Tips for buy­ing wine in Spain

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Costa Living - Cork Talk by Colin Hark­ness

Re­cently I needed to buy 15 dif­fer­ent bot­tles of Span­ish wine – three for guests com­ing to our house, and twelve to take to France. Tak­ing coals to New­cas­tle? Well, it sounds like it, I ad­mit - but ac­tu­ally, it’s more of a ques­tion of eco­nomics!

Mind you, con­sid­er­ing the re­cent, con­firmed, news that crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings have started against a num­ber of peo­ple/com­pa­nies in France who have been al­legedly la­belling Span­ish pro­duced wine as be­ing made in France, I did won­der if I might have been stopped at the bor­der, be­lieved to be part of the gang! I wasn’t, and I’m not!

How­ever, I di­gress. I was con­scious, whilst buy­ing said 15 bot­tles, that I was tak­ing a con­sid­er­able time do­ing so. There’s a lot to con­sider when buy­ing wine and it’s time con­sum­ing – and that’s for me, a guy who reck­ons he knows a lit­tle about the sub­ject! It oc­curred to me that others, also look­ing for Span­ish wine, might have at least sim­i­lar prob­lems, and prob­a­bly far worse, if pop­ping in the dark, so to speak (i.e. buy­ing without much/any knowl­edge of the sub­ject).

So I thought that some ba­sic rules of thumb might be ap­pre­ci­ated.

I needed sparkling wines. I’ve very re­cently writ­ten about the im­por­tance of the date of dis­gorge­ment on the back la­bels on sparkling wines, so I won’t go into it again, save for re­mind­ing read­ers that this is a con­sid­er­a­tion when buy­ing fizz. Es­sen­tially, this date ad­vises the con­sumer, roughly, how long the wine has at its best. I be­lieve this date should be on all tra­di­tional method sparklers, but, purely for com­mer­cial rea­sons, and not for the ben­e­fit of con­sumers at all, it is of­ten left out! (Please visit https://www.col­in­hark­nes­son­­ti­cles/ and scroll a lit­tle way down).

This ‘best by’ con­cept is also im­por­tant when buy­ing par­tic­u­larly Span­ish rosado wines, as well as whites, though the lat­ter to a lesser ex­tent. Spain is a hot coun­try, I was in France very re­cently, notic­ing that the grapes on the im­mac­u­late vines there were not as de­vel­oped as they were here – there’s less sun­shine!

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the Span­ish har­vest oc­curs be­fore that in France. If Span­ish grapes were left on the vines un­til the French start pick­ing, the wines would lose that es­sen­tial acid­ity, fun­da­men­tal in white wine. There­fore, it’s not a quan­tum leap to re­alise that Span­ish grapes are gen­er­ally less acidic, even when har­vested ear­lier, par­tic­u­larly those grown in the south of Spain.

Acid­ity is an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment for wines to be able to age. Less acid­ity, equals less time be­fore the wine goes past its best. Span­ish rosado wines have the least time. There­fore, it’s rec­om­mended, and not just by me, that most should be con­sumed by the Christ­mas of the year fol­low­ing the har­vest. The same ap­plies to many Span­ish whites, ex­cept that their ‘best by’ dates are ex­tended to, per­haps 18, or 20 months, though some va­ri­eties can last longer than others.

Typ­i­cally, ev­ery ‘rule’ has an ex­cep­tion. The above ap­plies as stated, ex­cept when the rosado or white wine has had some form of oak in­flu­ence. A wine of ei­ther colour which has been fer­mented in oak will last a lit­tle longer. One that has been aged in oak for longer than just the time it takes to fer­ment, will last longer, etc.

We have to be care­ful with red wines too. Wines which have the word ‘Cosecha’ on the back la­bel, are usu­ally young wines, what are in­tended to be con­sumed in their youth, per­haps up to three years old, though of­ten younger still. So, if you see a red ‘cosecha’ wine that is more than three years old, it’s prob­a­bly best to avoid it.

Roble wines are wines which have had some ag­ing, so as above with whites, these will age quite well. Cri­anza wines must have had at least 6 months in oak, plus a fur­ther 12 months on bot­tle be­fore their re­lease. Some ar­eas of pro­duc­tion in­sist on longer in oak for their Cri­an­zas, but never less than the min­i­mum 6 months. Reserva the same, but more so. Gran Reser­vas need a min­i­mum of 5 years in to­tal, two in oak and three in bot­tle, though many ex­ceed this.

These terms are start­ing to fade out these days, with pro­duc­ers pre­fer­ring to men­tion the time in oak on the la­bel in­stead of hav­ing to have their hands tied, and leav­ing it to con­sumers to de­cide how much they want oak to have in­flu­enced the wine.

In all cases, buy wines that have been shelved hor­i­zon­tally, out of di­rect sun­shine and are prefer­ably kept in cool(ish) con­di­tions. If all on show are ver­ti­cal, ask for one from the store­room that has been kept hor­i­zon­tal.

For more de­tailed help when choos­ing your Span­ish wines please read my ar­ti­cle here, and by all means share! http://avinaw­ine­­ing-span­ish­wine-la­bel/ colin@col­in­hark­nes­son­ www.col­in­hark­nes­son­

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