Made in the USA: Buy Imported, Get Dazzled I just read a fabulous quick hit on great wines from South America. I’m paraphrasing, but the guy writes that when people think “Imported Wine” places like Italy or France are top of mind.
Meanwhile, an equally adversarial Spain gets snubbed.
as Jerry Seinfield might have put it
“Whats the de-aaaal with that?”
You Had Me at Rio... ja?
From what I’ve researched, I have reached a conclusion: Marketing.
Spain doesn’t do nearly enough marketing. Fair enough, right? People don’t know you have a great product, so they go buy the wines they know.
Here’s where it gets a little bit crazy: Spanish wine is an insane commodity.
In fact, if you have ever enjoyed a glass of wine, you’ve probably already had Spanish wine and loved it, and had absolutely no idea that’s what you were drinking.
Apparently, Similarly to olive oil, Spain will export its fermented grape juice over to Italy and France, where Italians and Frenchies are happy to take all the credit, touting the wines as their own.
Seriously! This really happens! In 2014 Spain surpassed Italy as the largest exporter of wine in the world.
Spain’s biggest customer is France, who buys Spanish wines at about .50 cents a liter. Then France and Italy bottle the juice, selling it for a mere $1.50 a liter.
There’s a second piece of Spain’s wine conundrum: There are so many kinds of Spanish wine, and it’s a challenge for customers to decipher good from bad, let alone varietal from varietal. It’s no wonder that people resort to their same habits, their same old Kendall Jackson. To make matters worse, the very controlling “Control Board” of Spain doesn’t allow Vineyards to say in what area the wine was made.
“It is illegal in Rioja to mention vineyard names or villages on labels, unless the village happens to be part of the physical address of the winery. Imagine if all red Burgundy were sold as Bourgogne Rouge… Rioja is almost as complicated as Burgundy once you start to understand its vineyards.”
So now, we know that:
A. Spain has excellent wine
B. Spain has excellent wine that is incredibly undervalued by virtue of several hurdles
C. Spain has A TON of wine
…how do we best determine how to buy our next Rioja, Albariño or Tempranillo? That is, other than making your purchases at Cranberry Liquors, who take much of the difficulty away from the situation by selecting your selections, how do we further determine which wine is your wine?
Here are a few wines we absolutely recommend, along with suggestions for selecting your new favorite import.
Although price may seem like an obvious clue into what’s worth buying, it isn’t that cut and dry. Price does matter. It matters a lot, especially when we consider how else we can gauge the worth of what we buy.
However, if I were to compare a pinot noir from Sonoma County and a Tempranillo from Spain, their median price points wouldn’t even be close.
TL;DR: A 20 dollar Spanish wine will blow your mind, unlike some wines.
This is sort of a contradictory clue, as I just quoted an article wherein a major winemaker in Spain expounds on having to break the law to “tell the story” behind the wine. This B.A. winemaker doesn’t care; He recognizes the importance of marketing the story the wine tells, and a big part of that story is from where that wine began.
So when you’re looking for your next inexpensive white wine to please your mother-in-law who only likes Pinot Grigio, give DoZoe a try – this Albariño has grown in popularity over the past year or so, and has received special favor from the white wine lovers. At $10.99, I can assure you you will be back to buy this one again.
If you’re looking for something a little dressier, I’d point you to the Licia without a second thought. Licia’s Albarino is undoubtedly one of the nicer Spanish whites we carry, and I only have one criticism of it! The bottle is too darn dark for customers (and employees) to determine whether the wine is red or white.
The Licia is an excellent bottle, and the story behind the wine is pretty excellent too, not that many people know it. Jose Limeres grew his own wine in 1985 after searching for a consistently good vineyard to no avail. Limeres hoped to stock his own restaurants, and after a fruitless search, he grew his own! The northwestern lush climate, the composition of the soil and the proximity to the ocean made for a perfect mix of acidity and sugar.
TL;DR: For almost 5 dollars more than the DoZoe, the Licia Albariño will impress you.
Go From What You Know
This might be a little weird, but my mom (the little french lady I often mention) loves to pick up a bottle of wine and say things like “You see zis? See how heavy zis bottle is? I like zis. I bet zis is a great wine.”
In all honesty, it was a great bottle of wine. More to the point however, having grown up in a liquor store, I definitely recommend trusting your instincts. Intuition is more likely to help you than hurt you in this case. Plus, I have some excellent Rioja infotainment for you to graduate from beginner to novice in the spaniard region of our store (I believe we call it the “second aisle.”)
Rioja used to be called “vin joven” and some winemakers still put that on the label. Translated, vin joven means “young wine” and thanks to wine folly, we can call this type of Rioja the “base model Tempranillo.”
Then there’s the MVP – the Crianza. Ever wonder why some wines have almost the exact same label, but different prices? We can always use logic when reading “Reserve” or “Riserva”, but what about Crianza? What am I supposed to make of that information? Crianza was created to be a high-quality daily drinking wine, with a minimum aging period of 6 months. Using the Lan as an example, the Crianza is the “most accessible” Rioja. At 12.99, the Lan Crianza is “a tremendous value” and will pair well with the same things with which you’d drink a Cabernet.
TL;DR Crianza = Cabernet at value pricing
Lastly, we have Riserva and Gran Riserva.
“This is where Rioja tastes serious. At the Reserva level, winemakers often age their wines longer than the minimum and select better grapes. Many Rioja wine enthusiasts swear by Reserva level because they are a medium between super fruity Crianza and oakey-bottle-aged Gran Reserva.”
Oak barrel aging, and just plain aging, are two key ingredients to both the Riserva and the Gran Riserva.
Riserva is sworn by as the “go to” Rioja, touting the greatest bang-for-your-buck and for having the highest success rate as far as pleasing the consumer.
With the Gran Riserva you are getting:
- High quality ingredients
- Longer aging
- And “Selected wines from exceptional vintages which have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum aging period is 4 years, with at least one year in casks.” (thank you riojawines.com.)