BY CK Lam
My education in wine has been a series of discoveries and I recently tasted some Spanish wines at the Bodegas Altanza Wine Dinner. Held at Hotel Equatorial Penang, it was an evening of fine food and Spanish wines.
The wine pairing dinner was graced with the presence of Sherwin Lao, Southeast Asia and Oceania Manager of Bodegas Altanza Winery. He shared information of several white and red wines: Le Altanza White 2012, Bodegas Altanza Rioja Capitoso 2013, Le Altanza Rioja Reserva Seleccion de familia 2009, Club Le Altanza Rioja Reserva 2008, Le Altanza Rioja Reserva Serie de Artistas Contemporaneos Chinos 2008.
Sherwin explained that Bodegas Altanza, in Fuenmayor (Upper Rioja), produces livelier Rioja wines following a tradition and technology balancing principle. The red wines are produced mainly in French oak barrels with Tempranillo (the classic grape of Rioja), coupled with vertical pressing method and ageing process.
The wine pairing menu was crafted by Sous Chef Looi Soon Lee and his team, and each dish was paired with a different wine. The night kicked off with canapes and white wine, followed by warm and crusty buns with butter.
The slipper lobster and mango cocktail was the first dish. The seafood dish served with green asparagus, avocado and classic cocktail sauce caught me off guard with its nice combination of ingredients and presentation.
We sipped on the Le Altanza Rioja 2012, a light wine made from sauvignon blanc. With aromas of tropical fruit and citrus, and hints of mineral, the wine proved a well-matched accompaniment, bringing out the flavor of the cocktail well.
The next dish was a warming bowl of vegetable soup, prepared with lightly roasted carrot and pumpkin. Along with a topping of cinnamon foam, the soup provided a subtly spiced and nice spin on the traditional pumpkin soup. It was paired with the easy-going Bodegas Altanza Rioja Capitoso 2013.
The dinner was followed with the pan-seared marinated quail breast on mushroom puree with Le Altanza Rioja Reserva Seleccion de familia 2009. The bird was all the better with a touch of the mushroom puree.
Soon after, a dry gin cranberry sorbet cools and refreshes the palate with its slightly sweet and bitter flavour.
Main course came with a choice of meat or seafood. Mine was on the meaty side, with the slow roasted whole beef tenderloin presented with honey roasted pumpkin, and rocket crushed pink potatoes. The addition of Port wine glace worked well with the slightly pink beef that took very little chewing and just melted in the mouth.
The meaty dish was paired with Club Le Altanza Rioja Reserva 2008. According to Sherwin, the 2008 vintage aged in French oak cask for 18 months is a limited edition of 48,000 bottles. Made from 100% handpicked Tempranillo, this red with concentrated bouquet has dark fruit and oak aromas blending smoothly together. The flavour lingers on the palate and stays there, leaving a long aftertaste.
The Equatorial Trio Dessert rounded things off with a medley of pumpkin tart, mango charlotte, and chocolate truffle mousse; paired with Le Altanza Rioja Reserva Serie de Artistas Contemporaneos Chinos 2008.
The wines are easy to drink and for me, the big winners of the night were the Le Altanza Rioja 2012 and Club Le Altanza Rioja Reserva 2008.
Hotel Equatorial Penang
1 Jalan Bukit Jambul
* Many thanks to Hotel Equatorial Penang for laying on this invitation.