And now a trip to sunny Spain!
Spain is the third-largest producer of wine in the world. Winemaking is an essential part of Spanish history, as archaeologists have dated vines as far back as 4000 BC. However, it was not until recently that it became an important part of Spain’s economy and reputation. Since the 1950s, Spain’s economic independence has steadily increased, encouraging the development and exportation of wine. In 1996, restrictions on irrigation were lifted, further opening the industry for innovation and development.
Spain has a rigorous classification structure very similar to France’s. The classifications are (from most to least prestigious): DOCa/DOQ, DO, VCPRD, and VdiT. To receive DO or DOC status, wineries must submit their wines to the Consejo Regulador laboratory for testing and evaluation. Furthermore, Spain’s labeling requirements are very strict. Different labels refer to minimum aging requirements:
Crianza reds: 2 years, w/ 6 months in oak.
Crianza whites/rosès: 1 year w/ 6 months in oak.
Reserva reds: 3 years, w/ 1 year in oak
Reserva whites: 2 years, w/ 6 months in oak
Gran Reserva reds: 5 years, w/ 18 months in oak, 36 months bottle
Gran Reserva whites/rosès: 4 years, w/ 6 months in oak
Though Spain has hundreds of native varietals, recent decades have seen the plantings of additional non-native varietals, including Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, etc.
FILLABOA 2010 ALBARIÑO, RÍAS BAIXA
Albariño is commonly grown in Portugal and is sometimes called the “white Rhine” for its similarity to Reisling. In the last few decades, however, it was introduced to the Rìas Baixas region of Spain (just across the river Sil from Portugal). That area has a coastal climate, with a fair amount of rain and moderate temperatures. Albariño has done exceptionally well there, producing a wine that is much crisper than those produced in Portugal. Drinkers of Viognier or Gewurtztraminer are likely to appreciate albariño.
This particular winery, Bodegas Fillaboa, is located across the river from Portugal and not far from the Atlantic. They are specifically known for their albariños, of which they produce some of the rarest and highest-quality. The Bodegas Fillaboa is owned by the Masaveu family, who traces their winemaking history to the 14th century, almost the beginning of Spain’s wine tradition. Unlike many wineries which purchase grapes from various off-site vineyards, Fillaboa uses exclusively their own estate-grown fruit.
This vintage has been described as “Straw-colored yellow, with crystalline and bright appearance. There are powerful apple and pineapple aromas combined with hints of citrus. Subtle memories of yogurt and stone fruit give the wine its distinctive freshness. Soft on the palate, the wine exhibits a well balanced flavor profile, enhancing its freshness and complexity. Well integrated acidity. Unctuous, soft and refined, culminating in a lingering finish.”
VALL LLACH 2007 EMBRUIX, PRIORAT
This wine is very much symbolic of Spain’s “wine revolution,” in which traditional varietals are combined with non-indigenous fruit to create a new world wine. Priorat, just west of Barcelona, is one of only two regions of Spain to achieve DOCa classification, the highest (Rioja is the other). Though it was recognized as such by the Catalonian government in 2000, it was not until 2009 that the national Spanish authorities approved.
The region is volcanic. The first layer of soil is made up of reddish-black slate with particles of mica, which reflect sunlight and conserve heat, and also forces vines’ roots to grow pretty far down for nutrition. This also keeps them anchored against the strong storms that are common in the area.
Vall Llach is a fairly small winery, with a self-imposed ceiling on production and growth to ensure quality.
Garnacha is one of the most common grapes grown here. This wine blends 30% garnacha with 30% cariñena, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 10% syrah. In that sense, this wine respects the tradition of its regional grapes, Granacha and Cariñena, using a blend of international grapes to create a more complex wine. Embruix’s fruit is from new growth vines (6-12 years old), and 2007 was one of the best vintages.
CASTILLO DE MONSERAN 2007 GARANCHA, CARINENA
This is a very traditional, easy-drinking red Garnacha from the Cariñena region. This region, locateda bout halfway between Barcelona and Madrid, has long, hot summers and cold winters, with a constant dry wind that keeps humidity low. Garnacha (also called Vino Tinto) is the most commonly-planted grape, followed by Carignan (called Mazuelo in Spain) and Tempranillo.
This wine has been described as “easy drinking, fruit driven wine. Herbal overtones, bursting ripe berry and plum fruit of the Garnacha. Soft and round on the palate, this wine has limited extraction and tannin to enhance youthful consumption. Lingering fruit flavors.”
“Like many Spanish reds, it’s light, bright and jammy, not terribly complex but providing beams of red fruit across the palate. The smoothness and balance make it a nice choice for any season and a delightful companion to roast chicken and/or root vegetables.”
MIGUEL TORRES 2005 “GRAN CORONAS” CABERNET SAUVIGNON, PENEDES
This is one of Spain’s most renowned wineries. The winery is located in Penedes, near the coast, just south of Barcelona. It has been a family-owned operation since its foundation in 1870. Today their mission is “to maintain our hundred year old tradition as a family company, with international projection, both self-financed and independent.”
The company is credited with revitalizing Spain’s wine industry, particularly with their research and promotion of the region’s indigenous grape varieties. The grandchildren of the original founder now have winemaking operations in other parts of the world, including Chile and California.
The current president of the company, Miguel A. Torres, has received much praise. Awards include: Lifetime Achievement Award (International Wine Challenge UK, 2010), Wine Personality of the Year for Innovation in Wine (Wine International, 2005). The winery has also been named #1 winery on Green List (British Drinks Business Magazine, 2009), Best European Winery of the Year (Wine Enthusiast 2006), and Most Important Winery in Spain (Wine Spectator, 1999).
This wine, which is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Tempranillo, demonstrates Miguel A. Torres’ innovative drive. He planted the French variety of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Penedès region at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, when normal practice was to plant local white varieties. Thanks to this, Gran Coronas has become a benchmark for Reserva red wines.
Experts describe it as, “Structured with intense fruit flavors and silky tannins, this Reserva displays alluring aromas and flavors of blackberry, currants, coffee, vanilla and a classic touch of roasted bell pepper.”