You’ve got to admit that in these parts, we’re not very short of motorbikes, barber shops, mobile food stalls and tiny shops selling pretty frocks for the girls. Or for the boys, if they feel so inclined. But we could do with a few more wine shops, especially selling wines from Spain.
It’s one of the oldest wine-producing countries in Europe. Some historians claim that the earliest wine-making dates from between 4,000 and 3,000 B.C. In the past, most Spanish wines (apart from Sherry) were light, undemanding and rarely seen outside the country.
But around the 1960’s, things started to improve as Spanish wine-makers began to realise the potential of higher quality products. Today, they make some superb wines and Spain ranks third in the top wine-producing countries. But despite its enviable position, few Spanish wines find their way to these tropical shores.
Berberana “Cosecha” Tinto (red), Spain (Bt. 299 @ Tesco-Lotus)
The word “Cosecha” (koh-say-chah) is merely Spanish for “harvest” but it appears in such big letters on the label that you could be forgiven for assuming that it’s some kind of Spanish grape, especially if your Spanish is limited to shouting “Olé!” from time to time. The company was founded in 1877 by the eponymous Don Miguel Martínez Berberana and it’s one of the oldest wineries in the Rioja region. It’s also Spain’s best-selling brand, known for its fine Riojas but also for its range of quality wines from other parts of the country. The label, by the way, has a picture of a resplendent golden dragon, so if you don’t like the wine very much, you can always just sit and admire the dragon. But I think you’ll enjoy this wine, especially if you go for light fruity reds.
Although the label doesn’t reveal the name of the grapes, I’m pretty certain that the wine is made from Tempranillo, a native grape which has been growing on the Iberian Peninsula since the Phoenicians showed up there. This ruby-red wine has a mild aroma of red fruit and strawberries, with dried herbs lurking in the background. It’s a very light-bodied and completely dry wine with plenty of red fruit on the rather slender body. There’s just a touch of very soft tannin and an attractive “edge” to the taste with a pleasant, dry if rather modest finish. But at this price it’s a jolly good wine and at 11% alcohol content it would make a good partner for snacks. It’s a very easy drinker too and sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed if you want a simple glugger to knock back with a light meal. It would be ideal with pasta. You might even want to adopt it as your Daily Red.
Molino Loco Monastrell 2011 (red), Spain (Bt. 379 @ Wine Connection)
Here’s something completely different. Molino Loco wines come from the Castaño family vineyards which lie at over 2,000 feet above sea level in Spain’s Murcia region, about sixty miles by road from sprawling Alicante. The name means “crazy windmill”, and refers to one which sits at the edge of the vineyard. Unlike normal windmills, which turn when it’s windy, this one evidently turns only on days when there’s no wind at all. Now if you ask me, that sounds a little bit spooky.
Anyway, the Monastrell grape is probably better known by its French name Mourvèdre. It needs plenty of hot sun to ripen and the high hills of Murcia are just the place. To improve the taste and texture of this particular wine, the Monastrell was blended with 15% Syrah.
It’s is a rich, dark red with an intense aroma of cherries, plums and a dash of spicy licorice. It needs plenty of time for the air to bring out the aromas, so don’t rush it. At first taste, the wine seems quite powerful but it has a soft mouth-feel with an attractive and lively touch of acidity. It’s very dry with plenty of fruit on the taste and you might also pick up an attractive oakiness. The tannins are quite firm and there’s a long earthy, dry finish.
It’s a wine with plenty of character and quite assertive in style. Actually, it’s rather a macho number, not for wimps and wusses or those of a very delicate disposition. At a whopping 14% alcohol content, this very much a food wine which would make an excellent partner for hearty fare; stews, rich pasta or red meat. It would go a treat with those hefty Spanish steaks the size of a brick, just like Mama used to make.