Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Spanish Wines Offer Low Price for Top Quality
It is no secret that every vintner in the world would like to have as big a piece of the Florida market as possible, since Florida is now the undisputed second largest wine consuming state in the nation (second only to California). It is also no surprise that with its large Hispanic population, densely crowded South Florida has become a Mecca for those in the business of selling wines produced in Hispanic countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Lately it seems that almost every week we have attended a wine tasting or show featuring scores of imports from Spanish speaking nations. And while we occasionally discovered some excellent wines from Argentina and Chile (not, unfortunately, from Uruguay), for consistency, quality, and good value we will want to search out the wines of the oldest of the Hispanic wine producing countries – Spain. We urge you to do the same, for the quality to value ratio is extraordinarily high.
Today we will discuss a few of the limited production, estate bottled wines being sold by one particular importer, Boca Wine Imports, Inc., which, though relatively new to the business as a company, is owned and operated by individuals whose wine knowledge and experience cannot be questioned. We choose this line of wines primarily because each has a special something that attracts us, while the prices are comparatively gentle.
The top of the line here is no doubt the 2001 Vitis Terrarum, which is both the name of the bodega (the winery) that produces this wine, and the wine itself. Vitis Terrarum is from Tierra de Castilla, located in the La Mancha region, and is comprised of 100% Tempranillo, Spain’s most famous and, perhaps, most elegant, grape variety. Unique in the winemaking here is the decision to remove the central stem (raspon) from the bunch of grapes, causing only minimal amounts of breakage to the skin of each grape. No pressing occurs so that the harsh tannins in the seeds are avoided, and the wine undergoes no filtering or stabilization. Maceration takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel before the wine is aged for a year in the highest quality French oak and then aged another year in bottle. The results produce a luscious wine of enormous mid palate, but with a smoothness that lingers for quite a while. Though at first blush a bit pricey at about $75, it easily rivals many big reds that are on the market at a much higher cost.
Dating back to the 17 th Century, Cavas Hill Bodega, situated in the rich vineyards of the Penedes region, has a long history of innovation. Available for our tasting were two wines of distinction. We began with the “methode champenois” produced sparkling wine (known today as “Cava”) called Reserva Oro Seco ($11), a non vintage blanc de blanc made of Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel.lo grapes, yielding a crisp, dry bubbly that is pleasant from nose to finish and would be a perfect base for holiday sangria. The patriarch of the Hill wines is the 1998 Gran Reserva Hill, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Syrah at about $26. A big, dark mouth coater with lots of black fruit, it will easily accompany Spanish and Cuban style meat preparations or you can sip it very nicely on its own.
Last year the Wine Spectator awarded the 2000 Vina Mambrilla (the Bodega) Ribera del Duero (the region) “Alidas” (the wine) Crianza an 89, and, in our judgment, that might be low. This classy Tempranillo (the grape) with black pepper on the nose, cassis and blackberries in the mouth and a lovely, soft finish, brings to mind game and grilled meats. At $22 it is almost a steal. The 1999 is also on the market at about the same price. It, too, is quite good, but does not exhibit the depth of the 2000. For $15, Vina Mambrilla offers another Tempranillo, its 2001 Ribera del Duero “Alidas” Tinto Roble, a lighter alternative made for immediate consumption.
Billing itself as the “future of La Mancha,” Bodega Munoz proudly announces its goal to produce wines for those who buy value-oriented products for frequent use. The Bodega stresses that they are very hands on, choose their fruit from excellent vines, and produce wines with little, if any, wood that are “ready to go” on release. Actually, the wines are quite incredible for their price. The first four staples below retail for only about $10, while the Finca Munoz Reserva commands about $15.
2001 Legado Garnacha: Bright red 100% Grenache with hints of coffee, coconut, and nutmeg. This smooth and somewhat silky wine goes with almost any fowl or light roasted meats. Interestingly, the juice sees 3 months of American oak.
2002 and 2003 Legado Cabernet Sauvignon: No oak at all touches these wines (consistent vintage to vintage) that features black fruit and a bit of spice.
2002 Legado Merlot: Berries and flowers define this light, but surprisingly full bodied bottle. Suggested for cheeses and simple meat dishes. Again, no oak.
2001 Finca Munoz Reserva de la Familia: Aged 6 months in American oak, this 100% Tempranillo exhibits a good fruit to oak ratio, and offers hints of blackberry, mint, and eucalyptus. A nice buy, it will go well with sauces, such as BBQ or marinara.
We saved our particular favorite find for last. It probably qualifies as our favorite here because Europeans (including the Spanish) tend to view white grapes as a distant cousin to what they consider the all-important reds. We, on the other hand, are like many Americans who prefer a white to begin an evening, whether we enjoy it pre dinner or with our appetizers. Thus, when we find a good white from Europe, we are likely to sing its praises.
Bodega Pazo Pondal makes such a wine with its 100% 2002 Albarino from the Rias Baixas region in the northwest of Spain ($20). We are far from those who search for “anything but Chardonnay,” as we love that grape, but it is nice to have some up and coming other white varietals with distinctive characteristics to choose from as well. This particular bottle of Albarino is best served chilled so that the acidity and fruit are in their best balance. The wine exhibits a creamy full mouth and lovely balance of rich stone fruits (apricots and peaches) which are kept clean and fresh with a lemony citrus finish. A perfect match for seafood and tapas.
We began this article by reflecting on the many wines from Hispanic countries that are pervasive in the highly Hispanic area of South Florida. Yet we don’t want to minimize the impact these wonderful wines and their marvelous prices are having on a nationwide basis. Our recent travels to Hilton Head Island, New York, and Vancouver make it quite obvious that astute restaurateurs are studying these wines, liking what they taste, and including them on their menus. We think this is a trend that is just beginning.
For more information on the wines mentioned in this article, about Boca Wine Imports, or even as to potential distribution in states other than Florida, contact COO Humberto Ruiz, President Onelia Ruiz, or National Sales Manager Hermes Ortiz at 1101 Holland Dr. , Bay 7, Boca Raton, FL, 33487. Phone: 561-988-1193.
Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.