There are aspects of the wine industry that are nothing short of staid. The 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines has had only one change made to it in the last 160 years. France, Italy and Spain have been the three top producers of wine for as long as wine production has been tracked and recorded. Yet, as old and steady as the wine industry is, there is an undercurrent of restless trendiness.
Many trends in wine come from the new world, such as Australian Shiraz of the 1990’s, Argentinian Torrentés and Malbec of the early 2000’s, and California red Moscoto that’s poised to trend for the second decade of this millennium unless we can stop it.
But trends don’t just come from the new world of wine. The old world has some old varietals with a new following. One need look no further than the Iberian Peninsula to find some old, but trendy wines.
The Minho region of Portugal has been a designated wine region for over 100 years, and has been producing wine since Roman times. But Vinho Verde, which translates to ‘green wine’ meaning the grapes are picked very early, while still green and acidic, is becoming a stylish wine in the new world.
Caiu a Noite Vinho Verde, 2013 ($9), typical of wines from this region is a blend of Loureiro and Trajadura, both indigenous grapes. It is a very crisp wine with a grapefruit peel flavor and a frizzanté texture that is creamy on the finish. Light and refreshing, it is very stylish served with a twist of lime and paired with ceviche or fried calamari.
A popular white wine of Spain is Verdejo from the Rueda region. Palma Real makes one that is 100% Verdejo ($12), with pear, banana and floral aromas. It is light bodied with a slight minerality and pairs well with shell fish.
Spain’s other white is Albarino from the Rias Baixas region. Another light white, Val Do Sosego ($15) makes one with aromas of citrus, tart apple and peach. It pairs well with grilled fish served with a fruit salsa.
Not all lesser known grapes of the Iberian Peninsula will become trends. But most are worth exploring. While Rioja is well known for its Tempranillo, the Ribera del Duero region just southwest of Rioja, also makes wines using the Tempranillo grape. Senorio del Tallar’s ($18) wine has leather, dark berries, mineral, and spice aromas. It is aged in American Oak which adds vanilla and coconut flavor to the wine, a wine that is perfect with grilled beef.
In the northeast corner of Spain is the region of Montsant that is known for its red blends. Baronia del Montsant Flor d’Englora Roure ($15) is a blend of primarily Garnacha and Carignan. It has aromas of strawberry jam and plums with ripe tannins and a savory quality. Full bodied and flavorful, Flor d’Englora Roure would stand up to any cut of beef served with a fruit sauce.
From the Douro region of Portugal where the famous Port wines are made, come some beautiful still reds, often made with the same grapes that go into making Ports. Quinta das Carvalhas Reserva Douro ($20) is 60% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca, and 20% Tinta Roriz. Any student of Port wines will recognize all three of those grape names. Carvalhas sources from 100 year old vines. It is the old vines that give the wine its richness and depth. With aromas of smoky dark cherry, blackberry, plum, coffee grounds and raisins this is an intense, big flavored wine with ripe, rich tannins and a long finish. It is divine with ham in a raisin sauce.
In the southeast corner of Spain is the region Bullas, known for its use of Rhone Valley grapes. Tesoro de Bullas Monastrell ($18) is 75% Monastrell, known in France as Mouvedre and 25% Syrah. With aromas of blueberry, lavender, and spice, this blend has an earthiness that adds to its intensity. It pairs well with venison.
Rioja, a region in the north central area of Spain is known for Tempranillo. Valserrano Rioja Monteviejo ($42) is a big, full-bodied wine with aromas of dark, spicy fruit, roses, oak and vanilla. After seven years of aging, the 2008 has not yet peaked, and probably won’t for a few more years. It pairs well with grilled pork.
In the south of Spain lies the Sherry Triangle. While there are many styles of Sherry, one of the easiest to love is PX, Pedro Ximenez. Made entirely of the grape of the same name, Osborne Pedro Ximenez ($25) is a rich, lush, sweet dessert wine with aromas of raisin, nuts, figs, dark fruit and chocolate. Serve it with ginger chocolate cake, pumpkin mousse or vanilla ice cream.
From light and trendy to rich and traditional, there are a lot of wines to explore on the Iberian Peninsula.