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Bodegas Fernandez Rivera Dehesa La Granja 2003
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Known for bold reds, crisp whites, and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place the primary emphasis upon its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally warm to hot. In the center of the country lies a vast, dry plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought. Because of its location on the Iberian Peninsula, many of Spain’s wine regions are located on or near the milder coast, either of the Bay of Biscay to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the northwest, or the Mediterranean sea to the south and east. Each of these regions has its own unique soil, climate, and topography, as well as principal grape varieties.
In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate, though elsewhere the most popular wines are generally red. Rioja is Spain’s best-known region, where earthy, age-worthy reds are made from Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), as well as rich, nutty whites from Viura. Ribera del Duero produces opulent, fruity, top-quality wines from almost exclusively Tempranillo. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, blends Garnacha with Cariñena (Carignan) to make bold, full-bodied wines with a hint of earthiness. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. Sherry, Spain’s famous fortified wine, is produced in a wide range of styles from dry to lusciously sweet at the country’s southern tip in Jerez. Since the 1990s, international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc have been steadily increasing in importance in several regions.
Notoriously food-friendly with soft tannins, modest alcohol, and bright acidity, Tempranillo is the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. It is important throughout Spain as well as in Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz and is an important component of Port wines and the table wines of the Douro region that Port calls home. California, Washington, and Oregon have all had moderate success with Tempranillo, producing a riper, more fruit-forward style of wine.
In the Glass
Tempranillo is often aged in new oak for the integration of spicy, woodsy, and herbal flavors, often with hints of vanilla, coconut, and dill. The grape itself produces medium-weight reds with bright red and black fruit aromas and hints of spice, leather, and tobacco, with no shortage of flavor.
Tempranillo’s modest, fine-grained tannins and bright acidity make it extremely food friendly, pairing with a wide variety of Spanish-inspired dishes—especially grilled lamb chops, a rich chorizo and bean stew, or paella.
The Spanish take their oak aging requirements very seriously, especially in Rioja. There, a system is in place to indicate on the label how much time the wine has spent in both barrel and bottle before release, which is helpful to the consumer trying to determine the style of an unfamiliar wine. Rioja can range from Joven (fresh, fruity, and unoaked) to Gran Reserva (complex and oxidized from extended barrel aging), with Crianza and Reserva in between.