Although climate conditions vary broadly across Spain, the common factor that unites each of the country’s seven key winemaking regions is the ability for wine lovers to unearth varietal gems from each and every one, writes Gillian Hamill
17 October 2017
Spanish wine is exceptionally popular in Ireland, seen as more accessible than its French counterparts as well as boasting a more attractive price point.
Wine writer Ray Isle recently summed up Spanish wine’s appeal with an ultimate guide to the country’s varietals in Food & Wine magazine. “This is the moment for Spanish wine,” said Isle. “France may win out on old-school prestige, and Italy on sheer numbers of kooky local varieties, but what Spain has right now is the bubble and ferment of excitement. There’s no other wine destination—whether you get there by jet or by popping a cork—where deeply dyed tradition weaves so fruitfully with bright innovation.”
Representative body, Wines of Spain explains that the country boasts seven key winemaking regions, with the climate varying strongly within each one. Namely, Green Spain, Duero River Valley, Ebro River Valley, The Meseta, The Mediterranean Coast, Andalucía, and The Islands. While these all sound like thoroughly tempting destinations according to their rather exotic-sounding names alone, for wine buffs, they hold infinitely more interest yet again.
For those with a particular interest in fortified and dessert wines, Andalucía would be a region right up their street, so to speak. According to Wines of Spain, with temperatures easily surpassing 100°F in the summer, this area is ideal for such wines. Falling under the umbrella name of sherry, each of these styles—Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximénez—expresses a unique set of aromas and flavours.
Here, we outline a selection of Spanish wines that are currently going down a treat with Irish consumers.
Innovation married with tradition and history
The family-owned estate of Conde Valdemar in Oyón, Rioja dates back to 1869. The winery, one of the most modern and technologically advanced in Europe, owns 400 hectares of vineyards with nine different grape varieties planted in three sub regions of the Rioja D.O.Ca While Conde Valdemar is known for its commitment to innovation, which is a reference in terms of style in Rioja, it is also acknowledged for its tradition and history.
Valdemar surpassed everyone in 1987 by introducing the first white wine fermented in barrels in the Rioja appellation. Twenty-five years later, Conde Valdemar Blanco Barrica Alto Cantabria D.O.Ca was selected as one of the best 100 wines in the world in 2013 by Wine Spectator.
In the late 1980s, as advocates of the Garnacha grape variety, Valdemar introduced Garnacha Reserva to the Rioja appellation of origin and now offers a 100% single variety Garnacha wine and a Rosado Garnacha Tempranillo.
Valdemar’s history of producing Gran Reserva and Reserva wines is proof of the greatness and know-how of the winery. All the wines are made using grapes from Valdemar’s own vineyards, ensuring maximum quality. The winery’s collection of Gran Reserva wines which dates back to 1968 through to current times can be seen in the wine store’s rock cellar. Valdemar also has a spectacular bottle cellar with over 3,500,000 bottles where the wine goes through the final stage in the aging process.
Chosen as one of the best five wineries in La Rioja in the last 25 years by Wine & Spirits Magazine, Conde Valdemar is proudly represented in Ireland by Febvre & Company Limited and its wines are sold through off-licences nationwide. As well as the aforementioned wines, the Febvre list also includes Conde Valdemar Reserva 2010 (pictured) and Gran Reserva 2008 D.O.Ca, Crianza D.O.Ca and Tempranillo Selección Especial (unoaked).
A winning choice
This year has proven to be another highly successful one for Torres, Ireland’s favourite Spanish wine brand (Source: Nielsen).
First up was the outstanding news that the family-owned winery was named World’s Most Admired Wine Brand for a record third time by Drinks International, reclaiming its spot at the top of the annual list of 50 of the world’s most prestigious wine brands.
Since the list first started seven years ago, Torres has always been the highest-ranking European wine brand and always in either first or second position, and this year it is the only European winery in the Top 10.
Then in June the winery had more to celebrate following the release of the International Wine Challenge 2017 awards list. Two of the company’s flagship wines, Mas La Plana 2012 and Perpetual 2014, received top honours by winning three trophies between them, the highest accolades given at the highly-respected awards.
The iconic Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon took home two of these trophies: one for best varietal wine (International Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy) and another for best regional wine (Penedès Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy), while Perpetual was voted the best Priorat red (Priorat Red Trophy).
Milmanda, the Torres family’s top Chardonnay, joined the envious line-up with a Gold Medal itself, with the IWC judges commenting that it was: “A smashing example of quality Spanish Chardonnay with beautifully integrated oak complemented by white peach notes. Lush texture finishing on nectarine and apricot and a delicious hint of refreshing lime.”
Bodegas Torres is exclusively distributed in Ireland by Findlater & Co.
True tradition kept alive
Marqués de la Concordia is named after one of Spain’s most eminent historical figures. Don Jose Abascal was granted this prestigious title in 1812 after his work unifying the New World with the Old in the Americas, during his position of viceroy
Hacienda Marqués de la Concordia, an old sugar factory turned into a wine estate, is where tradition is kept alive whilst breaking new ground.
The wines show a substantial Tempranillo backbone, but don’t have to be dominated by it. Marqués de la Concordia allows some “international” grapes into “creole” wines, which is what makes its wines exciting news in the generally conservative and chauvinist region of Rioja!
The range includes a Tempranillo, Crianza, Reserva and Cava. The Reserva is 100% Tempranillo and an extremely high quality Rioja Reserva is aged for 24 months in new French and American oak barrels and a further year in bottle and this wine will improve with further bottle ageing.
The premium cava is made using the strictest traditional method known as champenoise.
It benefits from a second fermentation in bottle and ageing in the brand’s cellars. Made from selected grapes only, it has a pale straw colour, exceptional balance and fine aromas formed during bottle ageing. Long-lasting bubbles give it a fresh note on the palate.
Marqués de la Concordia wines will be on show at the ‘Wines from Spain in Ireland’ Trade Fair 2017. This year’s fair will be held at The Marker Hotel, Dublin on Monday, 9 October 2017.