Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Hola Vinos Españoles; Hello Spanish Wines!

As I am off to sunny Spain this week, I thought it fitting to pay hommage to some of my favourite Spanish vinos. In my naivety (we're talking years ago, don't worry) I used to think that Rioja was a grape variety - shoot me! - and it was really the only Spanish wine  I had heard of. That, and Cava. Fast forward to now and I am in love with so many different Spanish wines it's hard to know where to start.

Spain has over 2.9 million acres (over 1.17 million hectares) of vines, making it the most widely planted wine producing nation and third largest producer of wine in the world, behind France and Italy (thanks Wikipedia!). Whilst many of the wines produced are from native grapes, the majority come from around 20 varieties, the most well known being Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albariño, Airen, Macabeo, Palomino and Monastrell.

Like all wine producing countries, Spain's wine regions are varied in climate, topography and soil type, giving each area a different style. To the northwest, Rías Baixas produces deliciously fruity whites from Albariño, whilst Rioja and the Ribero del Duero churn out ripe reds from the Tempranillo grape. The Catalonia region gives us fantastic fizz - Cava - and of course lets not forget Jerez further south, home to Sherry, the fortified wine. It is this diversity - of both grapes and regions - which makes Spanish wines so exciting! As difficult as it was, I've picked five wines which I love, and will always go back to;

Bubbles are sure to please most guests and Cava is a friendly (and cheaper!) alternative option to Champagne. The Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava from Tesco Wine by the Case is currently the equivalent of just £6.66 per bottle! With its iconic black bottle, it is possibly the most well-known Cava in the world, but having won a Bronze award at the International Wine Challenge, it's also excellent quality. Made from a blend of traditional Cava grapes including Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, this is fresh, zesty, and superbly sparkling with stone fruit and citrus flavours. Perfect as an aperitif or with Tapas style dishes.

From one of the top small estate names in the Galacian region, Pazo Senorans, The Society's Exhibition Albariño, Rías Baixas, 2012 is new to The Wine Society's list. It's aromatic, fresh, peachy and well rounded - perfect for summer sipping. Whilst the 2012 vintage saw quantities reduced by some 50%, the resulting wine benefits from extra intensity and riper fruit, which means that at £11.50 it's a bit of a steal. We'll be sitting in the sun enjoying a plate of garlic prawns or a chicken salad with this one.

Not forgetting summer's unsung hero, the Tesco Finest Navarra Garnacha Rosé is a bargain for picnics, barbeques and summer get togethers. With a screw cap, and at the equivalent of just £6.99 from Tesco Wine by the Case, this bright and vivid pink is a great accompaniment with salads, pasta, rice, vegetables, seafood and white meats. Fresh and full of life, with raspberry, strawberry and ripe cherry flavours, it's well balanced with a fruity finish.

From Haro, at the Western end of Rioja Alta comes Rioja powerhouse and big name, Muga. Their Rioja Reserva 2008, Muga has a complex nose of blackberry and oak and layers of fruit and sweet-spice flavours. It's ripe tannins and lengthy finish lend it well to enjoying with cheeses, roasted meats and Moroccan spices. Whilst we're impatient and can't wait, it can be kept for several years. Majestic are offering this beaut for just £14.99 when you buy 2 bottles - a steal.

And lastly, fashionable this summer, is sherry. Not the Harvey's Bristol Cream of your nan's era, but the dry, Fino style. Tio Pepe is one of the big names of Jerez, and their Tio Pepe Palomino Fino is crisp and dry, with a delicate 'flor' or yeasty character. It's just £7.49 at Waitrose and we think it's perfect as an aperitif, served well-chilled and with salty olives and toasted almonds.

Aplausos! (That's "Cheers!" in Spanish...)

Image taken from Dinner Series' photostream

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