Reflections of Spain

by Tim Elliott on July 4, 2007

Nine days ago I arrived in Bilbao, Spain and immediately took a taxi to a great restaurant in the Guggenheim Museum. What followed was a rapid wine tour of Spain as the guest of Grupo Osborne then concluding with 3 days in Catalona with Gabrella and Ryan of Catavino. Before I begin my detailed coverage of this trip, I thought I would first post some impressions.

Me with some old vine Carignan in MontsantIn just over a week I toured five D.O.’s in Spain and tasted wines from ten D.O.’s. My overall impression is that some of the world’s finest wines are made within one of the most diverse terroir for wine grapes. Starting with the cool climate of Rioja Alta where Tempranillo struggles to ripen to the scorching hillsides of Priorat where winemakers are challenged to maintain reasonable levels of alcohol, Spain provides the wine lover with nearly every style of wine. That’s probably why most wine stores there only stock Spanish wines with the occasional French or even California bottle a rarity.

But most American consumers don’t know about this diversity in wines from Spain which has created the false impression that the finest wines come from Rioja, only reds are worth seeking out and most everything else falls into the value tier from $20 and under. In the next week or so, I hope to dispel some of these myths as I return to my notes to post about each day and record four podcasts based upon my visit.

Photo by Ryan Opaz / Catavino

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    First, allow me to say welcome home to hopefully, a fun and fabulous day of grilling outside on the 4th. We loved having you with us and, as I am sure you are well aware, our terrace is always open to you.

    Second, I wanted to respond to a comment in your post that “Spain provides the wine lover with nearly every style of wine. That’s probably why most wine stores there only stock Spanish wines with the occasional French or even California bottle a rarity.” I couldn’t agree more, but not for the same reasons you hypothesized. I would argue that Spain has fierce regional pride, an idea extended in everything they do. Ask someone off the street if they’ve eaten Ethiopian food, drank Chilean wine or traveled outside of the peninsula, and the answer will generally be, “no”. Why? Because I don’t feel that tourism, as you experienced here, is valued yet, in either direction.

    And, as you so accurately mentioned in your article that “…most American consumers don’t know about this diversity in wines from Spain which has created the false impression that the finest wines only come from Rioja, only reds are worth seeking out and most everything else falls into the value tier from $20 and under”, has also profoundly influenced the Spanish market. Hence, I find that most Spanish shops will weigh their selection to Rioja, Ribera del Duero and red wines, while the other regional wines of Spain get the short end of the stick.

    This, I would argue, is just another example of regional pride. I agree with you that Spain is loaded with great wines covering a wide variety of styles, but I wonder if their lack of international wine selection is more out of the old world world mentality – an unconscious choice – to drink locally, rather than a conscious choice to celebrate their quality wines available right in their backyard.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Thanks for your insights into regional pride, Gabriella, and again for putting up with me for a few days.

    I really left Spain with more of an understanding about how great the wines are there but I see only a small fraction here in the stores. Yes, there are excellent values, but there are also superb wines that are worth seeking out in the $35-50 USD range. And don’t get me started on Sherry, which I went to Spain to learn more about and left with another wine style to love.

    Hope to be able to treat you and Ryan to similar hospitality on your next trip to the States.

    Cheers!

  • Pingback: Catavino - - Spanish Wine, Portuguese wine and more! » Blog Archive » Wine Blog Wednesday #35: Valued-Priced Spanish Wines

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