The Wine in Spain Comes Mainly with the Cuisine – 2
Thus far, I have focused on only the food of Spain but, Spain is a wine drinking country and the food sets a wonderful stage for their wine. Like France, each region producing its own special style of wine.
A best kept secret is that Spain is the leader of all countries in the amount of land dedicated to the cultivation of grapes.
Their best known red wines are the finer Riojas and lighter bodied and, at times rougher Valdepeñas, both named after the regions from which they originate.
The Riojas are based on the Tempranillo grape and can be found in many forms. Youthful and inexpensive nouveau style (Crianza) are lighter, marvelously refreshing and great value wines. Heartier Reserva and ultimately the Gran Reserva are produced with more extensive oak aging and have an aging potential of 10 or more years.
While red wine is usually considered first and foremost in Spain, there are some fine whites and rośes as well. One of my personal favorites is made from the Albariaño grapes on the hills of the Rias Baixas on the Galician Coast. The Spanish also make sparkling vino called Cava.
It is similar to French Champagne but is usually served young with a bracing acidity. Another good pairing for Spanish food is Sherry from the Jerez area and made from the Palomino grape. Most common is their Fino sherry that is served cold and is light, and very refreshing on a hot evening.
Special Spanish Wine and Food Pairings
Serrano Ham or Chorizo Sausage, or fresh, lemon-marinated anchovies – Fino or Manzanilla Sherry
Almonds and Olives – Fino Sherry or young, light bodied Rioja
Shellfish and Seafood – Albariño or Sparkling Cava
Paella with sausage or meat – Valdepeñas
Paella with seafood – Albariño or Navarro Rośe
Grilled chicken and pork – Light or medium bodied Valdepeñas
Grilled meats (beef and lamb) – Rioja Reserva
Richly prepared or sauced beef and lamb Rioja Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero (with 10+ years of aging)
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For those who want their taste of Spain a little closer to home, I have great news for you! Texas is rapidly becoming the “Mediterranean of the USA”. Spanish, Italian and French Rhone-style wines are now made locally.
Jim and Karen Johnson at Alamosa Wine Cellars in Bend, Texas (http://www.alamosawinecellars.com) offer a wine called “El Guapo” – aka “The Handsome One” that comes with an ironically homely Texas horned toad on the label (and NOT a picture of Jim, as I half expected!). This wine is a Tempranillo blend that offers big dark berry aromas with a full-bodied, tannic structure, and full ripe fruit.
Dan Gatlin and his Inwood Estates Vineyards (www.inwoodwines.com) has received much acclaim for this work with Texas Tempranillo, as well. He takes Texas-grown Tempranillo and blends it with his Cabernet Sauvignon to produce an intense and well structured red wine. Dan also produces his “Cornelious” made from 100% Tempranillo made with an interest dollup of French Oak, not and Iberian style, but still a darn good version of the Spainish classic. I dare you to try to tell the difference between Dan’s Tempranillo for the Spanish wine in a blind tasting.
While there are now many more Texas wineries starting to produce Texas Tempranillo-based wines such as Llano Estacado, Perissos Vineyards, Brushy Creek Vineyards, and Landon Winery, we must mention Gene Estes’ Lone Oak Winery (www.loneoakwinery.com) whose Tempranillo from Lost Draw Vineyards in Brownfield, Texas, won Gold at the Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition and Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition (the two super bowls of wine competitions in the USA). I had a chance to taste this wine while still in the barrel last year and it was something to behold, even before it was in the bottle.
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I think that it is time for TAPAS to take a long hard look at Texas as the next wine region to make exemplary wines in the Iberian tradition. TAPAS – Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society – is a nonprofit trade association of over eighty wineries, growers, and amigos, whose mission is to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula, and wines produced from them in North America.
For more information on TAPAS, or to help start a Texas Chapter of the organization, or to let them know how you feel about Texas Tempranillo, Albarino, Grenache, Graciano, the Port varieties or other varietals that are indigenous to the Iberian peninsula, go to: