Consumers are just starting to catch on to Spanish wines and the timing couldn’t be better. The country is producing some exciting wines and the quality is improved as winemakers concentrate on viticulture and winemaking techniques.

We recently met up with Fabian Olaiz, export manager for Prado Rey, who feels that Spanish winemakers need to concentrate on growing grapes that are a part of their heritage, rather than replanting vineyards with non-indigenous but popular grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot. We couldn’t agree more.

Americans might not have heard of grape varieties like viura and tinta fina, but they are among the intriguing varieties that define Spanish wines. Why would consumers go to Spain — or Italy for that matter — to find another chardonnay or merlot? Spain’s albarinos from Galicia and the tempranillos from Rioja offer unique character and beautiful flavors to match the foods of the region.

Prado Rey grows grapes on its enormous estate in Ribera del Duero, one of the two most widely known wine regions of Spain. Once a 16th-century farm for Royal families, the 7,412-acre property is now used for dairy cows, sheep and various crops. There is a lot to like in these wines — our favorite white was a very aromatic Birlocho, which we bought by the case. Please do yourself a favor and make this a must-try this spring. It’s one of the best white wines we have tasted this spring.

Here are our recommendations:

Prado Rey Birlocho 2008 ($10). A blend of viura and verdejo grapes, the Birlocho has incredible aromatics, good acidity and bright citrus flavors. It could be our “go-to” party wine this summer. A very special wine for those looking for something different.

Prado ReyVerdejo 2008 ($11). Grapefruit and pineapple notes with a nice mineral thread. Very refreshing and round in the mouth.

Prado Rey Rosado 2008 ($13). What makes this ros?tand out from most others is that it is barrel fermented. That gives the wine more complexity — unusual for ros?Strawberry aromas with luscious berry flavors and long finish.

Prado Rey Reserva 2005 ($14). A blend of tinta fina (another name for tempranillo), cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this wine gives up a lot of fruit for the money. Rich cherry flavors, some allspice and good tannin.

Prado Rey Elite 2005 ($35). The grapes made from a special clone are fermented in stainless steel vats, then sent to European oak barrels for 14 months, French vats for another 6 months, then aged in the bottle for 10 months. Only then can you buy it — the wine is worth the wait. Expressive aromatics of ripe dark berry fruit, complex blackberry and cherry flavors with silky tannins and a lingering finish.

OTHER SPANISH WINES

Los 800 Priorat 2005 ($23). Located within driving distance to Barcelona, Priorato is one of the smaller growing regions in Spain, yet produces some of the most extraordinarily dense wines. Discovered at Bin 201 in the Annapolis Parole Towne Centre, this wine is a blend of grenacha (50 percent), carignan, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. Dark berry fruit, spice and jammy strawberries dominate the flavors.

Atteca Old Vines Garnacha 2008 ($18). We loved this delicious grenache from Spain. Lots of blackberry flavors with a touch of coffee. Made from vines planted at the turn of the 19th century and located 3,000 feet above sea level. Great stuff.

Red Guitar Tempranillo Garnacha Navarra Spain 2007 ($11). A blend of 55 percent tempranillo and 45 percent garnacha, this wine exhibits a very nice fruity nose with a hint of cinnamon. The garnacha really comes through by offering a wonderful mouth-filling cherry, berry fruity expression. The tempranillo offers backbone. This wine tastes way above its price tag and is a real winner for the upcoming summertime grilling season.

Legaris Crianza 2005 ($27). From the Ribera del Duero region, this tinto fino wine is characteristic of the region. Lots of blackberry and plum flavors with a healthy dose of oak.

Scala dei Prior Priorat 2004 ($27). Jammy strawberry and dark berry flavors dominate this easy-to-drink wine from one of Spain’s top wine-growing regions. A blend of garnacha (50 percent), cabernet sauvignon and syrah, it has a nice violet, earthy nose.

 

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have visited vineyards all over the world and have been writing a newspaper wine column for more than 20 years. Contact them at:

tmarquardt@capitalgazette.com

 

– Relishmag.com