Thursday, July 29, 2021

Exploring Spanish Wines: Rioja and Beyond

While Rioja rules Spanish imports, be sure to include these other great regions.

Historic Roots and Modern Grace

Spain is Europe’s second oldest wine-producing country but is producing some of the most modern wine on the continent. Tradition dates back 3,000 years, but Spanish wine comes in a wide gamut of styles designed to please today’s palate. We recently tasted three bottles from three different regions of Spain.

Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo 2020

This vintner is best known for wines from Rioja but in 2014,
Marqués de Cáceres purchased 300 acres of vineyards in the heart of the D.O. Rueda.

A little over 100 miles northwest of Madrid, Rueda is a
flat high plain with a continental climate and some
Atlantic maritime influences. The region is best known
for Verdejo, which challenges Albariño for the title of Spain’s best white wine.

This Verdejo has an elegant and subtle nose of white fruit. In the mouth, it is lively with flavors of citrus and grapefruit. It was more flavorful than we expected and was a good match with our charcuterie.

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza 2017

This wine is 85% Tempranillo with the rest being Graciano and Garnacha Tinta varieties. The wine is aged in small barrels of French oak for 12 months and in the bottle for 14 or more months. Rioja is traditionally known for aging in American oak, but this is 60% French and 40% American. There is also a mix on the age of the barrels themselves, with 25% being new and the others seeing up to three wines.

I expected a heavy vanilla flavor (from American oak) but was impressed by the spicy and full-bodied nature of the wine. There is ripe fruit and elegant tannins. The finish is long and rewarding.

Finca La Capilla Ribera del Duero Crianza 2016

When I visited Spain a number of years ago, Ribera del Duero was one region that made a surprising impact on me. The wines were downright majestic and were previously unknown to me.

Located in northern Spain on a plateau with an average altitude of 2,600 feet, growing conditions are challenging. The winters are extremely cold and hard and summers are hot and dry. The grapes used are primarily red, with Tempranillo (or Tinta del Pais as it’s known locally) being the most popular.

This is an intense wine, with a blast of toasted oak mingling with fresh fruit. We enjoyed this with a pork chop but probably would have fared better with a big slab of grilled steak. It is an elegant and enjoyable wine.

La Capilla is a boutique winery, recently purchased by Marqués de Cáceres, on 160 acres particularly suited to Tempranillo. The resulting grapes are rich in powerful tannins, full of color, and with good structure. This was a limited-production wine with only 180 barrels produced.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

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