Doug Sloan

WINE WISE: Rediscovering the wines of Spain

Spain is the world leader when it comes to land planted to wine grapes

Spain is the world leader when it comes to land planted to wine grapes, with significantly more hectares of vineyard than any other country.

In the north, south, east and west huge vineyards are dedicated to wine, serving to create an enormous range of styles.

Intensely fruited, earthy reds from the country’s baking interior to the more savoury styles from Rioja and even fine sparkling wines – Spain does it all and, without doubt, quality is better than ever.

Astonishingly affordable sparkling wine like Opera Prima Brut (862144) $9.50 is without a doubt the most affordable and elegant sparkling Cava from Spain. Made in the less labour intensive ‘Charmat’ style, bright pale yellow in the glass, it offers an intense aroma of fresh citrus fruits, an expression of herbs and hints of flower petals.

Bodegas Castaño is located in Yecla, a small town in the north of the province of Murcia. Its boundaries exactly coincide with DO Yecla (appellation of origin), being one of the few appellations that only covers one single borough. Much of it is planted with Monastrell – also known as Mourvèdre or Mataró.

La Casona de Castaño Old Vines Monastrell (350579) $8.99 is a spicy mouthful of black plum fruit with supple fresh tobacco notes and rootsy, woodsy aromas. Light, bright cherry and plum flavours lead with undertones of liquorice and that leathery touch of fresh-cut tobacco so common in Monastrell.

A rosé wine, made from a combination of two traditional grape varieties: Garnacha and Carinena.  Torres De Casta Rosado (393927) $12.40 is a deeply coloured rose with fruity aromas from Garnacha Tinta and Carinena grape varietals. Characterized by its freshness and notes of redcurrants accompanied by notes of apple and banana. Delicious!

Albariño’s emergence as a variety led the Spanish wines to be “crafted for the palates of Europe, America and beyond and for wine drinkers who wanted clean flavours and rich, ripe fruit” and led to wines completely different from those produced across the river in Portugal.

The Val do Salnés region is located in Rias Baixas in far northwestern Spain, north of the border with Portugal (…where the grape is called Alvarinho). Viña Vedra Rias Baixas Albariño (555805) $16.99 is crisply dry with juicy acidity and refreshing flavours of lemon, pomelo and pink grapefruit. There’s a wisp of salty Atlantic breezes and wave washed rocks with notes of apple and sage.

Spain’s most famous region is Rioja, located in the north on the River Ebro. Like many great wine regions, it has built its success around fine vineyard sites plus a little luck. In Rioja, the Bordeaux winemaking influence is clear with new American oak, lavished on many wines and grapes historically picked to produce mid-weight rather than overbearing, sweet fruit styles, despite the warm climate.

Marqués del Puerto Rioja Reserva (785907) $21.95 is a righteous blend of 90 per cent Tempranillo and 10 per cent Mazuelo grapes aged in French and American oak barrels for 22 months. It ages in the bottle for at least 18 months before reaching the market. This Reserva wine has a deep cherry colour, spicy aromas and red and black jammy fruit, with smooth tannins in the mouth and a lengthy aftertaste.

The wines of Ribera del Duero are mainly red – white wines here are not exported or revered. The reds come primarily from a variation of Tempranillo, called Tinto Fino or Tinto del Pais in this region. Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon are also used. The best wines of the area are refreshing, yet sturdy and complex, with an ability to age and mature gracefully.

The 2010 Finca Villacreces Ribera del Duero (317826) $63.15 is intensely aromatic seductively attractive on the nose. It’s a blend of 86 per cent Tempranillo, 10 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and four per cent Merlot aged for 14 months in French oak barrels.

Aromas of violets, morello cherries, and exotic spices predominate, with touches of graphite and tar. It’s an alluringly elegant red with plenty of fruit, tannins and just enough acidity.

As the modernization of the Spanish wine industry progresses – with ‘New World’ techniques and high-tech state of the art equipment – savvy wine lovers are gradually beginning to discover the amazing values in Spanish wines at every price level.

 

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com