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Rioja and Food – an easy wine to complement your cooking.
Viña Real Crianza Rioja is the kind of wine you need to know about. With 91 points from both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, you might think it is out of your price range for every day drinking, but this lush red, a blend of 90% Tempranillo with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes, is eminently quaffable and reasonably priced. And it’s a great example of your new flexible friend how Rioja food and wine pairings work.
The Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), launched the Viña Real brand in the 1920s. The vineyards are close to the Camino Real, the inspiration for the brand name. The Rioja Alavesa is in the heart of the Basque country, just south of Vitoria-Gastiez. CVNE specialises in Crianza Rioja made in oak barrels, using grapes harvested by hand, fermented in steel tanks for 10-12 days then aged in American and French oak barrels for 13-14 months, during which time the wine acquires an aromatic balance that characterises the wine. The CVNE Viña Real Crianza 2016 is a DOC wine, Rioja is the oldest Designation of Origin in Spain and is strictly regulated.
There are three classifications for Rioja; Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Gran Reserva is only made in good years and is aged for two years in barrel and three in bottle. Reserva is aged for a year in barrel and two in bottle. Crianza, the baby of the family, is aged for a year in barrel and at least a year in bottle. That means typically a Crianza is lighter and less oaky than its big brothers – and is also cheaper. The tempranillo grape is relatively neutral and light – blending the wine with other grape varieties and ageing on oak help to give it roundness.
2016 was, apparently, an unusually late harvest characterised by good weather and high temperatures. The end result is a really delicious wine with more body than I’d anticipated. I started drinking it with a few olives and crisps and could easily have continued that way. But, this Rioja paired surprisingly well with a beef and ale pie that I’d made. I’d happily drink this with a steak too or perhaps with my recipe for venison medallions with red wine and berry sauce.
If you’d like to try an unusual Rioja wine pairing, making a beef and ale pie is quick and easy. You need enough shortcrust pastry to line two pie dishes and a good beef and ale filling. I made mine with a good helping of my own Spiced beef in Guinness – a recipe that is perfect for batch cooking. Follow that recipe to make the filling, pre-heat your oven and make up the pie. Serve with plenty of green vegetables for a delicious, easy supper.
Here’s the (very short) recipe.
An easy Beef in Ale Pie using pre-made beef in ale stew
- 150 g flour
- 75 g butter
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 large egg
- cold water as required
- 1 portion shortcrust pastry 225g in weight
- 200 g beef in guinness casserole premade- you can use any favourite recipe
- 1 small egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
Mix the salt into the flour
Cut the butter into small pieces
Rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture which resembles fine breadcrumbs
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and break the egg into it.
Using a fork, pull the flour crumbs into the egg until you have a dough. If necessary add cold water so all the flour can be combined
Knead the dough very lightly, wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes
Grease the pie dish(es) that you are using. I have individual 40cm deep pie dishes for this kind of recipe. Put the oven on to 180c (170c for fan oven).
Flour a board or worktop lightly
Roll out the pastry to around 1/4cm thickness
Use the rolling pin to lift the pastry over the pie dish and gently fit it into the dish. Cut around the edge with a sharp knife.
Mix the milk and egg together and use a little of it to brush round the edge of the pastry
Form the pastry into a ball again and roll out on a floured board to 1/4 cm thickness
Fill the pastry shell with the beef in ale mixture
Lift the second piece of pastry onto the pie dish and cut round the edge as neatly as possible
Use a fork or your fingers to seal the edge of the pie. Make a hole in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape
Brush over the top of the pie with the milk and egg mixture
Bake in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes until the filling is hot and the pastry is crisp and golden
As mentioned above, I used my own recipe for spiced beef in Guinness for this dish. I make large batches and freeze two-person portions. You could use my recipe or your own favourite beef and ale casserole recipe. I was honestly surprised at how well the Crianza paired with what is quite a rich beef dish, but couldn’t bring myself to make a red wine gravy.
CVNE Viña Real Crianza 2016
RRP: £11.95 | Stockists: Cranbrook Wines, The Solent Cellar