Food & Wine Matching with Tom – Ham and cheese toastie and Grenache

I usually aim to highlight a new-found gem in this newsletter. But, this week, the most joyous wine I’ve tasted has been a constant of the wine rack for six months or so. That’s not so long. It’s still an on-the-pulse, fresh cut… probably. Anyway, it’s just too good not to share and I want you to enjoy it.

To set the scene, it has been a full-on couple of weeks. Lots on. Not all of it entirely joyful. Nothing awful, thankfully. Just stuff. We’ve all been there. But, it’s mid-week, mid evening; both girls that I am blessed to share the house with are sleeping soundly. The early-thirties one by choice, happily taking advantage of a rare free evening. The one whose age is still calculated in months rather than years, asleep now under some but relatively minimal duress.

I find myself alone downstairs seeking something easy to take the edge off the week-so-far and anything I can grill in five minutes on the George Forman for dinner. Nutrition, be damned.

My mind wanders to El Berrakin. Snuffling about the place and bumping things over. Nudging the sofa and denting the plumped cushions. All muscle and stiff hair and tusks. That’s a good idea. Let’s have some of that, I think. And a cheese and ham toastie.

El Berrakin is the brilliant Grenache (Garnacha, we’re in Spain here) made by Daniel Ramos in the little-known, mountainous wine region of Gredos, near Madrid. The wild boar warning sign on the label gave me the excuse for the ridiculous intro. This is incredibly pure and bright, medium-weight, cherry and red berry fruited, elegant Grenache. A long way from the ripe, dark fruits and stewed strawberry, chewy wines I so often associate with this grape. If you like new world Pinot Noir, you’ll be enthralled by this.

It’s my perfect wine in so many ways – un-fiddled-with, fruit picked when it’s tense and delicious, the wine’s structure is electric. There’s a bit of textural healing going on too. It’s unfiltered and has a mouthfeel that is both refreshing and a bit earthy. It’s ‘real’ ‘natural’ stuff. All of that lovely fruit, plus a gentle herbaceous coy-ness. Honestly, it’s awesome.

Food-wise, this will elevate a ragu of any kind – tomatoes and beef, or pork, or aubergine and lentils or anything at all, cooked down over an hour or two in a pot. And, we do a lot of that in our house and I often drink this alongside, so I know it works wonders before, during and after.

But on this occasion, I cut some mature cheddar thinly, pull a slice of pre-wrapped ham from it’s sheath and slap both between two wholemeal slices. A decent slather of English mustard on the ham finishes it, before grilling. Bliss.

It was easy. I am happy and I wrote this because I want you to feel the same.

El Berrakin 2019, Daniel Ramos. Available with national delivery from Butlers Wine Cellar at £14.75

Tom Surgey
16th July 2020