Okay, I know they got eliminated this year (in the World Cup, duh)… A fact that I didn’t let a friend forget as I participated in one of his wine dinners. Quite a change from last year, when Manila was bathed in Spanish colors.
Admittedly, this entry is a way for me to make up for the non-stop heckling I gave him (aided by copious amounts of wine… In vino veritas after all). Not that this is such a chore, I like talking about wine.
I started to really (or regularly) acquaint myself with Spanish wines when Barcino’s opened up in the Philippines a few years ago. What initially struck me about them was that they offered wines at affordable prices. At first, I was worried about the stereotype that equated cheap wine with crap. Over time, however, they constantly proved me wrong.
I have heard of many theories as to why Spanish wine is cheaper. First, they are not as intensely regulated as some wine producing regions in the world. For instance, Tempranillo (the mother grape of most Spanish reds) can be planted most anywhere in Spain. Some may argue that this practice produces wines that can or can not match the terroir (soil, climate, weather conditions) of that area. I personally feel that most make up for this with their wine making procedures, mostly by aging (more on that in a few).
The second theory I heard is that their bottling ends up much cheaper. Bottles are more accessible and easier to make in this part of the world, and it also helps that they’re right next door to Portugal (which produces vast amounts of very affordable traditional corks).
Whatever the truth is, I have yet to be disappointed by proper Spanish wines.
Anyway, the dinner focused on Beronia wines. Off the get go, the dinner looked redundant… All Beronia reds. Upon closer inspection though, the wines were different levels of quality. In general, Spanish wines have better quality the more they are aged. Here’s a list to help you (from the youngest to the oldest):
Vino Joven – not aged in oak at all, and is sold within the year of harvest
Crianza – Minimum of 6 months in oak, sold after 2 years of harvest
Reserva – Minimum of 1 year in oak, sold after 3 yeard of harvest
Gran Reserva – Minimum of 2 years in oak, sold after 60 months of harvest (has to be in the bottle for at least 3 years).
I know it seems quite a lot to take in, but the super simplified version is this: with Spanish reds, the older, the better.
Remember that other wine regions may potentially use the same words, especially Reserva. The rules of Spanish Reserva labels will not apply to them.
Anyway, I tend to enjoy Beronia wines. Beronia, like most Spanish reds, is predominantly Tempranillo with a mix of Grenache (or Garnacha en Español). Tempranillo has a tendency to be hollow in terms of flavor (which makes it incredibly tricky to make 100% Tempranillo wines). This is the reason for blending a Garnacha (which adds elements of spice, leather, alcohol, and bulk to the wine).
Note that other grapes can be used in making Spanish reds, each serving a different purpose:
1) Graciano – adds the almighty tannin. This aids in the aging process (higher tannin = higher potential for aging)
2) Mazulo/Cariñena – Gives Spanish reds a dark, deep color
I hope all this helps. Here’s to hoping Spain will make it again next year (there, I wished you well, you owe me that bottle of wine we’ve been talking about! Hehehehe…) On that note, Salud!