Wine & Dine: Spanish Wine with Moroccan Chicken

By Bruce MacDougall

When Lucy returned from from her first week as the Gastronomic Writer in Residence at the Stratford Chefs School, she brought along a bottle of the 2001 Faustino 1 Gran Riserva, the Wine of the Year according to Decanter magazine.

All over the Spanish speaking world the term Gran Riserva is used as a marketing tool, but in the Rioja it is much more than that. The Bodegas, as wineries are known in Spain, produce differing styles depending in large part on the aging process, particularly the time in oak barrels. Gran Riservas require the longest aging time with at least five in the barrel, including two or more in oak. Many are aged for much longer. 

A Gran Riserva from a great year in Rioja has power at the corebut velvet on the finish, and so it was with this in mind that we carefully bundled up this delicate prize and carried it over to our friends home a few blocks away for dinner. Initially we thought the wine would be somewhat mismatched with the Moroccan chicken tagine, the main of the evening, but even when faced with the Mediterranean flavours of ginger, turmeric, olives and preserved lemons, the Rioja shone through, enhancing the already rich flavours of the tagine. The wine was accurately described by Decanter as restrained, with elegant tannins; youthful and fresh, feminine and complex, deliciously decadent, with extraordinary vitality in the palate and a long unique, finish.

All in all, this was an outstanding dinner food, wine, company and conversation, enhanced by the maturity and velvety richness of the 2001 Faustino 1 Rioja Gran Riserva.