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Wine Review: Uncovering the mystery of Spanish wines

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Spanish wines are a riddle, a puzzle and a huge question mark.

For over a century, the wine industry has known that Spain should be a top producer of wines, but unfortunately, the country has never lived up to its potential. It is only in recent times that Spanish wines have emerged from the shadows and gained the recognition they richly deserve.

With Spain’s strong Catholic traditions, wine has played an important role in residents’ religious and social lives. In earlier times, Spanish wines were mostly consumed locally or exported to other Spanish-speaking countries. It was good wine, made from native grapes that pleased the Spanish palate and well accompanied the country’s foods.

1863 was the magic year when Spanish wines should have exploded onto the world’s stage. That year began the “great blight” in France, a time when French vineyards were almost driven to extinction by a small bug, the phylloxera, that was devastating their vines with no cure available at the time.

Many French winemakers and grape growers headed south, to Spain, where they taught Spanish producers their techniques. Unfortunately, the wines they made there never lived up to the quality of their former home.

There are many reasons why the wines did not contain the same quality, but probably the best guess is French producer could not handle the native grapes in the same manner they had with French grapes. The solution to their problem came from California. The state’s expertise in farming at warmer temperatures while still producing good wine grapes was the key. This, added to all of the modern methods of wine-making techniques, did the trick.

Here are a couple Spanish wines of recent times that are worth a try.

Bodegas Castillo De MonJardin 2017 El Cerezo Pinot Noir ($12)
To some, this wine’s very affordable price tag might dissuade them from trying it because they believe it’s a cheap knockoff of the variety. Affordable, yes, but cheap, a great big no. The pinot noir grape is notoriously hard to deal with and also can turn on the winemaker at any time during the process. This wine offers everything that makes for a better pinot noir: an inviting ruby color, a firm body, a captivating aroma, a positive and definable flavor and a long, enduring finish, all wrapped in a smooth, velvet-like robe. The aroma displays fig, cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. The flavor is about as classical as it can get, with black cherry, caramel, spice and a subtle hint of truffles. All of these carry over to the finish, where they linger on the palate for a long time. This wine proves pino noirs can be made in Spain and sell at an affordable price, too.

Bodegas Inurrieta Mimao 2016 Garnacha ($12)
The Bodegas Inurrieta winemakers have learned how to temper the garnacha’s tendency to also go off on its own and sometimes detrimental path, which was probably the basic problem with many of the Spanish wines of old. Wine made from the garnacha grape or, as it is called in France and California, grenache, produces wines with high concentrations of fruit, tannin and acids. The Bodegas Inurrieta Mimao 2016 Garnacha has been made from a variety which most often appears as a rose, but in this case, as a well-aged red wine. The aroma features strawberry and raspberry, with hints of citrus rind, and a suggestion of cranberry, cinnamon and white pepper continue on to the flavor and finish.

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

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