Good food, relaxed conversation and even the chance to blend your own wine
Globally famous wine brand Campo Viejo wants to get back to its roots. Their story began in 1964 in La Rioja, a province in northern Spain with a famous local wine industry, where three entrepreneurs (Juan Alcorta, Jose Ortiguela and Jose Bezares) got together to create an easy drinking wine. Their aim was to bring families and friends together around a table to share food, good wine, easy conversation and laughter.
Casa Campo Viejo supper clubs will be popping up all over the country, inspired by the culinary culture of their Spanish origins. The Manchester event will run on the evenings of Thursday 21st - Saturday 23rd June, with a special extended date of lunchtime on Sunday 24th.
The team have put together a series of special immersive events where guests can learn a little more about the grape varietals that go into making this smooth, popular wine, and can even have a go at creating their own personally blended bottle to take home.
This unique wine tasting experience also includes a delicious (and very Spanish) five-course menu, cooked by Michelin-trained Basque chef Xabi Bonilla.
Xavi was born in San Sebastian and has worked in some of Spain's most famous restaurants alongside some of Spain's best chefs (El racó d'en Freixa and Casa Marcial, each with two Michelin stars). He now gives cookery classes, offers gastronomic consultancies for different businesses, and hosts private dining events across Europe such as this collaboration between Campo Viejo, makers of the UK’s preferred red wine and EatWith supper clubs.
We went along to a preview of the Manchester pop up which is being held at The Loft, a unique and versatile city centre space, perfect for private drinks-led events.
After a welcoming glass of chilled sangria and an opportunity to meet your fellow diners, guest are then led into a fantastic space and given lab coats – so as not to spill red wine on your clothes. Campo Viejo Wine Ambassador Maria Huete introduced herself and talked us through the process of blending different Rioja grape varietals to create different kinds of wine.
In front of each guest were three bottles of single variety wine; tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo – something you rarely get the opportunity to taste on their own. There were also measuring jugs, beakers, a glass funnel and a pen to make notes to help us through a guided wine blending session. Maria explained the main characteristics of each grape to help us adjust the balance to create a fruity, spicy, acidic, rich, bold or robust blend suited to each of our unique tastes. The possible combinations are mind-blowing.
we don’t grab food and run, we sit, talk, enjoy and break bread together
Once we were satisfied with our trials, we poured the liquid fun through the funnel into a bottle, wrote a name label and put it to one side to take home – we’re going to try and save ours for Christmas dinner.
“We in Spain do things quite differently when it comes to food and drink,” Maria told us. “Eating and drinking are social activities, paired with rich conversation – we don’t grab food and run, we sit, talk, enjoy and break bread together. Being generous with each other and taking time to share these experiences is deeply ingrained in our culture. ”
We were then lead to a beautifully decorated communal table to enjoy the first course. Xabi’s aim was to take humble Spanish staples; tortilla and tomato bread, and create the best, most authentic versions of them. He succeeded. The tortilla was perfect – only just set, and the tomatoes burst with the flavours of La Boqueria market on a busy Saturday morning – especially washed down by Campo Viejo Garnacha.
Mushroom and black truffle potato ravioli was the favourite course of the evening, with a glass of Viura-Tempranillo blanco. The ravioli was actually made from crisped slices of potato rather than traditional pasta, the filling was full of pure mushroom flavour and the swirl of truffle cream added a touch of earthy luxury.
The third course of codfish with piperrada and romescu sauce came with a top up of whichever wine you preferred – the hearty fish and deep fruitiness of the rich red peppers went equally well with red or white.
It was time for some more immersive wine education. Guest were invited back over to the blending area which had been laid out with three dark wine glasses, a mat to write tasting notes and two pairs of sunglass; one pink tinged and one green. The idea was to encourage us to understand how masking or enhancing one sense can affect your taste buds. We won’t give anything away but the effect was pretty remarkable.
Back to the dining table where wine was actually incorporated into the next course of stewed beef cheek with seasonal vegetables showing what a perfect match the complex and robust Campo Viejo Reserva is with rich red meat dishes.
They cracked open bottles of Cava to celebrate pudding, Bonilla’s light and creamy version of crema Catalane foam with fruit ‘sand’.