What do you think of when you hear the names Spain and Portugal? Big reds? Sweet wines?
Absolutely, however, there are so many native red and white varieties which we rarely see outside of these countries. The main grape varietals which make up most of the worldly known wines are Tempranillo and Garnacha, inside Spain and Portugal Tempranillo has many names; Tinto Fino, Tinta del Pais, Tina Roriz and Cencible just to name a few. Whatever you call it, Tempranillo is the backbone of red wines in these regions. White wines are predominately made up of blends of Malvasia, Viura and the ever aromatic Verdejo!
Oak is another important aspect of Spanish and Portuguese wines. Usually aged in American Oak, there are 4 different aging terms one may read on a wine label. Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, ranging from youngest to oldest respectively. The sweet vanilla and coconut notes from the oak add complexity to the biggest wines and by law, the wines must spend the necessary amount of time in the barrel so have the age statement on the bottle. No cheating here!
Of course Port and Sherry are key players in the wine world, with some aging to over 100 years. But also off the coast of Africa, Portugal owns an island called Madeira, which also produces some incredibly age-worthy fortified wine. A treat if you can get your hands on it!
1. Cesar Principe, Cigales, Spain, 2016
This wine is a fresh & fruity blend of Sauvignon blanc and Verdejo. It is barrel fermented, adding a light oak spice and vanilla to the bouquet of passionfruit, citrus, and stone fruit, alongside some highlights of lemon peel, grapefruit, and nectarine. A versatile wine, great with fresh shellfish and salads or as an aperitif.
2. Angel Santamaria, Selected harvest, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 2011
Made up of Viura and Malvasia, then aged in oak for 12 months, this is a perfumed beauty. If you like dry sherry, you’ll love the nuances of this wine! With a fruit-driven nose balance outs with an oaky nuttiness on the palate, this wine would sit perfectly alongside butter and sage ricotta ravioli, roasted vegetables, chicken liver parfait, and freshly baked bread.
3. 912 de Altitud, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2016
100% Tempranillo, 11 months in barrel and grown in clay soil. The gave birth to a complex wine with raspberries, cherries and an earthy minerality. The oak notes of cinnamon and vanilla interplay with the fresh red fruits on the nose and palate. Soft tannins allow this wine to be easily drunk on its own or alongside Jamon and other charcuterie meats or skirt steak.
4. Nocedal, Reserva, Rioja, Spain, 2005
Made in a famously outstanding year, this wine is drinking superbly right now. After 18 months in oak, being made of 100% Tempranillo, this wine has a pronounced nose of tobacco, blackberry, and dark cherry, with hints of smoke and liquorice. This wine finishes off velvety on the palate with more spice and riper fruit shining through. Drink with a beautiful t-bone or lamb chops.
5. Niepoort Conciso, Dao, Portugal, 2012
This wine is a blend of Baja, Jaen, and a few other native varietals. 50% of the stems were left during pressing and maceration. This wine was not fined or filtered before bottling, so decanting is required, or leave standing the bottle upright for a while to let the sediment settle. Fresh, ripe berries dominate the nose of the palate with a refreshing minerality, this is a more delicate wine than usually expected from Dao. Beef carpaccio and lean red meats would sit nicely with a glass of this by their side.
6. Quinta do Vallado 10 Year Tawny Port, Portugal
A blend of Tina Roriz, Tinta Amarela, and Touriga Franca, with dried fruit notes on the nose and a praline nuttiness on the palate. A fresh finish, with an orange rind twist and mocha lingering in your mouth. This Port suits hard cheeses and chocolate mousse!
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