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Wine Review: Spanish wines growing in popularity

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I was recently fortunate enough to sample some Spanish wines from the Beronia winery.

As you probably know, there are glasses that have been designed to be used with specific wines. There are glasses designed for pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and every other wine grape variety in existence, including Missouri’s own Norton. Whether the specialization in wine glasses is called for, or not, is up to you, but it is common for wineries to use glasses specific to a variety when showing off their wines. However, not the Spanish.

In Spain, it is common and great entertainment for tourists to drink their wine out of a bota bag. Sounds strange, but it gets even stranger. The leather bota bag is held at arm's length, high above the head, and the wine runs out of the bota bag and into the mouth. The Spanish have developed the manual dexterity to achieve this goal with little effort; however, when I was asked to try it, more wine went into my eye and down my shirt than went into my mouth. I believe that my Austrian-Polish ancestry did not endow me the required dexterity or the aim achieved by the Spanish.

While my aim might have been off, the wines that I sampled certainly were not. Spanish wines have come a very long way in recent years. In the past, it was their low price and often unfamiliar grape varieties that made wine buyers a bit reluctant to spend their money on an unknown wine with a strange name. Today, the positions have been reversed. Spanish wines, being of excellent quality and affordable price, are considerably more attractive to wine drinkers.

Beronia 2019 Crianza ($15)
This wine is the perfect ambassador for Spanish wines. Made from the very popular Spanish grape blend of 95% tempranillo, 4% garnacha and 1% mazuelo, this product is sourced from the Rioja grape-growing district in the north-central part of Spain, an area that has gained fame for the quality of its grapes. This wine also is an excellent ambassador for Rioja red wines. It displays a deep, almost black, ruby color, the aromas of blackberries, blueberries and just a suggestion of pepper, as well as vanilla, oak and spice in the background. This is a fruity wine that could be your introduction to or reacquaintance with the red wines of Spain's Rioja district.

Beronia 2015 Tempranillo Gran Reserva ($30)
In years when grapes have good color and high acid and tannin levels, factors that make the wine from them suitable for long aging, the winemakers at Beronia consider making a “gran reserva” – the Spanish label for wines aged at least five years. Even before they start, the winemakers know that the wine will spend 28 months in mixed French and American oak barrels and then will receive an additional 36 months resting in the bottle to further age and mature. It is difficult to realize the incredible and costly journey that this can be. What results from all of this care is a soft, smooth and regal wine that almost defies description. The color is dark, and the aroma is a potpourri of stewed fruit. This wine is more of an experience than a beverage and a very pleasant experience at that.

Beronia 2018 Reserva ($25)
This is not a lesser wine than Beronia’s Gran Reserva, but rather it’s similar grapes that have been given a shorter aging period of 18 months in the same mixed-barrel process and a shorter bottle age of 18 months. What results is a wine that exhibits all the flavor and aroma of a gran reserva but without the incredible softness that is achieved by the extra aging. I am not indicating that the wine is sharp or heavy in tannins – it is not. To characterize this wine, I would compare it with an average-priced cabernet sauvignon. An enjoyable experiment would be to get both a reserva and gran reserva and experience for yourself what aging does for a wine.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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