This Sunday was one of those afternoons that make Spain really worthwhile! Fantastic weather plenty of food, plenty of wine and plenty of laughs. In Valencia’s converted riverbed was the local wine and artisan food fair held here every year and a must for anyone who appreciates good food and great wine or just wants to get legless…there’s quite a lot of walking to do :)
Actually, as you may know, my soft spot is olive oil and my reason for going was initially to participate in an olive oil tasting session. However unfortunately this year the olive oils on show weren’t anything worth jumping up and down for, good, but nothing special, so unfortunately nothing to recommend this time on that front. Feeling greatly let down by the poor turn out of “extra virgins” it was time to move onto other culinary delights and I can assure you there were many worth mentioning.
10 euros bought you a ticket that was valid for 4 glasses of wine and 4 tapas, so all in all it wasn’t bad at all considering the quality and variety of the food and wine on offer. So we bought a couple of “tickets” per person and we set off on our afternoon walk. Green tickets were for food and red tickets were for wine but after having eaten as much as we could, we soon started trading green for red!
The atmosphere in the fair was wonderful, fresh food being served at the stands and eaten immediately while you stood around a converted wine barrels for tables and washing it all down with fantastic wines from the region. Naturally we had to try most of them, reds: Shirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo etc. Whites, Rose´s and dessert wines, but of all the wines we tasted there were two clear winners. The general consensus was (and we had a few experts amongst us) :
Best white wine in the fair : "BAHIA DE DENIA" from Bodegas Xaló (sweet/dry)
A wonderfully fruity wine without being too sweet although it is made from the Moscatel de Alejandria variety normally used for dessert wines this wine was incredibly similar to an Albariño from the Rias Baixas. Very well balanced, fresh,delicate and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Highly recommendable for drinking on its own or with seafood.
Best red wine in the fair : "TRILOGIA" from Bodega Los Frailes (organic)
Grape varieties : Monastrell 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% and Tempranillo 10%
It is aged 12 months in Hungarian oak barrels and only the best pre-selected grapes are used.
Notes: Intensive dark black cherry color. Powerful and elegant on nose with aromas of black and red fruits, dark chocolate enriched by toasty and spicy notes. Full, powerful attack,refined tannins. In the mouth, fresh herbs and ripen fruits, coffee and well-structured with refined notes of liquorice and spicy flavours. Very persistent. This complex wine matches very well with any red meat dish, cheese, lamb, or game dish. Really wonderful, a true competitor for any renowned Ribera del Duero.
I must also mention a fantastic liquor made by Bodega's Xaló. It was their raisin dessert liquor "Riu Rau". It was pleasantly different to anything I had tried before, not too sweet but a wonderful balance between sugar, alcohol and moscatel raisins which are sundried on their land. However it wasn't cheap by Spanish standards for a liquor, around 11 euros a bottle, but worth every cent. We didn't actually pay anything while tasting but we did crawl home with a bottle! I highly recommend it. It would make a great ending to a meal.
Apart from wines and liquors we also managed to try some excellent artisan beer. To be honest I was really surprised to see the number of small artisan breweries that have popped up around the region in the past couple of years. Some really great beer miles, better than anything you'd pick up at your local. Moving away from alcohol now..although we never really did...the fair offered a wide range of food produce such as organic cheese, Cati Cheese had the most magnificent stall, farmers who produce their own milk and make exceptional cheeses of all descriptions and have won numerous World Cheese Awards. Also on display were cured meats and sausages from Requena, clochinas (valencian mussels), homemade chocolate from the centenary chocolate factory in Sueca, "Comes" and so much more. Being a Valencian fair, rice and paellas weren't a miss. The Valencian School of Rice (Escuela Valenciana del Arroz) were showing off their skills and new recipes. We tried a baby calamar and "young garlic" (ajos tiernos) paella as well as a pork and wild mushroom paella, both were out of this world and cooked to perfection. I am seriously thinking of doing a specialist rice cooking course there, they are real professionals. By this point we had eaten, drunk, eaten again and then repeated the circuit several times, only each time we went round it seemed to get longer and longer, not sure if that was the eating or the drinking or just the sheer number of people there...no.. it was definitely the drinking. With nothing left to try, we returned to Xaló to finish up with yet another raisin dessert liquor and finally a coffee, which wasn't from Valencia funnily enough but was just what we needed for the trip home.
So next year if you're in Valencia this time of year you must pay a visit to the food and wine fair, a great afternoon out, just make sure you've got someone to drive you home or that the hotel isn't too far away!