Paella and Bodegas LAN: Perfect for Your Summer BBQ (#winepw)

When you think of summer barbecue dishes, does paella ever come to mind? I have to admit that, until I traveled to Spain, my thoughts would first have turned to ribs, steaks, chops, burgers, and hot dogs. But, after spending a month in Andalucía, on the coast of the Mediterranean, I realized that, in the summer months, the Spanish cook absolutely everything outside. It’s just too darned hot to cook indoors – and not nearly as pretty!

 

Nerja View
Nerja, Spain (author’s photo)

This post is my contribution to the Wine Pairing Weekend event, whose theme is Barbecue Paired with Rioja Wines. Each blogger has offered up a favorite food and wine combo that will have you imagining your own Rioja-themed summer party. On Saturday, July 13th at 11 am ET, we’ll have a Twitter chat to share what we’ve learned, talk about how the food and wine worked together, exchange travel tips, and more.

If you’d like to join us, it’s easy to do: follow our hashtag (#winepw) at the appointed time and make sure you add it to any of your tweets. It’s always good fun and we love to welcome newcomers. Hope to “see” you there!

There are so many directions to take on this topic that it’s sure to be a great discussion. To pique your curiosity, here’s a list of what each participant will be sharing:

The Origins of Paella

Given Spain’s multicultural heritage, it’s only natural that a dish like paella would emerge as part of the culinary tradition. The Romans introduced irrigation in Valencia, making it possible to grow crops in the hot, dry climate. Arab travelers brought rice, which thrived there and became a staple food source. The Moors added their tradition of mixing rice with meat, fish, and vegetables to create a meal for special occasions. You can see how all these factors influenced the paella we know today.

The term paella refers to the pan in which the dish is made. It is round and flat – actual dimensions vary – but it’s always shallow, with the perfect depth about the length of one’s thumb, from the tip to the first joint. A wide, shallow pan over a hot fire was an effective way to cook large quantities of food for hungry field workers; it’s still a good strategy if you want to feed a bunch of hungry friends. Probably easier to cook it atop a grill but, if you’ve got a fire pit that can support a large pan, go for it!

Paella for Lunch
Paella from Xixón Spanish Restaurant: wonderful with Bodegas LAN wines!

What goes into a “classic” paella depends on whom you ask: each part of Spain has adapted the recipe to take advantage of what’s available at the local market. In some places, that’s fresh fish and mollusks; in other places, chicken, rabbit, and sausage are mandatory. I think it’s the perfect culinary canvas on which to create your own gastronomic masterpiece.

So, get out of your kitchen and put your guests to work: even making the paella is fun!

Nerja Paella Dinner
Students at the Escuela de Idiomas Nerja get hands-on with the paella.

María Barúa: Winemaker and Visionary at Bodegas LAN

Trinidad and Maria and LW
Trinidad Villegas and María Barúa of Bodegas LAN. Yours Truly in the middle.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a lunch hosted by María Barúa, Winemaker and Technical Director at Bodegas LAN. She explained how she came to appreciate wine as a child, looking forward to Sunday afternoons, when her father would allow her to help choose a wine to be served at lunch.

That curiosity evolved into a thirst for knowledge, propelling her to earn a degree in Chemistry and Enology, then working for the Rioja government to research the many influences of oak aging on red wine. She began working at LAN in 2002, monitoring all aspects of winegrowing – especially during the critical period just before harvest. Choosing the perfect day to pick the grapes is just the beginning of a meticulous process that continues until the wine is bottled and sold.

Wines from each plot are vinified and aged separately, according to different oak treatments: depending on the desired style of wine, they may be aged in French, American, Russian, or Pyrénnéan oak or, perhaps, in hybrid barrels.

In 2007 María launched several new projects:

  • D-12, a line of intensely aromatic wines fermented in their own special vat;
  • LAN Xtrème Ecológico, wine made from an organically farmed plot; and
  • Marqués de Burgos, a property in Ribera del Duero

Her expertise combines a rigorously academic mindset applied to the practical matters of viticulture and viniculture. I wonder where she will focus her attention next?

Bodegas LAN Viña Lanciano Estate – 72 Hectares in Rioja Alta

On this day, her focus was the special terroir of the Viña Lanciano Estate, 178 acres of vineyards consisting of 22 separate plots jutting into the Ebro River.

Overhead Photo of Lanciano Vineyards
Photo of the Lanciano Estate (photo: Bodegas LAN)

As you can see from the photo, the Lanciano Estate vineyards occupy a spit of land in between Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Given the continental climate here in Rioja, harsh spring weather and icy winds are a perpetual risk early in the growing season; the Santa Cantabria Mountains to the north protect the vines from the worst of it. The river itself reflects sunlight and warmth during the day, providing an additional layer of protection.

Despite the relatively small size of the estate, each of the 22 plots contained within it has a unique microclimate. Old vines (most around 60 years old) of Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha are planted on the sites best suited to those varieties.

