Wine Tasting Part 1 (Spain)

It was until recently the case that the best cases of Spanish wine stayed mainly on the plains of that southern nation, sold locally from vineyards or served in local restaurants. Most of the exported stuff was aimed at the low end of the market, a poor cousin to neighboring Italian and French products. With the unprecedented rise of Spanish food abroad (especially in the United States) during the early 2000s, and the virtual diefication of Barcelona chef Ferran Adria (whose restaurant, El Bulli, bullied all other professional kitchens aside to earn the title of Best Restaurant in the World from several prestigious sources) it's little wonder that we're re-examining the wines of Spain with a new appreciation.

Cafe Drake wanted to determine if a decent bottle of vino de Espana could be had for less than a Moorish king's ransom, and after a few faulty steps found three (listed below) which were both tasty and economical. All are under $15 and distributed State-side. Good enough to bring as a gift or sip on your own, each of these wines is adaptable to many types of food, though why not use a sampling as an excuse for a tapas dinner? You might also consider a Spanish wine-themed cocktail party; you only need some good green olives, toasted almonds, a few figs and a big wedge of Manchego cheese for a nibbling station.

La Ino Dry Fino Sherry
Of course sherry is the quintessential essence of Spanish wine culture, but forget the overly sweet cream varieties associated with grandmothers at cocktail time, and branch out to the drier vintages. With often dozens to choose from in a sophisticated wine store, grab a bottle of La Ino - it's crisp, mildly fruity and truly pops on the tongue. The producing winery, Pedro Domecq, has spent years perfecting ultrapremium sherries, and their expertise is evident even in this budget bottle.

Cordorniu Pinot Noir Brut Cava
We've suffered through a number of inferior cava wines in our day, so the pleasant surprise of the season is this rose sparkler. Perfect for champagne cocktails or Kir Royales, Cordorniu is also good enough to be served on its own as an apertif or with fish or fowl. One crisp sip and you'll be checking the receipt again, certain you've been undercharged for bubbles with this clean of a finish.

Valdubon Cosecha 2003
This bottle is all over the place, and easy-to-find and cheap-as-hell don't signify disappointment in a glass in this rare instance. 100% Tempranillo and smacking of dark red fruits and oaky cellars, guzzle freely with dry aged cheeses or spicy chorizo sausage.


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