Anyone who doesn’t believe marketing influences wine sales should examine Spain. Even though wine growing regions like Rioja and Priorat produce some of the best values in the world, we are stunned how many people don’t even consider them. Fortunately, that tide could be turning – Rioja sales alone have increased for the third year straight year.
Marketing doesn’t guarantee a wine’s quality, of course, but it accounts for a great deal of its financial success in the export market. Our advice, is don’t wait for anyone to tell you to explore the wines of Spain. Just do it because you won’t want to leave a stone unturned.
Although Spanish wine exports have trippled since 1995, the growth has been dominated by low-priced plonk – nearly 60 percent of Spain’s export volume. Spain is making a greater effort to prove its winemakers are capable of making world-class wines, but it first has to overcome the image of a low-end wine producer.
In its annual survey of consumer preferences, Sonoma State University and the Wine Business Institute found that Spain came behind the U.S., Italy and France among those who said they chose wine based on country. Spain’s biggest wine market is France -- but a lot of that Spanish bulk wine we are talking about is bottled in France and resold as a French product.
Many argue that Spanish winemakers wanting to use more grape varieties are handcuffed to government regulations. Italy’s Chianti producers were in the same predicament and decided to ignore the restrictions and create a new category of “super-Tuscans.” Perhaps Spain should do the same if they want to become recognized for its fine wines.
There are a lot of delicious and versatile wines from regions such as Rioja, Jumilla, Penedes and Mencia. Here are just a few we recently tasted:
• Bodegas Cepa 21 Tempranillo Ribera Del Duero 2011 ($21). Another project of Bodegas Emilio Moro, this is a well-priced example of Spain’s Ribera Del Duero region. A very ripe nose of cherry fruit and very light elegant oak create a great presence in the mouth with easy to drink soft tannins. Delightful!
• Bodegas Cepa 21 HITO 2014 ($16). Fresh dark cherry flavors and a touch of vanilla make this a good buy from the Ribera de Duero region.
• Criterion Reserva Rioja 2010 ($17). Criterion has a collection of wines from around the world. This tempranillo from Rioja shows off ripe black cherry fruit with a dash of sweet vanillin oak.
• Vinas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2013 ($15). We don’t know why we don’t see this wine vinified solo more often, since it can show well by itself, although it is frequently found in Rhone white blends. White plum and peach ooze from the glass and in the mouth. Pleasant palate cleansing acidity complete the package. Great with fish and chicken dishes.
• Can Blau 2013 ($17). For what you get in this wine – oodles of delicious fruit and grip – it’s a great value. A blend of carinena (50 percent), syrah and garnacha, it exudes a floral and smoky nose, followed by dense blackberry and plum flavors. We have had this over several vintages and it has become a reliable go-to wine.
• Honoro Vera Monastrell 2014 ($12). Made under the direction of Bodega Juan Gil, this monastrell from Jumilla offers copious red berry flavors. A delicious and inexpensive wine to pair with burgera, pizza and other simple foods.
• Bodegas Ateca Atteca 2013 ($17). From the Calatayud region, the Atteca comes from old-vie garnacha grown on hillsides about 3,000 feet above sea level. The result is a concentrated, deep wine with coffee and raspberry aromas, soft mouthfeel and lots of delicious strawberry and mocha flavors.
• Juan Gil Silver Label Monastrell 2013 ($17). Also known as mourvedre, monastrell offers a unique palate with black berry and blueberry flavors. Good structure and depth.
• Finca Resalso Tempranillo from Ribera Del Duero 2014 ($15). Made from the younger vines from Bodegas Emilio Moro, this wine is 100 percent tempranillo. It is a great value that presents a deep rich red color with cassis and cherry nose and flavors. A very expressive wine with a good bit of complexity for the price.
• Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir 2014 ($25). The Tavola has been a durable wine for this Willamette Valley producer. But it’s a tease to Ponzi’s more substantial pinot noirs. A good value in the expensive pinot noir field, the Tavola has forward plum and black cherry flavors and a hint of mint.
• Alamos Red Blend 2014 ($13). This was a real crowd pleaser when we recently poured it. Crowds love juicy fruit flavors and this one from Argentina, a blend of malbec, bonarda, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, delivers.
• Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 ($70). From the Carneros region, this pinot noir is among the outstanding single-vineyard pinot noirs produced by winemaker James Hall. Every one of them is a star, but we liked the Hyde Vineyard for its layered fruit profile. Cherries, raspberries and citrus with a good earthy feel.