The beers of Belgium

June 9, 2012

After a recent business trip to Brussels, I had the chance to visit the old trading city of Antwerp, the capital of the province of Flanders, just about 45 minutes away from the Belgian capital.

It was a rainy day with some sunny parts. I made the best of it. The city on the right hand side of the river Scheldt has a long history and one of the largest seaports in Europe. The old guild houses in the centre are just a marvel.

Mosselhui 1888

But I will have to come back to have lunch in one of the “Mousselhuis”, and eat mussels. The place above was so inviting. It made my mouth watering. Unfortunately, I did not have sufficient time. Well, such is life.

Belgium is among others famous for its beer.

The many beers of Belgium

Here of course Germans have their problems. Everything not brewed according to their “Reinheitsgebot” – according to German purity standards only hops, malt and water are allowed in the brew – cannot be called beer.

But here we are in Belgium, right, so other rules apply. The labels promising cherries and other fruit in the beer are not very inviting to my taste. However, I had quite a few nice beers during my short stay.

The best was maybe the dark Trappiste beer (10.2 % alc.) which was offered to me by my friends parents. It came from a bottle without a label, only a rim which had the name of the monastic order engraved. I found out later that this beer comes from the Westvleteren Brewery.

Hmm, very delicious stuff.

The little French thing with Spanish wine

May 29, 2012

9.69 EURO worth of food and wine

When I arrived yesterday morning here in Brussels I found myself caught out. It was a public holiday (Pentecost Monday) and everything seemed to be closed.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day and I walked around a bit and explored the area around the hotel. Lots of tourist were doing the same thing. Fortunately, I found an open Carrefour express so that I could buy some groceries.

I was reminded of my glorious day as a student, and in reminiscing about the past, I bought some cheese, bread and red wine. Today, I know of course that red wine is not necessarily the best accompaniment with cheese. But I bought it nonetheless.

Normally, I always pack my Swiss army wife but this time I had left it behind in Bangkok. I knew this while browsing through the supermarket shelf with all the many wine bottles.

And that was the main reason why I settled for the bottle of Tempranillo: it had a screw cap, whereas most other bottles had a cork enclosure. I only paid 5.99 EURO for it which is cheap considering wine prices in Thailand.

2010 Tempranillo – REALCE by Union Campesina Iniestense

By sheer coincidence, I had found a treasure. This wine comes from the relatively new and unknown wine region of Manchuela which is located in the larger La Mancha wine region.

So it’s a Don Quixote wine, one could say.

One of the Spanish indigenous grape varieties grown in Manchuela is Bobal, a red grape, which comes originally from Valencia and is the third most planted variety in Spain (after Airén and Tempranillo).

If you want to learn more about the wines from Manchuela have a look at the video clip by Simon Woods.

Manchuela got its appellation status only in 2000. Of course vintners have grown grapes there since Roman times.

I was very happy.

It has intense red berry aromas, beautifully structured tannins, great resilience and character just like the old Don Quixote. I sipped along after I had finished my frugal peasant meal.

When I saw that the wine was made by a wine cooperative, the Union Campesina Intestense, I thought I have to find out more. Today the vintners cooperative has more than 1200 members and about 7,000 ha under vines. So this is a big undertaking.

The Tempranillo I had bought is one of their simpler wines. The reserva wines they produce cost more than 30.- EURO. Most of their wines are around 10 EURO/bottle.