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Guelbenzu Red 2009
98 acres of vines planted in 1980 to 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 30% Tempranillo, dispersed in numerous small plots encircling Cascante in the Queiles River Valley. The 7,600-foot Sierra del Moncayo rises just 20 miles to the south, its late-melting snows providing adequate moisture in the sub soils to withstand summer droughts. The vineyards lie between 1200 and 1800 feet, ripening the grapes in stages for an unhurried and perfectly timed harvest.
The modern winery maintains Don Miguel's original gravity-flow design from 1851, and is a gem of space utilization. Stainless fermentation tanks were inserted through the roof of building formerly devoted to olive oil production, while custom-made 10,000-litre Aillers oak uprights (for assemblage) fill the original cellar. Barriques are of various French oak types in which Guelbenzu's aged reds spend one full year prior to bottling, racked four times. The enologist, Yoseba Altuna, is a French educated native of Navarra with experience in a top Bordeaux Chateaux.
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.