Friday, November 13, 2015

Insights from Spain: 3 new grape varieties to know and love

A few days ago I attended a Spanish wine seminar led by Karen MacNeil (author of The Wine Bible), David Keck (Certified Advanced Sommelier and proprietor of Houston’s highly regarded wine bar Camerata), and Mark Rashap (a Certified Wine Educator and host of the “Another Bottle Down” radio show).  The seminar was educational and delicious, but the most exciting part was learning about up-and-coming Spanish wine regions and grape varieties.  Because they come from little-known regions and grape varieties, most of these wines are a good value.  Keep your Spanish Wine Cheat Sheet handy to locate these regions.

Hondarrabi Zuri from Txakoli (pronounced “Chacoli”)
The Txakoli region in northern Spain has been growing in popularity for several years and encompasses 3 DOs (Denominacion de Origen, the name for an official Spanish wine region).  The region produces light, white wines from the Hondarrabi Zuri grape.  Typically these wines have citrus and mineral characteristics, an impression of salinity (though no actual salt), and high acidity.  We tasted Bengoetxe Txakolina 2014 from DO Txakoli de Getaria, which retails for around $19.  

Godello from Bierzo
Godello is a white grape that produces wines with citrus and stone fruit character and some floral influences.  In Bierzo its fruitiness is often balanced by aging on the lees, giving the wine a pleasant smoothness and roundness on the palate.  Because it has thick skins, Godello can give a slight impression of tannin even in a white wine.  As the panelists pointed out, the resulting hint of bitterness is not unpleasant, but more like you’d experience from a good orange marmalade.  We tasted Abad Dom Bueno Godello, Joven 2014, which retails for about $17.

Mencia from Bierzo
Mencia is a red grape which produces wines that Karen MacNeil described as “a lot of frame on a small picture.”  I love this metaphor.  She means that the wines have lots of structure – acid and tannin – but more restrained fruit flavors.  In fact, Mencia’s youthful flavors have a tendency to mimic those of an older wine – leather, earth, savory/gamey notes.  The structure helps these wines to age well. This grape might be compared to a lighter-bodied but powerful Syrah.  We tasted Pago de Valdoneje Vinas Viejas 2014.

I can’t tell you where in Houston to purchase the exact wines we tasted.  But I can tell you that wines made from these grapes are available at the places you’d expect (Houston Wine Merchant, Spec’s, etc.) and I plan to drink more of them!


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