Of Spanish Wines and Soccer Championships

Those of you who have followed Señorita Vino for a while know that she is an avid fan of fútbol, or soccer, as it’s known this side of the Atlantic (and the Rio Grande). In case you  were too busy watching NASCAR, last Sunday Spain secured its spot as a world class fútbol nation by slaughtering Italy 4-0 and winning the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, known as Euro 2012. This of course follows their 2010 World Cup championship and their previous UEFA Euro victory in 2008.

“No hay 2 sin 3!

In honor of España’s recent triumph on the soccer field, it’s my pleasure to wax poetic about one of the Iberian nation’s top wine producing regions, Rioja. I attended a trade tasting of Rioja wines a couple of months ago, and these are some of the highlights. So sit back, pour yourself a glass of Tempranillo and read on…

Wines from Spain’s Rioja region.

The Rioja region is located in north central Spain and lies between mountain ranges. The river Ebro runs through it, resulting in fertile soil on its banks. Divided into three sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa, the diversity of the terrain and climate makes the region ideal for growing the versatile Tempranillo grape.

Tempranillo is the signature grape of the Rioja region.

Soils in the Rioja region are of three distinct types–chalky clay, alluvial (clay or silt carried by rivers and streams), or ferrous clay. ‘Ferrous’ comes from the Latin word for iron, and these soils are distinctive because of their reddish color from the high iron content. So why am I talking about dirt, when you came here to read about wine? Because the earth in which grapes are grown will have some influence on the flavor and style of the wine. This is one aspect of terroir, a word that comes from the French and is used in the wine world to describe the sense of place that typifies a wine. Climate, geology and farming techniques all play a role in the evolution of a wine.

Lovely Rioja (image courtesy of Vibrant Rioja)

One way you can identify a wine made from grapes grown in ferrous soil is a subtle metallic taste, not unlike the taste you get when you accidentally bite the inside of your cheek and taste a bit of blood. If I had one of those uber-cool product placement jobs, I would score points with wine geeks for placing a few bottles of Rioja in a future “Twilight” flick, maybe in a scene where Bella goes out for a drink with the girls after  finally leaving pasty, high-maintenance Edward and his erratic mood swings.

This is *not* a Spanish wine, but I thought the picture went well with the preceding sentence about moody vampires and girls’ night out. If you’re offended by profanity, just cover your eyes.

Although Rioja is best known for red wines made primarily from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graziano and Mazuelo grapes, there’s a little something for white wine lovers, as well. White grapes grown in Rioja include Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca and Tempranillo Blanca. Now comes the timeless question, which foods go with wines from Rioja?

Hard cheese and charcuterie are a fine match for wines from the Rioja region.

My personal favorite is cheese and charcuterie. But Rioja wines pair beautifully with foods that won’t overwhelm their delicate flavors. More youthful Rioja wines, or those with the label “Crianza” or “Cosecha,” will complement a turkey dinner, pasta or roasted fish. Barrel fermented white Riojas pair well with fish, shellfish and salads. If you’re looking for something a little more robust in terms of wine and food, go with an older Rioja (look for “Reserva” or “Gran Reserva”), which will be an elegant fit for lamb, risotto, beef stews or game.

Spanish wines are an excellent value, so stock up!

And speaking of game, that brings us back to where we started, and that was Spain’s glorious Euro 2012 victory. You’ll feel victorious yourself when you pick up a bottle or two of  Spanish wine. If you remember anything at all from today’s post, it’s this: Spanish wines are an excellent value, and you won’t go broke adding a few bottles to your wine collection. You can get a quality bottle of Tempranillo for as little as $7 or $8. Of course, there are high-priced Spanish wines out there, and you trust fund babies may need to stock up.

So this weekend, my darlings, make it a point to raise a glass to España for its prowess on the pitch–and in the vineyard. ¡Salud!

8 thoughts on “Of Spanish Wines and Soccer Championships

  1. I have always thought that Spanish wine is underrated in the US. Thank you for making their case in this great post!

    1. I totally agree. It seems Spanish wines are finally getting the attention they deserve in the U.S. More people are discovering that you really do get some outstanding wine for a low price point. Cheers!

  2. I love Riojoas. In fact, next to Malbec, it’s one of my top Latin wines. So much to know about it. Never noticed that metallic flavor or taste! Will be swishing around next time to see if I can detect it!

  3. I was recently at BevMo (a beverage store in CA) and I was floored by the amount of wines they carried! I did see A LOT of wines from Spain and I had no idea they even made wine. Yes, totally living under a rock. Thanks for the background.

  4. I was recently at BevMo (a beverage company in CA) and I was floored by the amount of wines from Spain that they had in stock. Had no idea they were so popular. Apparently I’ve been living under a rock. Thank you for keeping me updated so I know enough to get me through a dinner date.

    1. My pleasure, Pattie! I’m glad you found the post useful and I’d love to hear your thoughts about Spanish wine once you’ve had a chance to try some. ¡Salud!

  5. Very beautiful, awesome and lovely photos. Spanish wines are the best and always mouthwatering.

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