In late April and early May, as you drive across Spain, you can start to see colorful fields of wildflowers spurting in waves of rojo (red), amarillo (yellow), morado (purple) and blanco (white).
In the Spanish winemaking calendar, the April/May period is also the beginning of the growing season. Driving from south to north you can watch the grape vines seemingly grow in reverse. In La Mancha, late April is when grape vines begin to send out new shoots and the first tiny immature grapes appear as little bunches along the vines. Two hours later, by the time you reach the outskirts of Madrid, the plants are just putting out the first tentative and tender green leaves. An hour’s drive further north in Rueda, the vines have just budded out from their gnarly brown stumps. Further north, in Ribera del Duero, row after row of dark, withered old vines look as if life had left them long ago, but in a few weeks, as the season progresses, they too will burst forth in an explosion of pale green, darkening as the leaves spread and grow.
So if you’re in Spain taking a back road car trip or discovering the wine country visiting one bodega to another, you may want to take a couple of excellent traveller’s guides with you. At The Spanish Table, we have an assortment from “Wildflowers of Southern Spain” (by Betty Molesworth Allen, $27.50) to “Back Roads of Southern Spain” (by David Baird, $24.99). One excellent book that stands out is “Discovering Wine Country: How to Find Great Wines Off the Beaten Track” (by Susie Barrie, $19.95). It’s a colorful book that takes one through the best wine routes, places to stay and visit, and most importantly, a section on how to get your wine home.
But, if stuffing bottles of wine into your suitcase is not your cup of tea, The Spanish Table has you need to re-create your road trip in Spain, or simply inspire your weeknight meals with family as well as your festive get-togethers with friends. New pink, white and red wines for every occasion are available at The Spanish Table, along with a mind-boggling assortment of traditional Spanish and Portuguese foods to serve alongside.
Amestoi Txakoli rosado 2006 $15.99 Here’s a new one for you…rosado Txakoli. You heard it right. That dry, spritzy Basque white wine that is so refreshing and food friendly now comes in a pink version. This blend of white Hondarribi Zuri and red Hondaribbi Beltza grapes (grown only in the Basque lands) stays true to its Txakoli name with spritzy effervescence and lean minerality. Just a hint of fresh berry fruit sets the pink version apart from the austere grapefruit character of the other Txakoli wines. This is my new standard for warm weather refreshment.
Avinyó Vi d’Agulla 2006 $12.99 The Avinyó Cava that we carry (the traditional Brut Reserva As well as the new Brut Rosado) is always top notch. This small winery also produces a traditional summer wine called Vi D’Agulla (translates literally as ‘needle wine’). This lightly effervescent white wine made from Petit Grain Muscat is floral and aromatic like a Moscatel, but only gently sweet. The light bubbles lift the scent and give the wine a lively, fresh character. The prickly effervescence is what gives the wine its name. Serve Vi D’Agulla as a welcoming cocktail to your dinner guests and watch the smiles spread with each sip.
Do Ferreiro Rebisaca 2005 $19.99 Do Ferreiro is a winery in D.O. Rías Baixas near the western coast of Spain. This small winery grows Albariño grapes on their small 15 acre estate. Rebisaca is the name of one of their vineyards. This wine is a blend of estate grown Albariño and purchased Treixadura grapes that mixes the aromatic, floral quality of Albariño with the dry, tart Treixadura to produce a wine with rich fruit character as well as crisp acidity.
Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas 2005 $31.99 We also received a precious few bottles (2 to be precise) of Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas, a 100% Albariño wine produced from the oldest vines in the region (200+ years old). The vines grow overhead on stone pillared pergolas that allow air to circulate and prevent excess moisture from rotting the fruit (they get lots of rain in Rías Baixas). These ancient vines produce small, concentrated fruit which in turn produces a richly aromatic wine with refreshing, bright acidity and dry mineral background flavor. This rarity should rest for another year or two before it shows its best aspect.
Faustino V Reserva 2001 $21.99 Faustino is one of the iconic names in traditionally styled Rioja. Family run for four generations Faustino has a long history and well established reputation in the marketplace. Faustino V is a Reserva level wine composed of Tempranillo with a small amount of Mazuelo. The wine is aged for 16 months in American oak, with additional years of bottle age to soften the tannins and unify the flavors of fresh cherry and new oak. A bit of coffee bean flavor at the end indicates the maturity of this wine. Serve with a special meal focusing on Spanish flavors to experience this wine at its best.
Faustino VII Tinto 2004 $13.99 The young Faustino VII is essentially the same blend as the Faustino V, but with just ten months of barrel age. The wine is youthful and ripe, with firm tannins supporting ripe berry fruit character. This more assertive version of Faustino would be well suited to robust hearty meals featuring full-flavored meat dishes.
Vina Pomal Crianza 2003 $15.99 This new addition is also an old favorite, now in the latest vintage. This 100% Tempranillo wine spends ten months in oak before being bottled. Dark color and ripe berry aromas blend well with the oak character that never overwhelms the youthful style.
Flor de Pingus 2004 $58.00 Those of you with wine cellars will want to take note of this new arrival from D.O. Ribera del Duero. Peter Sisseck makes a mere 500 cases of the legendary (and quite expensive) Pingus. Fortunately he also makes 4000 cases of the more reasonably priced Flor de Pingus which The Wine Advocate just rated at 97 Points. Jay Miller recently reviewed the wine, saying “In the wonderful 2004 vintage, owner/winemaker Peter Sisseck has outdone himself. If I were just starting to build a wine collection and had limited income, I can think of no better foundation than a dozen bottles of 2004 Flor de Pingus. In the context of the world’s great wines, it is a stupendous value, a steal. It is 100% Tempranillo from very low yields and is aged 14 months in 100% new French barriques. Opaque purple in color, it emits already complex aromas of smoke, toast, coffee, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice. Lush on the palate, super ripe and sweet, as well as multi-dimensional, this great effort can be drunk now, but I’d opt for cellaring it for 6-8 years to allow further evolution.”
We have just three cases of this wine, so act fast to secure some for yourself.
Hacienda Monasterio 2003 $42.99 (we announced this wine two weeks ago, but in light of the Flor de Pingus release, and since we still have a bit left, the information bares repeating) Peter Sisseck of Pingus fame makes this dark and deeply flavorful D.O. Ribera del Duero wine. It is a perennial favorite that we receive limited quantities of once a year. We got just three cases of the 2003 vintage, which we do not expect to last long. Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave this wine 92 points, saying “Deep ruby. Explosive, sexy aromas of cherry, plum, incense, freshly ground coffee and succulent herbs. Focused and deep, with red and dark berry flavors complicated by candied violet, smoky bacon and cracked pepper. A ripe, weighty wine with a dense, chewy texture and compelling freshness, especially for the year. Finishes with a note of sweet cherry preserves, fine tannins and excellent length.”