Common knowledge tells us that Spain is the third largest wine producing country in the world, behind France and Italy. Known for its diverse and opulent cultural history, Spain offers several hundred grape varieties and nearly three million acres of fertile vineyard soil.

The individual wine regions are designated Denominaciones de Origen; some of these regions are well-aged while many others are still young flourishing grape-growing areas. As in France and Italy, the Denominaciones de Origen are governed by Spanish wine production and labeling laws. Primarily, Spanish wines are identified by the region in which they originated, by how long the vintage was aged, and finally by a tiered classification system.

Spanish Wines

We recently had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in some of Spain’s wine offerings and, in turn, pass along our thoughts for your consideration. We felt the selection represented a reasonable spread of Spain’s grape spectrum — from Tempranillo and Grenache to Estate Albarino and the more traditional Merlots, Cabernets, and Syrahs.

Spanish Wines

Basking in the rich cobalt hue of the Mediterranean, only a weathered stone’s throw from that ancient sea, and gently caressing Barcelona’s southern tip is the Denominacion de Origen of Montsant. This young wine region is parented by the Mediterranean’s ample rainfall and warm summer sun, resulting in garnet-colored varietals. We sampled a 2006 Fra Guerau red blend composed of 40% Merlot, 30% Red Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon — and noted the bold presence of tannins and the obvious oak flavors indicating its vessel of aging. Surprisingly, despite having gone through carbonic maceration, we did not consume this wine as young as is typically done with this fermentation method.

Spanish Wines

The grape, Estate Albarino, is a centuries-old varietal shrouded in anonymous origin. It’s conjectured that this grape made its way to Spanish vineyards by way of pilgrims and monks. But, regardless of its introduction into Spain’s wine culture, this grape grows particularly well in the Denominacion de Origen of Rias Baixas along the northwest coast. We tasted 2010 Vionta Albarino, made entirely of this grape varietal. This wine is wildly fragrant and sweetly refreshing. Succulent fruit flavors include peach, citrus, and melon.

The recurring word we used to describe the 2009 Vaza Crinaza was “smooth.” We were not caught off guard to discover that the winemaker employed malolactic fermentation during the winemaking process to produce this ultra smooth wine. Adding to the satin feel of this 100% Tempranillo wine are the calming flavors of vanilla and rose petal while juxtaposing tranquility are notes of tobacco and oak. This wine hails from the Rioja Alavesa region of Spain.

Spanish Wines

There is a theory in winemaking (perhaps more than a theory), which proposes that the more stressed the grapes are during the growing period, the more characteristically unique the resulting wine will be. This idea was cemented a little more in our minds when we tasted the 2010 Valdubon Cosecha comprised of only Tempranillo grapes. The wine is produced in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain known for its harsh climate. The winters are cold and the frosts intense. However, we enjoyed this tangy red and found that each sip revealed more of its complex character.

Ribera del Duero also produced the 2007 Valdubon Reserva we sampled. True to its Reserva name, this wine was aged more than a year in oak barrels. We found this wine to be very aromatic, yet surprisingly smooth and balanced, most likely a result of malolactic fermentation and prolonged aging. Moreover, we were advised that decanting would help open the wine’s full flavor potential, and we also found this to be true. If you’re searching for a reasonably priced and enjoyable wine, you would do well to try a bottle of the Valdubon Reserva.

Co-Authored by Matthew Delaney and Sarah Meadows of The Wine’dUp Wine Blog on WhichWineCooler.Com

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