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PREVIEW: The Wines Of Iberica

Neil Sowerby checks out the Spinningfields newcomer opening up a whole new Spanish wine frontier

Written by . Published on January 13th 2015.


PREVIEW: The Wines Of Iberica
 

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MY FIRST encounter with Iberica was through wine.

Italian Francesca Della Croce, has stuck on the back of the bottle: “Everyone should believe in something, I believe I'll keep drinking, sorry...” 

I was a guest of Barcelona Region Tourism, who’d invited me to a Cava tasting at the Spanish chain’s Canary Wharf restaurant. Not just any old Cava, not the battery acid stuff they shift for £4.99 in supermarkets at Christmas. No this was the creme de la creme – or should that be brut de la brut? I was so impressed by the Gramona Imperial Gran Reserva Brut I recommended it in a following wine column

I can’t guarantee that particular fizz will be stocked when Iberica opens in Spinningfields (pictured above and below) in March but, since group wine guru Fernando Gonzalez assures me the full wine list will be available to Manchester, you’ll be able to spend £75 on a bottle of Gramona Lustros III 2004, which puts to shame many a vintage Champagne being peddled in our city’s restaurants.

Plans for Iberica SpinningfieldsPlans for Iberica Spinningfields

That applies to the list as a whole on the evidence of a recent sampling. Word was that Iberica’s huge list was an expedition into fascinating grape territories beyond the norm of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Albarino (though all of these feature) and I am happy to confirm that’s so.

Interestingly, Fernando confesses there is no lower price Rioja listed because they wish to steer customers to match lesser known regional varietals to their food menu. For recommendations just ask any member of the waiting staff, who are all familiar with the range.

I only wish that the six Iberica wines I tasted had been accompanied by their benchmark Jamon Iberico Puro de Bellota from three different Spanish DOC ham regions – Extremedura, Huelva and Cordoba – or raciones such as creamy black rice with squid, prawns and alioli or crispy confit of Segovia’s suckling pig with apple puree and frisee salad.

Slicing All The JamonsSlicing all the jamons

All that’s to come, I hope, in similar sumptuous surrounds. Meanwhile, here’s a revelatory taster of the wine list. Prices are per bottle in the restaurant:

TAMPESTA MANEK (£35)

This is made in Leon from the rare Albarin grape, not to be confused with Albarino, and is exotic on nose and palate. Lush tropical pineapple aromas give no real clue to the intensity that hits you on the palate – creamy, slightly chalky orchard fruit tastes and a long, dry finish where the oak and acidity reign. Challenging and unusual.*

CUMIO (£23)

This is a Ribeiro from Galicia in the far North West, a blend of Treixadura and Palomino grapes, which can hold its own against the much more expensive Albarino. Mussels, squid, octopus, it’s perfect with each. Nacho Manzano, who runs Iberica in addition to his Michelin-starred empire in Spain, feels it is even a match for his take on chicken With chilindron sauce, featuring brandy and rosemary. I like its bright lemony-green hue, ripe fruit scents, low alcohol (11%) and the wealth of crisp fruit underneath its whack of tartness.

BODEGAS ARRAEZ A2 VERDIL (£27)

Another grape I’ve never previously encountered, Verdil is in massive decline in its native Valencia region. Once it was used for indifferent bulk wines and today just 50 hectares remain under vine, but winemakers such as Toni Arraez have recognised its potential and are battling to save it. On the evidence of this lime-scented, grassy white, where it is bolstered by 20% Moscatel, all the effort (involving overnight harvesting to preserve freshness) is worthwhile. I like the scents of blossom, orange and beguiling spiciness. How very Valencian! Spot on with shellfish, whether it would stand up to a Paella, I doubt.

The RedsThe Reds

MALA VIDA (£23)

The first red is also from Bodegas Arraez. The name means The Bad Life (in a good, enjoyable way, like La Dolce Vita for the Italians). Naturally, I absolutely loved this bargain blend of Monastrell, Cabernet, Grenache and Syrah, aged eight months in American oak. It offers violet, spicy aromas and a dark, savoury mouthful with the oak well-integrated, reminiscent  of the Ribera del Duero where young Toni has worked. Bring on the suckling pig and the Manchego and membrillo. The symbol-laden label is cutely attractive. Its quirky creator, Italian Francesca Della Croce, has stuck on the back of the bottle: “Everyone should believe in something, I believe I'll keep drinking, sorry...” 

MOURE TRADICION BARRICA (£47)

With this wine it’s not the label but the odd shape of the bottle you notice most – until you start to sample the delights inside, well worth the hike in price above the rest of these wines. It’s a limited production, hand-harvested curiosity from the D.O. Ribeira Sacra in Galicia, which challenges your assumption about Spanish reds. This one, a blend of Mencía, Garnacha, Tempranillo and Merenzao, is light in body, a soft dark fruit mouthful whose singular quality creeps up on you.

SERS SINGULAR (£33)

Violet-scented nose, vanilla tinged, subtle oakiness with a spicy aftertaste, this is an attractive red from a small family firm in Aragon’s Somontano wine region. Oh yes, and it’s made from another Spanish grape that isn’t Tempranillo. It’s a perfect partner for Segovia suckling pig or twice cooked lamb, marinated cherry tomatoes and red peppers from El Berzio.

Iberica in a nutshell – Spanish regional food and wine with real provenance. Welcome to Manchester.

Iberica, The Avenue, Spinningfields, M3 3HF.

Iberica SpinningfieldsIberica Spinningfields

*Do be warned, though, the first white may not be around long because the winery is poised to close through a variety of issues – definitely not the quality of the wine, mind.

Fernando wanted me to try it because it exemplifies all that Iberica are aiming for (this attitude to clever sourcing of raw materials and food across the board is so impressive).

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