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Los Patios de Beatas, Málaga

Los Patios de Beatas is a favourite in Málaga, and whenever I arrive in the city it will never take long untill I head for a table in that culinary palace, hotel and cultural oasis.

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Speaking of tables, please allow me a short sidestep before we get back to the restaurant. My wife had since she first saw the tables in the street and in the restaurant been an admirer of the work. So she took a picture of the signature, and looked up a facebook site. We soon found out that the artist lived in Mijas village. So we went to Mijas. There were no signs, no directions. But we didn’t give up: We talked to some locals, knocked on some doors, and suddenly we found ourselves in the artist’s living-room.

Joshua Van Den Eeden is of American and Flemish descendant; his parents met in Torremolinos in the 1960’s, and you have already realized that there is a romantic story that could be told. But we must make a short-cut: Joshua is now established with his home-workshop and gallery in Mijas. His tables are made of concrete, and the plates of copper and calcium. The turquoise colour comes from a reaction with air. Finally a glacier is put on top of it, to keep it from further development.

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Joshua Van Den Eeden

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Among other projects are benches for the Mijas municipality. So remember, next time you are there you will maybe sit on the artwork that you see here. The wine map to the left is for a friend. Take a closer look, and you will see a more detailed map of Rioja than the current official one. (You can find more info here.)

Back in the old town of Málaga, Beatas is a small street where the people behind the restaurant have rehabilitated two houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, both architectural pearls of historic importance, and both with beautiful patios. This is the background to the restaurant’s name.

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Julián Sanjuán

The driving force behind the project is Julián Sanjuán, who has studied oenology in Málaga and got his sommelier degree from Barcelona, and had already opened málaga wine museums both Ojén and Mijas, small towns in the Málaga province. He established Los Patios in 2012, and last year he also created a professional sommelier association in Málaga. With his network it’s then easy to understand why the restaurant is full of dedicated sommeliers that know how to describe a wine, and has the knowledge to pair wine and food successfully.

In the main floor there are three rooms with open doors between them, two are more normal restaurants, and one cosy bar where you sit on high stools at van den Erden’s tables. You can also buy the bottles that you see around you in the room and bring them home with you. In the next floor there are two dining rooms, a tasting room with natural light from an inside patio, and in the other jazz and flamenco concerts are held once in a while. The familiy also runs a small hotel in the other building.

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Key words are varied wines from all over Spain (and some from outside), and creative dishes based on seasonal products. Worth mentioning, this is snob-free zone, and all the wines are for drinking, more than 500 references in total. Some restaurants with a much shorter wine-list have some show-wines like Vega Sicilias in old vintages that noone has the wallet to buy. Here there are a few really expensive wines, but the difference is -and while we are talking about Ribera del Duero- that the most expensive Vegas and Sastres are a logical continuation of an extensive list of wines from the Ribera. For Andalusian wines I can only think of one contender, Armando Guerras place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. (Read about him here.) But for wines from the Málaga province you simply go to Los Patios.

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After so many visits it’s difficult to pick just a few wines. I have tasted many local and regional wines, such as Sedella and Schatz from the Málaga province, the sherries of Ramiro Ibañez and Equipo Navazos from Cádiz. Sparklers from Recaredo (Cava), whites from Lagar de Pintos (Rías Baixas)and Avanthia (Valdeorras) and developed reds from Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Ánima Negra (Mallorca) and Dominio de Atauta (Ribera del Duero) will rarely disappoint.

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My last visit was earlier this year. I will always discuss with the sommeliers, of course, but this is the kind of place that I can let them get the last word, and I can easily trust that the wine will be good and the pairings successful. This time the first wine was Igualado 2014 a red blend from nearby Ronda bodega Joaquín Fernández. Dark, young colour; balsamic aroma (mint), peppery and spicy, with mature tannins, that went well with “ternera con foie” (veal with foie gras), even if I would suspect the wine to be too dominant. Next was “texturas de panceta”, different textures of pork belly, served with green puré and fennel. the different ingredients blended superbly, and the wine that Julián suggested, Vetus 2011 from Toro (dark, red berries, blackcurrant, morello and a touch of minty oak, mature and integrated tannins, a very elegant Toro) was interesting to see with the varying textures of the food.

