Cava is always a bargain, but the elegant, lemony and slightly yeasty Anna de Cordoniu Cava Brut nv $15 is especially a good deal. Ideal for showcasing delicate seafood and shellfish dishes, it also has the texture to match silky carpaccio.
The slightly more esoteric Castell D’Or Flama D’Or Cava Brut nv $16 is creamy and tarry with notes of bosc pear, lemon curd and grilled pineapple. The first is a blend of 70% Chradonnay with 30% Parellada, while the second is all native – a blend of 30% Xarello (say “Charello’), 50% Macabeu, and 20% Parellada.
Though 2012 was unusually dry, vineyards near the Atlantic, older vineyards, and irrigated vineyards fared well. The 2012 Palacio de Fefinanes Albarino Rias Baixas $26 consistently ranks as one of the area’s top producers – there are close to 200. It offers fresh, briney notes as well as keen Riesling-like minerality, peach, apricot, and melon. It is bone dry and much creamier – less nerdy you could say – than Riesling. The estate, located inside a baronial palace on the coast of the Atlantic in Cambados, was the first to produce a wine under the DO Rias Baixas and has remained true to its terroir despite the recent trend to increase alcohol and ramp up barrel use.
From Rioja, the 2012 El Coto Rioja Rosado $11, a 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, is unusually minerally, almost sanguine-like, along with the expected notes of ripe cherry, fresh strawberry, and lemon peel. This rosé has enough depth to pair well with richer fall fare.rom the Martinez family, owners of Bodegas Faustino in Rioja which is very traditional in style comes this more modern, ripe, deep and more intense 2012 Ebeia de Bodegas Portia Ribera del Duero $18. It still maintains a foothold in tradition however, with its rather light body (13%) and notes of Fernet Branca, Red Vines, white mushroom, and salami.
Esoteric regions and grapes continue to create buzz locally and abroad. Katrin Naelapaa, Director of Wines from Spain, comments, “Spanish wine exports are doing very well, particularly to US. There are a lot of new varietally designated wines from regions permitting varietal labeling which is helping boost interest in Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albariño and Verdejo as well as the more obscure grapes like Mencia, Carinena, Godello, and Bobal. There is a lot of rediscovery of near forgotten varietals, recovery of old vineyards and return to some traditional practices. Quality at affordable price points seems to be more evident than ever.”
The 2011 A Portela Mencia CVA Valdeorras $14.99 (say “men thee a”) from this “valley of gold” in inland Galicia is unusually floral and minerally, with luscious blueberry and cherry fruit and not a drop of oak. This is a gem for BTG programs. The 2011 Tierras Guindas Verdejo Rueda $11 is another standout from this vintage, with fresh cut grass notes bringing a refreshing counterpoint to melon and peach fruit. I fell in love with the dry, crisp, austere 2011 Bodegas Franco-Espanolas “Royal” Rioja Blanco $14 immediately, with its clean, lemony, chalky, and quinine notes and alcohol of only 12%.
These non-conforming or “rebellious” wines are neither traditional nor modern. The 2010 Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Zaco Rioja $15 is 100% Tempranillo, and is soft in texture, deeply fruity and not oaky. From their “Varietales” collection which serves to showcase indigenous grapes of the area, the 2010 Baron de Ley Maturana Rioja $24, a 100% Maturana, is ripe with deep, smoky red and black fruits, a subtle earthiness, and a soft vanilla bean note.
These wines are delicious, user-friendly, easy to find, and are perfect for entertaining this month. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.