Recently I had the privilege of attending a Spanish Wines seminar hosted by Mr. Patrick Mata, the founder of Ole Imports, organized by Premier Beverage and Augustan Imports. A visionary, insightful, honest, boasting an exceptional palate (family has been in wine business in Spain since the 1800s), and staunch advocate of local farmers and producers; Mr. Mata is a fine example of the Modern Spanish Soul that respects the wisdom of the old ways and the flavors that results from them.
Ole Imports, the brain child that began in 1999 with just three wines, has now grown to over 100 wines. With dear friend and partner Mr. Alberto Orte, their unique portfolio showcases the ‘liquid geography” of Spanish wines that share four fundamental elements: terroir, quality fruit, exceptional wine-making and last but not least, wines that present an exceptional value.
Quick Sip on Spanish Wines: Spain has more acres under vine than any other country in the world: over 3 million acres. Spain is the world’s second largest exporter, surpassed only by Italy, offering an impressive array of wines from traditional to international grape varieties made in classic to modern styles covering every price point from value-oriented “table wine” to limited production “super cuvées.” The six most important wine regions in Spain are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Jerez (sherry), Penedes (cava), Rias Baixas, and Priorat.
Climate very well may solely be accountable for the the diversity of Spanish Wines. Since Spain is a peninsula, their is Atlantic, Continental, and Mediterranean temperature zones. Most of central Spain sizzles under the summer sun and gets very cold in the winter. In the northwestern part, called Galicia, the cool ocean breezes and many rivers lead to the moniker “Green Spain.” In the south, the brutal, arid land and howling winds can prove too much for most grapes. The Mediterranean to the west contributes warm temperatures and cooling breezes, while the Pyrenees on the border with France block rain clouds from making their way to the north central area. You get the point…..
From Cava, sparkling wines of Spain, fresh and salty wines like Albarino from Rias Baixas, rich white wines from Godello and Viura, ripe, fruity red wines from Tempranillo, muscular and intense reds of Priorat made from Garnacha, to the fortified aperitif and dessert Sherry there is world-class and exciting wines being produced in Spain to appease any old or new world palate, best of all with outstanding value.
Here is a brief synopsis of our delightful afternoon consisting of both white and red wines tasting.
Naveran Brut Nature, NV: Spain’s best-kept secret for quality and value, Cavas are made utilizing the same methods used in Champagne. Naveran Brut Nature is a grower Cava that spends 18 months on its lees after fermentation in the bottle to achieve greater depth, complexity and the fine, delicate and long lasting bubbles, called mousse by the French.
The totally dry, no dosage, frothy 2011 Brut Nature reveals hints of oranges, tangerines and honeyed citrus, well-defined, small bubbles and an austere, dry, chalky mouthfeel. I adore bubbles and I think they are the ideal sip to start and end any evening or gathering.
Nortico Alvarinho, 2013: “Alvarinho” is the Portuguese translation of Albariño, a refreshing, crisp, perfect-for-summertime white wine. The Nortico estate, situated in Portugal, sits a stone’s throw from the border of Rias Baixas, the home of Albariño and one of the great places in the world for fresh seafood. Bright and fresh with low alcohol, it is a crisp summer wine to be sipped while eating fresh seafood such as oysters and clams.
Columna Albarino, 2013: Spanish Albariño continues to shine as one of the best whites you can find for the money from anywhere across the oceans. Made from 100% Albariño grapes tended in granite soil, the Columna Albarino is bright with clean white fruits, minerals, great acidity, and a long finish that screams for fresh local seafood.
Papa Godello, 2013: A grape that can communicate more than fruit, Godello conveys the geography of its place of origin, the aromas and flavors that the soil imparts to the wine. Able to age similar to Chardonnay in white Burgundy, Papa Godello showcases assertive aromas of rosemary, thyme, and oregnao, underscored by a firm mineral character.
This delicious wine pairs well with rich seafood such as swordfish sautéed in butter, pasta with white clam sauce or fried oyster sandwiches.
Pinol L’Avi Arrufi Bianco, 2011: A collector’s favorite, L’avi Arrufi Blanco is an estate-bottled wine made from organically grown vines over eighty years old in the region of Terra Alta, located south of Barcelona. Made with 100% Garnacha Blanca, also called white Grenache, it boasts of aromas of wet stones and earthy minerality, creamy texture, bright acidity, great complexity, and length on the palate.
Zestos Old Vina Garnacha, 2013: If you love wines of tension that exhibit purity and finesse, you will find Zestos old Vine Garnacha to be your new love. Kirsch, strawberry, black currant and licorice aromas jump from the glass of this medium-bodied, richly fruity, surprisingly intense red, it finishes fruity and broad, with a touch of white pepper adding lift and cut. It is a perfect introduction to Spanish wine that should stand up nicely to any range of dishes in your winter repertoire, including braised meats.
