Time for Spanish Wines to shine

Henry Yuen

Have you ever wondered why the shelf space for Spanish wines section at most government liquor stores is usually smaller than wines from other origins - Australia, United States, Italy, even Chile and Argentina?  Limited space results in limited choices, quite possibly, focus of wine selection will be more on price points rather than a good wine that showcases the qualities and distinctiveness of Spanish wines.  A way to change that is to increase consumer demand for these wines and the first step is for them to acknowledge, taste and understand wines from Spain.

Don’t’ know much about Spanish wines? There is no better chance than to attend this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival where the featured country is Spain. From March 28 to April 03, there will be an array of events and tastings with a Spanish theme.

Those familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz would likely want to know more about these grapes from Spain, as much as learning about Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, the more staple indigenous grape varietals mostly confined to the wine regions of Spain. So far they have not been widely grown in other places around the world. While Spain seeds a few hundred grape varietals, these indigenous varietals make up almost 80% of the production.

The diverse and vast wine regions of Spain encourage vineyard establishments everywhere throughout the country.  From areas close to the Atlantic to the Great Central Plain and to the Mediterranean in the South, Spain’s wine regions encompass almost 500,000 square kilometres. As a result, terrain and climate play an important role in the versatility of fruit characters, for example, Tempranillo grow in warmer climate is intense and concentrated whereas the same grape varietal coming from moderate climate are more fruit forward, spicy, and with a hint of tobacco.           

While Spanish wines may not have reached the same level of classification as French wines, there are a few basic terms that describe the different levels of wine making. With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival just around the corner, understanding the following wine terms will definitely help to embrace the Spanish wine tasting process.

CRIANZA is the term used to describe Spanish red wines that has been aged for two years, six months of which must be aged in oak. For white wines, they must be aged for twelve months with six months of aging in oak.

RESERVA refers to red wines that have been aged for 36 months with at least twelve months in oak; and   whites must be aged for 24 months with at least six months in oak barrels.

GRAN RESERVA is the term for wines made in the best years.  Reds must be aged for at least 60 months with at least twenty four months in oak barrels and the rest of the aging done in the bottles.  Whites must be aged at least 48 months with a minimum of six months in oak barrel.

With some of the basic information at hand, attending the wine festival, especially the grand tasting nights where an array of Spanish wines await, would be more enticing, productive and appreciated.

I am quite sure, when the popularity of Spanish wines increases in BC, the shelf space would be expanded, which means we would get our hands on more outstanding and reasonably priced wines from Spain.