Mar 04 2009

Surprising Spanish Wines in Ole’s 2009 Portfolio

On Monday, I attended the Olé Imports Portfolio Tasting at Cream Wine Company, where more than 50 Spanish reds, whites, and rosés from a dozen regions were poured. Region by region, here are the highlights.

Cataluna: The Cataluna (also known as Catalonia) region of Spain is home to D.O. Cava, where 95 percent of Spain’s acclaimed sparkling white of the same name is produced. Cava is made using the exact same technique as Champagne; the only major difference is the grapes. Cava, like the Gran Sarao Brut Cava that we love at Just Grapes, is primarily made from the Xarel.lo, Parellada and Macabeo grapes. Olé’s notable offering from Cataluna the Cellar Vilafranca “Casteller” Cava Brut NV. Just Grape’s Assistant Manager Maggie Smith once said, “if it’s not Champagne I’m drinking then it’s Cava from Spain.” This Cava is perfect for Champagne lovers. Crisp, clean, and elegant, the Casteller Cava has pleasant hints of citrus in the finish, which I found to be true of many of the regions sparkling and still whites.

Valencia: Sunny Valencia in Spain is home to D.O. Alicante. While traditionally home to sweet dessert wines, the loose, sandy soil is yielding some surprising, earthy, fruity reds. Monastrell is the grape behind the VSL 2006 M2, which is smoky and leathery with distinct notes of fig and plum. The fruit in the M2 is younger than VSL’s oakier, more acidic 2007 M5. The M2 will be a great value wine, and is strong enough to drink on its own or paired with tapas and Spanish cheese.

D.O. Valencia also produces some delicious Tempranillos and Garnacha tintoreras, like the spicy, creamy 2005 Pasamonte Tintorera that Just Grapes will be pouring at tonight’s First Wednesday tasting.

Navarra: In D.O. Navarra, located in north central Spain, you’ll find Bodegas Viña Magaña, a world-class (and courageous) family vineyard where Juan Magaña and his son Diego make… Spanish Merlot. And Malbec.

Before you think “Merlot grows everywhere,” consider that planting Merlot in D.O. Navarra was actually illegal when Juan planted the grape at Bodegas Viña Magaña. For anyone who has ever found Merlot to be dull and disappointing, the 2005 Viña Magaña Merlot will have you wondering what you may have been missing. Diego, whose first vintage as winemaker was this 2005, is a young man but has tremendous pride in the history of his family vineyard. In addition to making Spain’s oldest Merlot, Bodegas Viña Magaña has eight acres of Malbec (yes, Spanish Malbec), which grows in Limestone and Clay soil (as does the 152 acres of Merlot; their Cabernet grows in soil comprised of Gravel and River Stones). This is a Merlot with an outgoing, fruity beginning with hints of vanilla and cloves, and a pleasant spark of pepper at the finish.

I’ve always loved Spanish wines, but it was nice to see such a surprising variety in Olé’s 2009 portfolio.

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