A Taste of Spain – Wine Tour

Ah, those grey, rainy, late winter days here on the West Coast! Are you thinking of Spain, and its sunny and warm climate… but getting there isn’t in the budget? No worries, we may not be able to provide the sun, but we can bring a taste of Spain right to your door to get you into a sunny mindset!

This time, we decided to do something different: a full feature blog on everything…Spain! Lauren has selected and prepared a fabulous Spanish meal plan complete with detailed recipes, and Nancy is curating spectacular cocktails to make and enjoy while reading our blogs. Myself a look at the world of Spanish wines, what better to enjoy with our menu?

Wine Map of Spain

Spanish Vineyard
Photo Wine Tourism

The history of wine-making in Spain dates as far back as Roman times. In the 20th century, Spain’s wine-making underwent a significant change, with both growers and makers modernizing their operations. These changes improved the quality of Spanish wines, which nowadays rival any wine region worldwide.

But here is a little secret about Spanish wine…The wine is excellent, but unlike other wine regions, the prices have stayed the same.
The wines of this storied country are as varied as its climate and regions. Let’s take a look.

Mario La Pergola Unsplash

 

Chorizo in Market
Photo by Christoffer Engström by Unsplash

Let’s start in Northern Spain, where we find some of the best red wines from the areas of La Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

These areas are steeped in tradition, with many vineyards and wineries as generational legacies being worked by the fourth, fifth and sixth generations of one family. Both regions produce rich, full wines from the Tempranillo grape, which shares many characteristics with Cabernet Sauvignon, but Tempranillo wines are softer, smoother, and need less ageing. The grapes have black skin and pale flesh inside, which produces ruby red liquid with aromas of plum, berries, leather and tobacco. Tempranillo is often blended with Grenache and Carignan, which results in a more acidic wine with brighter notes. Pair these wines with roasted or grilled meats, spicy chorizo sausage or a traditional Spanish Paella.

One hundred and fifty kilometres away from Ribera del Duero is Rueda, where a popular white wine is produced from Verdejo grapes. It is vinted in cool conditions to produce a fresh, aromatic patio sipper with hints of fresh lime and apple on the tongue and the aroma of pine and fresh grass.

Verdejo Photo Vintovest.co

It is often said that wine is life, but in Ribera del Duero and Rueda, it is more. Wine represents the roots in the soil and the root of the soul. Each glass made here represents the area’s ancient past and its slow, steady march toward modern winemaking.

Laura Werlin, 2022

From Rioja, head west to the region of Galacia

Specifically Rias Baixas. Influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, this region produces a signature Spanish white from the Albarino (Alvarinho) grape. These are crisp, fruit-forward wines with notes of stone fruit, citrus and flowers. Dry in style, with a hint of salinity, these wines are a perfect match to the amazing seafood dishes of Spain.

Alberino Grapes Unsplash
Biel Morro Unsplash

East of Rioja, we find the Mediterranean Coast and the City of Barcelona.

  The nearby region of Priorat is known for rich, intense red wines made from the Garnacha and Carignan grapes.  These wines are big and fruit-forward with a touch of spiciness; the acidity and tannin are present but nicely held in balance.  These are fun wines to explore and enjoy with grilled red meats or a red sauce, like Spanish Romesco.

Grapes of the Priorat
Granacha grapes from the Priorat

Nearby, in the region of Penedes, you find the best-known Spanish wine, Cava!

This sparkling wine is made following the same exacting, precise methods employed in the Champagne region of France. The only difference is that Spanish Cava is made from local grape varieties, mostly Macabeo (aka Viura), Parellada, and Xarel-lo. The end result is a wine that competes with fine French Champagne in the richness and taste at a fraction of the cost.

Although the majority of Cava is made in this region, DO (Denominación de Origen) Cava can be used officially in 6 other areas like Valencia and Rioja. While the aforementioned grapes are most commonly used in Cava production, others like Chardonnay, Monestrell, and Pinot Noir can also be employed in the final product.

Enjoy this wonderful sparkling wine on its own or with any Spanish dish, especially one with shellfish.

cava and oysters
Cava and oysters
Madrid Jack Gisel Unsplash

Head south into the interior and the Central plateau.

Around Madrid, you will find one of the largest wine-producing regions in the world, Castilla La Mancha. This hot, dry area is home to white wines made from Airen grapes, one of the few capable of thriving in these conditions. Airen white wines are light and fruit-forward with a crisp finish and pair well with simple Spanish tapas or seafood dishes. At the eastern end of this plateau, you find the small wine regions of Almansa, Jumilla and Yecla. Here, you will find tasty Spanish red wines made from Monastrell. Also known as Mouvedre elsewhere in the world, this grape thrives in hot, dry conditions, producing a rich, full-bodied red wine.

Wine growers in this region have learned to manage the tannins, balancing the flavours of black fruit and spice. Younger wines pair well with the rich game dishes or cured meats, while older versions are wonderful with Spain’s rich, spiced grilled meat dish flavours.

Continue South and West Towards the Atlantic

Once we arrive around the town of Jerez, we get to explore one of Spain’s best-known wines, Sherry. Sherry is a simple white wine fortified with a neutral spirit, raising the alcohol to around 17%. Originally, the addition of spirit allowed the transportation of these wines over a great distance without spoiling and resulted in a versatile spirit. Sherry has many faces being produced from a very dry to a very sweet style. Drier sherries are predominately made from the Palomino grapes, while sweeter versions use the Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez. Often only thought of as an aperitif, the many styles of Sherry pair wonderfully with rich Spanish foods.  Sherry also provides the base for some of Spain’s most loved cocktails. Try the rich and refreshing Gone Fishing or the classic Rebujito. If we continue to follow the coast south and west into the Mediterranean, we will find other fine presentations of this wine style.

The flavours of Sherry
A Rainbow of Sherry

How do I choose Spanish Wine at Home?

Have a Glass
Armond Brants by Unsplash

Buying Spanish wine is easy as most producers will provide the region and grape information on the label. Unique to Spanish wines is that by law, wineries are required to store and age their wines before release for sale, so there is no question if the bottle you purchase is ready for consumption. The amount of ageing is indicated on the label with Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, Crianza being the least aged and Gran Reserva being the longest. The amount of ageing varies by region and wine type, but the idea is to ensure the wines are ready to drink when they are sent to market.
Check out another post in our “Taste of Spain” series. Our Spanish Food & Culture feature has recipes for many of Spain’s classic foods. Pair them with a bottle or two of Spanish wine, and you have an affordable and fun way to visit Spain from the comfort of your home.

Drop us a note and share your favourite Spanish culinary feast. Salud!

 

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