2017-03-04 14.55.49 Veal with fois, and a glass of Igualado

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The Vetus bottle, and Julián talking to the next table

After numerous visits to central Spain I have learned to know Daniel Jiménez-Landi (now of Comando G fame and a great ambassador of the light extraction garnacha style). Here we could savour one of his earlier offerings, the Piélago 2010. This Méntrida garnacha was quite hard in its younger years, but after some time in Los Patios’ cellar it had mellowed, and it was perfect with the lamb and quinoa dish.

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Piélago with lamb and quinoa

This was a unusual night in that we had only red wines. But you don’t always need to start with a champagne and end with a dessert wine and a grappa, do you? This particular night we ended with the fabulous Acinipo 2006 from a good friend, Ronda wine producer Friedrich Schatz. And this because the party had already wanted to order a plate of cheeses, a selection with predominantly hard cheeses, so I thought why not. Schatz is originally from Süd-Tirol, and the wine is made from the variety lemberger, a synonym for blaufränkisch. It’s quite different from the more northern-eastern wines though. Named after the Roman ruins further down the road, this wine is quite full-bodied with the dryness in the aftertaste that can be found in this producer’s wines, a feature that makes them go well with a variety of dishes.

On your first visit to Málaga, go to El Pimpi and the Antigua Casa de Guardia, because they are picturesque places and important for the city’s culinary history, and you will get decent tapas there. But once familiar with Málaga they are maybe not the places you will keep coming back to. Los Patios is a place that you never get tired of.

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Tuna in to the Taberna de el Campero

Zahara de los Atunes is a tiny village on the southernmost stretch of the Costa de la Luz of the Cádiz province. If you can find it, then you will also find the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, bathed in the sun and cooled by the breeze. In the municipal center Barbate the most valuable fish in the world is still caught, a great deal of it will catch the next plane to gourmet sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but thanks to higher forces that some of it stays here and enriches the local bars and restaurants. If Hemingway were still alive he would probably have participated both in the catching and the eating.

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You get chopsticks if you like

La Taberna de el Campero is a branch of restaurant El Campero of Barbate and found right in the small center of Zahara del Atunes. Here chef Julio Vázquez lets the tuna fish, or Atún Rojo Salvaje de Almadraba (to call him by his full name) play the main role. The interior is in aquarium blue colours, table cloths have tuna motifs, and on the menu that’s written on the wall there are tuna dishes, traditional and original, such as Tartar de Atún Rojo (where they use the ‘cola blanca’, the lower part of the tail, in front of the fin), Surtido de Crudos de Atún Rojo (tuna sashimi, tartar and tataki), Lasaña Fría de Atún (cold tuna lasagne) and Albóndiga de Atún (Spanish meatball, made with tuna), just to name a few. Two people, two nights, we were able to see the tuna from many sides and taste types of tuna fish meat we didn’t know existed.

(Here is a clip from the facebook page where you can see their own sushi specialist Jun prepare an interpretation of a Japanese dish.)

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Big surprise, they have a special focus on natural wines!, and that must be the main reason that we came back. The selection was not very big, only one page. But it was ecclectic, and the rest of the wine list wasn’t bad either. Among the whites were La Mar Salada, from Nieva in the Segovia part of Rueda, and almost local wines such as Lagar de Ambrosio from Olvera in the Cádiz mountains. I have written about Rafa Bernabé here in an earlier post. Here is a wine from one of his collegues from Alicante, Bodegas La Encina (from the village of the same name, bordering La Mancha). This is a fresh and delicious un-oaked white called El Juncar from varieties forcallat blanca, tortosina and macabeo and now in the 2014 vintage. This is a good, healthy and naturally made alternative to Castillo de San Diego and other VT Cádiz wines from the sherry houses more likely to be found here.

