Sunday, August 31, 2008
SPAIN MAKES GREAT WINE TOO
Here in New Zealand we have made a phenomenal movement from crappy jug and quart bottle beer, watered down spirits and very ordinary second class wine to drinking and appreciating some of the best boutique beers in the world (and the two major brewers have been pressured into getting their acts together and giving us much better options),having greater appreciation of the best imported spirits (and starting to produce some damn good local ones)and producing and drinking in greater quantities some of the cleanest and freshest wines in the world.
re Wine that is good. We have greatly increased our wine consumption and awarness and nowadays a BBQ is more likely to have a predominance of wine rather than beer (even though if a lot of it is cheap and cheerful NZ and Oz wine).
But, in our wine growth we have become a wee bit arrogant, thinking that all NZ is good, all other countries wines bad. Why is this? Well, winewriter and media enthusiasm counts for a lot but also, the decline of the traditional wine merchant structure in New Zealand and the rise of the simple format- offering supermarket and surviving liquor chains is another reason. (Forget nearly all of the myriad of small operators who used to be select wine shops but are now RTD and cheap beer and spirit suppliers to our children). Thank God for the handful of serious specialist wineshop operators around the country who, whilst stocking and actively supporting the best of Australian and New Zealand wines are brave enough to offer us some of the best wines from the rest of the world. They are replicating, in a small way, the role of the traditional wine and spirit merchants of years gone by. Now any fool can research and import the world's celebrated wines. They will unfortunately be prohibitively expensive. The serious wine operator goes a bit further in his/her reserach and finds us the world's best affordable wines (and believe me there are plenty of those).
In this Post I will talk about a Spanish wine, a Rioja (North East Spain). The Rioja region is comprised of the hilly Western Rioja Alta and the flatter Eastern Rioja Baja with the Northern Alavesa. Each component of the region has different degrees of heat and cold, wind, rainfall and soil conditions. The normal Rioja is a blend of different varietals (Garnacha, Tempranillo, Mazuella and Graziano)from more than one of the regions components. There are some producers however who concentrate on one region and almost one varietal with a view to making unique terroir-driven wines.
Contino Reserva Rioja is a good example of one of these. This individual estate wine is 80% Tempranillo from a 45 hectare vineyard in the Northern Alavesa region. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel (as in New World) and matured in French and Amereican Oak (also like New world wines). The result is rich, intensely fruity and beautifully balanced wine. A treat and one of life's true pleasures. I wish we could see more of these types of wine available in the supermarkets and bigger chains who spend a fortune trying to convince us that they cater to all of our needs.