By The Glass
Spain has great wine values and highly rated premiums
TASTING wines from around the world is fun. GOING to the wine regions (even when its 40 degrees out) is a treat and real eye-opener.
In February I was fortunate enough to participate in an exclusive trip to the wine regions of Spain with Jorge Ordonez. One of the most influential figures in the wine industry today, Ordonez has rooted out the best of the family-owned estates and vineyards in the major regions of Spain, as well as discovered forgotten vineyard areas yielding great treasures -- and making them available to the American public.
The wine regions of Spain have a few things in common: high elevations of 2,000 to 4,000 feet, harsh continental climate with wide temperature swings, unique soils with distinctive varietals, small production and, most important, old vines and low yields. Lots and lots of old vines.
Spanish wines are not only great values, but premium bottlings are world-class. Look for Jorge Ordonez Fine Estates of Spain on the back label and treat yourself and friends to new flavors via these regions:
Jumilla: South of Madrid in the high desert thrives the wonderfully underrated monastrell (mourvedre) grape.Wrongo Dongo($9.99), is a fun label, a wine with rich fruit flavors and exotic spice, with plenty of stuffing to hold up to roasts and barbecue.
La Mancha/Manchuela:The largest Approved Viticultural Area in the world -- clay and sand soils with slate -- mostly focusing on tempranillo. A great value isMano A Mano($9.99), 100 percent tempranillo aged six months in French oak, with plum and a dry dusty finish to go with burgers and pizza.
Priorato: New-found fame in an old region. The wines are pricey but incredible, due to very old vines of carinena (carignane) and garnacha (grenache) grown on steep hillsides in licorella (slate) soils.Cellar Vall Llach "Embruix"($35) is New World in style with Old World terrior, showing rich, ripe flavors of cherry mineral and earth, aged in French oak.
Navarra: One of Spain's most northern wine regions.Bodegas Nekas' Vega Sindoa Rose($7.99) is equal parts garnacha and cabernet, with lush ripe dry fruit great for summer.Vega Sindoa Tempranillo/Merlot, with ripe spice berry fruit and firm tannin, is a great value at $7.99.
Rioja: The benchmark of Spanish wine known for tempranillo. We visited the famous Bodegas Muga. The family-operated estate vineyards show great attention to detail, including coopering their own barrels for wine aging.Muga Reserva Selectionand the limitedMuga "Prado Enea" 1996 are classics if you can find them. On the value side trySierra Cantabria Rioja ($10.99) with a great balance of plum tannin and oak.
Galicia:From this region near the Atlantic coast comes the white-wine albarino.Vina Nora($13.99) does it best, offering floral and peach aromas with a hint of lychee and a crisp, dry finish.
David Ellis is wine educator for Chambers and Chambers Wine Merchants.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org