Have you ever had something described to as “greater than the sum of its parts”? I’m not sure if there’s a wine I’ve tried that better embodies that than the ‘Protocolo’. This is a blend of Macabeo (Primary grape in Cava) and Airen (Grape used primarily for brandy); which are grapes with an inherently “cheap” reputation. However, combined they are a lovely, floral, and tropical white with no end of porch-pounding potential. The pale straw colors give way to a nose filled with aromas of banana, peach, and slightly herbal notes. The palate has a surprising weight while still maintaining balanced acidity. The banana and peach notes carry through with slight aloe notes on the back end.
Generally speaking, white wines are overlooked in the grand scheme of Spanish wine in the United States market. Even within this decreased scope, Verdejo is niche, finding virtually all of its acreage in Rueda. This is Spain’s answer, among many, to Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet/Melon de Bourgogne, and Gruner Veltliner. It is often characterized by bright notes of lime and other citrus essence cut with ripe, spicy fennel notes. This rendition by famed vintner Marques de Riscal is very style-appropriate, with aromas of lime, orange peel, peach, and ripe crunchy vegetal notes. The palate is light bodied with racy acidity, combining the aforementioned citrus with fennel, aniseed, and fresh cut grass. Probably the best analogy I have seen for Verdejo is that it is the “lime” to your fish taco dish. This is to say that if your dish is benefitted by the presence of lime, it will benefit from the presence of Verdejo.
Monastrell…. what is that again? It’s one of the many aliases of our favorite blending grape: Mourvèdre! While Mourvèdre grown in other Old Word regions like France (Bandol anyone?) tend to be decidedly meaty and savory, Monastrell grown within the comparatively warm region of Alicante blends these meaty aspects with decadent fruit. Even odder is the demonstrably lighter style that the ‘Mo’ demonstrates, more reminiscent of certain crus of Beaujolais. Aged exclusively in steel to soften Monastrell’s inherently fierce tannins and other phenolic compounds, this pours a purple with violet hues. The nose offers some of the meatiness, smoke, and graphite you would expect while supplemented by additional aromas of violets and blueberries. The palate yields a full body, juicy acidity and fine-grained tannins enveloping blue fruits, white pepper, and concentrated floral components. Try this with a rich pork tenderloin or even braised lamb.
An appellation typically known for whites; this Cabernet Sauvignon displays atypical New World characteristics. It pours a medium ruby with purple hues, offering aromas of cherry, plum, cassis, vanilla, and cedar box. The palate is medium-plus, with balanced acidity and soft, woody tannins complementing macerated red fruits. While an eligible steak wine, this is likely better served with something that benefits from its new world flair, such as short ribs or lamb.
Albarino on the Platinum List? What gives? First off, ouch; second off, what if I told you Albarino can be as complex and structured as any other heralded Old-World white? Enter the ‘Vicius’ Albarino. This avant-garde take on this traditionally lean grape utilizes oak-aging to draw out tertiary notes from the grape. The nose offers bready, yeasty notes supplemented by apricot and salinity. The palate is slick and oily, substituting the typical acidity for increased tertiary notes of wood, snow pea, and citrus. This is an off-the-wall, but delicious white that would be suitable with richer sea food.
We are all likely familiar with the Rioja DOCa, but we are all going to get very familiar with its primary competition. Ribera del Duero represents the muscular yin to Rioja’s yang, offering rich, extracted, and structured reds more influenced by New World winemaking practices. For a fresher, young example, the ‘Hito’ displays all of these characteristics in stride. Unlike other notable preparations of Tempranillo, this example substitutes aromas of strawberry and leather for rich cherry, fig, and tobacco aromas. The palate is full-bodied, with fresh acidity and supple tannins accented rich globs of red fruit, earth and baking spice. This wine screams tri-tip (prepared CA-style) and demands to be at your next BBQ.
One of the most commercially and critically acclaimed estates in all of Spain, Marques de Riscal is responsible for saturating the market with some of the most consistently high-quality Rioja available. This is done in spite of massive production, with the RR in particular accounting for upwards of 300,00 cases per year. 2015 was a particularly hot and dry year in Rioja, yielding higher than normal alcohol levels and wines with particular ripeness and velvety tannins. Pouring a rich ruby color with garnet streaks, this wine offers dried cherry, strawberry, dried tobacco, and leather on the nose. The palate is full-bodied, with fresh acidity and supple, velvety tannins. The red fruits are concentrated and spicy, accented by hints of vanilla and black pepper. This a textbook example of Rioja and would go exceptionally well with ham or roasted pork dishes.
Continuing along our tour of Ribera, we come to a richer, aged example. The ‘Seleccion Especial’ contains mostly Tempranillo in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. Following a rigorous oak program in a combination of French and American oak, the wine pours a rich, opaque ruby with purple hues. Muddled blue and black fruits dominate the nose while being accented by streaks of vanilla, iron, bramble, and anise. The palate is very full-bodied, with bracing acidity and chewy, lengthy tannins. This is all to balance the massive plethora of fresh blue fruits and vanilla. This wine has amazing length and can be enjoyed now or allowed to develop for an additional two to three years in the cellar.