September 11, 2008


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Spend fall in Spain
Or, at least a bottle of Spanish Reserva
By Tim Protzman

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.

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8/14/2008 Return to seller?
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7/24/2008 Reviving a star
7/17/2008 Champagne staycation
7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage
6/26/2008 Leftover wine
6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One
6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world
5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures
4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
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6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
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Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce