El Pirata specialises in Spanish wines
With more than 140 wines on the list, this Mayfair tapas bar is an excellent place for even connoisseurs to learn and expand their Spanish wine knowledge.
Spain is a collection of micro-climates, from the damp vineyards of Galicia on the north Atlantic coast to the hot and dry Mediterranean south east. Many vineyards are higher than 2,000 ft, which extends the growing season producing good acidity and colour.
Indigenous grape varieties include Tempranillo, Garnacha (probably imported from France as Grenache) and Mourvèdre (the Monastrell vine of the Levant), all of which produce fine reds, and the Albariño and the recently revived Verdejo varietals for the whites. Altogether, there are said to be more than 600 indigenous and international varietals in use in Spain.
The finest wines come from the Ribera del Duero – the same River Douro that, over the border in Portugal, is the home of the Port grape. It is a high and barren chalk plateau between Valladolid and Aranda – high enough for rot to be rare, and the growing season to be long.
The most exquisite, wine on El Pirata’s list is Vega Sicilia Unico (£695 a bottle) – a blend of Tempranillo (also known as Tinto Fino), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Unico means ‘unique’. It carries a high price because its meticulous producer, Vega Sicilia, matures the wine in small barrels for an unusually long time: the 2008 vintage was six years in oak barrels and three in bottles. Robert Parker awarded it 96 points out of a hundred. Vega Sicilia only produces a Unico in the best vintage years.
At the other end of the scale, El Pirata offers sparkling Cava wines from £25 a bottle, house whites and reds at around the same price and Champagne from around £60.
As Master of Wine Jancis Robinson observes: “Spain is an anarchic jumble of districts and regions … [but] there is real treasure to be found for those prepared to dig.” If you are in London, there are few better places to begin the search than El Pirata.