the wine connection

Kris Love A primer to Spain's rich wines

By Kris Love
Translated by Angel Pu


For a place that many Taiwanese consider a dream destination, Spain certainly doesn't feature very prominently in the local wine market. Thankfully, this situation is changing, albeit slowly. Here is a quick overview of some Spanish wines you may encounter in Taiwan.

Often described as "Spain's Bordeaux", Rioja is probably the most internationally respected and established wine region in Spain. Whereas almost all Bordeaux reds are made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and small proportions of a few other grapes, red Rioja is based on the Tempranillo grape with Garnacha almost always included. Rioja produces Spain's longest-living wines with great structure. They often produce a black cherry fruit character with tobacco, bitter chocolate and vanilla notes. Some very famous names include CVNE, Muga, and Marquis de Murrieta.

Firmly established on the international market and no longer really considered an up-and-coming region is Ribera de Duero, home to Spain's top red wine, the outstanding Vega Sicilia. The rest of its wines are very consistent, fruit-driven styles with good value (usually). As this is Spain's self-styled roast lamb capital, there's no need to ask what to match it with!
Fan of big, hearty reds wanting something different should look for a wine from the Priorato region or, even better if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Barcelona, a short drive north towards the French border will take you into the heart of this region. Wines here produced from the Garnacha and Carioena grapes are super concentrated, high in alcohol and very heavy. I love them.

Finally, a couple of terms to help you decipher a label:
Joven—Refers to wines which usually have had little or no oak aging. They are designed to be fruity and soft, and drunk, as the name suggests, when young.
Crianza—Most regions follow the Rioja's lead in labeling wines with at least about six months' aging in oak barrels as reserve wines.
Gran Reserva—This generally means 12-18 months of oak aging. Most producers will only bother to produce Gran Reserva wines from the best of their fruit and in some cases also only in the best years. I recently had a 1991 CVNE Gran Reserva Rioja that tasted slightly tired, but usually these wines will last anywhere from 10-30 years.


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