Ola, Spain! Last night I conducted a public wine tasting for 55 eager tasters and rediscovered some gems from a region that is relatively new to the wine world.
Grapes have been grown in this country since the year 875, but internal strife -- Spanish Civil War and World War II to name two -- has curtailed wine production and the export industry. Not until the root louse phylloxera devastated French vineyards did Spanish wine gain a foothold in the European wine market. Even then it wasn't until the mid 1950s that we began to see more and more Spanish wines in our market.
Today, there is no shortage of great values from the Iberian Peninsula. Rioja is the most well known (although it's one of the smallest regions), but mencia wines from Bierzo and albarino from Rias Baixas are being discovered.
I like to consider first the name of the importer. For instance, Eric Solomon, Jorge Ordonez and Steve Metzler select top wines that have become reliable go-to's. You can bank on their quality when faced with a sea of labels. Look on the back of the labels for their names.
Here are a few wines from the tasting that I loved:
Burgans Albarino Rias Baixas 2016 ($13) Many albarinos are way too simple to match with food, but this gem -- made at the cooperative Martin Codax -- is round, layered and long in the finish. Tropical fruit and peach with balanced acidity.
Gotin de Risc Mencia Bierzo 2016 ($16). Very aromatic with violate and blackberry notes.
Montebuena Rioja 2015 ($13). What a steal. Full in body, it has copious raspberry and cherry flavors with a good dose of vanilla. It is made entirely from tempranillo grapes.
Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2014 ($16). I've been tasting this wine for years and it never fails to please. Very rich and forward in plum and blackberry fruit. The heavy use of oak gives it a good dose of vanilla and leather, which may not appeal to everyone.