Some of the most distinctively Spanish characteristics of Barcelona can be found in its small neighbourhood restaurants and shops. One, Villa Viniteca, a wine store situated across the street from a fine foods shop off the beaten track in the gothic quarter, offered up this visitor a selection of wine ranging from a 1968 Murietta Ygay Gran Reserva for 180 euros to a wonderful barrel fermented Verdejo for 6. You can select your wine in the store, walk it across the street, and sit down in the cafe for lunch, which includes some of the best Jamon I´ve ever had, and a beautiful array of cheeses.
On my first night, however, I spent quite a while lining up for the local tapas bar Tapas 24, which offered a fantastic selection of unique tapas such as Fried Rabbit ribs and sauteed leeks drizzled with black olive tapenade. The wine list was also great (not necessarily the norm here) and included multiple offerings at 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 euros. I chose the Castel de Remei Oda from Costers del Segre, made with Cab Sauv and merlot. A surprisingly supple wine, even with its rich fruit, this was international in style but also made very appropriate for the occasion with its great food pairing. Very Good. 25 euros at the restaurant.
The next day, while touring Las Ramblas (overly touristy to be honest) and the Gothic Quarter, I popped into the fantastic wine bar across from the Church of Santa Maria del Mar called Vinya del Senior. It offered a great wine by the glass selection, which is rare in Barcelona where most restaurants offer only a house red, white and cava by the glass (and usually a much more extensive bottle list). I sampled the Martivilli Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda for 2 euros a glass with a very herbal and funk driven palate (Good+) while Huong had the 2002 Gran Caus Bordeaux style blend from Penedes, which was a fantastic blend of cab franc, cab sauv and merlot. This was very bordeaux like and good value for the quality, although not distinctively Spanish. Very Good.
That evening, Restaurant Mejool offered excellent food with a wine list with nothing over 15 euros. I did see a 10 euro bottle of Priorat which was tempting (yes 10 euros), but opted for a 14 euro bottle of 2009 albarino from Leira, which worked perfectly with the exquisitly fresh fish and anchovies. Nothing special, but clean and perfect for food. Good+.
Tonightś meal at Restaurant Pla, however, has been the highlight so far. Impeccable service, a wine list that focuses on strange wines, indigenous varietals and biodynamics or natural wine, I selected the best Verdejo I have had the fortune to taste. The Ossian 2007 old vines verdejo had 100% barrel fermentation, but was grown not in Rueda, but just outside it in the larger Castille Y Leon region. This had as much complexity as a very good burgundy, but also offered very tight acid and a sharp mineral and herb driven finish. Paired with Iberian pork and a Manchego Carpaccio (with fresh quince) appetizer, this has so far been the wine of the trip. Excellent. 35 euros in the Restaurant.
Spain clearly has it right when it comes to restaurant wine prices (often only about 50% over retail). While you see very little from outside Spain, that is not a concern for me on this trip. I only wish I could purchase very solid wine for $20 a bottle in Vancouver and absolutely outstanding wine for $40 to $50. That is the scene here, and I am loving it. Until next time.