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El Juncar, white natural wine

And among the reds were Casar de Valdaiga, oak-aged mencía from Bierzo, Duende, a syrah from Granada, Pésico, a wine from the unlikely area of Cangas de Narcea (Asturias), made from the still more unlikely grape varieties of albarín tinto, carrasquín, red verdejo (!) and mencía. All of these were only sold in whole bottles, so we had to be very selective (we can hope that people will find out that these wines are more than merely funny names from funny places, so that the restaurant can find it worthwhile to serve them by the glass next time). One of our whole bottle reds was Viña Almate (Alfredo Maestro), a tempranillo roble from the banks of the river Duratón that runs into the town of Peñafiel (in the heart of Ribera del Duero). I have been an admirer of this wine since I tasted it together with its maker a few months ago. It has a very direct, fruity, flowery and spicy character, and it’s mouthfilling and with a seductive acid freshness.

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Viña Almate, red natural wine

Zahara de los Atunes is a small oasis along the coast of the light. Yes, it’s small, but you have Tarifa and Morocco within reach, so is Cádiz, the sherry district and Sevilla. But you have also interesting historic places such as the Cabo de Trafalgar, the town of Medina Sidinia, reminiscants of the romans… Atlantis may have been here, certainly Tartessos. And apart from the obvious advantages of the beaches and the sunsets, places like the Taberna de el Campero make it even worth to stay in the village for a while.

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Sunset in Zahara de los Atunes

 

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Articles and Wine bars and restaurants

Unfortified wines in Sherry country

While sherry sales have declined for years something new is emerging. From one of my numerous trips to the sherry district in the past I remember Bodegas Ferris showed me some plantings of the tintilla de rota grape. Now this grape plays a major part when un-fortified wines are gaining ground.

Last week I took a day trip from Zahara de los Atunes down the Costa de la Luz. I visited a few producers in the Cádiz province, and tasted wines from some more. In El Puerto de Santa María municipality, on the road between Jerez and Rota, the bodega of Forlong was hard to find, but with a little telephonic help I managed. Here Alejandro Narváez and Rocio Áspera are making wine from 3 hectars, only one in production though, but they also count on vineyards in Jerez and Trebujena. They neither buy nor sell grapes.

2015-06-30 12.00.34 Alex in white albariza vineyard

For red wine tintilla de rota that is the star grape, with its nice acidity, its spiciness and its local pedigree. For the whites the first grape is sherry variety palomino fino, but its collegue pedro ximénez is also grown. The tintilla de rota is «technically a clone of graciano», explains Alejandro, or Alex, «but where graciano has four pips the tintilla has only one». They use spontaneous fermentation, and sulphur levels are quite low (typically 40-55 mg/L). It’s not that difficult to maintain an organic agriculture here, according to Alex. There was already a good eco-system, as it is near the Doñana ‘marisma’ (wetlands) and a natural lagoon, and the wind and the sun in the vineyards. The biggest threat is a frog that goes after the leaves.

The property was bought in 2007, and Alex and Rocio named it Forlong – after Forlon, the previous owner – but added a ‘g’, since the Spanish pronounce it like that anyway. The small bodega house is built with the estetics of a coastal sherry house, with beams under the roof, but without the openings, since they don’t wish to grow ‘flor’ (the yeast that is helped by the Atlantic breeze). The bodega has some big century old tinajas (clay jars), and some barrels. It’s somewhat provisional though, as a new storage room is now under construction.

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We tasted their three wines, a white, a rosé and a red. The white, from 85% palomino and the rest px, was very expressive, with aromas of white flowers, lychee, yellow apple, with some mineral character from the albariza (the white calcareous soil that reflects the sunlight), and some saltiness in the aftertaste. In this area you often hear that palomino is a neutral grape with little acidity and character. Alex and Rocio want to change that idea, and this wine is a welcome contribution.

