October 27, 2015

The Characteristics of Spanish Wines

Back in the 70’s, Spain was renowned for its cheap bulk wine. Nowadays in Spain, there are 2.9 million acres of land dedicated to grape-growing. In fact, regions like Priorat, Mallorca and Montsant are rising to overshadow the more reputed areas like Rioja and Ribera del Duero, which have long-standing credibility in the wine production arena.

In Rioja and Ribera del Duero there are four classifications that determine the age of a bottle of wine. If the label says “Joven”, it is a young wine that hasn’t been aged during production. “Crianza” has been aged for 24 months, with at least 12 months in oak. “Reserva” has been aged 36 months, with at least 12 months in oak and “Gran Reserva” has been aged for 60 months with at least 24 months in oak.

The primary grape will be identified front and center on the label. So, it helps to know your grapes. Since wine starts with the grape and weather affects the growth of the grape, most vineyards grow further north from the Mediterranean because in the south, the summers are extremely hot and dry. Grapes seem to prefer it a little cooler.

In the 60’s Miguel Torres pioneered the use of stainless-steel for fermentation as well as implementing temperature control in the fermentation process. Now Torres is one of the largest wine companies in Spain with an uncountable number of varieties. Most Cava or sparkling wine comes from Catalonia in the east of Spain. Cava (meaning cave) was traditionally aged in caves. This is quite similar to French champagne, only it usually comes at a much lower price than champagne. The white grape of Rioja is called “Viura”, although it also goes by the name of “Macabeo”. This grape is used in Cava either by itself or blended with other grapes such as “Garnacha Blanca”.

Albarino Foudre is a winery of only five years old. However they have decided to return to the tradition of producing their wine in wooden barrels with a combination of traditional and modern techniques. Angel Sequeiros Foudre strives for excellence in wine. His grapes are picked manually. The wine is well structured with citrus and fruit sensations and a palate cleansing bitterness. From the “Godello” grape comes “Pagos del Galir Godello”.

Cold maceration of the grapes and maturing on lees give this wine its unique quality. It is golden yellow with greenish tone and has a floral freshness with notes of white fruit and a touch of raisins and lime. If you have ever drunk a glass of Spanish wine, you have probably experienced the “Tempranillo”. Also called “Tinto Fino”, “Tinto de Toro”, “Cencibel”, “Ull de Llebre” and “Tinto del Pais”, it is the most common and famous grape in all of Spain. The two most famous regions for Tempranillo are Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

An excellent Ribera del Duero is produced in the Alto Sotillo Winery in Sotillo de la Ribera, Burgos. The Calvo family has been producing the finest tempranillo wines in their own vineyards since 2002.