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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A visit to Thai winery, Granmonte Family Vineyard

May 31, 13 A visit to Thai winery, Granmonte Family Vineyard

Posted by in Asia, Food and Wine, Travel

Earlier this year I escaped to the sunny beaches of Thailand but on my way to the beach I stopped off to visit Thai winery, Granmonte Family Vineyard. I know you may be surprised to hear that wine is produced in Thailand. I must admit when I first heard of it, I was extremely sceptical, especially as I had tried Thai wines in London and not been very impressed. But a few years ago I had met Nikki Lohitnavy, the young winemaker of Granmonte, in Bordeaux and tried her wines, very good indeed. So it was with much anticipation that I headed to Granmonte after touching down in BKK. Granmonte is a boutique, family owned vineyard that was started by Nikki’s father, Visooth, in the late 1990’s. The vineyard is located in the Asoke Valley which is located adjacent to the Thai national park of Khao Yai, roughly 175 kms northeast of Bangkok. One interesting fact I discovered while there is that the Asoke Valley was designated by the King of Thailand as vineyard country to combat poppy growing (and opium production) back in the mid-20th century. The valley has a unique microclimate, situated at 350 metres, it is cool enough year round to grow grapes. Although this being Thailand, it’s still quite warm. The Khao Yai park is also one of the few places in Thailand where wild tigers can be found and elephants as well. Nikki related a story where the local elephants were eyeing her vines and the ripe grapes on them. Luckily, they weren’t able to cross the road, otherwise it would have been bye-bye that year’s harvest. Nikki joined as the family winemaker in 2009 shortly after finishing her wine education at the University of Adelaide. She has done several harvests around the world and has brought all that knowledge to her family vineyard. Granmonte specialize in chenin blanc and syrah but Nikki has plenty of other experimental plots going on their 15 hectares. While I was there, we...

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Alain Geoffroy’s corkscrew museum in Chablis

Mar 29, 13 Alain Geoffroy’s corkscrew museum in Chablis

Posted by in France, Travel

When we arrived at Alain Geoffroy’s tasting room,it was the end of a long day of tasting in Chablis and while it had been an illuminating day of tasting, I must admit by this time my teeth and palate were ready for a small break. When Alain’s daughter, Nathalie, came out to greet us and asked if we wanted to tour the corkscrew museum, how could we say no. I love visiting these little out of the way museums that seem to be dotted around French wine regions. I once visited a seashell museum in Champagne, but, I digress. The collection is comprised of more than 3000 corkscrews, corkpulls and other types of accoutrements to get the cork out of the bottle. In addition, Alain has also collected antique viticultural tools used in the vineyards and has a whole collection of tank spigots – I know it may not sound all that interesting but it is kinda cool to compare the old days technology with what they use now, especially considering that some of those tools were used in the not so distant past. There was also a slightly disconcerting assortment of mannequins used for the displays. I think it’s safe to say that they spent most of their money on acquiring the corkscrews and not the mannequins. The museum is officially open the same days and times as the tasting room. There is a nominal fee to pay but Natalie says that’s mostly to ensure that people are really interested in seeing the museum (and probably not looking to nick an antique corkscrew). Afterwards, we did indeed have another tasting of Geoffroy’s wines including a few older vintages from 2009 and 2008. The tasting room is open most days as is the museum so if you are looking for something off the beaten track, Alain Geoffroy’s corkscrew museum is pleasant diversion from all that wine tasting.  Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Judging for the Skyscanner 2012 Airline Wine awards

Oct 04, 12 Judging for the Skyscanner 2012 Airline Wine awards

Posted by in Argentina

Earlier this week I was invited up to Edinburgh, Scotland by the Skyscanner people to take part in a blind tasting to judge the best Economy airline wines. Being a frequent flier, I was intrigued to see how the airline wines stacked up against each other. Truth be told, when I’m flying, all I want it a drinkable wine, the wine tasting part of my brain turns off and I try not to thing about the red wine I’m glugging down with my beef stew and rice. For those of you unfamiliar with Skyscanner, it’s a price comparison flight/travel site. I like Skyscanner a lot and they are my first port of call whenever I’m looking for flights online when I’m planning my holidays. I know it’s sounds like I’m pitching for them but I’ve been using them for the past few years and I’m always happy with the flights their search engines finds for me and usually buy via their site. So, I was pleased when they asked me to participate in the judging. Although we didn’t get to taste at altitude, we were on the 5th floor of the Point Hotel Conference Venue  which has a lovely view of Edinburgh Castle. Tom Cannavan was the judging leader/host and he gave us a few pointers as to what to look for when judging these wines. Mostly, we were looking for wines that were expressive and aromatic. I’ve heard that wine changes a lot up in the air and that wines that are full of fruit and body do best up there, nevertheless, it was with some trepidation that I came along to judge the wines. We tasted through the Whites first. It was a blind tasting and the wines came in a variety of packaging, from Tetra-Pak, to plastic 35 mls to standard 750 mls bottles. I have to admit the first wine we tried was very good indeed. It certainly got my attention. After that, the wines ranged from good quality to non-descript...

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Chatting with Edgardo del Popolo of Dona Paula Estates, Argentina

Sep 24, 12 Chatting with Edgardo del Popolo of Dona Paula Estates, Argentina

Posted by in Argentina

“Blends are definitely the next step for Argentine malbec.” That opinion was voiced to me by Dona Paula winemaker Edgardo del Popolo while we were tasting a few of his wines the other day. Edgardo (or Edy as he prefers to be called) and I were at The Only Running Footman in Mayfair for a small tasting and we were chatting about not only Dona Paula’s wines but also meandered into the future of Argentine wine. Edy was referring specifically to malbec/cabernet franc blends. He thinks that consumers today are looking for not just everyday wines from Argentina but also for premium, high quality wines. And that is where blends come into play. Dona Paula have found some great vineyard spots in the Uco Valley of Mendoza and it is here that he’s planted not only cabernet franc but also chardonnay and malbec. Edy thinks that the cabernet franc lifts malbec, giving it the structure that it needs. He compares it to Bordeaux blends, merlot and cabernet sauvignon are fine on their own but put them together and it’s a whole different dimension. So what about these great vineyards that Edy was talking about? He was referring to the Altamira and Gualtallary vineyards of the Uco Valley. Dona Paula has such confidence in Edy that about 15 years ago he was tasked with finding the best region both in climate and soil for Dona Paula’s wines. Edy found both areas by flying over them and once identified, they had to ride in on horseback to inspect the soil as they were in a completely isolated region. Dona Paula then bought 160 hectares, each hectare going through extensive analysis to decide what would grow best there. Edy liked the region because the soils were particularly poor but full of calcium carbonate which he believes gives his wines the minerality he prizes. One of the grapes he thinks do well in the Gualtallary is chardonnay. Edy wants to make a chardonnay that is not the usual...

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