The alluring Spanish countryside is as intoxicating as its complex, vibrant and delicious wines. From the fresh albarino grown in pergola in Galician soils filled with granite, to the robust Tinta de Toro grown in the rocky soils filled with rocks of Toro, to the native fruits Garnacha Tinta from Navarre and Tempranillo filled with cherry, de vanilla and leather from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Spanish wines have a lot to offer. Consider one with your evening meal. (Some selections have been sent for editorial review.)
Delicate floral notes mingle with crisp acidity, crushed stone minerality and brackish salinity in Albarino wines from Galicia. Rias Baixas. Like the sun in the glass, textured wines tell the story of oceanfront villages through which vines wind their way, gathering character along the way.
Spicy, refreshing Fillaboa Albarino ($ 17) offers a crunchy apple, white blossoms and a salty minerality. Terras Gauda “Abadia de San Campio” Albarino ($ 20) blend of ripe peach, pineapple, lemon and orange blossom.
Across the Ebro from La Rioja, in northern Spain, Navarre produces some of the country’s most exciting wines, pairing perfectly with the rich gastronomic delights of their Basque country home. With a focus on sustainability and the protection of Mother Nature, the region’s vineyards benefit from a confluence of climates, including Mediterranean, Atlantic and Continental, as well as a wide range of soil types, giving wines of the region their distinctive character. Offering ingenuity, while valuing traditions, these delicious wines are also very affordable. Bodegas Nekeas El Chaparral Grenache Vieille Vigne ($ 14) combines woody herbs, pepper spices and balsamic vinegar from 80-year-old vines, giving character and complexity to the wine. Vina Rubican Crianza($ 13) Tempranillo blend with Garnacha offering a structured wine with toasted oak, blackberry, leather and licorice.
In a crescent of land in western Navarre, along the historic Camino de Santiago, lies Tierra Estella, homeland of Arinzano, a Vina de Pago winery, practicing sustainable viticulture with an emphasis on Tempranillo and international French grape varieties, namely Chardonnay. Truly exceptional, Arinzano Gran Vino White, currently on the 2010 vintage, ($ 95) proves that the unlikely variety can thrive in Spain, offering balanced layers of Meyer lemon, crushed stone, buttered brioche, with complexity and racy acidity.
French oak aging reigns in many parts of the world, but La Rioja has always been drawn to the use of vanilla and American oak filled with sweet spices. Tempranillo adapts beautifully to American oak. Today, many producers in La Rioja use French and American oak barrels to create their wines.
Bodegas LAN Crianza ($ 11) celebrates this combination by aging their Tempranillo, with a touch of Mazuelo, in a combination of French and American oak barrels for 14 months, followed by nine months of bottle aging, for a wine balanced with vanilla, raspberry and cherry. LAN ViÃ±a Lanciano ($ 30) takes the blend a step further by blending 85 percent tempranillo, 10 percent graciano, and 5 percent mazuelo, from hand-picked 30-year-old vines, aging the wine for a year in French and six months in Russian oak barrels, then age another 18 months in bottle before release. The resulting wine is smooth and refined, highlighting the cherry and hazelnut liqueur, with well integrated tannins.
Winemaker MatÃas Calleja has taken an unprecedented leap to find a balance of textures and flavors, producing Bodegas Beronia ‘s full-bodied Rioja wines, blending French and American oak. By using American oak staves with French oak heads, or vice versa, barrel wine making is inherently more complete, with flavors blending harmoniously throughout the aging process. Beronia Reserve 2013 ($ 20) layers of milk chocolate, candied plums, woody herbs and spices.
The dense, hedonistic and tannic Tinta de Toro is softened by a note of delicate floral freshness in Numanthia de Toro, in western Castilla y LeÃ³n, creating a wine filled with blackberry, espresso and vanilla that begs for a hearty grilled steak.