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A feast of Spanish wine
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Can you read a wine label?
Don't Wait! Avoid the holiday rush with California Wine Club!
Wine Advisor readers: Get your free 101 WINE TIPS book!
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
Although it's certainly not necessary for a good food-and-wine match, when I choose wines for a dinner featuring any national, regional or ethnic fare, I usually give first consideration to wines of the same region. It's sort of like eating Chinese food with chopsticks: You don't have to do it, but it seems to make the food taste better.
Obviously this match-ethnic-styles approach won't work with most Asian cuisines and other dinners from regional traditions that don't include wine as part of their heritage. If I'm playing sommelier for an Indian or Thai meal, for instance, I'll happily go for Western wines in an ethnic mix-and-match.
But when our friend Barb (an outstanding cook) recently invited us to a Spanish dinner featuring a massive paella, the job of selecting the wines was easy. Spain ranks third in the world (after France and Italy) in wine production, and it's right up there with Italy in terms of having vineyards in almost every corner of the country. What's more, Spanish wines rank with the world's best for both diversity and quality.
So I put together a half-dozen wines, spanning a fair range of price and value, that would offer the group a good taste of what Spain has to offer in the wine department: A dry Sherry for before dinner and a sweet one for after; an aromatic white Albarino from Galicia for the appetizers and - with the help of a good bottle contributed by another guest - a main-course trio from three of Spain's top red-wine regions: Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero.
So let's move right to the tasting notes, with brief comments on the courses served with each:
With appetizers including marinated olives, herbed almonds and three Spanish cheeses:
Morgadio 2000 Rias Baixas Albarino ($15.99) - Pale bright greenish-gold, with a marked yellowish tinge. Very aromatic, typical Albarino scents of almonds with white fruit and a hint of green peas. Crisp and clean flavors consistent with the nose, long finish. U.S. importer: Classical Wines from Spain, Seattle. (Oct. 27, 2002)
Lustau non-vintage Sanlucar de Barrameda "Papirusa" Manzanilla ($9.99) - Pale gold. Light, subtle mixed-nut scents, more like hazelnuts and cashews than the usual "walnutty" Sherry characteristics. Very dry, crisp but rather full texture, nutlike flavor nuances over an almost limey base. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Oakland, Calif.; Christopher Cannan Selection.
With dinner, an exceptional paella with chicken, chorizo and shrimp:
Allende 1997 Rioja ($15-$20 range) - Bright cherry fruit and vanilla scents; fresh and tart, plenty of smooth fruit. Nice balance and highly accessible, easy to enjoy. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Fairfax, Ohio.
Mas Igneus 1998 Priorat ($32.99) - Dark purple. Attractive, aromatic fruit with grace notes of almonds and smoke. Rich, full red-fruit flavor and firm acidity, with alcoholic warmth (14%) bordering on harsh. Good, full-bodied wine, excellent with the paella, but elegance, if any, will only come with time. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Fairfax, Ohio.
Bodegas y Viñdos Alion 1996 Ribera del Duero ($34.99) - Inky dark. Luscious cherry aromas, ripe and clean. Oaky vanilla is hard to ignore but shares the stage with the fruit and pleasant floral notes. Big and full, plenty of smooth fruit in the flavor. Consensus wine of the night, and likely to get better still with cellar time. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Emeryville, Calif.; Christopher Cannan Selection.
With and after desserts - decadent brownies, subtle apple crisp and vanilla ice cream:
Lustau non-vintage East India Solera Sherry ($14.99) (bottled in 1998) - Dark brownish-purple. Very walnutty and burnt-sugar aromas, rich and full; very sweet flavor pulled taut by tart acidity and a pleasing bitterness, with dark brown sugar evident in the finish. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Emeryville, Calif.; Christopher Cannan Selection.Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Can you read a wine label?
A lot of wine lovers find wine labels complicated, and reading them daunting. But labels tell us much about the wine, where it came from, and what's in the bottle.
For this week's Voting Booth, we will show you the label of a relatively uncommon wine. Then you're invited to tell us all the information about this wine that you can identify, from reading the label or from your knowledge of the wine, as we ask, "Can you read a wine label?"
To join the fun - and see how your label-reading skills stack up against those of other wine lovers around the world - visit the Voting Booth,
Then, for a quick online guide with a bit more detail about reading wine labels, see the popular Wine Label Decoder on WineLoversPage.com,
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The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Speak up about wine shipping! (Oct. 25)
Chenin Blanc and (gourmet) pizza (Oct. 23)
Harvest at Haut-Brion (Oct. 21)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Upgraded macaroni and cheese (Oct. 24)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Oct. 28, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.