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Spanish Wine

It is no great secret that I have a very squidgy soft spot for Spanish wine. I think we all have a wine that got us into wine and mine was from Spain and specifically from Rioja. That first confrontation with the heady scent of American oak, of vanilla and furniture polish combined with the sweet/savoury blackberry and spice miracle concoction of Tempranillo was too much too resist. So much has happened since then that even Rioja has gone through several changes of direction. American barrels or French barriques? Pure Tempranillo, or blended with Graciano, Mazuelo, and/or Garnacha? Regional blends, or single vineyard, terroir focussed wines? It used to be traditional versus modern, but now the lines are blurred. There is a slowing down of the desire to pigeon-hole styles which is allowing winemakers to think outside the box and consequently produce more interesting wine. Reserva and Crianza are virtually worthless terms, the relic of an age where wines were judged on how long they had spent languishing in wood. So where are we now? Perhaps Spanish wine has hit upon it's own era of post-modernism. Where Godello, Mencia and Bobal can be considered mainstream varieties and Albarino is positively last week's news. For where else in the world can you find such an eclectic range of wines? Name a wine style and it is impossible not to mention a Spanish wine among the very top echelon of that style. Say to me beefy, fruity reds and I say Ribera del Duero, say lighter, perfumed reds and I point you to the hills of Bierzo. Sparkling? I tell you that Cava (a wine that in last week's blog I compared unfairly to Prince Phillip) is ready to take the fizz market by storm once it has shed its stupid regulations and bad rep. Whites with depth and ageability, look to some of the great traditional Bodegas of Rioja whose white wines seem to get fresher with age. Sweet stuff? Pedro Ximenez and don't even mention fortified wines because I will laugh at you all the way to Jerez. Here are a few recommendations of what Spain has to offer: 

 

Descendientes de J. Palacios Petalos

If there is a benchmark for modern Spanish wine (and forget for a moment, the unobtainable, unaffordable icons and concentrate on wines that one can actually buy) then Palacios Petalos must be near the top. It is produced from 100% Mencia grown across a multitude of small, steep vineyards in the hills of Bierzo. Perhaps most importantly it is produced  in quantities large enough to make it accessible to most and at a not totally ludicrous price.  Aromas of rose water and lavender, followed up by soaring notes of black cherry, berry and a naughty lick of smoked spice. Lithe and succulent on the palate and whilst thick with fruit there is enough tannin to keep you interested long after swallowing. £17.95

 

Luis Canas Fermentado en Barrica Rioja Blanco

Gone are the days when white Rioja could easily be mistaken for your Gran's bottle of browning, orange sherry that has been languishing in her drinks cabinet for over twenty Christmases. Luis Canas barrel fermented Viura/Malvasia blend is more akin to high quality southern Burgundy. The symbiosis between oak and fruit is evident here, something that Spanish wine makers have been guilty of failing us on in the past. The future is bright and it isn't orange. £11.95  

 

La Goya Manzanilla 

Made from Palamino Fino grapes, this dry sherry attacks with an onslaught of chamomile tea, roasted nuts and a great salty lick. Like being hit in the face with a tidal wave of pleasure. £6.50 for 375ml

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