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Passion for Spanish wine

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Brothers Mario and David Villalón are back in the restaurant scene in Madrid after a hiatus of a few months when they moved from El Padre, their former restaurant located in the city’s chic Salamanca district. It’s been worth waiting for their new venue in Reina, a landmark street for cocktail lovers behind Gran Vía, one of Madrid’s main avenues. In fact, it’s emerging as one of the best places to drink in the capital.

After honouring their father in El Padre (the name literally means “the father”), it is now the turn of their mother María Ángeles whose name has been turned into “Angelita Madrid” and coupled with angel wings in their cute new logo.

Each of the two floors in Angelita, a far more ambitious project than El Padre, have been designed to cater for the brothers’ respective passions: cocktails and spirits in Mario’s case and wine for David.

The ground floor restaurant is David’s area. The menu is short but it retains many favourites from El Padre and adds some daily suggestions. The family comes from the province of Zamora which means that very good meat from this area is served at the restaurant. Flavorful vegetables grown in the family’s vegetable garden are also on the menu, including their legendary tomatoes from a local variety that they have successfully recovered. The food is more sophisticated here and the daily set menu that was so popular in El Padre has disappeared. The restaurant is split into two different areas: a seated part where booking is necessary and a large bar that is open from 1pm to midnight, which seems perfect for wine lovers to pop in at any time.

The lower floor is Mario’s ground: a posh cocktail bar where international dishes are served. It’s got its own opening hours: from 5pm to 2am. Be warned: wine enthusiasts may find it difficult to venture downstairs given David’s awesome wine list.

The 40 wines by the glass are all of them listed under the motto: “There’s nothing wrong in approaching abstinence with moderation. Fancy a glass of wine?” Prices start at €2.90 for a Viña Zorzal Garnacha from Navarra or a Rioja Sierra de Toloño Tempranillo, both of them made by young, new producers. Perhaps more significantly, the list by the glass starts with Sherry (from €3.5 for Barbiana Manzanilla to €8 for Oloroso El Cerro by Callejuela). Then it is all about diversity: from natural sparkling wines to obscure grapes and regions: Albillo from Gredos, Rufete from Sierra de Salamanca, Sumoll, Vermentino and Aglianico from Italy, Grüner Veltliner from Austria, Mosela, Portugal. Natural wines from Spain and overseas are represented and so are rare sweet wines like Ramiro Ibáñez’s Pandorga or international choices like Moscatel de Setúbal; there’s even one sake mixed among the wines. The most expensive by the glass wine when we visited Angelita Madrid was the champagne José Dhondt Brut Chardonnay at €9.5.

It will take aficionados much more time to explore the wine list. The way it has been designed is in itself a statement of intent. It starts with around 40 local wines from Gredos —a region less than an hour drive from Madrid— and shows an effort to list different vintages from brands like Peña Caballera from Marañones or Comando G’s Rumbo al Norte. Following is a selection of fortified and sweet wines acknowledging the growing interest for so called “special wines” with great examples of Sherry, Montilla-Moriles, sweet wines made by Gutiérrez de la Vega in Alicante and Port, Moscatel de Setúbal and Madeira from Portugal. Sparkling wines are also featured, with a fine selection of winegrower Champagnes and various disgorgements from revered producer Jacques Selosse.

As far as still wines are concerned, a wide range of regions (Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Toro in Spain and Douro in Portugal) are grouped under the Douro section, including a Vega Sicilia Único vertical. Rioja and Navarra come together; wine lovers will find some Rioja vintages from the 1990s and 2000s as well as verticals from Artadi’s Grandes Añadas and Viña El Pisón. The northwest of the Iberian Peninsula includes Asturias, León, Galicia (with an interesting Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas vertical) and north of Portugal; the Mediterranean, southeast and Mallorca chapter includes producers from Catalonia and features many natural wines such as the offbeat reds made by Erik Rosdahl in Yecla. Canarias, Extremadura, still wines from Andalucía and Portugal’s Dao, Lisbon and Colares close the Iberian chapter.

Angelita Madrid also boasts an impressive list of wines from overseas, with a special focus on France and Italy. But with almost nine pages specifically dedicated to Burgundy (no Spanish wine region gets that much) and an astonishing selection of vintages, producers and crus, there’s no doubt who is the real star.

A must-visit destination for wine geeks, Angelita Madrid could equally attract a different audience who regardless of their interest in wine or spirits, will certainly eat and drink really well. A.C.

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