Spanish Wine

Spanish Wine - Rioja & Bierzo

'Necessity is the mother of invention' and after failing to find a satisfactory 'house' wine for his restaurant in Bilbao, patrón Iñake Petralanda Uria Zearra established a winery in his wife's home town of Fuenmajor in 1983. Their principal production is Crianza, that is made from pure Tempranillo, vinified in stainless steel vats and matured for two years in American oak barrels before bottling. It has a wealth of dark cherry and vanilla scents and a juicy black fruit palate with toasty undertones. Unsurprisingly, it makes a terrific partner for spicy pork and poultry dishes. Iñake also makes an excellent 'Gran Reserva', also from straight Tempranillo, that has a three year élevage in oak followed by five years aging in bottle before release. With a complex coffee bean and black berry bouquet and a core of stewed autumnal fruit supported by supple tannins, it drinks beautifully from release and will cellar well for a decade.

The Northern Rhône's indefatigable Graillot family are forever taking on new vinous challenges with ventures in Australia, Italy and Morocco amongst others. Their latest oversees escapade has been in Spain where second son Antoine Graillot has collaborated with renowned wine-maker Raúl Pérez to produce a 'Bierzo' from pure, de-stemmed Mencia grown on clay and schist soils. The inaugural 2016 vintage has already attracted considerable press attention with Thomas Matthews contributing this tasting note to the Wine Spectator: "Sanguine, tarry and gamy notes give this firm red a slightly sauvage character, shadowing red plum, licorice and forest floor flavors. Shows character, with firm tannins and racy acidity."

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  1. Rioja: Marqués de Zearra Gran Reserva 2009
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  2. Rioja: Marqués de Zearra Crianza 2014
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  3. Bierzo: Antoine Graillot & Raúl Pérez 'Encinas' 2016
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Quick and Easy Guide to Rioja wine

Know your Bodega from your Bo Diddley with our latest regional guide.

Bordered by the Sierra Cantabria in the north and Sierra de Cameros in the South, the fertile Ebro river valley is a haven for the cultivation of artichokes, peppers, asparagus, olives and, above all, wine. Despite its large size and differing terroirs, the region is covered by only one denomination and bodegas have tended to blend different parcels of vines to create a 'house style'. The key classification for Rioja is the amount of time the wine is aged in oak barrels and then in bottle – 1 year in cask, 1 in bottle for Crianza; 1 plus 2 for Reserva; 2 plus 3 for Gran Reserva. Having made a first-rate effort to shoot themselves in both feet by over-production in the 1970s, followed by over extraction and over-oaking in the 1990s, the bodegas of Rioja are seeing a real renaissance driven by a succession of good vintages and a focus on quality for wines that are of intrinsically outstanding value. 95% of production is red and this is yet another region where the UK is the largest export market – salud!

Area Under Vine:
62,000 hectares, a tad smaller than the Rhône valley.

Key Areas DOCs:
There is only one, although it's divided into three areas Alta, Baja and Alavesa (across the Rioja Ebro in Basque country). Historically, the best wines came from Rioja Alta, although the boundaries have been blurred by the more recent efforts of, for example, Alvaro Palacios in the Baja.

Principal grapes:
Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura (for white).

Notable domaines:
Lopez de Heredia, Muga, La Rioja Alta, CUNE.

Local delicacies:
Caparrones (red kidney bean & chorizo stew), chipirones (fried baby squid), embuchados (fried lamb's intestines), guisante de lagrima (seasonal petit pois)

Restaurants we like:
Asado Terete (Haro), Restaurante Alameda (Fuenmayor).

Famous people from the region:
First poet of Castilian literature Gonzalo de Berceo, engineer and eight-time Prime Minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, brothers Fausto and Juan José Elhuyar - discoverers of the chemical element Tungsten.

Things to do:
Visit the museum of wine culture in the pretty medieval town of Briones; marvel at the stunning bodega architecture of Frank Gehry (Marques de Riscal), Zaha Hadid (Lopez de Heredia) and Santiago Calatrava (Ysios); spend an evening on the 'trail of the elephants' munching delicious pinchos in the specialist bars of the Calle La Laurel in Logrono; get all 'Jurassic Park' checking out over 1,000 dinosaur footprints and the Paleontological Centre near Enciso. Discover the origins of the Castilian language in the Monasterio of Yuso in San Millan de la Cogolla.