A few days ago I participated in the Master class of David Seijas at the GaultMillau Theater of the annual Wineprofessional fair in Amsterdam. David Seijas was (together with Ferran Centelles) the sommelier at Ferran Adria’s restaurant El-Bulli in Roses-Spain. And yes, of course there was talk about El Bulli. David Seijas wisely kept quiet on the subject. If and when El Bulli will re-open remains a question mark, although some people suggested that it may happen in the (near) future.
For the wineprofessional masterclass David made a selection from the range of Spanish wines from Tamis | Wines Vinovia, which he introduced and gave some tasting notes; twice pairing the wine with an amuse style dish prepared by the chefs Chris Naylor, Niek Beute en Simon Veldman of restaurant Vermeer.
David Seijas talked passionately about Spanish wines, wine areas, winemakers, vinification methods and new trends in winemaking, but mentioned on the sidelines that he also has a preference for Burgundy and Bordeaux wines. He recalls the conversations he had with Ferran Adria about the impossible task to pair all the wines with the forty or so small dishes El Bulli served at each meal. Even Ferran Adria agreed it was quite impossible and they decided instead to build an extended wine list with at least two criteria in the back of their heads: first the wines had to be good and second if the wines were produced in a biodynamic or sustainable way it would even be better. “My choice was always simple: first to choose the good wine for the wine list itself and only then factors like bio-dynamics and sustainability become important.”
We started with a 2010 Herencia Altés ‘Benufet’ garnatxa blanca Terra Alta, quite a dense wine with a fresh acidity. Terras Alltas are a new and upcoming wine area, known in the past for their red and white Grenache wines. Especially the white Grenache wines used to have a bad name, David said that often one could expect a tired white wine without a lot of acidity, these wines were also called “donut wines”. Nowadays the motto is fresh acidity. To achieve this the time of harvest makes all the difference, the grapes are picked early to keep the freshness. The vineyards are found on a 450-600 meter altitude, warm during the day, cool in the night. The grapes are generally from old vines, which give the wine some minerality. The Herencia wines are made by Núria Altes, a female winemaker who grew up in the Terra Alta area, where her family owns vineyards around the village Batea, the center of viticulture in the region. Best of all is the price; € 7,50 a bottle.
The second wine was a 2010 Finca Remendio Verdejo Rueda, a fruity, smooth, aromatic, fresh, dry wine, but less acidic than the first one. Peach, apricot, grass, sometimes even a hint of fennel; 30- 40% of the grapes come from old vines.This 100% Verdejo D.O. Rueda wine is from the Castilla y León region, where whites are predominant, mainly Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc, not so much red. Sometimes Verdejo can be a bit too aromatic for David, but his clients like it. Both the first and the second wine did well with the dish of fish, red cabbage and root that was served.
The 2010 Diluvio Albariño Rías Baixas from Galicia, floral and tastes of ripe stone fruits like peach and nectarine with hints of pineapple, melon, citrus and ripe yellow apple. The aftertaste is slightly spicy, but also refreshing with subtle bitters. In the beginning the wine gives a closed impression, it needs air to develop. David explains that this wine is made “sur lie” with yeast in order to give more body to the wine. Albarino used to tone floral, salty; through the yeast you win texture, most of the new style albarinos are made “sur lie”. The Diluvio grapes come from a vineyard with 70 years old vines. Immediately after picking the grapes are cold soaked to extract even more flavor. After fermentation the wine then rests for several months on the yeast spores to develop additional flavor complexity. The combination of old vines, low yields and a meticulous vinification create a wine with complexity, depth and minerality.
The fourth wine a 2010 Marquesińo godello Valdeorras is made from the aromatic, white Godello grape, one of the oldest grape varieties in Spain.The Godello grape was documented even in Roman times, but only in the past thirty years the Godello reclaimed its old status as one of the three exceptional Spanish white grape varieties, the other ones being Verdejo and Albariño. The Godello is a tricky grape to grow and vinify, but in the right hands, the wine makes a statement. Valdorreas is Galicia’s main appellation for the Godello. This small, amazing appellation lies just inland and benefits from both a Continental and a Mediterranean climate. The terroir-driven Godello grapes and a dedicated group of winemakers are the key-factors in the creation of this delicate, elegant, aromatic wine, with key notes of peach, apricot, lemon, grapefruit and wild flowers, all expressed with lively acidity. Raised 50% in oak the godello has some bitter notes, especially in the aftertaste, little spicy also.