Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spanish Art and Wine Authorities

I arrived in good company at 7:30pm Friday September 5th to a packed store at Wine Authorities for the Spanish wine tasting in conjunction with the Spanish art of El Greco to Velazquez at the Nasher Museum. This was a brilliant overlap to further engrain in my mind the reign of Philip III in Spain, and to learn how Spanish wine shares a resurgence from obscurity similar to that of Philip III.

Including the sparkling wine to kick off the evening, Craig and Seth of Wine Authorities presented a total of 9 wines with hors d’oeuvres while Juline Chevalier, Curator of Education, filled in the gaps with visual and historical information from the show. The underlying theme was that wine and art should not be seen as snobbish, but accessible. With this palatable offering, I absorbed more information about the El Greco to Velazquez than ever before.

Spain, at the end of the Dark Ages, found itself in a new era of art as well as wine making. The vines in Spain are hundreds of years older than those of wealthier vineyards who replace their vines more frequently. It took a while for these older vines to prove they had something to offer over the competition. Likewise Sara Schroth has spent years preparing the art collection of the Duke of Lerma in the court of Philip III before we now get to pop the cork with El Greco at the Nasher.

While learning about Spain’s old vines and Sara’s discovery of Lerma’s inventory, I was drinking Ergavio, a pleasant white wine. Ergavio is made from the Airen grape, the most widely grown grape in the world, though typically used to make brandy. We then enjoyed a wonderfully full-bodied Rosado while covering the Counter Reformation and military dominance under the previous reign of Philip II. We moved on to a Verdejo grape while learning that Philip III moved the capital of Spain from Toledo to Madrid.

The pleasant tone of the evening was sustained for the next three wines, all made from the Temperanillo grape and accompanied by the most amazing sardines I think anyone in the room had ever experienced. The white sardines, imported of course from Spain, had a pleasant ocean essence without overpowering the wines. While these flavors lingered we learned of Tenebrism, a contrast of light and shadow in painting so dramatic that it rivals Caravaggio’s Chiaroscuro technique.

Our wines ended with a sweet brandy and a rare dessert wine directly from Craig’s private reserve, accompanying the cheeses, olives, and bread that can be purchased everyday at Wine Authorities. This serves as a reminder to visit our local wine store and to engage our own private reserve of rare and wonderful artwork currently on display at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

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