You have some time to yourself and are sitting down to a simple but elegant meal. You’ve prepared a lovely salad complete with Italian olive oil, accompanied by some superb French cheeses and a glass of the best French wine. Sucker! You should know that if you’d chosen these products from Spain they would have been even more delicious!
This is something that, to be honest, not even many Spanish people would have realized. Accustomed to having these delicacies as internally consumed products, their international potential has escaped Spaniards for far too long. Even within Spain in the past, people were capable of feeling fancy and distinguished by putting a bottle of Burgundy (from France) on the table when all the while they had the excellent wines of Bierzo (Spain) right at their fingertips. But everything changed in the 90s, and we finally became aware of the treasures we had in our vineyards.
It is true that we “only” have 70 denominations of origin and we don’t even come close to the many French options but, ladies and gentlemen, please! We’re talking about regions that provide great variety and quality: refreshing Galician white wines, robust reds from regions in Castile, delicate elixirs from vineyards rocked by the Mediterranean, witty and sparkling Andalusian varieties and especially, those coming from wine-making country, La Rioja. And you don’t have to take our word for it. If we take a simple look at lists made by wine gurus such as Stephen Tanzer and Robert M. Parker, we’ll see that Spanish wines have some of the best scores. Don’t believe us? Well… it’s the perfect excuse to take one of the many winery tours offered in Spain, turning the journey of discovery from “Sideways” into a Sunday walk.
From one liquid of life we move to another: olive oil. Not so long ago Tom Mueller, author of the book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, talked about the fact that much of the olive oil that was supposedly from Italy was actually Spanish and that, on top of that, much of it was adulterated. Do we have to go on? No need to complicate things, simply try a bottle of our olive oil, the real deal. It is produced throughout Spain although the areas that produce the most are Andalusia and Extremadura.
Olive oil is a world all its own, and there are many varieties. If you ask any Spanish housewife she will be able to tell you the differences between extra virgin olive oil (with less than 0.8% acidity), Virgin (with less than 2% acidity), a mixture of refined oil and Virgin (with no more than 1% acidity) and olive pomace oil (chemically treated and mixed).
Another distinction is the type of olive used: is the oil aberquina, delicate and perfect for seafood and salad; cornicabra, slightly spicy and perfect for roasts; hojiblanca, great for blue fish; or picual, intense and a good complement for cured ham, sausages and cheeses.
Speaking of cheese, it just so happens there are a few good ones that come from Spain. Although no one knows the exact number of cheeses from Spain, the estimation is somewhere over 200. And the same happens with cheeses as with wine. We don’t have as many as the French but we have far more than the Swiss, although we would like to stress that we are not talking about quantity, but quality. Whatever your taste may be we’re sure you will find Spanish cheeses that you will love.
If you like intense flavors, there’s nothing like Cabrales (Asturias) or Idiazabal (Basque country and Navarre), if on the contrary you prefer a bit of acidity try Mahón (Balearic Islands), and if you prefer something a little lighter and smoother you have tetilla (Galicia). If you’re looking for something creamy make sure to ask for a torta del Casar (Extremadura), and if you want to experiment with all the flavors without moving out of one region, there’s nothing like the many cheeses of La Mancha. And we’ve only cited five out of two hundred! You have so many to discover!
Spaniards have taken too long to realize we have so many culinary treasures from our country, but now we’re taking advantage. These three specialties are now known and enjoyed around the world. But there’s nothing like trying them right where they’re produced. It’s time to come to Spain!
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