Happy Independence Day and Cheers to being home in the “Good Ole’ USA”! Throughout my time in the Marine Corps I spent many 4th of July holidays away from home, whether training, on combat deployments, or living overseas. There were many years where there was little, if any celebrating, but 2015 brought a fun and exciting new opportunity. I was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany at the time and on that particular holiday weekend I was able to fly to Spain to celebrate a long weekend with my good friends and fellow Marine Officers, Kelly and Monica. That was the trip where I not only fell in love with a beautiful country, but I totally fell in love with Spanish wines.
Being the planner that I am, I wanted to make the most of this trip, so I worked with Vintage Spain (a wine travel company) to book the bus trip from Madrid, our hotel in Aranda, dinner at Lagar de Islla (where we drank copious amounts of wine with the most delicious Paella), and the amazing wine tours throughout the Ribera Del Duero region. We were so lucky to see the very modern winery of Pago De Los Capellanes, as well as the XVII Century bodegas of Valsotillo at Winery Ismael Arroyo. We had lunch at Portia Winery which is the home of the world famous Riojan wines, Faustino and Campillo. The Winery was a modern work of art, an oasis in the middle of a baron stretch of land, yet the perfect environment to grow the unique grapes that make the wonderful wines of this very special region.
Many U.S. wine drinkers familiar with Spanish wines may think of a Rioja wine, such as Camp Viejo. This is a popular wine that is widely distributed here in the United States, but is a very small representation of the wines that are grown throughout the popular wine regions of Spain. La Rioja, possibly the most well-known region, is known for its Tempranillo and Grenacha grapes, while Ribera del Deuro is well known for Cabernet Sauvignon as well as its Tempranillo grapes. While each region produces its own version of smooth, bold flavors of cherries and earthy spices, the Ribera del Deuro region, primarily focuses on producing the red Tempranillo, as it best represents the history, strength, and culture of this very special terroir and the dryness of the land where it has grown.
Let’s discuss the Spanish wine terms of “Crianza”, “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva”. These are terms commonly used on the labels of many Spanish wines and can be confused for representing the type of grape. However, it actually refers to how the bottle of wine has been aged. A Crianza wine must be aged for a minimum of 2 years, with one of those years being within an oak barrel. The Reserva must be aged for at least 3 years, also with one of those years being in an oak barrel, while the Gran Reserva must be aged for at least 5 years, with two of those years being in an oak barrel. Each year of aging can better distinguish the flavors of the wine, however, there is a beauty to drinking the wine at each of these milestones ages, as the grape continues to change in flavor.
So many unique wines come from small production wineries across Spain and across the Rioja and Ribera Del Deuro regions, and most are not sold in the United States. At Wine Culture, it is my passion to bring you some of these fine wines from regions around the world that you may be lucky enough to visit only once in your lifetime. Spain is a beautiful country that has been producing good wine for centuries, and I want you to enjoy them as much as I do.