FOOD & DRINK
World of Wines
with Don Rutherford
If you asked red wine drinkers to name a Spanish wine region, most (if not all) would say Rioja [ree-ok-ah] because in the not-too-distant past this was the only wine that was exported from Spain. This month I want to give you an insight into Rioja and some other good wines made elsewhere in Spain. Before describing the wines to you I should tell you a little about the Spanish wine grading system. Most wines from any area – apart from the very cheapest – will be labelled DO, which simply means Denominacion de Origen, or that it comes from the area stated. The next geographical grading is DOC (Denominacion de Origen Calificada) which tells you that greater checks have been carried out to ensure the grapes are the correct types allowed and that they genuinely come from the area on the label. Historically, Rioja was the only area with DOC status – however it has now been joined by both Priorat and Ribera del Duero. Much of the character of Spanish wines comes from ageing in oak barrels, which (with good quality wines) produces soft tannins and gives slightly sweet vanilla flavours. However, it’s becoming more common to release wines un-oaked whilst they are still young and fruity. Here’s a quick guide to the terms you’ll come across: JOVEN – un-oaked wine CRIANZA [cree-ann-tha] – wine aged for a minimum of two years, with six months in oak RESERVA – wine aged for a minimum of three years with 12 months in oak. GRAN RESERVA – wine aged for a minimum of five years, with 18 months in oak. Only made in the best years. Whatever you choose, enjoy!
RIBERA DEL DUERO [dwair-oh] Crianza, Torres 2007 (13.5% abv)
RIOJA GRAN RESERVA Martinez Bujanda 2001 (13.5% abv)
The name literally means the Ribbon of the Duero (river) which when it reaches Portugal is called the Douro and is the centre of port production there. Although Vega Sicilia was established here in 1864, most of the other wine production at that time consisted of simple Grenache rosé wines. This changed in the 70’s when bodega Pesquera was founded and they started to make red wines from Tempranillo (the main Rioja grape) in a more concentrated style than most Rioja of the day. Well-received both in Spain and internationally, they were the catalyst for the expansion of wine making in the region. This wine is pure Tempranillo and has red berry and plum fruits on the nose and palate and is smooth with a long fruity finish. It rates a C on my scale for red wines.
From a renowned producer this is mainly Tempranillo, and being a Gran Reserva has been held back from the market for at least five years (see left) The prolonged ageing both in barrel and bottle gives it layer upon layer of slightly sweet vanilla notes with structured soft tannins (the dryness in your mouth when you drink red wines). This is truly a superb wine that rates a C on my scale – it has a deep, cherry colour, with aromas of fruit preserves, spices, and toasted oak.
LA CANTERA RESERVA San Valero, Cariňena 2001 (13% abv) Made mostly from Spain’s powerhouse grape, Garnacha (Grenache) and Tempranillo, this is big red wine and although not as strong as some it’s wonderfully versatile. Drink it on its own or use it to partner heavy red meat dishes, steaks and casseroles. Its full of plummy, black cherry and damson tastes with just the right amount of oak. Definitley a D on the A to E scale.
PRIORAT Mas de Subira, 2002 (14% abv) I actually found this wine whilst on holiday in Spain. I went to a wine museum in Mijas and sat in the sunshine trying a few different wines when the proprietor brought this one out. I’d tried some Priorat wines before but this one just blew them all away. Made from 60% Grenache, with 30% Carignan and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is in effect a reserva as it’s matured for 12 months in oak and then several years in bottle although (confusingly) it isn’t labelled as such. This rates a D on my red wine scale but that doesn’t tell the full story. As with the Rioja, the layers of flavours are superb and seem endless (damsons, blackberries, walnuts, spices and lots more). Find one if you can and savour it on a very special occasion.
Don Rutherford is the owner of Bradley’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, 10 South Quay, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Telephone 01553 60836 or visit the website at www.bradleysbytheriver.co.uk
KLmagazine March 2011
Published on Mar 1, 2011