Wines of Spain Smackdown – 8 Spanish Reds under $20 Blind-tasted!

The theme for the most recent gathering of the Pacific Point Wine Club (“PPWTC” was “Wines of Spain”.  The PPWTC is entering its third year, and going strong.  Initially we met every couple of months, but based on popular demand, we now meet every 6 weeks or so. It’s been so gratifying to see folks grow in their knowledge of wine while having fun, and making new friends.  We’ve even had  a “field trip” last year  when we got together at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company for a day full of food, fun and wine!  We’re planning a  Bocce ball night next month.

We changed things up a bit for the “Wines of Spain” theme.  It was our first time geographic rather than varietal theme, and we also changed how the wines for our blind-tasting were acquired.  Rather than folks bringing bottles, I purchased all the bottles for the tasting. That way we could ensure a more consistent quality in the wines tasted, there would be no duplicates, and we could capitalize on the opportunity for regional diversity that Spain is all about.

The Food

We always get the night started with food and fellowship.  Everyone is asked  to bring an appetizer or dish that will pair with the wines we’ll be blind-tasting.  Since our theme was ” Wines of Spain”, the two main entrees were of Spanish origin.

We enjoyed Seafood Fideuà (pronounced FID-a-wah, but a.k.a “Fideo” and pronounced FI-day-o), a dish that originated in the Valencia region of Spain.  It’s similar to Paella except it’s made with toasted noodles instead of rice.Wines of Spain - Fideua

The other main dish was this fabulous Paella…

Wine of Spain - Paella

Other culinary delights were homemade lentil salad, homemade sweet tamales, and a plethora of other appetizers.  And what’s food without wine? We always have few bottles of “starter” wines on before the main event.  For this gathering all the wines Spanish including:

Spanish Wine Overview

Spain has about 2.8 million acres under vine, making it the most widely planted wine-producing nation in the world.  It’s in perennial third place among wine-producing countries behind Italy and France, and ahead of the U.S.

The main grapes are Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache) (reds); Airén, Viura/Macabéo, Verdejo,  and Albariño (white). But there are over 200 different varieties of grapes grown in Spain! Aside from still red, white and rose wines, Spain also produces sparkling wine called “Cava” and one of the world’s most underrated wines, and miraculous wines- Sherry. 

Spain is in the midst of a wine revolution which has seen an explosion in the styles of wines, modernization of wine-making techniques, brands, and regions. As a result, Spanish wine are enjoying an worldwide surge in popularity. Eric Asimov of the N.Y.T. says

The wine universe has been expanding at an accelerated rate over the last decade or so, and no place illustrates it better than Spain.  New appellations have joined historic names.  Forgotten regions have reinvented themselves.

As you can see from the map below, Spain has wine growing regions pretty much everywhere.  But that is part of Spain’s advantage – a winning combination of altitude and latitude.

There are over 60 different wine growing regions known as “DO’s” or Denominaciones de Origen (with two exceptions - DOC Rioja, and DOQ Priorat - considered to be the flagships of Spanish wine making).  Such diversity certainly presents a challenge in terms of getting to know the regions, and the types of wines produced there.

I like the way the Wines of Spain USA simplifies the process, by classifying Spain’s wine regions into six climatic categories on the mainland – Green Spain, North Central Spain, Ebro River Valley, The Meseta, the Mediterranean Coast, and Andalucía.  Each  of the climatic regions contains specific DOs . 

wine_spainmap

Image courtesy of www.decanterwines.co.uk

We ended up with wines from 4 of the 6 climatic regions identified above.  From those 4 climatic regions we had wine representing 7 different DO’s.  Four of those 7 DOs are considered “major”. Here’s what Spanishwine.com says about the 4 major DOs.

“DOC Rioja – Old and traditional one on hand, and modernistic on the other.  Suave reds based mainly on Tempranillo but also Graciano and Garnacha blends.  Heavy use of oak for long ageing, which is a signature Rioja style.

DO Ribera del Duero – More modern, full-bodied and slightly more rustic wines than Rioja, though the regions are close in proximity.  Ribera wines are mostly all Tempranillo, darker and purpler, able to appreciate with age.

DO Toro – near Ribera del Duero, similar landscape, similar grapes, but Toro claims its own clone of Tempranillo the Tinta de Toro variety.  Toro reds are chewy, inky reds, massive with oak, or unoaked, with a signature spicy Toro note. Home of very old vines, some of the oldest in Spain.

DO Yecla – an area further South, on the Mediterranean coast and also home of the Monastrell, or aka in French Mourvèdre.  The variety thrives in this hot, arrid climate, most often in bunch vines.  Monastrell wines are distinctive, often young, with a spicy, peppery character and affordable price. ”

The Wine Tasting

All wines were purchased from K&L Wine Merchantswhich has a fantastic selection of Spanish wine.  Five of the eight wines were denoted as “Top Pick” on the K&L website.  The wine purchased ranged in price from $7.99 to $17.99.

