That was the case until a few key wineries made the switch
to less alcoholic whites based on the local grape called Verdejo. In the last few years, Sauvignon Blanc has
responded with spectacular results too. Now Rueda has
become Madrid's standard white wine, an incredible feat
considering how young this region is. Probably the best
news is that, so far, the fame hasn’t gone to its head,
and the prices are still pretty friendly. Let’s hope it
stays that way.
Getting down to the meaty
reds, first mention goes to D.O. Ribera del Duero. A huge
producer during the Middle Ages, as recently as 1970s this
region had so little to hope for the grape growers
themselves were actually ripping up thousands of acres of
vines as if they were weeds. “No future!” they said. No
future, indeed! Spain's most revered winery, the
untouchable Vega Sicilia, was located in those parts,
obviously good wine could be made there if the producers
put their minds, hearts and money to it. And that’s just
what happened. In little more than twenty years, Ribera
has turned itself into one of the titans of the Spanish
wine world. The reason is simple: its unquestionable
quality. The culprit here is a grape called Tinto Fino,
alias Tinta Fina, alias Tinto del País, alias Tinta del
País. its all Tempranillo. It’s the grape responsible for
the fruity young reds as well as the complex, alluring
aged wine. The rise to stardom has also meant a very sharp
increase in their price, unfortunately making many of
these wines a special occasion order rather than a daily
joy, but the young bottles are still relatively reasonable.
More often than not, the quality and elegance of the
crianzas and reservas justify the cost. Any “bottled”
visit to Spain's new wine look requires a stop at this
exceptional wine-producing land.
region is D.O. Toro. The word "Toro" means "bull" and it
aptly describes the robust character of these reds of yore.
The wine charged at you like a snorting beast bursting out
onto the bullring! The word actually refers to a town by
the same name in the province of Zamora. The river Duero
softly drifts by and bathes the lands with just the right
moisture for growing grapes. The fruit of choice? Tinta de
Toro, alias, you guessed it, Tempranillo. Well, not
exactly Tempranillo, say some, but close enough. The
winemakers in the area have toned down the rugged nature
of their wine, and what they have come up with is
something extraordinary. Full-bodied and full of character,
but not overwhelming.
Switching directions, we
find another region with a longstanding tradition for reds,
but of a very different kind: young and fruity ones made
from the grape Mencía, a variety with characteristics
similar to those of Cabernet Franc. The region is called
D.O. Bierzo and its a fertile valley hidden away in the
north-western reaches of Castilla y León. It is slowly but
surely coming of age. Just a couple of years ago, no one
would have guessed that, but now some of Spain's most
renowned winemakers have moved in to take a stab. Mencías
are intense and lively wines, mostly designed for early
consumption. Whites made from Godello are also available.
Most wine regions in Castilla y León make some rosé, but
D.O. Cigales is what comes to mind when one thinks of
these very aromatic and fruity blushes. New more intense
versions are especially exciting and a refreshing solution
to warm weather meals. Cigales has also made a strong bet
on the future of its reds, which appeal to a wider market.
The most recent reports have been nothing less than
There is also a handful
of minor regions harbouring many “independent” wineries
which have gained notoriety in the international market.
Most notable of all are probably V.T. Castilla y León and
V.T. Tierra de León. Similar names, separate regions.
Castilla y León is
definitely wine country, there is no doubt. And though it
may not have returned to centre stage until recently, one
gets the feeling its heritage is as old as the hills.
Feature written by Brian
Murdock, author of the book "Let's
Open a Bottle". You can
contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org