There are many reasons to love Europe, but today I will focus on one of my most favorite things about Europe.. wine! Now, before the wine advocates in Washington, California and Oregon get in a tizzy, I would like to say I love wines from the US as well. However, my love and passion for wine began in Barcelona, Spain. And for that, Europe will always have my heart when it comes to wine.
I remember the day I feel in love with wine. Well, it wasn’t really the day, it was about 10:00 a night in Barcelona. At the age of 23 though, my day was pretty much beginning at 10:00 pm. I was heading out to meet up with some friends, but was persuaded to stop into this wine shop off Valencia street. Upon entering the shop, I was mesmerized by the warmth and feeling of the place. It smelled of stone, wood and wine. The shop looked as though it had been in operation since 1889. The owner was this old Spanish gentleman and even though we didn’t speak the same language, that didn’t stop him from pouring me some of the most amazing wines I had ever tasted. We laughed and drank… and laughed a little more. For hours this continued. I couldn’t tell you the exact Spanish wines I drank. All I remember is tasting, sipping, drinking and falling in love.
From that night on, my mind, palate, nose and ambition changed forever. My ideas of wine expanded beyond belief. During that same period of my life I was able to travel to the Burgundy region of France, Italy and Germany. I adored wines from those countries and regions as well. But nothing compared to Spain’s wine and the little wine shop that expanded my horizon.
Spain’s Wine Regions:
Spain has 7 wine regions: Green Spain, North Central Spain (Ribera del Duero), Ebro River Valley (Rioja and Navarra), The Meseta, The Mediterranean coast ( Priorat, Montsant and Cava), Andalucía and The Islands.
Spain makes many wines from these regions, more than us in America could imagine. Many varietals similar to the US (Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay) and many we wouldn’t be able to recognize (Aragon, Castellana, etc.).
However, I will not go into all the varietals in this blog. The focus will be on two varietals to explore next time you are in a courageous mood to try something new!
Wine 1: Tempranillo from the region of Rioja
I am a sucker for a good Rioja, Tempranillo. I love its earthy, dirty, jammy flavors on the palate. It can often have strong oak and vanilla flavors as well. When I drink it, I am instantly brought back to my little wine shop However, I am picky about my Rioja’s. You will find 4 different classifications for Rioja’s – so I will give you a quick low down. This makes a difference in my book.
Rioja – the youngest wine. Spending less than a year in an oak barrel.
Rioja Crianza- ages for two years and at least one of those years in oak.
Rioja Reserva – aged for three years and at least one year in oak.
Rioja Gran Reserva – Aged two years in oak and three years in the bottle.
While you can get some nice Crianza’s at your local wine merchant (for an excellent price at that)… I would spend the extra $5-10 and purchase the Reserva. Often Crianza’s have a bite to them.. with a Reserva (in most cases) I found them to have that silky, smooth, rustic jammy taste that I appreciate.
I often hear from people that they don’t like Rioja’s. My guess is that they have not tried a Reserva or Gran Reserva, because my friends your opinion would change. Please, give a Rioja a second chance. Step it up a notch on the price scale and you will not be disappointed.
** A little note on Rioja’s – is they make a light to medium bodied white wine as well… delicious!
Wine 2: Albarino
This is a medium-bodied white wine from the region on Galacia. It has distinct flavors and aromas to Viogniers; hints of peach, nectar, apricot and stone. Albarino is a lively and crisp wine which pairs well with most fish and shellfish dishes. It is an extremely popular wine in Spain, and quickly growing in its popularity here in the US. And the best thing about this wine is the price. This is an extremely affordable white wine. Often around the $10.00-15.00 price point.
There you have it my friends; two new wines that you must try. Even if you are unable to try these wines in the heart of Spain, at least you can bring Spain to your home.