The diversity within Spanish wine
posted on 4 July 2016 by admin
The diversity within Spanish wine
by Leigh Sinclair
Whether the offering is global or regional, choosing which wine to buy can often be a challenge and especially so when faced with unfamiliar wines. Do you let the grape varieties guide you, or the reputation of the region or label (c’mon, we’ve all done it!)
There is one particular signifier that can help guide you to the wines that best suit your palette and may make your choice a little easier and that is geography. Where a wine is made can tell you a lot about what that wine will taste like, not always, but often.
So the theory goes like this:
Cooler climate wines tend to have more acidity, and have a longer ripening period. Cool climate wines are most associated with the old world Spain, France, Italy etc.
Warm climate wines tend to be fuller bodied and a bit fruitier, mainly due to the faster ripening that occurs.
Warmer climates produce grapes that have high sugar content, & where you have lots of sugar you tend to have higher levels of alcohol. Note the difference in alcohol levels between a South African wine & French wine, some of this is due to preference, but also due to the fact that South Africa has a very warm climate & a faster ripening season.
The alcohol in wine is dedicated often not only by aroma, but also mouth feel, wines that are often described as full bodied or big, often have a much higher alcohol content.
With cooler climates, the acidity in wines, is often interpreted as freshness, think crisp apples, raspberries & citrus. Acidity is often misinterpreted as bitterness, a wine may have bitter notes, but if that’s all you get when you taste it then it is out of balance.
Acidity is one of the prime features that make some wines have potential for aging and others not. Wines from Rioja benefit from a mixture of cooler Atlantic influences and warmer Mediterranean influences. This combination produces wines that have acidity, freshness and flavours of fruits such as strawberries, these wines can last in the right conditions for decades.
A feature that excites me most about Spain is the variety of style of wine on offer. Many wine regions offer diversity, but I think the geography of Spain allows it to span a great many more varieties than many other wine producing countries.
Some regions and their wines
Green Spain or Galicia & the Basque country, on the main produce wines that are made higher up & with Atlantic wind influences Grapes like, Albarino and Mencia are totally at home here.
Valtea Blanco, uses the Albarino grape, it is always crisp & refreshing & often expresses stone fruit flavours like peach.
Peique Mencia is a young red wine that has delicious acidity which makes it amazingly refreshing, red berry flavours are often present Both these wines would suit any one that enjoyed French wines such as Muscadet’s & Burgundies. Try is slightly chilled on a warm day to really taste its potential.
However if you rather something a bit fuller & bolder, the wines of Alicante could be for you. Enrique Mendoza Shiraz/Cabernet from this most southern part of Spain, is made with with Cabarnet Sauvignon, mostly known as the other grape from Bordeaux, & Shiraz, also known as Syrah in France & most often used in wines from the Rhone valley & the Langueoc. Syrah is called Shiraz in Australia where the wines are big & robust, in France the milder climate, shows the softer side of the grape.
When a producer chooses one particular synonym over the other, they are usually trying to tell you something about the wine style, in this instance they have chosen Shiraz, which reflects well the intensity of flavour present in this wine which is big but also very well balanced, elegant & smooth (perfect with chargrilled meat)
Chardonnay suffers a terrible reputation these days, this is due mainly to the terrible examples which were dumped onto the market during the height of its popularity in the 80’s.
Enrique Mendoza produces a fine barrel fermented Chardonnay which is an absolute peach of a wine. During fermentation in the barrel, the delicate vanilla aromas from the oak settle into the wine along with a subtle smoky aroma from the toasting of the barrel, the lees contact adds a further depth of flavour that really allows this wine to stand out. Faster ripening in this warmer climate concentrates the sugars within the wine giving it more tropical fruit flavour & a bit less acidity than other examples of Chardonnay like the French Chablis.
Moving along the coast to Jerez, this region is also very hot, but the fortified wines made here are the most remarkable example of Geography influenced wines in the world (in my humble opinion)
Firstly the grape; ‘Palamino’ in most other parts of the world this grape is considered boring, in Jerez its perfect when combined with the famed Albariza soil.
Of all the different types of sherry made it is the Manzanilla for me that stands out. It is made only in the coastal town of Sanlucar de Barrameda.
‘Entusiastico’ is the name given to the first ever organic Manzanilla made & exported. Like all Manzanilla sherry it benefits from a coastal influence that adds a nutty, salty, savoury base to the wines, along with the yeasty flor contact in the barrel which always remind me of just baked bread. Despite being high in alcohol & made in a very warm climate, due to the solera method of maturation & fortification, this wine is high in acidity making it one of the driest wines in the world. Enjoyed with salted almonds, jamon & manchego, you are transported to the streets of Jerez through flavour.
In addition to being organic, this sherry is also classed as ‘en rama’, in other words unfiltered which means the flavours present are more expressive & powerful than your average Manzanilla or Fino. Delgado Zuelta have only released 1200 bottles of this sherry making it just about the most exclusive sherry available in the uk!
Buying wine, should above all be else be an enjoyable experience, a chance, through flavours to be transported elsewhere, a place a memory or somewhere imagined. Knowing what you are looking for can sometimes help streamline the event, but sometimes it’s also more fun to just take a punt on the unknown.