An interesting rosé from cabernet sauvignon had been fermenting for 15 days at low temperatures. It was light in colour, with smells of strawberries, red berries, and of underwood and mushroom too. Quite slender and with good acidity, and the slight CO2 content also contributed to its freshness and general appeal. The red wine – a syrah, merlot, tintilla blend) that had been in clay for 6 months and 3 more months in oak of varying ages and origins – was also interesting, round, and with a dense fruit, though it might be that with a lower alcohol degree than 15˚ it would have been even better.

After a couple of hours Miguel Gómez shows up. He is renting space at Forlong, where he makes his Mahara wine. He has two more projects, the Alba Viticultura in Sanlúcar and another in Ronda (Málaga). Here in the Cádiz province he has 5 hectars of vineyards, expanding a little each year, works by gravity, and the vineyards and wine are «never touch by a machine». About its «organicness», these vineyards are now in conversion, while in Ronda biodynamic technices are already employed.

2015-06-30 13.42.38 Miguel takes a sample from a 12 year old Hungarian barrel

We tried two samples, one from a 12 year old Hungarian barrel, and one from an American one. All barrels are in fact used when bought. It’s interesting to see two samples that different when they come from one vineyard and are treated the same way. The one from the Hungarian barrel is more soft, rounded, and full, while the other is more spicy, salty and floral on the nose, and in the mouth it’s more aggressive, even more concentrated.

For the final wine all 14 barrels will be blended, «as they are after all from the same vineyard, and together they will express the characteristic of that vineyard». Until now there has not been added any SO2. Maybe he will add a tiny amount before bottling, maybe not. The wine clocks in at a mere 12˚ alcohol.

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Miguel goes out for a while, and from the car he comes back with a plastic bag filled with ice and with two bottles. These are a white and a sparkling wine from his Sanlúcar project called Alba. We decide to go into the vineyard to taste them. The sparkling wine is light and appealing. The still version has been under flor for 8-9 months, a golden, tasty wine, salty as a manzanilla and bottled ‘en rama’, unfiltered.

The vineyard is not where they come from though, they grow in Miraflores and Maina near Sanlúcar, while we are now in the famous pago of Balbaina, the jerezano vineyard that is closest to the coast. But it’s scenic, and we can see one of the reasons that his red wine has such a low alcohol: The grape clusters block for the sun, so in the middle of the day the sunlight is mainly reflected from the albariza soil. The Poniente wind also contributes to a slower maturation.

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Miguel rents this part of Balbaina. While we are out there sampling some delicious white and sparkling wine owner Martín comes to join the fun.

Before I went back to Zahara I visited Armando Guerra’s place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the Taberna Der Guerrita. This is a wine bar, a small restaurant, a shop – a real oasis and nothing you would expect in the capital of Manzanilla, where people stare at you once you order a red wine in a bar, assuming you mean a «tinto de verano» (a low alcohol drink that is taking over for sangría). Armando used to sell his «own» table white wine and amontillado («own» because they were brands and made by R. Ibáñez and Delgado Zuleta, respectively). But he is running the taberna, he sells and serves the wines he likes himself – and he receives a lot of attention for his ambitious series of wine tastings involving many great producer and journalist names from Spain and abroad, and the proprietor too.

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Armando with a glass of «unfortified manzanilla» in front of his small wine bar

We tasted some wines and talked a little about the industry. It is well known that sherry is losing ground in many markets, so many producers, with Barbadillo as the most famous wine and the greatest commercial success, have started to produce unfortified wines from the area. Today the ones that put all their effort into these wines are the flagbearers for quality, such as Luís Pérez, Ramiro Ibáñez, Forlong, Mahara, Alba, Huerta de Albalá, and not least Equipo Navazos.

There is no D.O. for wines like this in the Cádiz province. Both Miguel Gómez and Armando Guerra says that this could be both positive and negative. In general it will help the big bodegas as these people will put a stronger quality focus on the vineyards, Armando suggests. Both admit that the wine doesn’t sell itself, but on the other hand there are no rules, and the new growers can contribute to define the «future». It would not surprise me (even with the mighty families of the Marco de Jerez around) that a new regulation would be built upon the red grape tintillo de rota and the white palomino fino, but with possibilities for several «caprichos» too.

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