The plots do share similar soils – rocky, alluvial deposits that derive from what was once a river bed. Thousands of years ago, as the Ebro carved its path into the countryside, it left a wide swath of silt, rocks, clay, and sand along its inner bank. That inner bank is now the Lanciano Estate.

Here is an illustration showing how the location of each of the 22 plots:

 

Lanciano Plot Map
Illustration: Bodegas LAN

Plots 18-20 are known as the Mantible Plots, named for the Roman bridge originally built in the 2nd century BC to link Rioja with Álava. Charlemagne later rebuilt it, adding seven arches; two of them are still visible today.

One of these plots is farmed according to organic practices: the five-hectare Mantible 18 Xtrème Ecológico. Its focus is Tempranillo grown in a way that enhances the vine’s own immunity to disease. Vines are tended by hand, with particular attention given to gentle pruning and shoot thinning, minimizing the need for leaf-thinning or green harvesting.  You can learn more about the methods here.

Tasting Notes

 

LAN Bottle Line Up
The tasting line-up.

2015 Bodegas LAN D-12 (SRP around $20)

100% Tempranillo; fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel; 12 months’ aging in new French and American oak.

Color: Deep ruby red with a flash of fucshia at the edge.

Nose: Cherry-berry notes complemented by dusty violet and a hint of earth. Perfectly Tempranillo!

Palate: Spicy red and black fruit, medium acidity, silky tannins. Nice finish of licorice and pepper.

2016 Bodegas LAN D-12 (not yet available)

100% Tempranillo; fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel; 12 months’ aging in new French and American oak.

Color: Deep ruby

Nose: Less overtly oak-driven than the previous wine, with red fruit aromas, bitter chocolate, and baking spices.

Palate: Again, the oak is more integrated here, giving a pleasant balance of fruit, spice, and smoke notes.

2010 Viña Lanciano Reserva (SRP around $56)

85% Tempranillo; 10% Graciano; 5% Mazuelo. Aged 18 months in French and Russian oak; 18 months in bottle before release.

Color: Deep ruby fading to pale violet at the rim.

Nose: Ripe cherry, forest floor, cocoa powder, and just a whiff of vanilla. So alluring!

Palate: Moderate acidity and silky tannins balance the ripe fruit, making this one of my favorite wines of the tasting.

2012 Viña Lanciano Reserva (not yet available)

90% Tempranillo; 8% Graciano; 2% Mazuelo. Vines over 30 years old and tended by hand. Aged 14 months in French oak, 8 months in Russian oak, and 20 months in the bottle.

Color: Deep ruby with hints of coral at the rim.

Nose: Striking aromas of black, red, and blue fruit accentuated by vanilla and just a hint of clove.

Palate: Every component plays its part beautifully in this wine: you notice the fruit, tannin, acidity but as part of the whole tasting experience. Just lovely!

2013 Bodegas LAN Edición Limitada

82% Tempranillo; 10% Mazuelo; 8% Garnacha from 35-40 year-old vines on the Lanciano Estate. Aged for 8 months in new French oak; then 7 months in Russian oak.

Color: Purple-red. I can’t decide which color is stronger.

Nose: Ripe black fruit complemented by baking spices, vanilla, and dusty earth.

Palate: Earthier than the nose, with forest floor, tobacco, cedar lifted by red and black fruit. Acid and tannins are moderate and proportional, making this a well-balanced wine ready to drink now or to hold for a few years.

2016 Bodegas LAN Edición Limitada

85% Tempranillo; 10% Graciano; 5% Mazuelo, all from the El Rincón plot located in the southern plot of the Lanciano estate. Wine was aged in new French oak for 8 months then for 5 months in new Russian oak.

Color: Bright ruby red.

Nose: Ripe red and black fruit underpinned by caramel, earth, and licorice notes. Tannins are more noticeable here but they’re needed to balance the richness of the fruit. There is enough acidity to lift the flavors and bring them all together.

Fun in the Xixon Cellar
Miami wine enthusiasts taking over the cellar at Xixón Restaurant.

My Takeaways

I was fascinated by the story behind the Lanciano Estate vineyards: 22 individual plots making wines that are vinified and aged separately. It would be interesting to follow the wines as they age, tasting them along the way. If you come across them in your local market, I highly recommend you give them a try. And, if you do, by all means drop a comment here and let me know what you thought.

Many thanks to María Barúa and Trinidad Villegas of Bodegas LAN for the chance to learn about and taste these lovely wines. And a big shout-out to Xixón Spanish Restaurant in Miami, for hosting us – the food was delicious, and the ambience lively and fun.

¡Salud!

14 comments

    • Next time we’ll coordinate and go to the same one. And yeah, the paella was enormous! The school in Spain did cultural and culinary events for the students, including this hands-on cook-out. So fun!

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  1. OK, now you have me thinking about paella and making my own this summer! I’ve only ever made it a couple of times, but I should get it into my grill rotation. It’s very fun to see all the variations. A bit like risotto, it seems more a process than a specific recipe. Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

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