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More wines than Rioja

ZEV ROVINEContributing Record writer

If you asked most people to name a wine from Spain, their knee-jerk reaction would most likely be Rioja. While the wines of Rioja indeed have the potential to be great, there are many appellations in Spain that produces stunning wines at a value that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Spain has put a lot of energy into increasing the quality of its wines and truly realize its full potential over the last 20 years and I am ready to take full advantage by drinking a lot of it.

While Spain is primarily a red wine country, there are a few whites out there to keep your eye on. First are the Albarino wines of Rias Baixas. Here in the lush, green, and costal region of Galicia the Albarino grape is grown and a bright, fresh, and acidic wine is made from it. This is an amazing wine for shellfish and many Spanish cheeses such as Torta de la Serena and Garrotxa. The wines of the small region of Rueda in Central Spain made from the Verdejo grape variety are also bright and fresh but in their best examples have an unusually loud expression of grapefruit and passion fruit.

Spain’s greatest wines are however all big reds. Garnacha is Spain’s most widely planted grape variety and the wines from it are soft and opulent in fruit and spice. Spain’s star grape is however the Tempranillo variety. This is the primary grape in Rioja but is also the base of the wines from Toro and Ribera del Duero. Toro makes wines like the name might suggest. They are racy, peppery, and highly alcoholic. The best of them are full bodied and rich. Rejadorada Novellum ’03 has a deep cherry color gives this wine a somewhat ominous look. Ripe fruit and clove spice dominate the nose while the palate is full round and as big as can be. A great buy at $23.

Ribera del Duero however makes wines that taste of pure leather, spice, and tobacco, and in my opinion are the best wines of this classic wine country. They have all the power and strength of great Toro wines but often add a level of complexity and nuance unknown to the wines of Toro. The Montecastro ’04 is stunning and shows not only the weight and distinctive style but also a really nice elegant edge.

Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the Pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at zev@spottedfrogbooks.com .


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