The reign in Spain
Albariño and Tempranillo wines prove Spain is a worldwide wine mecca.
The kind of reign I like in Spain is the one that is surprising wine critics daily — the reign of terrific wines capturing worldwide attention from the Iberian Peninsula. Spain has a plethora of grape varieties but the two most popular are Tempranillo and Albariño.
Quality levels have never been as high as they are now in a country that has shaken the destruction from Francisco Franco’s fascist regime since his death in 1975 and turned the wine industry around. Toward the end of the 1990s, Spain saw more money from within and outside the country being poured into the wine industry.
Winemakers strived to improve standards in temperature control, vineyard management practices and use of French barrique. They also allowed wines to spend less time in oak barrels in general. All of this started the ball rolling, and the reign of quality wines began to explode in Spain.
The most notable red grape is Tempranillo, coming from the word “temprano” meaning “early.” This refers to the fact this grape ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo is known by other synonyms throughout Spain — Cencibel and Tinto Fino in several regions, Tinta del Pais in Ribera del Duero, Tinta de Toro in Toro, Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, plus others. This grape makes full-bodied red wines and is often blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano in the Rioja region.
The wines exude flavors of red and black fruit, leather and tobacco and come across as a little “rustic” sometimes, which only adds to their charm.
Laxas 2014 Albariño, Rias Biaxas, Spain — $12.99
Bursting with stone fruit flavors of white peaches and apricots, this wine is laced with higher acidity and racy mineral notes. It finishes very dry and is a perfect late summer wine.
Cubo Tempranillo 2011, La Mancha, Spain — $8.99
Robert Parker loves this wine and gave it a 90-point rating. It is jammed to the cork with flavors of blackberry and black plums. It is inky black and very full-bodied but oozes with rich, ripe fruit flavors and a wallop of tannin.
Lan Reserva 2008, Rioja, Spain — $20.99
Rioja is Spain’s most popular region for red wine. Tempranillo is at its finest in the Lan Reserva — aged for a longer period of time in oak barrels, the wine shows complexity with layers of vanilla, fruit and earth and will continue to improve in the bottle for 7-10 years.