Once upon a time in Barcelona…

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.

Ontanon Rioja Reserva

Ontanon Rioja Reserva

** 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.

La Cana - $14.99

La Cana – $14.99

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.

Cheers!

Memories from Barcelona

Memories from Barcelona

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Viva Espana

Go Spain!

I am very fond of Spain. Everything about this beautiful country intrigues me; the beautiful people, delectable food, amazing history, interesting taste in fashion, horrible driving and of course their delicious wine (and they make fabulous olive oil as well). Maybe I am partial to this European country because I was able to live in Barcelona for 4.5 months about 8 years ago. Honestly, most of my experience in Barcelona is a blur. I would like to say I am fluent in my Spanish language (which was my main reason for going) – but I became fluent in eating and drinking the Spanish way. Hey, at least I learned something from the Spaniards, right?

France, Italy, California and Washington are famous for their amazing wines. Until recently, Spanish wines were not overly popular here in the US. But, this New World wine should not be over shadowed by those power houses. Give Spain a chance, try a few bottles of Spanish wines. They can vary greatly, so be prepared. However, you can find some great Spanish wines at good prices.

**Side note – My bet is on Espana to take World Cup 2010 – we don’t want to see Italia win this year.

Tonight’s Tasting:

Pinuaga Nature – Tempranillo 2007 (West Seattle Cellars $15.00, I also saw it at Whole Foods) – A Castilla red wine.

At first taste, this wine had a bitter bite (beware Tempranillo’s are temperamental sometimes). I was a little nervous that I would have to write my first bad review for my fellow novices. After letting this wine sit for a few minutes, it ended up with a smooth taste (strange I know, but wines are like that). The flavor of this wine is tricky – at times I can taste a plum, cherry flavor but then my next sip I notice an earthy, nutty note. An interesting combination, but kept me wanting more. This is a medium bodied wine that will warm you during the winter months, but also a nice wine to pull out on a summer evening while sitting on your deck reminiscing the past (and all the trouble you caused) with your girlfriends (or guy friends) ! This would be a great wine to keep around the house for all seasons (if it stays that long, it is very easy to drink, after first taste)!

Wine on my friends….