As food-friendly wines go, Rioja is certainly up there with the best. So it made sense that Beronia gave us a whistle-stop foodie tour of the area it was born in.
Founded back in 1973 by a group of passionate friends who were part of a gastronomic society, or txoko as it’s known in Spain, they decided to create wines to complement their culinary experiments. And that very wine is how the Beronia brand came to be one of the most renowned Spanish wineries in the world of rioja today (and one of our personal favourite Rioja brands!)
These txokos are still in existence today and have only more recently permitted women to enter these modern-day man caves. We were told that in San Sebastian it’s not the ‘done thing’ to entertain at home. Instead, you’ll have a membership to at least one txoko where you’ll book a slot and use the shared space – which will typically consist of an open kitchen, long shared tables and honesty bar – to entertain your guests.
We were lucky enough to experience some of that Basque country hospitality first hand, when we were welcomed into the winery to feast on oily chorizo and slow-cooked lamb shank, falling off the bone, served in its own gravy alongside crackling skin. Trying wines that were older than me (including a very memorable 1973!) whilst taking in the Basque Country views, I could see how the Beronia brand was born into being.
So we’ve established that Beronia is a wine brand for every foodie occasion. We put that to the test with a whistle-stop San Sebastian Food Tour. Famous for having one of the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter in the world, San Sebastian is a food lovers mecca. You can’t visit this city without eating your fill of pintxos – which essentially just means small snack. You’ll have no trouble finding bars offering their wares, piled high on the counter. But with so many on offer and each one having a speciality, it can be daunting to know where to start. This list is of course, far from extensive, but should get you off to a good start. If you have a little longer, we’d recommend getting in touch with the infectiously fun Eli Susperregui, a culinary guide from the city’s Mimo cookery school (which coincidentally has just launched a branch in London’s Borough Market!)
San Sebastian Food Tour with Beronia
Oyster lovers, listen up! This is THE place to head to get your shellfish & seafood fix. Plates of hot, fresh perfectly seasoned calamari, along with hand-carved acorn-fed Iberico ham. But our favourite dish from this bar was the super garlicky and highly addictive, mussels in red wine sauce.
A glass of cold, dry Tio Pepe sherry makes for the ideal aperitif whilst in San Sebastian!
We popped delicate bite-sized tartlets of spider crab into our mouth in one and tried THE best croquetas we’ve ever eaten (and we’ve eaten a hell of a LOT in our lifetime). Order the ‘Croquetas de gallina’ – chicken and aji pepper, you will not be disappointed. Finally the ‘surtido de setas’ which is the most impressive selection of wild mushrooms – topped with a golden yellow yolk which you’re supposed to dip your bread and mushrooms into.
This little feast absolutely must be washed down with a glass or two of Txakoli white wine (pronounced cha-ko-lee), poured from a great height for full effect. A new wine for me, it’s very lightly sparkling with super high acidity and is perfect with pintxos.
You might not think of sirloin steak as a small snack, but my friends, you’d be wrong. Chunks of salty charred steak ‘or solomillo’ can be found here on white bread which soaks up all the meat juices. Utterly delicious. Oily piquillo peppers and more cold cuts of meat – try the Iberian loin and salchichón – rounded off our feast.
This is also the spot to nab dessert. Torrija is San Sebastian’s answer to French toast, topped with cinnamon and sugar and a scoop of vanilla ice cream I’d suggest ordering one each because they’re too good to share.
Start with a glass of the Beronia Graciano – a 100% graciano with distinct cherry on the palate and complex spice and chocolate notes. Before moving on to your next destination, a nightcap is in order. A glass of Vermouth La Copa by Gonzalez Byass is just the ticket with dessert. Deliciously smooth, sweet and decadent, it’s made using a blend of eight-year-old oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherries.
If you’re not quite ready to end your night there, head to this subterranean whisky bar where you’ll find the gin & tonics flowing (served in oversized coppa glasses naturally) and the piano playing all the crowd-pleasers. If you’re lucky you might find a hot lothario to show you his moves.
A big thank you to Beronia for showing us the ropes – for more info on the winery and their selection, visit: https://www.beronia.com/