The premise of this column came to me after a customer referred to a fellow wine salesman as “psychic.” When she arrived in the store, the employee greeted the customer, kindly offered the normal services and turned to walk away. As the salesman walked away, he muttered out one simple phrase, “Think Spain.”

The California Wine Club

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

The customer quickly became elated and responded with, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” Is this a case of psychic powers? No, and I’ll explain why.

This scenario reinforces many valuable keys for success. First, the salesman used intuition. This invisible and critical service opened up an emotional connection between the salesman and the customer. But it was knowledge that defined the success.

Yes, there is a revelation here. Yes there is a phenomenon. But it had nothing to do with the salesman. He simply did his job and did it well. Most psychic ability depends less on spiritual effects and mostly upon concrete, proven knowledge. Purchasing Spanish wines relies on a similar practice.

Thanks to complex, bureaucratic and difficult wine labels, the ability to find quality Spanish wine falls somewhere between industry secret and psychic possession. The goal behind wine law is to make it as easy as possible to purchase quality wine. Yet, wine labels not only confuse customers, they offer folks in the wine industry the opportunity to transcend wine sales to an almost parapsychological level. Here are a few tangible ideas about buying Spanish wines.

Wine laws in Spain came later than most European countries and as they slowly classify regions, it will make wine labels easier to understand. Like most European countries, to understand Spanish wine, it helps to have a basic knowledge of its structure and geography.

Spain offers a wide range of styles, of many different aromas and tastes, from an amazing variety of soils, sites and microclimates, all at astonishingly low prices. Nearly all the traditional Spanish varieties—Moscatel, Albarino, Verdejo, Parellada, Macabeo/Viura, Garnacha and Tempranillo—accommodate themselves to the fasnicating terriors of the country.

La Tierra de Espana is another aspect that leads many consumers astray. Most people perceive Spain as a Mediterranean seaside country, a climate and soil of sand, sun and sweltering heat. The same can be said of the general climate and soil in many countries. However, thanks to high altitude vineyards and mineral rich soil, Spain is one of the few southerly countries making world-class wine.

Two of Spain’s most famous regions, Ribera del Duero and Rioja contain microclimate conditions that contradict their normal environment. The chalky vineyards of the Ribera del Duero may be planted as high as 2,789 feet. Considering the intense summer heat of Spain (100-105 Fahrenheit) this would seem extreme, yet with a nightly temperature change of as much as 15-20 degrees, it actually becomes beneficial.

Rioja is another area where geography plays an important role. Even though it’s a region of scorching highlands, the Pyrenees Mountains create a sort of natural sprinkler providing the clay rich soils with plenty of water. The area receives an astonishingly high 80 inches of rain per year.

Geography also plays a huge role in wine law and the girth of it can be extremely confusing. In fact, the best way to understand wine law is to bypass it all together. Find a good importer and spend your time drinking good wine. I’ve mentioned the names Jorge Ordonez and Eric Solomon before and I’ll say it again. These two names are very important if you desire quality wine.

In fact, for most American consumers, knowing these names might be more important than knowing the actual producers and certainly as important as learning wine laws. The next time you’re picking out a bottle of Spanish wine, save yourself the headache and find a wine with the name Jorge Ordonez or Eric Solomon on the label. Your purchase will be the ultimate thank you.