What To Drink Now: Wines of Spain

We are all affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, but on an increasing basis, the beautiful people of Spain are being hit hard. With more confirmed cases than hard-hit Italy, and as many deaths in one small country as we have seen throughout the entire United States, the people of Spain need our support. Earlier this week Alfonso Cortina de Alcocer, founder of Vallegarcia in Montes de Toledo, Spain, not far from Madrid, passed away from COVID-19. A member of the prestigious Grandes Pagos de Espana, Vallegarcia excelled in producing international varieties with Spanish flair. He and his influence will be missed.

As you plan your stay-at-home meal of the night, consider opening a bottle of Spanish wine in support. Here are a few favorites to consider.

Vallegarcia is well known and respected for its luscious, black cherry, woody herb, and spice-filled Hipperia ($30) Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend. But, the Vallegarcía Viognier ($30) is my favorite. Partially barrel-fermented giving texture and complexity to the wine, layering white peach, honeycomb, toasted almond, and spice for a complete, delicious wine.

Rias Baixas is the heart of Galicia, producing vibrant white wines with character. With a base of Albarino, Rias Baixas delivers luscious wines ideal for pairing with the region’s seafood filled culture. Located just off the Atlantic Ocean, in the far northwestern part of the country, the region benefits from cooling winds off the ocean, trapping acidity in the fruit, highly aromatic white wines filled with freshness and sunshine. Granite filled soils marry with the aromatic profile, giving crushed-stone minerality to the flavorful wines. Favorites from the region are plentiful, including Fillaboa, Santiago RuizPazo de Barrantes, Pazos de Lusco, Pazo Senorans, and Martin Codax (one of the larger brands that’s pretty easy to find, and priced well around $15 a bottle).

Galician octopus

Though not as well known, within the northern part of Galicia is the Valdeorras DO specializing in white wines made from the Godello variety. Near the Galir River, Virgen del Galir began in 2002 specializing in the variety, along with Mencia. Pagos de Galir is 100% Godello grown in mineral-rich slate and schist filled soils, with vines digging deep into the earth for nutrients, giving an extra layer of earthiness to the wines. Aged four months on the lees, helping round out the palate, the wine is filled with fresh lemon blossom and honeysuckle, lemon balm, white peach, and a hint of spice.

Numanthia Tinta de Toro vine in Toro, Spain

Inky, dense, and powerful, Numathia tells the story of the Toro region of Spain. Hearty old vines of Tinta de Toro thrive in arid stone-filled vineyards, creating a wine with incredible concentration and structure, a high tannin profile, and bold personality. The most approachable early on is the Numanthia Termes ($25), with a bit softer profile than the other wines of the producer, produced from some of the youngest vines on the estate.

But, for a wine that is truly special, Numnthia Termanthia ($250) is produced from the oldest vines on the estate, around 150 years, the concentrated wine layers crushed red and blackberry, red cherry, and plum with a deeply tannic core that with some time to age in the bottle, or breathe when opened upon release, will soften, allowing the character of the gorgeous Spanish terroir to shine.

Beronia, Rioja, Spain

Tempranillo shines in Rioja, with Bodegas Beronia capturing its beauty and essence with grace and style, thanks in part to winemaker Matias Calleja. Over the past 20+ years, Matias has worked to showcase their Rioja Alta fruit, developing an unconventional style for aging Tempranillo. This style now defines the wines of Beronia. By using a mix of French and American oak to age the wines, Beronia benefits from the best characteristics the oak imparts into the wines, including the flavors, tannins, color, and texture.

Bodegas Beronia Reserva ($20,) aged 20 months in oak barrels produced with American oak staves, and French oak tops, and bottle aged an additional 18 months prior to release, is silky and seductive. With a lovely balance of tannin, fruit, and acid, the wine layers red cherry, red plum, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Though our minds may focus on red wines when we think of Rioja, one of Spain’s most popular white varieties also thrives in the northern region. Known as Viura in Rioja, Macabeo in other parts of Spain, particularly in the Penedes region where it is one of the key varieties included in the Cava blend. Rioja allows the freshness of the aromatic fruit shine. CVNE Monopole White ($13) reveals layers of golden apple, pear, white flowers, and lemon zest.

Blending the two varieties, Tempranillo and Viura, with a touch of Garnacha, Vina Real Rosado ($18) is floral, fruity, and vibrant, with red apple, nectarine, and white peach.

From vines of Garnacha that date back over 100 years, in the northeastern region of Sonomtono, Vinas del Vero Seacastilla ($25) is elevated and expressive. Though the palate is big, it is also quite light and lively, with ripe red berries, red cherry, toasted spice, and a hint of oak, creating a well-rounded, highly approachable wine.

From Ribera del Duero, Dominio Fournier Reserva ($35) is 100% Tinta del Pais from nutrient pour vineyards lining the Duero river, creating a concentrated, well-structured wine with intensity, and a robust profile, while maintaining a beautiful elegance. Aged 18 months in oak, giving the wine a spicy, toasty undertone, melding with pencil lead, black plum, and ripe cherry.