Spain is a wonderful country with so much to recommend it, from its people (who don’t always speak English) to its incredible, avant-garde cuisine. Indeed, it is home to many of the founders of molecular gastronomy – chefs like Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adriá. And of course, there’s the wine. Harshal Shah reports.
Many of us – especially here in India – associate Spanish wine with two main stereotypes: Rioja and Jerez (or Sherry). There is no doubt that the reputation of Spanish wine in India has been created by the availability of soft, dusty, easy-to-drink Riojas (largely thanks to Torres wines), and Tio Pepe Fino sherry, the gormless, supermarket-standard dry fortified wine that should have no place on any restaurant’s wine list.
There is, however, much more to Spanish wine than Rioja and sherry. There are wonderful examples of both styles as well, but one of my predictions for 2010 is that other Spanish reds will land in India and make a big splash doing so. These styles, from regions such as Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Jumilla and Priorato, are as diverse as the terroir from where they originate and all really delicious and wonderful to taste.
I was fortunate enough to be on a panel of judges for a competition of Spanish wines at the recently concluded (and VERY impressive) Madrid Fusion food and wine fair in Spain last month. The fair is an incredible showcase of the absolute best talent coming out of Spanish kitchens, and of course the wine makers are looking to impress everybody with their wines. For those in the food or wine trade, I would absolutely recommend attending it next year.
In addition to the wine competition, there were a series of classes on different regional wines of Spain. Their aim was to show the diversity of wine styles and wine regionality that exists in the Spanish wine industry today. The seminar on the Garnacha (Grenache) grape showed just how well the grape can be grown in the region of Aragón, with its 6 appellations (called D.O.’s). The wines were fruity (blackcurrants), showing a little brown spice (nutmeg, anise) with chalky tannins and refreshing length. Tempranillo (called by many names, including Tinto del País) appears to thrive in the Ribera del Duero DO. The wines are impressive. Very impressive, actually with wonderful aromas of raspberries and chocolate. The good producers in the region appear to be able to extract firm yet fine, elegant tannins from the grapes, so the resulting wines not only taste good, but their flavours hang around on the palate for ages after the wine is gone! And producers in Navarra are making very New World styles of wine, using Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
These wines can hardly be described as ‘Bordeaux’ in nature, but rather resemble warm Californian reds, and indeed, the debate at the Navarra seminar raged on about the true ‘identity’ of these wines: should they be more ‘Spanish’ or continue to cater towards an ‘American’ taste. There did not appear to be any resolution to the arguments!