When talking about the historic and famous wine regions of the Old World, it always seems that France and Italy take center stage, while poor Spain gets left just outside of the spotlight. However, with a winemaking tradition that is just as rich as Italy and France, there is some incredible wine to be found in Spain, often at a great value (the one benefit to not always being first to mind when it comes to wine made in Europe). And there is more to the region than simply the two wines most American consumers know: Cava, the Spanish equivalent to Champagne, and Rioja, the region’s most celebrated red wine. (Sidenote: if you aren’t drinking and collecting Rioja, start. You won’t find a better bang for your buck if you’re looking to get into the collecting side of wine.)
While sommeliers and wine shops may often assume most of us are familiar with the other great wines coming out of Spain, the majority of us are not. To prepare you for your next Spanish wine adventure, or simply to help you expand the selections you are familiar with on the wine list, here are five great Spanish wines most people don’t know.
This dry, crisp wine is Spain’s most well known white. Its citrus flavors and great acidity make it fantastic for pairing with food and the perfect wine for summer. When it’s served ice cold on a hot day, there is almost nothing better. If you’re a fan of Pinot Grigio, this is the Spanish white wine for you.
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This aromatic white wine has similar citrus notes to its cousin Albariño, with aromas of grass and lemon similar to Sauvignon Blanc, making it the perfect wine to try for those who are fans of the later, specifically Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Verdejo was once used to make a sherry-like white wine, but since the ’70s, winemakers from the Rueda region of the country, which is the region you should look for, have been creating fantastically crisp whites from the grape.
Pronounced chock-oh-LEE-nah, this is a classic example of a wine that is all the rage in the sommelier-influenced wine world, yet the majority of wine drinkers have never heard of it. All the while, the former continues to assume everyone knows what the wine is, and the latter never figures it out. Confusion ensues. But everyone really should know about Txakolina, because it’s delicious. This wine is incredibly refreshing, with aromas of sea air, and a wonderful acidity; it’s also often slightly fizzy, which makes it even more fun to sip. It’s the perfect wine for drinking while lounging at an outdoor cafe or the beach.
Made primarily from the red wine grape Grenache, or as the Spanish call it Garnacha, this is a big, dense wine that can approach 15.5 percent in alcohol. In recent years Priorat has become quite the rage for its collecting potential. It’s particularly favorable among wine collectors who enjoy the French wine Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a wine that is also made with Grenache as its base, yet want a wine that is not only a cheaper alternative to the wallet busting Châteauneuf but also has more succulent fruit flavors. It’s this characteristic that causes many people to refer to Priorat as the ultimate sensual wine.
Ribera del Duero
While Rioja has been famous for centuries among wine drinkers, Ribera Del Duero only began to become well known in the 1980s. What’s interesting about this is that the regions are relatively close to one another, with Rioja just Northeast of Ribera del Duero, and the wines are made largely from the same grape, Tempranillo, though in Ribera Del Duero Tempranillo is called Tinto Fino. New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov has referred to Ribera Del Duero as “the Malbec of Spain,” because these wines are big, rich and ripe, with bold fruit flavors and tannins that dry out your mouth, perfect for a big, juicy steak dinner. Over the past few years, Ribera del Duero has also begun to challenge its neighbor to the north, Rioja, as Spain’s popular red, with many equating its popularity to how easy it can be to appreciate. If you enjoy California Cabernet or Argentinian Malbec, this wine will be just as easy for you to love.
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