EntertainmentLife & Arts

Enjoying Spanish wines here in Zim

More and more Zimbabweans are enjoying wine and a great many of them are becoming more knowledgeable about this most ancient of all beverages.

I find this exciting, having long been a wine enthusiast myself, and I am thrilled that the old misperception of wine being a beverage only for “those who know lots about wine” is disappearing rapidly. 

People are getting to know wines better, but — and this is more important — they are finding out what they like best for enjoyment and not doing so just because there’s some kind of snob value to it.

I was fortunate to have helped start the Grapevine wine group back in 2007, along with the very knowledgeable Bunny Landon. We used to hold most of our tastings at the Meikles Hotel and many people have been members over the years. 

The Grapevine is still going and we have now become a membership-based group, with regular tastings and other events and a range of benefits planned for 2022, including discounts and specials from wine distributors, retailers, hospitality businesses and other supporters.

I am often asked if I am a wine ‘expert’ and my answer is always the same: “no, I am a wine enthusiast who likes to share my enjoyment with others.” 

Any readers who want to share that enjoyment can make contact, using the details at the end of this story.  

The Grapevine would love to have more members on board.

One of the great things about the Grapevine has been the bringing together of people from across the spectrum of social life, and among these have been a great many diplomats. And a result of that has been the hosting of wine events by some of the diplomats, over the years including the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Swiss embassies.

The Spanish embassy has been extremely committed to helping promote Spanish wine locally and has in the past few years hosted four wine tasting events, showcasing a superb collection of Spanish wines. 

The current ambassador, Santiago Gomez Acebo, recently hosted an event of two gatherings to taste a specific collection of seven wines, with ‘safe’ groups of only 50 for each event, and these tastings again reminded us of the strength and superiority of Spanish wine.

The Iberian peninsula has been a home of grapes for almost 5 000 years and now has some of the best grape varieties for wine, many of them unique to this land of diversity and beauty. Influences from Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and others have brought in new ideas, new flavours and new styles, and the Spanish wine industry is now — with Italy and France — among the top three producers in the world today. It is a heritage that is simply world-class and unique.

We sampled an excellent selection, starting with a cava — the Spanish name for the sparkling wine that is made identically to Champagne from France. 

This was a Codorniu Brut Ultra Non Plus Gran Reserva from 2017, made from three Spanish grapes: macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada. 

We moved onto two whites: Santiago Ruiz from Galicia, 100 percent albarino varietal, and then Cuatro Rayas, a verdejo from Castilla y Leon, from an estate where the grapes for this wine are harvested only at night.

Then followed three reds: Vina Salcedo Rioja Reserva 2015, a true Rioja with mostly tempranillo and what the winemaker said was a “touch of Graciano;” La Vicalanda, a 2014 Rioja made up 100 percent of tempranillo (my favourite grape of all!); then a Petalos 2017 from the Bierzo area of Castilla y Leon, made up of garnacha. 

Our final treat was a magnificent Jerez — that which in English we call sherry, a corruption of the real name. This was an Alvear made up 100 percent of the Pedro Ximenez grape and was an outstanding example of just one of the many kinds of ‘sherry’ that Spain holds claim as being the originator and only producer of the genuine article.

It was an amazing selection of wines that each of us attending felt honoured to have tried and which we would dearly love to see sold here in retail and hospitality outlets. 

The ambassador told guests that he is keen to see local wine importers looking at Spanish wines for this market, and here’s hoping that — high duties nothwithstanding — this can be achieved. Hoteliers like Farai Chimba of The Victoria Falls Hotel and Tinashe Munjoma of Meikles Hotel were present and agreed they would love to include these wines on their lists, while leading restaurateurs like the teams from JdB and Tinkabell said exactly the same thing.

 So my call to wine distributors is clear: let 2022 see an infusion of great Spanish wine into our market. Yes, it will be more expensive than products we are used to seeing from South Africa, but these will be wines well worth the added cost, given their exceptional standard and huge appeal. Anyone keen to follow can contact me and I shall link them to the relevant people at the embassy.

Thanks to the Spanish ambassador and his team for a pre-Christmas treat that was exceptional in every way, with complimentary snacks prepared according to the winemakers’ suggestions for pairing. Salud!

To all readers of this column, here’s wishing you a merry Christmas this coming Saturday, with enjoyment and safety in equal measure, and the true meaning of Christmas shining through for and from you all.·  Feedback and queries to aquarius@iwayafrica.co.zw or WhatsApp 0785 300144.–