Ludovicus Tinto, 2012: Produced from dry-farmed organic grapes, this mineral, spicy Mediterranean red will appeal to both old and new world palates. ‘Ludovicus’ pays tribute to the roman heritage of the mountains of Tarragona overlooking the Mediterranean.
This ripe, juicy, vibrantly big-fruited red wine is a real crowd pleaser, and Ludovicus’s easy drinking nature makes it a versatile wine, either with meat and pork main courses or with more casual tapas or small plates.
Barco de Piedra Ribera del Duero, 2013: The noble Tempranillo grape called Tinto Fino or Tinta del País by locals, Barco de Piedra is an affirmation of the beauty and purity of the Tempranillo grape as it is grown in Ribera del Duero. Raspberry and violet aromas with rose petal, blueberry and mineral notes make this wine. Barco de Piedra is one of the prettiest examples of the elegance and structure of Ribera del Duero, one of the great wine regions of the world.
Pork and veal have an essentially sweet “bass note” that is complimented nicely by Tempranillo’s sweet nature, so these meats pair extremely well with Barco de Piedra. For simple fare, aged hard cheese like manchego, jamon iberico, Spanish almonds, Sevilla olives and crusty bread are exceptional accompaniments for this wine.
La Cartuja Priorat, 2013: La Cartuja is a small production cuvée made from organically grown and estate-owned, grapes located in the Carthusian Les Solanes estate. La Cartuja is a fresh vision of Priorat, a wine that is made in an approachable style to be enjoyed young. It is neither alcoholic nor overly tannic. Yet has enough “stuffing” and structure to pair well with BBQ beef brisket or pork, grilled beef, and mesquite grilled or smoked baby back pork ribs.
Cortijo Tinto Rioja, 2013: Rioja is Spain’s most prestigious wine region and for younger or neophyte wine drinkers who want to learn more about this magical, storybook wine region, its grapes and its wines, there’s no better introduction than Cortijo.
Raspberry, candied cherry and white pepper aromas show good energy and a hint of smokiness. Slightly jammy on the palate, offering an array of red and dark berry flavors that become spicier with air. Finishes juicy and tight, with subtle tannins and a touch of licorice.
Pinol L’Avi Arrufi Tinto, 2008: L’avi Arrufi means ‘Grandfather Arrufi,’ the man who founded Celler Piñol in 1945. Today, less than 800 cases are produced of one of the family’s most distinctive wines, made from organically grown vines over seventy years old.
Revealing brooding black fruits, dried herbs (rosemary and thyme), mineral, lavender, and a hint of balsamic, this wine’s bold, burly and big structure is a great match for spicy BBQ, beef brisket or smoked pork. Red and white meats prepared with a little “heat” (five spice, Mediterranean rubs or some Indian curries) will be a good pairing too.
JC Vizcarra Ribera del Duero, 2011: Juan Carlos is one of the pioneers of the garagiste wine-making movement in Spain, has a philosophy centered on making wines that show elegance and finesse. In order to achieve this goal, the winemaking is exclusively by gravity. A focus on careful vineyard work and gentle winemaking prevents harsh tannins and instead produces soft, elegant wines.
With meaty, herbal, and earthy aromas, this wine has the soul typical of great Riberas. Pair this with lamb shank, roast beef, grilled steak and braised pork shoulder. For more casual fare, beef, lamb or bison burgers on the rare side and ropa vieja are good matches.
Vizcarra Torraivo Ribera del Duero, 2010: A low production wine; only 550 cases by Juan Carlos Vizcarra, one of the pioneers of “garage wine-making” in Ribera. Flamboyantly perfumed aromas of candied dark berries, incense and lavender, with hints of woodsmoke and Indian spices emerging with air. Smoky, sweet and expansive on the palate, offering intense blackberry and boysenberry flavors given spine by juicy acidity, finishing sappy, sweet and very long, with a hint of dusty tannins.
On a personal note, Rioja wines hold a soft spot in my heart since it was the Rioja wine which won my husband over as a wine drinker, and till date Tempranillo is one of his favorite grapes. In fact we embarked on a tour of Spain Thanksgiving 2013, where we drove from Barcelona to San Sebastian, Logroño and Madrid to visit some of our favorite wineries and eat our way through delectable pinxtos and tapas. And if you get the opportunity to visit Spain, you will too, like me, fall in love with Spaniards for their warmth, generosity, loving spirit, and of course their beautiful wines.
I could keep ranting but the only way one get’s to understand wine, especially ‘good’ wine, is to open a bottle and enjoy it with friends and loved ones and keep the bottle flowing, Salud!
To grab a bottle of this delicious juice from your local retail shop, connect with Ole Imports on Facebook and Twitter. I guarantee, you will too, get hooked on Spanish Wines. Until next time, have a delicious day!