Thursday, 7 June 2012

Euro 2012. Wine by Wine. Spain

Every country - indeed many an individual region within the Old World winemaking countries - has its own wine style. Across most of Spain, this is mature red wine. Red wine that has been allowed to age in its own time in serried ranks of oak barrels beneath the winery. Wine that is made and then left. For years and years.

Yes, I know about modern Spain and the modern trend for modern young juicy fruitful easy-gluggers, but to me that's just not Spain. Traditionally and historically Spanish winemakers have used regional grape varieties to create a number of variations on a age-old or aged old theme.

Originally the wire caging around Rioja
bottles was a fraud prevention measure
A theme exemplified by traditional Rioja. Rioja with vanilla, with leather, with dark and spicy overripe red fruit. Red wine that is really quite brown. At the top of the quality tree Rioja Gran Reserva is aged four years or more in oak, Ribera del Duero gets better with the passing years and even cultish young pretender Priorat shouldn't be touched until it's had five years ageing.

But you can find everyday, affordable representations of this brown red style in wine merchants and on supermarkets shelves - even in corner shops - across the UK. You'll recognise the bottles, they're wrapped in a gold wire cage.

Nowadays it's an affectation, something to attract your attention, a bit of nice window dressing.  Historically it was a quality guarantee - proof that the contents were as the bottle left the winery, to stop crafty restaurateurs refilling expensive Rioja bottles with cheaper stuff then passing it off as Gran Reserva.

Today you'll even see the golden cages on wines from supposed lesser regions like Valdepeñas on the central plain of La Mancha or Calatayud in Aragón - but the wines are still typical. Names like Anciano, Carta Roja, Castillo de Montearagon, Conde Galiana, Palacio del Conde and Vina Albali, spring to mind but the key is the combination of age, six or seven years plus, and wire, and brown red wine. Like Rioja, many are also based around the Tempranillo grape.

Contemporary Viña Tondonia vintages are available from many wine merchants including winedirect and for Spanish wines direct from Barcelona you might try out Vinissimus.

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© 2011 John Alexander