August 02, 2005

Tinto De Verano

I went to Spain as a photographer, but I came home an alcoholic!

Devotees of fine wine may cringe at the idea of dropping ice cubes and soda into a glass of house red, but it's a great recipe to rejuvenate the body and mind after a long day in the sun. Most people have heard of Sangria and possibly enjoyed a playful indulgence in the comfort of a local restaurant. Tinto de verano is not Sangria, but a more simple equation that does away with fruit and sherry in favour of a little bit of fizz. Therein lies it's true danger, it's so very easy to prepare.

Ordering a tinto de verano is easy too. Most other items of truly local flavour seem to be total tongue twisters to pronounce or incur regional accents that are unnatural to attempt with my neanderthal-australian language skills. Even the world famous chorizo sausage takes on a multitude of potential sounds when you face up to the tapas bar and place an order. Not with our friend tinto de verano. With a single sentence even the most barbaric of tourists can gently and reliably place their order for a glass of refreshment.

After a couple of memorable meals the tinto was flowing free and had formed a regular part of my daily routine. Lunchtime might consist of a bread roll with cheese and proscuitto like ham (bocadillio jamon serrano y quesa) washed down with one or two tinto de verano. The more out-of-the-way tapas bars serve not by the glass but the stein and they try not to overdo the fizzy stuff either, allowing the taste and sharpness of the local wine to come through and leave the pallette enlivened. The smaller the bar the bigger the tinto and the better the quality. Go figure!

In Valencia I had spent the day travelling around by bus and foot and generally wearing myself out in the humidity. By nightfall I was tired, kranky, aching and hungry. I headed up to the central market and across the road was a tapas bar not unlike any other. I sat down and placed my order. I could feel the icy cool liquid flowing into body as if my veins were being directly injected with the stuff. A few seconds later my tuna salad arrived and my taste buds were invigorated and primed to enjoy what will be remembered as the best tuna salad I have ever had - sorry to those lovely people who shared my travels in Morocco, this was a singular moment of unparalleled tuna enhanced pleasure! The servings were so scrumptuious and generous that I had barely started the calamari when my tinto was finished. From this point onwards a single drink would not be sufficient. Two per meal please.

I was not alone in my new found habits. Others in our band of travellers found comfort and release in the rouge shaded glasses. The slightly lower alcohol content of afforded by the soda and ice yeilds a slower path to excess - by comparison our sangria favouring friends would frequently fall early in the evening. A few weeks of frivolous drinking by itself is not really a danger of course. The real 'days of wine of soda' will begin when I get home. My girlfriend has rarely needed encouragement ro enjoy a drop of the red but I suspect that my tendency for lighter drinks may have been a stabilizing influence until now. That will all change of course when next the cork is eased out of a bottle of sangiovese - one wine glass filled with red and the other primed with ice and soda. How easy and simple it will be. Jack Lemon and Lee Remick all over again.

I picked up so very few souvenirs while I was in Spain, so maybe this is the best one of all!

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