Rueda wines made news this summer when MSNBC.com’s wine expert, Edward Deitch, recommended a 2006 Rueda Verdejo made by Marqués de Riscal, calling it “top-value”, “easy-to-drink” and “satisfying.” Rueda, a DO since 1980, is located in northwestern Spain, in the Castilla y León region. The Duero River flows through Rueda’s northwestern corner. Several tributaries branch off from this important river, providing, through their flooding, soils that are excellent for growing wine grapes.
A Proud History Spain’s most famous wine region has been producing wine since at least the 9th century. Because monastic communities throughout Europe made wines and other products to sell, Spanish monks were Rioja’s first large-scale wine producers. As early as the 17th century, Rioja’s local winemakers began to work together, establishing the Royal Economic Society of Rioja Winegrowers to promote their interests. This tradition continues today with the Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, the governing body of Rioja’s Denominacíon de Origen Calificada (DOCa).
Just as Spain has 68 wine regions, so, too, does it boast dozens of grape varieties. In fact, the Peñín Guide to Spanish Wine says that Spain has 50 native varieties, not including international grapes such as chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.
Did you know that Spain has 68 Denominacíon de Origen (DO, or “Designation of Origin”) wine regions?
Summertime for most of the United States means the return of vegetation. Both our rural and urban areas come alive with the blossoming of flowers, the production of fruits and vegetables and the long hours of sunshine. We spend countless evenings cherishing this season. As we relax, whether on our own patio or at a neighborhood restaurant, we look for refreshing wines to share the intimate harmony between both humanity and nature.
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.”
“Trying to describe places by sculpting liquid is a fascinating job.” - Stéphane Derenoncourt Perhaps it takes Stéphane Derenoncourt, one of the many French winemakers in Spain, to put the Spanish situation in perspective. Historically, Spain was a country of prohibitions and Civil War and their wines were often rustic, coarse and alcoholic. But Spain has changed, and so have the wines. Whatever the catalyst, the Spanish wine revolution grows stronger each day.
Along the spectrum of Sherries, there’s one that differs substantially from its sweeter counterparts. One that distinguishes itself as the only fortified wine that could be enjoyed, glass half-full, on a summer day. One that, in my opinion, really has no business being served after dinner with dessert.
When I think of Spanish wines, one memory comes to my mind. I remember a few years ago attending a wine tasting at Ramiro’s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the time, I was a young sommelier listening to the Spanish winemaker Mariano Garcia prophesize about el vino nuevo , or the new wine. I was attending the tasting with my mentor, Gary Rush, a long time collector, restaurateur and chef. Of course, I was ecstatic to even be invited. (Mariano was the winemaker for Vega Sicilia for 36 years.) His wines were some of the most expensive and sought after wines on any wine list. But Mariano wasn’t talking about the Vega Sicilia wines. In fact, he only talked about one wine, the San Roman, from the Toro region.