Wine Travel

Valdepeñas Wines: Value and Quality from Spain's Valley of Stones

Valdepeñas, which translates to "valley of stones," has been part of Spain's winemaking heritage since at least the 4th century B.C.  The area is known not only for its long history of exporting wines but also for its tradition of fermenting wines in huge (1,600 liter) jars called tinajas.  In centuries past, winemakers partially buried these large earthenware vessels in the earth, which helped keep the wine cold throughout the fermentation process.  Today, of course, the jars have been replaced by modern equipment and production processes; Valdepeñas now sells more wine than any other Spanish DO except Rioja.  The Valdepeñas region has long held a reputation for producing quality, value-priced wines.

Bairrada: Home of Portugal's Baga Grape

Bairrada has a long tradition of producing wines from just one grape.  Until recently, the region's wines were made primarily from the baga grape, often by traditional methods.  Producers crushed grapes with feet and left the stems on during the production process.  The region's fortunes changed for the better in 1991, when Portugal joined the European Union and modernization of Bairrada's wineries began in earnest.  Today you will find both producers that use modern, sometimes even über-modern methods and winemakers dedicated to traditional practices.  Happily, when conditions are right, both traditionalists and progressive winemakers can achieve excellent results.

Rhinehessen: The Mineral Soils of Germany's Wine Country

The Rhinehessen region in Germany’s wine country is a study of contrasts. The vast area is planted to just over 28,000 hecters of wine, dominated not by Riesling, but by Muller Thurgau. Ultimately though, this is Germany, and in Germany Riesling is still king. Groebe, Wittman and Straub wineries all share a common bond in this wine region. The minerality of the soil is a constant expression of the wines produced here and the Rhinehessen wines are clean, minimal wines. They also share a family winemaking history that extends hundreds of years.

Portugal's Alentejo Wine Region: One Region, Eight DOC Labels

Alentejo is Portugal's largest political region, encompassing about one-third of the country.  It's also the least densely populated region in Portugal.  About 10 percent of Alentejo is devoted to vineyards.  Much of the rest is used for growing cereal grains and olives. 

Spain's Terra Alta Wine Region: Winemaking in the Highlands

Spanish wine expert Julian Jeffs calls Terra Alta "a place to watch."  Winemakers in this remote northeastern region have set their sights high.  They hope to make Terra Alta a star player on the international winemaking stage, following in the footsteps of their neighbors from Priorat.  With wine lovers around the world focusing on value as well as quality, Terra Alta's winemakers have an opportunity to do just that.

Porto, the Port Houses, & the Douro River: A Pictorial Tour of Portugal's Port Hub

Click on each image below to view a pictorial tour of Porto. Includes pictures of Porto from both sides of the Douro as well as many of the major port houses and attractions.

Portugal's Dão Wine Region: There and Back Again

I've borrowed J. R. R. Tolkien's famous subtitle because it so perfectly illustrates the history of Portugal's Dão wine region – a journey from small vineyards to large cooperatives to individual quintas.

Spain's Alicante Wine Region: Where Classic Meets Modern

Alicante isn't Spain's largest or most famous wine region.  In fact, Alicante is fairly small, and it tends to be overshadowed by its better-known neighbors, Jumilla and Valencia.  Alicante has much to offer the wine lover, however, particularly Fondillón, made from monastrell grapes and unique to this DO.  Alicante's other wines, particularly its reds, have steadily worked their way up into the ranks of Spain's top-scorers, and the region's award-winning moscatels are also worth trying.

Yecla: A Unique Wine Region in Southeastern Spain

Yecla is one of Spain's smallest wine regions.  Established in 1975, the Yecla DO surrounds the city that shares its name.  Like many small wine regions, Yecla has survived because of a fierce dedication to its traditions and heritage.

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