The Jumilla DO has turned potential disaster into triumph. In 1989 – long after most Spanish wine growers had encountered phylloxera, lost nearly everything, and replanted – the insect finally arrived in Jumilla, with predictable results. As phylloxera spread, grapevines succumbed, and Jumilla's growers had to make some hard choices.
In spite of its small size, Sachsen has many pleasant surprises in store for those who enjoy German wine. Sachsen is, indeed, the smallest and most eastern wine region in Germany. It’s also – by a hair – Germany’s northernmost wine region. Most visitors to the area come to see the city of Dresden, restored to splendor and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or to shop for porcelain in nearby Meißen. Since most Sachsen wines are consumed locally, a visit to the Dresden – Meißen area may be the only way you can experience the region’s wines for yourself.
Wines and mines have been part of Bierzo’s history since Roman times. After the remains of Saint James were discovered in the ninth century, pilgrims, too, became part of Bierzo’s heritage. In fact, some locals will tell you that the Mencía grapes grown in Bierzo were first brought to the region by pilgrims headed toward the famous cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where Saint James is buried. Monks who came to Bierzo from France to serve the pilgrims expanded the area’s vineyards. The history of Bierzo is tied to its vineyards, mineral resources and monastic tradition.
Many years ago, a Navy friend brought us a bottle of German wine as a hostess gift. Brian was elated because he’d found this wine in the U.S. I was surprised to discover that the gift was German red wine from a region I’d never heard of, the Ahr. No surprise, Brian told us – the Ahr is a very small wine region that produces mostly red wines, so it’s very hard to find Ahr wines outside of Germany.
Even if you’ve never heard of any other Spanish wine, chances are you’ve heard about cava. This is due to the huge international presence of cava sparkling wines. Freixenet and Cordoníu are the two best-known producers of cava and both wineries have done a marvelous job of marketing Spain’s sparkling wines outside of their home country. In fact, Spain exports more than half of the sparkling wines it produces, according to the Peñin Guide to Spanish Wine 2007 .
Tradition. Hundreds of years of winemaking. The Aldinger family has owned Weingut Gerhard Aldinger since 1492; Ernst Dautel’s weingut ancestors began making wine in 1510. Staatsweingut Weinsberg is part of Germany’s oldest wine college. Wherever you look in Württemberg, you’re surrounded by winemaking history.
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.
During my recent trip to Germany, I spent a lot of time exploring wine regions in the western part of the country. On one memorable day, I drove most of the Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Route) in the Pfalz wine region with my family.
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).
I step out of the “working van,” as our tasting guide, Nathalie Müller, parks next to rows and rows of grapevines. My husband and friends clamber down and inhale the clean air. High above the town of Leimen, I can see the grapevines stretching across the hills. Ms. Müller grabs a plastic crate of wine bottles and offers us each a wine glass. Deftly, she opens a bottle and pours 2006 Leimener Kreuzweg Auxerrois dry Kabinett into our glasses.