Spanish Wine Tasting
The Wine Club of DACOR Presents
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE WINES OF SPAIN
Spain is the world’s third largest and fastest growing wine-producing nation after Italy and
France and the second largest exporter. These figures are variable, but Spain is no longer the distant third it was in the last decade. It actually topped usually second-place France in output in 2013 and was the leading exporter in 2013.
This is something of a revolution. Although grape growing and winemaking have been
central to Spanish agriculture since Roman times, only a few areas have been widely known outside the country–until this century. The rise in world consumption, particularly in the US, has fueled modernization and expansion in the Spanish industry. With improvement in quality, regions once only locally known have become recognized appellations and have won international attention. With this tasting we will begin to explore the scope and variety of the new generation of Spanish wines through a sampling from twelve major appellations scattered between Valencia and Galicia.
The equivalent in Spain of the French Appellation Contrôlée is Denominación de Origen or DO. Certain areas are awarded the higher designation of Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa)–or Qualificada (DOQ) in Catalonia. Wines with the designation DO or DOCa come from strictly delimited areas and are produced according to specific standards to preserve their special identity.
The major grape varieties represented here are mostly indigenous or primarily identified with Spain: Verdejo and Albariño for whites and Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell (Mourvèdre), and Mencía for reds. The terroirs range from mild mediterranean to harsh, dry continental climatic conditions, from alluvial plains to rocky mountainsides.
The wines for this tasting come from the The Country Vintner, which has the largest portfolio of Spanish wines in the East. Retail prices given are purely estimates based on frontline wholesale without discounts. A good wine shop should be able to offer lower prices.
Cavas Masachs “Mas Fi” Brut N V $15
40% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo, 25% Parellada
Sparkling wine, called Cava in spain, is a specialty of the Penedès district of Catalonia They are made in the same way as Champagnes from different blends of various indigenous grapes. First the grapes are harvested, pressed and vinified as for white wines. When the wine is bottled, a little more sugar and yeast are added and the bottles are capped. This launches a second fermentation that produces bubbles of CO2 which are trapped in the bottle. In the course of 10 months of aging and special handling, the sediment of dead yeast is collected in the neck and disgorged before the bottles are sealed with the familiar mushroom cork bound with wire. The Masachs firm, near Barcelona, produces a million bottles of cava a year.
CASTILLA Y LEÓN
Bodegas Palacio “Menade Creta” 2014 $16
The district of DO Rueda straddles the Duero, one of the world’s great wine rivers. In Spain it is home to two or the most prestigious red wine DOs, Ribera del Duero and Toro, examples of which are included in this tasting. It flows westward into Portugal, where it becomes the Douro, source of the Porto wines named for the city from which they are shipped, at the river’s mouth. DO Rueda comprises about 13,000 hectares of vines of which 95% are planted to white grapes, principally Verdejo.
DO Rias Baixas
Bodegas Martín Códax, Val do Salnés, “Burgáns” Albariño 2013 $16
This dry white comes from a 285 member cooperative in the sub-zone of Val do Salnés in the Rias Baixas district of Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain above Portugal. This variety is especially favored in the region.
DO Valencia, sub-zone Clariano
Celler del Roure “Cullerot Blanco” 2012 $18
Verdil 30%, Pero Ximénez30%, Chardonnay 30%, Macabeo 10%
This is an unusual blend of four varieties from an estate vineyard in the interior of the
province, on a high plateau southwest of Valencia, northwest of the coastal town of Alicante. The grapes are mostly pressed, but 1/5 are macerated on the skins for 5 days, fermented with natural yeast, 60% in clay amphorae (!) and the rest in stainless steel tanks, then aged for 5 months in amphorae and bottled unfiltered.
DO Campo de Borja
Bodegas Borsao “Monte Otón” $11
The designation covers white, red and rosé wines made in this large district (700 sq km with 7500 hectares planted) in the western part of the province of Zaragoza. Garnacha, known as Grenache in France, is said to have originated here and makes up 60% of production. Borsao is a principal producer, with 35% of the total vineyards, making a range of Garnacha and Garnacha blends as well as white wines. The vines grow on dry high plateaus with gently undulating slopes at altitudes of 350 to 800 meters. Soil composition varies with altitude, from red clay and slate, to sand, and lime and gravel. This wine comes from 15-25-year old vines in stony clay-limestone soil, given cool fermentation in stainless steel after 15 days of maceration on the skins.
DO Jumilla, sub-zone Hoyas de Santa Ana
Bodegas Olivares “Altos de la Hoya” 2012 $15
90% Monastrell, 10% Garnacha
This appellation is about half in northern Murcia and half in the Albacete province, with a
little in Castilla-La Mancha. It comprises about 32,000 hectares of vines planted in wide
valleys and plateaus at between 400 and 800 meters in a climate zone between the
Mediterranean coast and the central La Mancha plateau. The soil is calcareous and sandy, porous and poos in organic matter. The climate is arid and sunny with cold winters and frosts even in April. It is overwhelmingly devoted to red wines based on the Monastrell variety (85%), known as Mourvèdre in the Rhône and Provence, where it is mainly a blending grape.
The vines of Bodegas Olivares are located in the highest part of the Jumilla appellation (825 m) on sandy and chalky soil. The altitude gives a cooler microclimate than most of Jumilla, with longer ripening. Harvested in early October, fermented with wild yeast in stainless tanks, aged 6 months in French oak barrels and 60 hectoliter oak vats with very little new wood. Crianzas and Reservas, aged for 2 years, partly in oak, are also produced.
