The Wines of Spain
The New World owes homage to Spain, particularly to those intrepid explorers who settled Florida, Texas and elsewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The conquistadors and monks brought with them the wines from the Spain’s different regions for sacramental and beverage purposes. These wines were not only our first, but actually were the roots of what centuries later would become the wine industry in the United States.
Florida soon officially launches the 500th anniversary of the first Spanish explores landing near St. Augustine. It’s collaboration with Spain and one that welcomes a highly anticipated visit from King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. The wines and food from Spain are part of the year-long party.
A visit to Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, Florida’s lovely capital city, reveals ancient wine cellars in the monk’s quarters’ kitchen and another inside the fort. The mission won the Presidential Award as the country’s top restoration project, and is the epicenter of the 500th celebration slated for 2013.
Near San Antonio, Texas, Dry Comal Creek, a fabulous winery, produces one of America’s most distinctive and delicious wines from the Black Spanish grape, a varietal discovered by the winery founders to be growing wild in the area and confirmed to have the same DNA as its counterpart in Spain. No longer a mystery: the grape made its way into Texas and other parts of America from the Spanish settlers centuries ago and now is once again cultivated and used to make fine wine for enthusiasts.
Wine is a universal beverage, dating back thousands of years. Then and now, wines are made wherever fruit grows. Some of the best wine stories are found in both the Old and New Testament. Can you guess which wine was being poured as depicted in DaVinci’s “Last Supper.”? Hint: there really is an answer.
The great cookbook author, wine and food emissary Chef John Folse, whose legendary PBS television show, “A Taste of Louisiana,” inspired many of today’s best kitchen wizards, confirmed that popular American dishes like Jambalaya has their roots in Spanish Paella. John advises that there is a taste thrill-almost a kinship-with having wines from Spain accompany such delights.
Like so many high quality retail food and wine stores, Texas headquartered Whole Foods carries a wonderful variety of wines from Spain in their stores throughout the country. Here are a few I enjoy:
Lurton Verdejo from Rueda – a pale yellow wine with an intense nose of fruits and cut hay and a round, soft finish.
Raimat Albariño from Costers del Segre in Catalan – pale yellow in color, this crisp, dry white has intense aromas of citrus, dried flowers and spices.
Spartico Organic NSA Tempranillo from Valencia – This is the first wine from Spain to meet the USDA Certified Organic NSA (no sulfites added) requirements. A fruity, medium-bodied violet black wine has smoky aromas with subtle sweetness and tartness with a firm finish.
Protos Tinto Fino, a delight from Ribera del Duero is a spirited Tempranillo suggesting dried red berries, sweet spice, toasted oak and vanilla.
Faustino Rioja is a young Tempranillo projecting fruit aromas with light hints of vanilla and cocoa.
Maximo Tempranillo from Vina de la Tierra de Castilla in La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote, is aromatic and conjures images of plums and tobacco. This is an easy drinking red.
Más de Leda Tempranillo from Castilla y Leon features aromas of candied fruit and licorice with a touch of cinnamon, spice and everything nice.
La Vendimia, this red from Rioja blends Grenache and Tempranillo, two dominant Spanish varietals.
Can Blau Blau produced by Priorat is a crowd-pleasing blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache.
Monte Oton Garnacha from Campo de Borja is plump and velvety offering plum, blackberry and raspberry flavors,
Monseran Garnacha from Cariñena is an easy-drinking red, a New World-style Grenache with herbal overtones, bursting with ripe berries.
Castaño Organic Monastrell from Yecla begins with fruit from 30 year-old vines, a smooth red wine notable for a fresh raspberry bouquet and dense cherry flavor.
Jose Castellano is an influential importer of Spanish wines into the United States. A native of Spain who knows his wines and his native country’s spectacular culture, has mastered the art of describing Spain’s commendable wine diversity. During a recent interview, he told me that “Spanish wines are extremely healthy and the quality and value are very high.”
I was curious about the La Mancha region of Spain, which happens to be the world’s largest wine region. “We tasted many wines,” Castellano revealed, “from many regions like La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Jumilla, Galicia, Extremadura, Valencia, Navarra, Catalunya, Castilla Leon, Rueda and found the price and quality to be best in the La Mancha wines. These wines exploded with personality, meaning these wines are memorable ones that Americans can enjoy.”
He continued: “In La Mancha, we found very gentle wines with sophisticated and complex aromas. Some of these wines are also very direct wines, middle to full body, very fruity, and above all very healthy. The wines we found in La Mancha are very well balanced, a characteristic that Americans appreciate. “
According to Jose Castellano, good to great wines from LaMancha are not impossible dreams.
One last recommendation is the Campo Viejo 2006 Reserva. The 2006 harvest was classified as “very good” by the Control Board of the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. This outstanding wine has a pronounced ruby red color with a divine golden rim and a complex nose of blackberry, cherry and black plum. I found it delicious with grilled red meat and game, as well as mature and blue cheeses.
Let’s pour some Spanish wine and welcome the King and Queen of Spain to this part of the world. We toast to them, grateful for Spain’s contributions to our culture.
Doc Lawrence is a veteran journalist whose mastery of language is matched by his love of the people and places that make up America and the world. An Atlanta native, Doc prepared for a lifetime of storytelling by education and travel, earning several degrees plus living in places like England and Barbados Along the way, he cultivated a deep appreciation for art and architecture, cultural heritage, live theater, music, wine and spirits, the culinary arts and gourmet lifestyles, which synthesized into an original writing style that defines his feature stories, making them highly readable, relevant to different cultures and always useful.
A seasoned writer, broadcaster and television producer, Doc Lawrence has his stories in print, on the air or online somewhere on the planet each day.
A founder and former editor of The Nationwide News in Florida, Doc Lawrence was the 2006 Chairman of the Food and Beverage Section of the Public Relations Society of America in New York City and is the Director of Wine for the International Food and Wine Travel Writers Association founded in Paris. He is a member of the South Florida International Press Club and the Atlanta Press Club.
Doc is the founder and managing editor of the award winning travel magazine, Wines Down South and is the Food and Wine Editor for Transforming Today’s World magazine headquartered in San Antonio, Texas.
Doc is currently working on a series of original stories about Florida’s upcoming 500th anniversary, a celebration that includes Spain and other nations that will draw on his talents as a highly respected authority on wines of the world and the ever-evolving culinary heritage of the New World.
Doc resides in Atlanta, Georgia.