Delightful finds of rock crabs and a biodynamic rose aged in amphora from the Spanish wine region of Castilla la Mancha.
Sometimes, are you ever just so delighted by unexpected finds under your own nose and in your very own "backyard?"
For this month's wine exploration, the World Wine Travel (#worldwinetravel) writers head to the heart of Spain to taste the wines of Castilla la Mancha.
Admittedly, I had no idea this region even existed, and the only word that sounded familiar was Mancha, as in Don Quixote, Man of la Mancha.
After some research, I learned that Castilla is 40 miles south of Madrid. The region mostly grown Temperanillo and Airen, a white wine grape that loves the heat.
Castilla derives from the word castile and refer to the Kingdom of Castile, a large, powerful state on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. Castile also mean castle, as there are many castles in the area from that era.
You might say the region is enchanted. The wine, however, has largely become known as table wine, as Spain's largest wine producing region.
Even though the region produces a lot of wine, I wasn't sure if I could find one with that designation. Coincidentally, it turned out that one of my favorite wines was actually from there!
Mag in a Bag or Bagnum?
My local wine shop recently featured this Spanish rosado in a handy little bag with handles. It was so good I bought several bags.
Although it looks very small and lightweight, it does hold two whole bottles of wine or 1.5L.
(A certain someone--who shall remain nameless--drank one whole bag thinking it was just one bottle of wine, and then couldn't fathom why they were so drunk afterwards...)
Not only did this wine turn out to be from Castilla la Mancha, but it is also biodynamic and aged for three months in amphora clay jars.
La Bodega Las Estrellas
La Bodega Las Estrellas is a small family winery committed to making wine in the natural way with no additives and minimal intervention.
They only make wine from grapes from their own vineyards; they use indigenous yeast; and use amphorae jars because it is "inherited from the best tradition on Earth, where aromas, flavours, colours and special textures are formed when fermenting, transmitting the authentic tradition of friendly and sweet-toothed wine."
2018 Dionisos Rosado
100% Temperanillo, 13% ABV, imported by Critical Mass Selections, $28
Described on the back of the bag as a "A fresh, soft and fruity rose made in clay jars. Let yourself be carried away by new sensations and try surprising pairings."
Similarly, the label refers to the bag as a wine pouch that is "A perfect container to share emotions which protects wine from oxidations and has a low carbon footprint."
I could have sworn the previous vintage I bought was actually pink. This vintage was more coral, peachy colored but still tasted just as good.
Aroma of rose, fresh apple, and nectarine and tasted of slightly sour strawberries and cantaloupe. What I love about it is that it's not overly acidic but evenly balanced. Not overly complex but not overly simple. It can really pair with anything, just like the pouch said, so I decided to try it with a Cajun seafood boil.
A Rockstar Crab Boil
Have you ever had rock crab? The West Coast is prized for Dungeness crab, but unfortunately it can only be caught at certain times of the year. The date ranges from November - June in CA and depends on the migration of the whales, domoic acid levels in the sea, etc.
Every year, I wait impatiently for the season to begin, but the boats in Half Moon Bay were selling rock crabs. These are available all year round, since no one seems to want them, so there is no limit on catching them.
Rock crab is smaller and generally less desirable than its Dungeness counterparts. The shell is much harder to crack, the meat is not as sweet, and there is a whole lot less meat inside the crab. The claws are your best bet for a clean break from the shell, and they resemble stone crabs found in Florida.
Since they were selling for just $5 a pound, I picked up two to try them (for a total of $12) and I quite liked how they tasted!
Dungeness crab, by comparison, sells for $7-9 per pound and one usually ends up being $20-25.
Since I usually never feel like cooking, I thought this would be the "perfect" opportunity to dump everything in a pot and have a winter seafood boil (even though it's 70 degrees in CA). Since corn is out of season, I used romano beans and purple potatoes instead. Threw in some head on gulf shrimp at the end and dipped everything in my homemade cajun garlic butter sauce.
Also cracked open some Miyagi oysters and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice and hot sauce.
The wine is in a bag and has handles. It called for a meal that is eaten caveman style with your hands. It loved EVERYTHING together.
The spicy oysters brought out more apple notes in the rose and the shrimp more melon ones. It tasted a little more grassy and herbal with the crab.
This rose also had enough texture to withstand the oily, heavily spiced butter sauce.
A workhorse wine you can take anywhere (including throwing in a cooler), pair with anything, and the portable pouch preserves the wine for weeks!
I hope you're as tickled pink as I am.
Learn more about the Wines of Castilla La Mancha
Join the Wine Pairing Weekend writers as they explore the wines of this region in these posts:
- Camilla is Chasing Windmills with Tojunto + Bodegas Volver La Mancha Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2017 at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Martin is Tasting A Rare Grape Variety: The 2018 Bodegas Gratias Tardana Sol at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Jeff entices us with La Mancha by the Liter - Gulp Hablo at Food Wine Click!
- Gwendolyn is Dreaming Impossible Dreams: Tilting at Windmills withTempranillo and Verdejo from Castilla La Mancha at Wine Predator...Gwendolyn Alley.
- Lynn is living La Mancha Local - Wine with Project Envínate at Savor the Harvest
- Linda shares 'Valley of Rocks’ Wine from Spain Rocks with Spanish-Style Pizza at My Full Wine Glass.
- Terri pairs Turkey Tamales and Eguren Tempranillo Vino De La Tierra De Castillo at Our Good Life.