Spanish Wine Masterclass
Next Stop World Domination?
According to figures from the OIV (International Organization of Wine and Vine), in 2011 Spain had 1,032,000 hectare of vineyards planted. 225,000 hectare more than second most prolific France. 97.4% was used for wine making. In 2011 they produced 34,300,000 hectolitres of wine compared to France 49,633,000 and Italy 41,580,000. Australia had 174,000ha making 11,010,000hl of wine.
The best regions have laws similar to France’s AOC or Italy’s DOC laws under the banner of Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO).
Denomination of Origin (DO) – For ‘prestigious Spanish wines’ with five years of recognised quality production. The Consejo Regulador governs the parametres of production.
Qualified Denomination of Origin. (DOCa) – Regions that have 10 years of DO quality wines. Must be bottled in wineries within the region where they are produced and follow the laws of the regulating body.
Estate Wine (Vino de Pago) – Recognising distinctive sites. They must comply with DOCa requirements while being vinified and bottled at the vineyard.
Qualified Estate Wine (Vino de Pago Calificado) – If the Vino de Pago is wholly within a DOCa and fulfils the Vino de Pago laws it can be granted this classification.
Important Varieties For Quality
Tempranillo – Top quality grape grown all over the Peninsula (with many pseudonyms). Used for Rosado or Joven all the way up to Gran Reserva. Ages well – said to compare to Burgundy. Cherry, cola typical descriptors.
Garnacha – AKA Grenache. Most famous in Priorat and Montsant. Blends well with Tempranillo.
Mencia – Similar to Cabernet Franc makes stunning wines from Bierzo, Valdeorras and surrounding regions.
Albarino – Native of Galicia and the main grape of Rias Baixas. Great perfume and texture.
Palomino – The main variety of Sherry production. Used for Fino/Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso production.
Sparkling Varieties – Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada combine to make the stunning Methode Traditionelle wines of Cava with some Chardonnay on occasion. Generally all three are quite ordinary for table wine production.
Important Regions For Quality
Rioja – A large and varied region and Spain’s quality flagship. Alta and Alavesa are the high altitude cooler parts and Baja the low hot lands. Producer is the most important determiner of quality. The Spanish equivalent of the Barossa.
Ribera del Duero – Rivalling Rioja for quality. This valley that follows the Duero (Duoro in Portugal) is high altitude with sandy soils. The best are extremely elegant wines. Tempranillo dominates production.
Jerez – The southern town that is responsible for Sherry. Need I say more?
Priorat – Robust wines made of Garnacha and Cariñena (aka Carignan) grown on schisty slopes perched high in the mountains near Barcelona.
Biezro – Continental climate and high altitude vineyards combined with schist laden soils means these wines are elegant, fine and perfumed. Easily some of the best wines in Spain.
Rias Baixas – Translates to ‘low rivers’, the best producers in this white only DO make perfumed, elegant and textured wines that really sing with seafood.
Give it a rest
The aging categories in Spain can be confusing but they are summarised below as:
Joven Generally unoaked and released early for immediate consumption.
Vino de crianza (crianza wine) Reds minimum of 24 months, of which 6 months are spent in oak. White and rosé wines aged for at least 18 months.
Reserva Red wines that are aged for a minimum of 36 months. At least 12 months in oak and the rest in the bottle. White and rosé aged for 18 months, to include 6 months on wood.
Gran Reserva Red wines aged for a minimum of 60 months, to include at least 18 months in oak. White and rosé wines aged for 48 months, to include 6 months on wood.
Quality sparkling wines may use the “Premium” and “Reserva” indications; the “Gran Reserva” indication may be used by those sparkling wines that have been given the Cava designation and which have undergone ageing for at least 30 months from tirage to disgorging.
33% Macabeo, 33% Xarel.lo, 34% Parellada. Dense, leesy, zesty, floral, clean and very long. The best Cava (and this is one of them) is made in the Champagne method but tend to be a lot lighter and crisper due to the native varieties used. Very nice drinking for starting a meal.
