Spanish Wine

Spanish Wine - Rioja & Bierzo

Here at Yapp Brothers we have long believed in pursuing serendipitous discoveries, so when Tom encountered a cracking Crianza when visiting friends in northern Spain in 2015, he made an impromptu visit to the Bodegas Petralanda in Fuenmajor. Despite the shortcomings of his spoken Spanish he managed to convince the team there of his buying credentials and place our inaugural order en el sitio. Gratifyingly, it is now one of our top ten best-selling reds: which isn't bad going for a French wine specialist.

Made from mostly Tempranillo plus 10% Mazuelo (Carignan) that is vinified in stainless steel vats then matured for two years in American oak barrels before bottling, the finished wine has dark cherry and vanilla aromas and a sleek palate of juicy black fruit with peppery undertones and supple tannins. A fringe benefit of Tom's cross-border raiding party was the discovery of the Bodegas' 'Gran Réserva', that is made from pure Tempranillo that is then aged in barrels for 3 years then in bottles for 5 years before release. With a complex coffee bean and dark chocolate bouquet and concentrated palate of stewed autumnal fruit supported by ripe tannins, it drinks beautifully from release and will cellar well for a decade.

Having established an Iberian foothold, it seemed churlish not to sample Antoine Graillot's 'Encinas' Bierzo that he conceived in collaboration with acclaimed Spanish wine-maker Raúl Perez. Made from pure Mencia grown on clay and schist soils, vinified in concrete vats and raised in large oak barrels, the inaugural 2016 vintage proved a hit with journalists and sommeliers alike. With ripe cherry and plum scents and a red fruit palate offset by a fresh acidity, it's a palate-cleansing red well-suited to pork and poultry.

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  1. Rioja: Marqués de Zearra Crianza 2015
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  2. Bierzo: Antoine Graillot & Raúl Pérez 'Encinas' 2017
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  3. Rioja: Marqués de Zearra Gran Reserva 2009
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Quick and Easy Guide to Rioja wine

Know your Bodega from your Bo Diddley with our latest regional guide.

Bordered by the Sierra Cantabria in the north and Sierra de Cameros in the South, the fertile Ebro river valley is a haven for the cultivation of artichokes, peppers, asparagus, olives and, above all, wine. Despite its large size and differing terroirs, the region is covered by only one denomination and bodegas have tended to blend different parcels of vines to create a 'house style'. The key classification for Rioja is the amount of time the wine is aged in oak barrels and then in bottle – 1 year in cask, 1 in bottle for Crianza; 1 plus 2 for Reserva; 2 plus 3 for Gran Reserva. Having made a first-rate effort to shoot themselves in both feet by over-production in the 1970s, followed by over extraction and over-oaking in the 1990s, the bodegas of Rioja are seeing a real renaissance driven by a succession of good vintages and a focus on quality for wines that are of intrinsically outstanding value. 95% of production is red and this is yet another region where the UK is the largest export market – salud!

Area Under Vine:
62,000 hectares, a tad smaller than the Rhône valley.

Key Areas DOCs:
There is only one, although it's divided into three areas Alta, Baja and Alavesa (across the Rioja Ebro in Basque country). Historically, the best wines came from Rioja Alta, although the boundaries have been blurred by the more recent efforts of, for example, Alvaro Palacios in the Baja.

Principal grapes:
Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura (for white).

Notable domaines:
Lopez de Heredia, Muga, La Rioja Alta, CUNE.

Local delicacies:
Caparrones (red kidney bean & chorizo stew), chipirones (fried baby squid), embuchados (fried lamb's intestines), guisante de lagrima (seasonal petit pois)

Restaurants we like:
Asado Terete (Haro), Restaurante Alameda (Fuenmayor).

Famous people from the region:
First poet of Castilian literature Gonzalo de Berceo, engineer and eight-time Prime Minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, brothers Fausto and Juan José Elhuyar - discoverers of the chemical element Tungsten.

Things to do:
Visit the museum of wine culture in the pretty medieval town of Briones; marvel at the stunning bodega architecture of Frank Gehry (Marques de Riscal), Zaha Hadid (Lopez de Heredia) and Santiago Calatrava (Ysios); spend an evening on the 'trail of the elephants' munching delicious pinchos in the specialist bars of the Calle La Laurel in Logrono; get all 'Jurassic Park' checking out over 1,000 dinosaur footprints and the Paleontological Centre near Enciso. Discover the origins of the Castilian language in the Monasterio of Yuso in San Millan de la Cogolla.