Celler de Capçanes “Mas Donís Barrica” 2013 $15
85% Garnacha, 15% Syrah
This appellation is located in the province of Tarragona in the southern corner of the province comprising 1,860 hectares of vines supplying some 60 wineries. About 94% is red wine, mostly exported. Climate is more Mediterranean, with more rain than the interior and less danger of spring frost.
Celler de Capçanes is a cooperative founded in 1933 in the village of that name 100 miles
southwest of Barcelona only 20 miles from the sea. The vineyards are situated at 200-700 meters on soils ranging from clay to sand to slate and limestone, allowing a variety of styles of wine. This wine is a blend of Garnacha from up to 60-year old vines and syrah, planted on lower alluvial and higher rocky soil, hand harvested between September and mid-October. Varieties are vinified separately in stainless steel tanks after a maceration of 8-14 days, and then aged for 9 months in a combination of old and new French and American oak barrels. Before bottling, the wine is blended and held for 6 months in tank.
Conreria d’ Scala Dei “Black Slate” Esdaladei 2010 $24
85% Garnacha, 15% Cariñena
Priorat is essentially the heart of the Montsant region and produces red wines (96%) permitted
the elevated DOQ designation, owing to its unique terroir. The porous volcanic soil
consisting of black slate, quartz, and mica, retains water and allows deep root penetration.
The name is taken from the Carthusian Monastery that created the vineyards in the 13th
century. Today there are only 1,800 hectares under vines on slopes and terraces between 100 and 700 meters, although the DOQ zone itself comprises almost 20,000 hectares. As in Montsant, the primary variety is Garnacha, but plantings of French varieties Cabernet
Sauvignon and Syrah are increasing.
This wine is a product of collusion between the Conreria, which occupies the site of the
original Carthusian winery, and the American importer Eric Solomon. It is made from grapes grown at 650 meters above sea level and aged 20 months in French and American oak.
CASTILLA Y LEÓN
Vinedos Losada “El Pájaro Rojo” 2013 $18
Located in the northwest corner of spain in the west of the province of Léon, between the city of Léon and Santiago de Campostela, this small appellation comprises 4000 hectares of which 2600 are planted, partly on mountains (alto Bierzo) and partly on the plain (Bajo Bierzo) at altitudes of 400 to 800 meters. Soil varies from clay to quartz and slate. The principal traditional variety is Mencía, grown here since the middle ages. It is an area of many small growers, owning an average of two-thirds of a hectare each.
Losada Vinos de Finca produces only estate wines. This wine is made from 30-40 year old
Mencía vines in the coolest areas, on clay soils, aged 4 months on the lees in stainless tanks.
Bodegas Vetus “Flor de Vetus” 2012 $22
100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo)
Toro is a very small appellation in the Province of Zamora, northwest of Madrid, between
Salamanca and Valladolid. Vetus produces about 100,000 bottles of Toro, in three levels of quality, and 68,000 of Verdejo DO Rueda. Flor de Vetus is the issue of a 20 hectare vineyard planted in 1990 at 700 meters above sea level. It is hand-harvested in October, partially crushed, vinified in stainless steel tanks and aged for 9 months in 50% new French and American oak.
DOC Ribera del Duero
Mostly Province of Burgos, 115 km along the river, alt 750-900 m, extreme climate, dry
summers and cold winters. Vineyards are about 120 square km. almost entirely red wines, and mostly from the tempranillo grape, here called Tinto Fino, which may be blended with French varieties, as in the most celebrated wine of the region, Vega Sicilia, which commands astronomical prices.
Bodegas Emilio Moro “Finca Resalso” 2009 $18
100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)
The Moro family has been growing grapes in Ribera del Duero for four generations but began making wine commercially in 1987. The estate vineyards are situated on chalk, loam, and clay soils at altituds of 750 to 1000 meters. Finca Resalso is the name of one of their vineyards but is used simply as a brand for wine made froma selection of young vines.
Bodegas y Viñedos Ortega Fournier “Spiga” 2006 $33
100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)
The Fournier firm produces 250,000 bottles annually of four wines in this appellation, of
which Spiga is the second in level of quality. The vineyards in the province of Burgos are 800 to 850 meters with sandy gravelly soil. The grapes are hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel with 30 days maceration. The 2006 spent 13 months in new and year-old French oak barrels, then was bottled unfiltered and kept for 6 months before release.
La Rioja Alta “Viña Ardanza” 2005 $38
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha
Rioja is the best known region for table wine in Spain and was the first to gain the DOCa
designation. It is situated in the valley of the Ebro, which flows into the Mediterranean. It comprises three districts, Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. The highest quality is in the more elevated Rioja Alta. Although its vineyards go back to Roman times, Rioja received a boost in terms of interntional repute in the late 19th century, when winemakers from Bordeaux, wiped out by phylloxera, emigrated there and set about applying French techniques to improve the quality.
Founded in 1890 by five families who brought in a French winemaker, La Rioja Alta has been one of the leading houses for generations. Viña Ardanza, their most famous brand, was introduced in 1942. The Tempranillo is sourced from 30-year old vines in two vineyards in Rioja Alta and the Garnacha from another in Rioja Baja. Fermentation is in tanks, and the varietals are then aged separately, the Tempranillo for 36 months in old (neutral) American oak barrels and the garnacha for 30 months. This wine was #34 in the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of 2014. Robert Parker gave it 94 points. 600,000 bottles were produced.