by Alex Lopez
It’s springtime in South Carolina!
The sun is staying up longer and the weather is getting warmer. So it’s time to start enjoying some wines. To celebrate the season, let’s do a quick primer on some wines from a country where sunshine is part of the culture; Spain.
A nice chilled bottle of sparkling wine is the best way to ease into spring. When looking for affordable sparkling, I’m always a fan of Cava. Cava is the traditional-method sparkling wine that is produced in Spain. Cava can be produced in seven autonomous regions of Spain: Catalonia, La Rioja, Valencia, Aragon, Navarra, Extremadura, and the Basque Country. 95% of Cava production comes from Catalonia.
In the province of Galicia on the Atlantic Coast is the wine region of Rias Baixas. Here we see the production of a favorite variety of springtime white wine. Albarino is the grape that is most commonly associated with this region. This is a crisp white wine with extraordinary floral aromatics and flavors of grapefruit, apricot, and peach. There are several subregions of Rias Baixas that each contribute different styles of terroir to the wines. These regions are Val do Salnes, Condado do Tea, O Rosal, Soutomaior, and Ribeira do Ulla.
There are many regions in Spain that produce rose wine, however there is one region that is almost exclusively dedicated to rose production in Spain. Located along the banks of Pisuerga River in the Castilla y Leon of central Spain, DO Cigales is Spain’s largest producer of rose (rosado) wine. In Cigales, along with most of the region that surrounds, the grape of choice is Spain’s most famous red grape Tempranillo (in this region called Tinta del Pais). Rose wines here are produced using mainly using the clarete method where Tempranillo is blended with wine made from the white grape Verdejo.
There are plenty of easily approachable red wines from Spain, but when it comes to light bodied red wines one of the regions I love exploring is DO Utiel-Requena. Inland from the Mediterranean coastline and the city of Valencia, Utiel-Requena produces a grape called Bobal. A grape with an indigenous history of nearly 2000 years, Bobal produces a super refreshing wine with subtle tannins and bright acidity along the lines of Pinot Noir.
In Spain you can find one of the greatest styles of fortified wine. In the American mindset, mentioning Sherry usually brings up connotations of sweet wines. This conception has often arisen through exposure to Cream Sherry. In reality, sherry can be a dry, medium, or sweet fortified wine. For springtime, dry sherry is my favorite style to explore.
Produced using the Palomino grape, sherry receives its flavor through aging in a variety of oak barrels in a process known as the solera. There are two ways to produce dry sherry: biological or oxidative aging. In biological aging, which produces what is called fino sherry, a mat of yeast grows on top of aging wine in barrels. This flor yeast consumes excess alcohol and oxygen, and in turn creates complexity in the aging wines. Fino sherry has light flavors of almonds, and, depending on the city where the wine is aged, noticeable flavors of salinity. In oxidative aging, no flor exists, allowing oxygen to impact the aging of the wine. Oxidative sherry produces flavors of walnut and caramel.
Photos provided by Tasting Room and Eagle Mountain Winery
We first noticed Alex Lopez on IG through his entertaining and educational posts about wine. (You can see them and follow along at Drinks With Alex Lopez.)
We are fortunate to have a unique wine offering in Travelers Rest at The Tasting Room, as well as the new Eagle Mountain Vineyards & Winery out on Highway 11 and if you head out to nearby Marietta you can enjoy Kennington Family Winery. You can find all of these in our Town Guide.
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