Start the car….I gotta steal!

Just a few short years ago, before the Great Recession, there were many wine lovers, and just plain showoffs who seemed to revel in telling anyone who would listen, or pretend to listen, how much they paid for a bottle of wine.  Well, the tables have turned.  Now, it seems it’s cool to tell folks how little you paid for a bottle of wine!  Even if I were well heeled enough to afford to pay hundreds of dollars or more for a bottle of wine, it’s not my style to to tell folks how much I paid for a bottle of wine, but I’m more than happy to add my voice to “Guess what, I only paid…” chorus!  So…

Guess what, I only paid $10 for what I consider to be an outstanding (90 Points) bottle of wine from Spain. It’s  the 2006 Bodegas LAN Crianza.  It made with  is 100% Tempranillo that spent 12 months in French and American oak by Bodegas LAN, a  traditional Rioja house that makes good-quality wines all along the Rioja spectrum. With 200,00o case produced, this wine should be widely available.  I picked up a bottle at my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants.  After I tried it, I promptly went out and bought a half case! Click here to see my detailed review on Cellar Tracker!.  While you’re there you may check availability and pricing in your area clicking on $$ FIND THIS WINE on WINE-SEARCHER.COM $$ )

If you’re not familiar with Spanish wines here’s a quick primer…

Spain has more land under vineyard acreage than any other wine growing region in the world. It’s also one of the worldwide leaders for producing  “value” wines – wines prices at $15, or less of very good quality.

Like France, Spain has rigid wine laws called Denominacion de Origen (DO) which define and protect specific geographic areas.  There are fifty-four DOs.  In addition, Rioja is the only Demoninacion de Origen Calificada (DOC), or Qualified Denomination of Origin.  To qualify as a DO, or DOC a wine region must meet rigid requirements around specific viticultural, and wine making standards.

Spanish wines are classified based on the quality of grapes and how long the wines are aged.  The hierarchy includes crianza, reserva, and gran reserva.  The red crianza wines are required to be aged at least two years, one of which must be in oak barrels,  reserva wines must be aged at least three years, one of which must be in oak barrels, and gran reserva must be aged at least five years, two of which must be in oak barrels and the remaining three must be in the bottle.  While the law dictates the aforementioned minimums, in practice many are aged much longer, particularly in Rioja, and at the gran reserva level.

Crianzas tend to be easy drinking wines with vibrant flavors.  Reservas are made from better grapes from better sites, and tend to be more lush and concentrated than crianzas, and Gran reservas are only made in exceptional years and come from the very best vineyards.

Rioja has historically been considered Spain’s greatest wine region, and is especially renown for red wine made from the indigenous Tempranillo grape.  Wines from Rioja are aged longer before release than any other wines in the world. The other major wine regions of Spain are Ribero Del Duero, Priorato, Penedes, Rias Baixas, and Jerez (the home of sherry).

So far, Spain has been the source of the international “value” wines I’ve enjoyed the most.  Stay tuned for more on Spanish wines, because I’ll definitely be drinking more!  I hope you’ll try some too!  And if you already have some favorites from Spain, please do share!