The Spanish wine industry has come a long way over the last two decades. The Spanish style has long been associated with rustic red wines that have been subjected to extended oak again – and some would argue oxidation.
The style is an unfortunate by-product of good intention. In the late 19th century, as France’s vineyards were devasted by phylloxera (an almost microscopic louse responsible for sucking the life right out of vines), more than a few French winemakers made a southwest journey to Spain.
The French winemakers taught the value of oak aging but following their retreat to France, the Spanish winemaking style evolved to become very oaky rather than oak influenced. At their best, in north central Spanish regions such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero, extended oak aging provides extreme value as many Rioja Reservas and Gran Reservas offer the consumer the advantage of buying these wines closer to full maturity than comparative wines from Bordeaux, for example. On the negative side, many of the wines that emerged from the comparatively hot southern regions were sun baked, oxidized and oaky.
Could Spain be the next Old World country to reengage the wine buying public? It could, if it can convince us that its value wines are made in a fresher, more modern style and Spanish winemakers make consumers aware that there is much more to Spain than Ribera del Duero and Rioja. In fact, some of the most exciting wines come out of Spain are white – namely the vibrant Albarino based white wines from Rias Baixas (Martin Codax (NSLC, $14.99)) and increasingly good white wines from Rueda.
Everyday: Verano Tempranillo Cabernet (NSLC, $14.99)
Central and Southern Spain has a long tradition of making wines from international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine, crafted by Canadian winemakers using Spanish grapes, is a solid example of a modern Spanish red at a good price. Expect a good core of jammy blackberry fruit and notes of vanilla in this easy drinking red. There is enough tannin in the finish to keep the fruit flavours in check. Don’t think too much about this one just enjoy it.
Serving Suggestion: Grilled lamb rib chops seasoned with rosemary
Gourmet: Descendientes de Jose Palacios Bierzo Petalos (Select NSLC, $34.99)
I have long awaited this wine finding its way to Nova Scotia. This wine made from the unique Mencia grape (once thought to have a genetic link to Cabernet Franc), from the remote Bierzo appellation delivers lots of floral, spice and wild berry fruit notes and flavours. The palate is only medium-bodied frame but it has great length. The wine is crafted by Alvaro Palacios, who is responsible for some of Spain’s greatest and most expensive wines from the Priorat region.
Serving Suggestion: Paprika crusted roast pork loin (be sure to get a nice sear on the outside of pork)
By the Glass hosts a yearly tour of Spanish and Portuguese wine country. To learn more about By the Glass’s tours email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark DeWolf is the Food & Drinks Editor of Occasions Magazine, a sommelier instructor and owner of By the Glass.