Category Archives: Spanish wine

Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV


casteller cavaSomehow, despite the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and several reviews of the Casteller rose cava, I have neglected to review the Casteller brut. What better time time to rectify this than for Thanksgiving?

The Casteller cava ($10, purchased, 11.5%) does everything sparkling wine is supposed to do, regardless of price. It has tight bubbles that sparkle up from the bottom of the glass; a vague notion of the toast that is part of Champagne’s appeal; and crisp, fresh, sweet lemon fruit. In this, it’s not exactly soft like some Proseccos or sweet sparklers, but more fruit forward, and certainly not unpleasant.

And, for your $10, you can buy four bottles the Casteller cava instead of one bottle of very ordinary Champagne. Highly recommended, and almost certain to enter the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame in six weeks. Chill this and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner, on its own, or any time you feel like something bubbly. Which, as regular visitors here know, is any time at all.

Four wines for International Tempranillo Day


International Tempranillo DayToday is the fifth annual International Tempranillo Day, in which those of us who appreciate value and quality tip our hats towards Spain’s signature grape — even when the wine isn’t from Spain. How wonderful is tempranillo? This year, the wine that the students in my El Centro class have enjoyed the most was a tempranillo from Spain’s Ribero del Deuro, and they’re a tough audience.

Tempranillo, and especially from Spain, is food friendly, terrific for Thanksgiving, and something that I drink almost as often as I drink rose. It’s one more example why the best wine values in the world come from Spain. This year, four wines for International Tempranillo Day:

• El Coto Rioja Crianza 2010 ($10, sample, 13%): This Spanish red, from the Rioja region, is always well done, always more traditional (brighter acid and cherry fruit), and always with just enough oak to round out the wine. And the stag label isn’t bad, either.

C.V.N.E. Rioja Cune Crianza 2010 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Sophisticated crianza (the first of three quality levels of Rioja) that is more complex than its $10 cousins, with deeper and richer cherry fruit, more layered oak, and a fuller, more complete finish. Highly recommended and worth the extra money.

Llano Estacado Harvest Tempranillo 2014 ($18, sample, 12.8%): This is a beautiful wine, rounder than a Rioja, with less obvious red fruit and that speaks to Texas’ terroir. I was one of the doubters when Texas producers started making tempranillo, and I’m happy to say I was wrong. Highly recommended and one of the highlights of my American Wine Society presentation, though availability will be limited outside of Texas.

Emilio Moro 2011 ($20, sample. 14.5%): The wine that wowed those hard-nosed students, showing what Ribero can do when its producers want to make great wine and not just get a 98. The Moro is fruitier (black instead of red), with more oak, and less tart than a Rioja, but the alcohol doesn’t get in the way. Highly recommended.

For more on tempranillo:
12 wines for International Tempranillo Day
Wine of the week: Barao de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

Wine of the week: Beronia Rioja Crianza 2011


Beronia Rioja crianzaIf Spanish wine is the best value in the world, Rioja crianza may be the best value in Spanish red wine. Every once in a while I’ll run into a clunker, but almost all deliver stunning quality and cost $10, or not much more. The Beronia Rioja crianza ($11, sample, 13.5%) is no exception.

Wine terms first: Rioja, in northern Spain, is the country’s best-known wine region, and where tempranillo is used to make the wine. Crianza is one of three levels of Rioja, followed by reserva and gran reserva (and there is also, thanks to the EU, a fourth style wine simply called tempranillo). Each level requires a specific amount of oak and bottle aging; for crianza, it’s a year oak and at least a couple of months in the bottle. That’s why it’s the least expensive of the three.

The Beronia isn’t quite as traditional as some — the Ramon Bilboa crianza, for one, also a steal at $12 — and shows a more modern approach. That means softer and more approachable cherry fruit, and a little less zingy feel in the mouth. But there is still enough acidity to be Rioja, and enough earthiness to speak to the region’s terroir.

Pair this with most meat or poultry, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well it goes with grilled shrimp with a paprika edge.

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