The Grape Hunter : Sumoll

Some ripe Sumoll grapes hanging around on the vine in Catalonia.

Some ripe Sumoll grapes hanging around on the vine in Catalonia.

If you are unfamiliar with the red Sumoll varietal then don’t get down on yourself. With less than 100 hectares planted in Catalonia today it’s certainly not a grape that many are familiar with, and until last week I had never tasted it myself.

Native to the Penedès region, the Sumoll is often viewed as being a particularly rustic varietal, but given the right care and attention is a grape capable of some rather wonderful things. Extremely versatile, the Sumoll can be used to produce white, red, rosé, and sparkling (Cava) wines.

Even with its inherent drought resistance and even-ripening within the bunch, yields are incredibly low. Despite this, Sumoll was a widely planted varietal throughout Catalonia both before and after phylloxera, covering more vineyard area than the mighty Garnacha. After Spain’s entry into the EU in 1986, many less-productive native varietals were tossed aside in favour of more heavy-yielding varietals, with the vast majority of Sumoll plantings being ripped out. It’s always the same story, isn’t it? Thankfully some producers are deciding to revisit this previously discarded grape.

The name Sumoll comes from the local Catalan slang word for maturing /withering (“sumollar”), and when it comes to wine made from the grape in bottle, good things certainly come to those who wait. Naturally high in acid, and with a distinct bitter finish, young wines are virtually undrinkable. It takes a good few years of the wines evolving in bottle before they are in any way drinkable, but given time they can mature into something quite spectacular.

Expect black fruits (cherry and blackberry) accompanied by (with age) seductive aromatics of leather, sweaty horse saddle, chocolate, animal, scrub herbs, and a very particular earthiness. The tannins and acid will still be up there, but with sufficient ageing perform like those of an aged Nebbiolo. An intriguing varietal, that is for sure.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that is certainly a grape I’d like to taste more of.

Visca Catalunya

 

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The afternoon’s triumphant winner, Lolita Tellez with her dish of Faves a la Barcelonesa (Barcelona Style Beans)

Discretely hidden on Dufferin, just north of Eglington, lies the Casa dels Països Catalan de Toronto, or the Catalan Centre of Toronto. A few months back Good Food Revolution’s Malcolm Jolley and I had contacted the Centre’s Josep Lluis with a view to speaking with him about Toronto’s Catalan community. After both having spent some time in both Spanish and French Catalonia, we had come to a mutual agreement that we would make a determined joint effort to learn more about Catalan cuisine, culture, and wine.

After a meeting with Josep, during which he explained his passionate interest in the upcoming Scottish referendum, we were delighted to discover that we were to be given the honour of judging the centre’s third annual Traditional Catalonian Cuisine Competition, alongside Chef Chris McDonald Chef/Patron of Toronto’s Cava restaurant.

Despite our mutual love for the cuisine of Catalonia, both Malcolm and I were most pleased to count Chris as a fellow judge, as when it came to appraising the individual dishes neither of us were too confident in our abilities when it came down to marking for Catalan authenticity. Thankfully Chris McDonald is a dab hand when it comes to such matters, and so with his sage guidance we were all set for our afternoon of judging.

Fuelled by the genuine warmth of community spirit in the room, coupled with a few carafes of red wine (not Catalan I must add!), the three of us embarked upon our assigned mission of judging a series of ten savoury and three dessert dishes. As you can see through the pictures below, so much good fun was had, and new friendships were made.

In our closing comments I went out on a limb and asked what it would take for Malcolm and me to join the celebrations as competitors in 2015. The crowd erupted into a rousing cheer of encouragement… so guess what Good Food Revolution will be doing to celebrate Sant Jordi (St George’s Day) on the 23rd of April next year?

We’ll certainly be looking forward to it, and over the intervening 12 months we’ll be searching for some well-priced Catalan wine to celebrate with.

Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that was a terrific way to spend a Spring Sunday. Roll on next year!

Fogó, Barcelona

Chef Albert Marimon and his brother and business partner Jordi Marimon stand proud in front of Fogo, Barcelona.

Chef Albert Marimon and his brother and business partner Jordi Marimon stand proud in front of Fogó, Barcelona.

On a recent culinary expedition to the wonderful city that is Barcelona, we were simply astounded at the sheer number of gastronomic opportunities that lay at literally every turn. With the one and only Olimax as our trusty tour guide, we traversed a world of delightful seafood, tapas, and tiny hidden Vermut bars that only a native Barcelonés Bon Vivant such as himself would have intimate knowledge of.

