A trip through Spain
The great Spanish reds
We’re on the road this week, with an overview of a country whose wines are some of the most delicious, most food friendly, and most fairly-priced in the market. You long-tine readers might already have guessed.
Try a new wine this week!
Cruz de Piedra
A lot has been happening in Spain recently and much of it is good news for all of us who love good red wine bargains. More deeply colored, fruit-centered wines have steadily been replacing the former style of tired, faded, overly-aged reds that we once liked, but didn’t love. It’s an uncommon revolution from Old World to New World.
Spain has more acres under vine than any other country. The reason their production isn’t the highest in the world is the low yields coming from dry-farmed vineyards. This is just what red wine lovers love to hear.
With too many vineyards to visit, I’ve found that the city of Zaragoza, about half way between Madrid and Barcelona, makes a great base to for day trips to several great areas for reds, each different from the other.
Here’s a short list:
Rioja is Spain’s best known region, and it’s about two hours drive time north of Zaragoza. From Laguardia across the Ebro River into Basque country, you can see how the massive Cantabria Mountains shelter the tempranillo vineyards from cold north winds.
For even bigger mountains, head east to the Pyrenees. In the higher hills of Sommantano, Spain’s most famous grape, tempranillo, is blended with cabernet sauvignon. This doesn’t seem as odd when you consider that southwest, France, is on the other side of the Pyrenees. If you go far enough into the mountains, French is spoken, and you can even find foie gras d’oie in restaurants (that’s the goose liver, in the U.S. we see mostly duck).
West of Zaragoza the landscape is totally different, with high, dry plains leading to far away mountain ranges with season rains that make vineyards and orchards possible.
Calatayud is the city I head for, then north to vineyards in the shadow of the highest peak around, Virgen de la Sierra. This is definitely off the beaten track, which often means bargains, and some of my favorite reds are produced from old vine, dry farmed grenache vineyards in this area.
South of Zaragoza is Carinena, another fine region, with a diversity of grapes and forward-thinking producers of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and more. Zaragoza’s history and architecture, not to mention its restaurants, is enough to make it a favored destination for me. With the proximity of all of these wonderful wine regions, I have to add a few days to the visit.
Cruz de Piedra, a delicious, berry-like bargain from stumpy, 45 to 60 year old grenache (garnacha) vines near the ancient city of Calatayud. It’s around $10 a bottle. And remember. All of the wines that I write about are available locally.
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