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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Spanish Favorites

Listening to some fantastic flamenco music, I feel inspired to discuss some of my favorite Spanish wines.  In spite of some very high alcohol content of some of these Spanish wines, I find them to be quite approachable, very drinkable, and in fact kind of warm and welcoming.
A most unique Spanish wine I’ve come to love is a Cava, the Llopart Leopardi Brut Rose, which is a bronzed pink in color and unlike any other Cava I’ve tasted, in that it has a unique depth due to its composition of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Pinot Noir.  The Cava is full of berry and fruit, hints of citrus, and a bit of the fresh bread characteristics, with a bright acidity to accompany its bubbly texture.  Very food-friendly, I’d say this wine is sophisticated yet fun, and although it’s a bit difficult to find in wine shops, it’s definitely worth searching for.  To date, this is my favorite Cava.
For my Spanish white, I go with the Nora Albarino from Rias Baixas in the Galicia region.  Pale in color and medium-bodied, Nora displays notes of melon, peach, a bit of citrus, and a hint of spice, with some exotic tropical fruit as well.  I think this wine is excellent for pairing with seafood, and provides a nice alternative for those who are a bit too used to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
The first Spanish red to grab my attention was the Cellar Can Blau, an interesting blend of Carinena, Syrah, and Grenache from Montsant.  Dark in color with a reddish rim, the wine’s most interesting attribute is its reflection of the wet slate in the earth where the grapes grow.  Both the aroma and the taste show the wet slate, particularly if the wine has not been exposed to the air for very long.  Also present are notes of dark fruit, spice, and a hint of smoke.  The wine has a very smooth texture, followed by a long finish.  This wine can be enjoyed with meats and traditional Spanish fare, but my preference is to drink it on its own.

2008 Celler Can Blau

One of the most memorable Spanish wines I’ve tasted is the Bodegas El Nido Clio, a blend of Monastrell and Cabernet from Jumilla.  I first tried this wine several years ago, and after trying it again more recently, it was just as wonderful as I had remembered it to be.  Very deep in color, the wine is equally deep in aroma and flavor.  Even after allowing the wine to breathe for at least an hour, it still comes bursting out of the glass with its rich smokiness, spice, and dark fruit.  After allowing it to breathe in the glass for even longer, it begins to show the presence of the Cabernet and becomes just a bit tamer.  The texture is rich and dense, and the finish is extremely long.  The wine pairs very nicely with meat dishes, otherwise it is likely to overpower the food.

2007 Bodegas El Nido Clio

The other very special Spanish red that stands out in my mind is the Torre Muga Rioja, an impressive blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo, and Graciano.  The wine is a very dark purple, with notes of bold spice, dark fruit, and earth, with a bit of smokiness, and it tends to soften a bit after breathing.  Torre Muga is less intense than the Clio, perhaps dryer, and more structured, and the finish is almost as long.  This wine also pairs particularly well with meat dishes as it is a wine with a big presence.
To round out a Spanish dinner, try a traditional caramel flan with a good Solera.  My favorite is the Alvear Pedro Ximenez 1927 Solera, which is enjoyable paired with a dessert such as flan, or on its own, or even with a good cigar.  The wine is amber in color, with characteristics of rum raisin, caramel, nuts, and vanilla, yet it is by no means overly sweet or thick in texture, and the finish is lengthy.

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