Spend fall in Spain
Or, at least a bottle of Spanish Reserva
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
I refuse to give up summer.
In fact, I’m wearing a red Hawaiian shirt and beige pants right now. And I have allies. My neighbor’s rosebush is in the fullest bloom it’s been in all year. Big, perfect pink flowers. Well, maybe not pink, maybe salmon? Maybe misty rose? And my pants aren’t beige, they’re ecru or eggshell. Who cares anyway? Those color names were made up by prissies in New York who wear black every day.
This fall, like every other fall before I say I’m going to drink more white wine. That’s probably not true. What I will drink is more Spanish wines. They’re priced to move and rarely totally disappoint.
Now when I say totally I mean they are rarely undrinkable. One of the biggest obstacles to loving Spanish wine is that the Tempranillo grape can be so very tannic when it’s young and you almost never find a well aged one on the shelf. If you do, it’ll cost you more — or you stumbled onto something that’s been there a while. I think the Spanish know their wine is pretty tannic. That’s why they came up with a really good rating system.
Most decent Spanish wines will have a little sticker on the bottle. It tells the region it’s from, unless the region is on the main label. And in this country 97 percent of imported Spanish wine is DO or Denominación de Origen, which means it’s guaranteed to be from the stated region or made with the expected grapes. (like no Cabernet Sauvignon in a wine from Priorat). And certain wines from Rioja and Priorat get to use the fancy DOQ (Denominación de Origen Calificada).
Now a little about aging which benefits almost all Spanish wines. Crianza means it’s been aged at least one year in oak barrels. Reserva means it got at least one year in oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Gran Reserva means it got two years in oak and three years in the bottle before getting released by the producer. In reality Spanish wine often gets more time in the bottle, especially if you’re buying a 2000 Gran Reserva, whose earliest parole date could be the fall of 2005.
I like to use a wine region map of Spain when I research a bottle from the Iberian Peninsula. The map really explains the terrior and layout. And you learn things. I learned that Montsant was quite near Priorat and they probably make similar wines. No wonder I like it so much. Here are some of my favorite Spainsh wine regions (excluding the Sherry-making zones): Penedes, Jumilla, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Calatayud and Priorat.
Here are a few nice Spanish wine for the beginner or for everyday drinking.
• Campos Reales Tempranillo, $7.99
• Bodegas Faustino VII Rioja, $10.99
• Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha Vinas Viejas, $14.99.
These will ease you into the world of Spanish wine and soon you’ll be leaving work at 12:30 p.m. for a nap and eating dinner at 10 p.m.
Here’s what I tasted this week:
• 2005 Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.99). From the Sonoma region. Sebastiani is an old family-owned winery where wine’s been produced for 175 years! Not by the family, but by Franciscan monks who founded a mission in Sonoma city. Alexander Valley is at the northern end of Sonoma. The grapes are sourced from top growers. The wine was supple and velvety with grape jelly hints, chocolate and ripe plum/prune fruit. The structure was superb, but I wanted a tad more backbone (aren’t I spoiled) to complete the whole I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Bordeaux thing.
• Sofia Blanc de Blancs 2006 ($17.99) This is Francis Coppola’s homage to Champagne and his daughter. The sparkling wine was a bit heavy. Nothing overbearing or rude or mean or funny. Just a little too much sweetness. The structure was fine but compared to the next wine and the fact it was the same price I’d choose the Chandon.
• Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs ($16.99). This is the Californian version of Moet et Chandon. From Carneros sourced pinot noir grapes (hence the blanc de noirs, which translates to “white of black,” referring to the color of the pinot grape skins). The wine was really good and very much like its French father. Yeasty lemony zest with a hint of minerals and a slight sweetness in the finish.
• 2003 Marques de Riscal Rioja ($14.99) Obviously, from the Rioja region in the Navarre province of Spain. The wine was deep and rich with chocolate, some pepper and smoke with a long smooth finish that went great with food, particularly the grilled tuna steaks. This inexpensive almost everyday wine really brought me 1,200 miles south, snatching me from the damp, cold cellars of Epernay, France, and plunging me into the cool limestone and brick cellars of Rioja.