Five of the eight wines were from the most well-known wine-producing regions identified  above.  There were two wines from Rioja, and one each from Ribera del DueroToro, and Yecla.  The other wines were from Campo de Borja D.O.,Valdeorras, and Alicante.  One of the wines was a “Reserva” level wine ( for red wines –  aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak).

The Wines of Spain theme brought out a crowd.  There were 20 tasters.  The wines were rated based four criteria – aroma, body, taste, and finish – each scored on a scale of 1-5.  All tasters were required to evaluate and score all the wines.  The winner was based on the wine receiving the highest median score.

It’s a pretty diverse group wine experience-wise, though I would say the majority are pretty casual wine drinkers, rather than serious “wine enthusiasts”.

wineup for wines of spain

Wines of Spain Night- The Blind Tasting Lineup including laptops at the ready!

The eight wines we blind-tasted (listed in the order tasted) and my tasting notes follow (click on the links for details about each wine from the K&L Wine Merchant website) :

  • 2010 Montebuena Rioja Cuvée KPF - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja Garnet color with moderately aromatic red fruit, oak and a hint of spice aromas. On the palate, it light-bodied with ripe spiced cherry flavors and powdery tannins. Medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos - Spain, Aragón, Campo de Borja Violet color with aromatic smoky dried herb, spice and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and intense with cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Medium long finish. Made from 100% Garnacha aged in equal parts stainless steel and French oak.  (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja Ruby color with moderately aromatic spiced leather, red fruit, and a hint of tobacco aromas On the palate, it’s between light and medium bodied, and elegant with layers of cherry, spice, mocha, clove flavors nicely balanced with supple tannins, and good acidity. Long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Bodegas Torremoron Ribera del Duero Tinto - Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero Dark almost opaque violet color with candied cherry, raspberry, and hints of anise, and pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and dusty tannins,and ripe slightly tart cherry, raspberry, and mineral flavors. Long finish. Made with 100% Tempranillo (80-100-year old vines); aged completely in stainless steel. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Señorio de Barahonda Barahonda Barrica - Spain, Murcia, Yecla Garnet color with mixed black and red fruit, earth and spice aromas. On the palate, it s medium-full-bodied with cherry, plum, dark chocolate, and spice flavors, and good acidity. Long finish. Blend is composed of 75% Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvedre)and 25% Syrah aged in a combination of French and American oak for six months. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Telmo Rodríguez Mencía Valdeorras Gaba do Xil - Spain, Galicia, Valdeorras Dark garnet color creamy fresh cherry, floral, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with red cherry, blueberry, spice and a bit of mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. 100% Mencia from Galicia region of Spain (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Bodegas Volver Monastrell Tarima - Spain, Valencia, Alicante Dark violet color with tight nose showing aromas of mixed berry,and leather aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, and focused with a creamy mouthfeel, and black raspberry, and black cherry flavors supported by good acidity. Medium-long finish. Fruit is from 40-75 year old Monastrell (Mourvedre) vineyards (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Teso La Monja Toro Romanico - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro Nearly opaque purple color with black and red fruit, coffee, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied focused, and round with black cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Long finish. Very good QPR at $15! 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) aged in 100% new French oak for six months (91 pts.)

As the party…er meeting..er gathering continued unabated,  I tabulated the results…

Sure y'all keep the party going...I'll just be over here figuring out the winner!

Sure you guys keep the party going…I’ll just be over here figuring out the winner!

The envelope please…

The winner was the 2010 Teso La Monja “Romanico” Toro ($14.99)…a 100%Tinta de Toro (a local strain of Tempranillo) from the Toro region of Spain.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blind tastings is there is always a surprise or two. The surprise for me was that the 2007 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva, the only “Reseva”, and one of K&L’s best sellers, finished last.  I believe it would have done better had I aerated before hand.  In hindsight I should have…

Wine of Spain Romanico

2010 Teso La Monja Toro Romanico

The results were close. The top 5 wines we separated by a mere point!

The order of finish for the runners-up were as follows:

  1. 2010 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos
  2. 2011 Bodegas Volver Monastrell Tarima
  3. 2011 Bodegas Torremoron Ribera del Duero Tinto
  4. 2010 Señorio de Barahonda Barahonda Barrica
  5. 2009 Telmo Rodríguez Mencía Valdeorras Gaba do Xil
  6. 2010 Montebuena Rioja Cuvée KPF
  7. 2007 Viña Eguía Rioja Reserva

Conclusion

Our Wines of Spain night was a great success with great food, fun, fellowship and of course wine!

It’s been my experience is that Spanish wines are well made, and you won’t find better value anywhere else in the world (there were at least 4 wines from this tasting that will be repeat purchases for me)! That’s why one of my wine resolutions for 2013 is to buy more Spanish wine.  If you haven’t yet discovered the wines of Spain. What are you waiting for? If you have discovered Spanish wine…drop me a comment and let know our favorite(s)!

Related posts  you might also enjoy:

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  . Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
 
Adapted from Emeril’s Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril’s Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Instructions
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Notes
Recommended Wine Pairings – I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!

 

Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!

Chili/Stews:

Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:

Soups:

Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:

Desserts/Beverages:

Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.