s wines, it is with their lovely and spicy rosados. Made from tempranillo and garnacha, the rosados can range from delicate with ripe red fruit flavours to robust and spicy. Unlike Rioja, Navarra doesn’t specialize in one particular grape. While some might see this as a negative, it does allow the growers of the region to produce a variety of wines. The reds of Navarra are made from widely grown varieties in Spain – tempranillo, graciano and mazuela as well as international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and even merlot. We visited quite a few bodegas on our trip, here are some highlights, except for Bodegas Ochoa which I’ve written about separately here. Bodegas Inurrieta, located in the Ribera Alta, the winery has its vineyards at 380 to 400 metres and they produce fresh and exciting wines. The wines are made in a modern, approachable style and are of an excellent quality. Bodegas Senorio de Sarria is in the Valdizabe region and set amongst rolling hills. I first came across their wines a few years ago here in London and ever since I’ve kept a lookout for them. The winery is a blend of modern and new, with the old cement tanks as part of the decor. There is a beautiful small chapel next to the winery which was built exclusively for the family and has a wonderful series of mosaics covering its walls. I liked...

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A harvest time visit to Bodegas Ochoa in Navarra

Feb 21, 14 A harvest time visit to Bodegas Ochoa in Navarra

Posted by in All, Spain, Travel

Last Autumn, I visited the region of Navarra in Spain. Navarra is a bit off the beaten path except for the annual St. Fermin festival, better known as The Running of the Bulls, which takes place through the streets of the capital of the region, Pamplona. Pamplona has a lovely Palacio in the main square as well as great medieval architecture. It’s easy to imagine the bulls running through the narrow streets and the adrenaline rush that goes along with it. There are of course lots of great little tapas bars. I do love  jamon, manchego cheese, chorizo and all the other tapas that are best with the wines of Spain – especially the wines of Navarra.   I had met Adriana Ochoa last Spring here in London so when I saw that a visit to Ochoa was on our itinerary of vineyards, I was excited to see Adriana again and taste more of her wines. The Ochoa family have been making wine in Navarra for several centuries and Adriana and her sister are the next generation have take over. The current incarnation of Ochoa was founded in 1908. During lunch, Adriana explained a bit of the history of Navarra and their vineyard as well as their wine making philosophy. Adriana is one of the new generation of Spanish winemakers who have travelled around the world doing stints at various vineyards and she has brought back and implemented a few new innovations. Their vineyards are outside the medieval town of Olite and as we were there during harvest, we got to visit the vineyards and even take a ride on a mechanical harvester. Afterward we went back to the winery and watched while they unloaded the  just harvested grapes and even got a taste of literally ‘free run juice’. As a side note, Olite has an awesome castle and medieval city centre and is worth a visit on its own. Over lunch we sampled the various wines that Ochoa make, including a rose and...

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