2010 Valmiñor Albariño D.O. Rías Baixas
Albarino is Spain’s best white grape. This wine has great balance, its very textural and floral with candied citrus and hints of savoury, doughy notes. Very long. Rias Baixas is a white only region on the West coast of Spain. Made for seafood and this would be awesome with scallops.
2010 Telmo Rodriguez ‘El Transistor’ Verdejo D.O Rueda
Also known as Verdehlo this grape is a bit of a work horse making lots of easy going wine for immediate consumption. This wine is the next level up. Crystaline, pure and clean, hints of oak complement the dense white and yellow fruits. There is plenty of fat on the mid-palate and a floral almost aloe vera like finish.
2008 Dominio Do Bibei Lacima D.O Ribeira Sacra
100% Mencia – a variety close to my heart. Thought to be related to Cabernet Franc if not genetically definitely flavour wise. Crushed raspberries, dried and fresh herbs, floral clean and tight. There is a stony core to this wine and a spine of acid and tannin that make it compelling drinking. Try having just one glass!
Grenache dominant blend from one of Spain’s best regions. The Palacios family is almost royalty in Spain This wine was dark fruited, smokey/schisty. tea leaf and chocolatey. There is plenty of presence and power in the mouth. As is typical of the region this wine really needs a few more years to soften out and develop some secondary characters. Impressive drinking none-the-less.
2008 Remondo ‘Propiedad’ D.O Rioja (DOCa) Grenache dominant with Tempranillo making up the balance from Rioja Baja. Dry, savoury, pure, dark fruits, with a hint of prunes. The palate on this wine is all silk and seduction. Really shows the potential of the Rioja low lands.
2005 Alion D.O Ribera del Duero
100% Tempranillo from the famous Vega Sicilia stable of wines. Easily the wine of the night as the extra age has given a beautiful depth. Meaty, red, blue and black fruits, fresh, spicy, silky and ever evolving in the glass. A great experience and captures the essence of Tempranillo. A must try for wine lovers.
28 Navazos La Bota de Oloroso Bota Punta D.O Jerez de la Frontera (375ml)
Walnut, spice, pepper, incredibly floral, hazelnuts, the palate is clean with wonderful mouthfilling hints of dried fruits. Such an amazing experince to drink pure concentrated Oloroso.
The Entry level Wines
NV Segura Viudas Aria Brut Charming, light, fresh, citrusy Cava that is all too easy to drink. Great drinking no matter what the occasion is.
2011 Viña Olabarri Viura Blanco D.O. La Rioja Alta Mainly made from Viura it is a light fresh, apple and pear with a hint of floral. The palate has some good texture and waxy notes. Very pleasant to sip.
2011 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Basa’ Verdejo D.O Rueda Classic, easy going Verdejo that can be served cold to be refreshing or served at cellar temperature to appreciate the subtle flavours and textures.
2010 Descendientes de J. Palacios ‘Pétalos’ Mencia D.O. Bierzo A stunning producer who makes Mencia that rivals the best wines of Burgundy. I cannot recommend this wine highly enough. So fresh and vibrant with the mineral core.
2011 Agnès de Cervera ‘La Petite Agnès’ Garnacha Samsó D.O Priorat (DOCa) Amazingly good wine showing the typical Priorat dark fruit power, schisty drive and overall muscle.
2011 Palacios Remondo ‘La Vendimia’ D.O Rioja (DOCa)
An unoaked younger brother of the Propiedad, it is unoaked and made to be drunk young and fresh. There is less fruit power but the extra vibrancy and tart fruit makes up for that easily.
2011 Cillar di Silos Joven de Silos D.O Ribera del Duero Very classy Tempranillo from a fabulous producer. Full of crunchy red fruits and floral notes. A very refreshing wine that shows the Tempranillos other personality (compared to the Alion above).
Romate Oloroso ‘Don Jose’ D.O. Jeréz A true gem of a drink. Often overlooked as people either head for the bone dry or the sweet styles. This wine shows the joy of texture and subtle flavours you get with Oloroso. Such a great and versitile food wine too.