Exploring the rest of Spain
Here's a curious factoid: Spain boasts more acreage planted in wine grapevines than any other country on Earth, but all those vines yield only enough wine to rank third in global production, after Italy and France.
How does that work out? It's simple enough: The hot, arid conditions that prevail over much of Spain limit vines to relatively low production per acre, so it takes more land to make less wine.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as low yield is generally considered a signal of intense, concentrated wine.
Indeed, looking back over the 12 years since my first visit to Spain's wine country in 1998, I don't think any nation's wine scene has changed as much as that of Spain.
The super-ripe grapes that result from that hot, dry climate yield alcoholic, extracted wines in a style that wins critical acclaim. Shopping this week for a few affordable Spanish wines to feature in this month's Wine Focus on Spain in our WineLovers' Discussion Group, I was struck by the dominance of wines in the range of 14.5 to 15 percent alcohol; and I'm talking red table wines here, not fortified Sherry.
Thanks to American critical acclaim and collectors' demand for new-style "blockbuster" wines from Spain's most traditional wine regions - Rioja and Ribera del Duero, as well as the more recently acclaimed Priorat - have gained so much attention that they tend to overwhelm the rest of Spain.
That's a shame, because Spain offers wines in wonderful variety, with a sense of place that's sometimes diminished in the more internationalized "collectibles."
So, passing by those "usual suspects," we invite you to venture out into the rest of Spain this month, from Catalunya in the northwest, with its sparkly Cavas and more, across to Galicia in the northwest, with its increasingly trendy white Albariño, just for starters. Or the attention getting reds of Bierzo, also in the northwest. The list goes on: Jumilla, Navarro, Jerez and Manzanilla and many more, like today's featured wine from Campo de Borja (below).
The field is wide open, so come, share with us your thoughts, questions and tasting notes on the tasty surprises from the rest of Spain. To participate in Wine Focus on the WineLovers Discussion Group, click "Spain outside the usual suspects."
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Today's Tasting Report
Axial 2008 "Penélope Sanchez" Tinto Jóven Campo de Borja ($11.99)
Very dark, shiny blackish-purple with a garnet edge. Black fruit and raspberry liqueur on the nose; raspberries and blackberries and fragrant, freshly-ground black pepper on the palate, well structured with zippy acidity and gentle tannins. Sunny and bright, fresh but not outrageous berry fruit, a good, hearty red blend of Garnacha (85%) and Syrah (15%) at an appropriate 13.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Axial Wines USA, Manhasset, N.Y. (Sept. 30, 2010)
FOOD MATCH: I brought an okra gumbo up to meet it by including thick slices of a locally produced beef sausage. The combination of intense grass-fed beef and light Cajun-style spice worked very well with the wine. More simply, I'd serve it without hesitation with beef, bison or game.
VALUE: Definitely a value at my local price, would be worth the toll even at the middle teens price point in some markets.
Campo de Borja = "Cahm-po deh Bohr-hah"
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find limited vendors for Penelope Sanchez on Wine-Searcher.com.
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