Our heads and palates were spinning after a day and night touring the back alleys of the city with Oli, but there was one little spot just outside of downtown Barcelona that he told us we really had to experience…

Around three months ago Oli’s friends Albert and Jordi Marimon had opened a tiny kitchen inside a container atop a newly constructed market to the east of the city’s central core. Intrigued by the concept, my expectations were raised just that little bit higher when Oli slipped in the fact that Albert had just been awarded Best Catalan Chef for 2013 at the Girona Gastronomic Forum. Curiouser and curiouser.

After looking at a few maps we realised that we could plan a leisurely 45 minute appetite-building stroll from our base of operations off La Rambla, through the charming backstreets of the old town, traversing many of Barcelona’s beautiful parks, and finally find ourselves at ready for lunch at Fogó within the Mercat del Encants.

All I’ll say is that we had one of the most enjoyable meals ever at Fogó Barcelona… it’s a genuine hidden treasure.

Good Food Revolution: You now have three restaurants… would you mind telling us the differences between them?

Chef Albert Marimon and his brother and business partner Jordi Marimon: Well actually none of them are real restaurants in the usual sense.

The first one AIGUA is a “Xiringuito”, like those that you will find on the beach, but inside an urban park.

Two years later we managed to open LA CAVA in Tarrega, and this is more like a tapas-bar, we serve what we call “platillos” or half portions.

And last but not least, FOGÓ, in the new placed Mercat del Encants de Barcelona, a 700 years old market. FOGÓ is been set up more like a takeaway food shop, inspired by the street-food markets that you will find in Portobello or Camden Town, London.

GFR: And where do you take your inspiration from?

AM & JM: Our inspiration comes from everywhere.

It was Picasso who said? “Let the inspiration get you working”, well it comes from every where. The producers, the team, our mother and grandmother… our customers, we rely on the feedback that they offer us. Actually they are our best “quality control” and if we spot clients with an smile on their face, then, we have done our job right.

GFR: Albert, you were recently awarded Best Catalonian Chef for 2013. What does authentic Catalan food mean to you?

AM: It actually means everything. Although I’ve been living in lots of places, living means eating from my point of view, and living “abroad”, I feel like I am learning all the time. The issue is that everybody experiments a new skill or flavour even feeling, comparing it to previous or base knowledge. Well, Catalan food is my previous knowledge.

GFR: If you could pick one single ingredient to sum up Catalan, what would it be?

AM & JM: Actually I think that the most representative would be the Calcot, which is an onion, with lots of history behind. The agricultor has to take care of it, when it is a few days old, he has to harvest it, and plant it again in a sort of handful, so that they are forced to grow thin and long.

GFR: I had the chance to visit your new venture, Fogó, in the Encants Barcelona. It’s a really interesting spot for a restaurant. What is the story behind the venue and what made you choose that location as the right place for Fogó?

AM & JM: As we said earlier, the Encants have been running for 700 years, it was an easy bet, but it was also very interesting the opportunity to open a new food-street in the market, as it has been always selling all the things you can imagine except food. We hope that the Encants will become the hottest spot in Barcelona over the next few years.

GFR: And what is the meaning behind the name, Fogó?

AM & JM: FOGÓ is the Catalan name for stove or galley, etimologicaly it’s the Latin word for FIRE. But we were also searching for an internationally easy pronouncing word, and even a recognizable one. The main idea was to find an easy name, we think we got it.

GFR: I was particularly fond of the Cap i Pota. Would you tell us a little about that dish?

AM & JM: The “Cap-i-Pota” is based on the will of making something from what is usually thrown away after the cow has been butchered. It’s a very traditional dish, although we present it in a modern way.

The one that we serve is made of beef head, tomato, pepper, garlic, onion and some hot peppers, then there are some Provençal herbs.

GFR: How often does the menu change, and what would you say were your signature dishes, and the customers’ favour

AM & JM: It changes every day, as the producers we are involved with keep bringing us new products everyday. Well maybe not every day but every week.

GFR: I really enjoyed the Catalan wine that you served me while I was there. What kind of wines do you serve at Fogo and your other establishments?

AM & JM: We are proud of serving only Catalan wines, Cava Trepat rosé from Sarral in Conca de Barnera, red wine from Batea, and also a sweet white wine made from a grape that in Spain was also lost in history, Viognier.

We keep searching for cheap but excellent wines, and so far we are achieving it.

We want to be inexpensive, but not bad.

The best seller is a new wine from this year from Casa Mariol, and it comes in a “bag in box” so it is perfect to serve by the glass.

GFR: And when it comes to Catalan beer what would you recommend outside of the big breweries?

AM & JM: There are some new ones: Matoll, Clandestina, La Guineu. You should come back and try to taste all of them, I’m sure that you will enjoy!

GFR: Well, we seriously loved our experience at Fogo and look forward to many return visits… Thank you Chef Albert and Jordi

AM & JM: Thanks for coming to visit us, we really enjoyed talking to you.