This month I thought it would be fun to talk about Spanish wine. Spain ranks third in wine production in the world. After decades of producing mostly mediocre wines, top Spanish winemakers have recently taken their place among the world’s best. Wines like Vega-Sicilia Unico fetch high prices and are some of the most age-worthy anywhere. On the other hand with the modernization of wine making practices all over Spain, the quality of a simple Garnacha or Tempranillo make them one of the best values anywhere.
Spain has wine laws known as the Denominación de Origen (DO), similar to France’s Appellation d’Origine Controlee, which define and protect wines from specific geographic areas. There are fifty-four DOs in Spain.
Rioja is in the remote interior of northern Spain. Sometimes referred to as the Bordeaux of Spain, it is known for supple, earthy red wines, primarily based on Tempranillo. Rioja’s red wines are aged longer before release than any other wines in the world. One of the most famous beverages made with fruit and wine, Sangria, originated in Rioja. Riojas are classified from youngest Crianza, to Reserva and then only in the best years, Gran Reserva.
Ribera del Duero is a rugged area about 80 miles north of Madrid. Almost exclusively a red wine producing region, the major grapes used are Tinto Fino, Garnacha, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The ability of Ribera del Duero wines to be both packed with fruit and still refined places them among the greatest in Spain. The same classifications are used in the United States, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Rueda is slightly southwest of Ribera del Duero, and though small in size, it’s considered one of the most important white wine regions in Spain. The major grape used is Verdejo and is aged in stainless steel rather than in wood, which produces a fresh fruity, nutty, full bodied white wine.
Jerez, located on the sea in southwest Spain in the province of Andalusia, is home to the fortified wine known as Sherry. This is the area of Spain where the small dishes known as tapas come from. Sherry is made in many styles, ranging from bone dry to very sweet. At the dry end of the spectrum are the manzanillas and finos with their tangy crisp, green earthiness; in the middle are the amontillado and oloroso with roasted nutty flavors; and finally come the cream sherries with their sweet, toffee, and fig flavors. Sherry is progressively blended and aged in a complex network of old barrels, called a solera.
The Penedes wine region is in Catalonia near Barcelona and is famous for Spain’s sparkling wine Cava. The three grapes used for Cava production are Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo. Cavas are made in many different styles ranging from dry (Brut) to sweet (Demi-Sec), and represent an excellent value in sparkling wine.
Rias Biaxas is in the far northwest part of Spain in the province of Galicia, and is famous for the racy, refreshing white wine known as Albarino. Priorat is one of Spain’s brightest new stars, located southwest of Penedes. The region’s most famous wines are all red, and are some of the most intense, powerful reds in all of Spain. Most wines are based primarily on Garnacha and Carinena with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Tempranillo blended in small amounts.
I hope you’ll feel inspired after reading this to try some of the wonderful wines described above.
Our March white wine of the month is Santa Ema 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Maipo, Chile, with aromas of fresh citrus, tropical fruit, apples and pears. Our March red wine of the month is Piccini Chianti 2013 from Tuscany. It’s 95% Sangiovese and 5% Ciliegiolo, a deep ruby red with intense red fruit and smooth soft tannins. Both wines will retail for $10 a bottle. Wine club members please come in early to pick up your bottles before they’re gone.