Proctor : July 2018
51 PROCTOR | July 2018 Often overlooked and sometimes underappreciated, wines from Spain are an excellent new frontier for exploring and experimentation. Winemaking in Spain is old and unique. Wine has been made on the Iberian peninsula for around 5000 years from more than 400 indigenous grape varieties. The fortunes of Spanish wine have risen and fallen like the seas as empires, invaders, conquistadors, military dictators and the European Union have all played a part in the evolving story. Spanish wine warmed Roman border sentries in Britain, beguiled and befuddled Oxbridge dons and charmed Falstaff into saying: “If I had a thousand sons, the first human principle I would teach them should be to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack.” 1 Happily, Spanish wine today is rarely the sweet fortified white wine of Falstaff’s beloved ‘sack’. The wine journey of Spain has produced a quality wine scene with all the passion of Italy and the variety of France. The problem for the Queensland quaffer is sourcing the good stuff, but fortunately the better Spanish wines have now started to make their way here in the same way that proper Italian wines are in plentiful supply. So what is worth trying? Start with bubbles. Italy has prosecco and that is starting to make a dent locally. Spain (or, more accurately the not-yet-independent state of Catalonia) has cava. Cava is big in the United Kingdom, where summer holidays breed familiarity, but is yet to rise in Australia. It will make its presence felt before long, as cava usually provides good quality bubbles at an affordable price point. Made mostly in the Penedès region of Catalonia, cava is made in the same method as champagne but using the local macabeu, parellada and xarel-lo grape varieties. Codorníu, Freixenet and Segura Viudas are locally available brands worth seeking out. Spain does still produce a great array of white wines from its diverse climatic conditions. The palomino grape makes a thousand varieties of sherry near the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia. Generally these wines are not sweet and rely on oxidization, ageing, blending and sometimes a cap of flor yeast inside the barrel to create magic. A distinctive dry white wine is albariño, best known from the Rías Baixas area in Galicia in the distant north-western region of Spain. The wine is botanical and light in body with good acid and a perfect foil for the seafood dishes of its home region. Galicia is well known for the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail, often part-walked as penance by Queensland lawyers. Less known is Galicia’s Celtic roots and that they have their own bagpipes! Quality red wines abound and usually involve the varieties tempranillo, garnacha (better known as grenache) and monastrell (better known as mourvèdre or mataro). One of the best and most accessible Spanish red wines available in Australia is Rioja. Located in the far north of Spain, Rioja wines are usually predominantly tempranillo and garnacha blends aged in oak barrels. The basic Rioja must spend a year in oak, while Rioja Gran Reserva must have at least two years in oak and three in bottle before sale. Rioja owes much to Bordeaux in style as many Bordelaise ‘evacuated’ to Rioja when the phylloxera louse decimated the Bordeaux vineyards in the late 19th Century, bringing with them new techniques and technology. Today Rioja is adopting a more ‘international’ style of full-bodied red wine not unfamiliar to Australian palates. The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain, but the wine from Spain comes our way mostly by plane. The first was the Abellio Albariño 2016 Rías Baixas DO which was pale straw in colour and had a nose of feisty grapefruit and honeysuckle. The palate was forward with a mix of fresh fruit salad, crisp acid and a little lifted forest floor for good measure. A wine to tame fish dishes. The second was the Bozeto de Exopto 2016 Rioja DOC, which was deepest black with a burgundy tinge in the glass. The nose was vanilla oak and spicy white pepper. The palate was a savoury rollercoaster of oak, plummy five spice and crackling peppery tones. Moreish and approachable. The last was the Enrique Mendoza La Tremonda Monastrell 2014 Alicante, which was dark deep red from the Spanish Gold Coast of the Costa Blanca. The nose was a firm oak and red fruits. The palate was a rich red and deep robe of savoury fruit, topped with hints of leather and Dutch match. A great wine with a fine future. Verdict: The best in show was the Rioja, winning praise for its firm but approachable face. The tasting Matt Dunn is Queensland Law Society policy, public affairs and governance general manager. Wine From Spain by plane for Aussie fame with Matthew Dunn Three examples of Spanish wine were examined in close proximity to a paella for cultural authenticity. Note 1 William Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2.