The warmth of Spain just a train ride away

West Sussex Gazette - - ON THE GRAPEVINE -

By Richard Es­ling BSc DipWSET . Richard is an ex­pe­ri­enced wine con­sul­tant, agent, writer and ed­u­ca­tor. An erst­while wine im­porter, he runs a wine agency and con­sul­tancy com­pany called WineWyse, is founder and prin­ci­pal of the Sus­sex Wine Academy, chair­man of Arun­del Wine So­ci­ety and is an In­ter­na­tional Wine Judge. @richard­wje www.winewyse.com

Hav­ing sur­vived Jan­uary with its cold, yet of­ten ‘Dry’ con­di­tions, we now progress joy­ously into the grey and damp of Fe­bru­ary. Such is our great Bri­tish win­ter. Time to start se­ri­ously plan­ning some hol­i­days in the sun – the Cote d’Azur in France, the Ital­ian lakes or per­haps An­dalucía in Spain, with its warmth not only of cli­mate, but of its peo­ple, food and wines.

All this is just a train ride away. OK, if you’re ac­tu­ally go­ing to Spain, it may be rather a long ride, but hop on a train from Sus­sex and God and the RMT will­ing, you ar­rive in Vic­to­ria. A 500-yard walk along Vic­to­ria Street and op­po­site West­min­ster Cathe­dral is a lit­tle bit of Spain, tucked away un­der the Zig-Zag build­ing, in the form of Iber­ica Restau­rant.

Iber­ica Vic­to­ria is a true Span­ish tapas bar and restau­rant, with the added ad­van­tage of an in­ter­est­ingly dif­fer­ent list of Span­ish wines, many of which are im­ported di­rect from the pro­duc­ers in Spain.

Many of these are served by the glass, al­low­ing a dif­fer­ent wine to be paired with each dif­fer­ent tapa – and there is a wide se­lec­tion from which to choose. Apart from the lack of a dancer in a flow­ing red dress, ac­com­pa­nied by Fla­menco gui­tar and cas­tanets, the restau­rant achieves a truly au­then­tic Span­ish at­mos­phere, serv­ing the best tapas I have eaten out­side An­dalucía it­self.

In the words of the group head bar­tender, Na­cho Ordiz, “A true Span­ish meal is noth­ing with­out drinks,” and the se­lec­tion of more than 50 dif­fer­ent wines is de­signed to show­case the great di­ver­sity and vi­brancy that mod­ern Span­ish wines are all about.

That iconic and mas­sively un­der­rated wine called sherry, is of­fered in six dif­fer­ent styles, all by the glass, start­ing at the ex­traor­di­nar­ily good value of £5 for a bone dry Fino or Man­zanilla. Sip as an aper­i­tif or match with Cala­mares – fried baby squid with gar­lic may­on­naise. Or if you fancy a glass of some­thing bub­bly, try the crisp, dry Raven­tos Blanc de Blanc Cava, with its de­li­cious aro­mas of pears and green ap­ple on the palate. A plate of Iberico ham is ‘de rigueur’.

Re­cently, Al­barino from the north­west of Spain, has come to the fore on many wine lists and it has be­come a favourite dry white wine of mine, with its dis­tinc­tive, crisp, re­fresh­ing char­ac­ter. Iber­ica has no less than five dif­fer­ent Al­bari­nos, in­clud­ing a very un­usual and ut­terly de­li­cious aged ver­sion from the 2011 vin­tage. Fab­u­lous served with salt cod bran­dade and root vegetable crisps, or poached hake, one of the Iber­ica sig­na­ture dishes.

A good choice of other white wines is also avail­able, to­gether of course, with an eclec­tic list of reds which pair per­fectly with the meat-based tapas. Sea­sonal spe­cial­i­ties are fea­tured on a chang­ing list, ir­re­sistible when avail­able. Hare cro­que­tas or par­tridge pie. Sheer heaven for us om­ni­vores. And with 15 reds by the glass, in­clud­ing some from the de­li­ciously fruity yet lit­tle-known Men­cia grape va­ri­ety, the com­bi­na­tions with these or other tapas are end­less.

It may make for a very long lunch next time you are in town.

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