After our recent Interview with Steve DeLong and his sad appraisal of the UK wine market, I thought it would be good to get his answers to our Iberian Wine poll. Andy from Spittoon had a better outlook on the UK wine resources as a whole, but I think Steve gives a good counter perspective as an outsider who’s trying to make London his home.
1. How good would you say your selection of Spanish wines and Portuguese wines are in your local wine market? If you exclude Port/Rioja/ and Sherry how is the selection?
If you exclude Port/Rioja/Sherry the selection is very good in some shops but fairly ordinary overall with usually only a few Yecla Mourvedres or Albarinos or Vina Sol, etc. There is a great Spanish wine shop in the north of London that I mean to visit. I remember entering it on my London wine shop map but now I can’t find it. I’ll have to fix that.
1. What’s the last Spanish or Portuguese wine you had and what did you think of it? Would you buy it again? Got a tasting note?
Las Medallas de Argueso Manzanilla 37.5 cl bottle. I would definitely buy it again and consider any shop that stocks half bottles of Fino or Manzanilla very civilized. Sherry throws off my standardized note taking esp. since Manzanilla is a light sherry but actually fully bodied relative to other wines. I found it to be a little more perfumy and buttery compared to my benchmark La Gitana.
1. What is one question you have about Iberian wine in general?
Spain is always considered both an old and new world country. Where are the traditions being maintained? Rioja really throws me off because it seems to be all over the place stylistically.
Great question and one that I’ve struggled with myself. When you visit Rioja, you can feel the history all around you, and when you visit many of the bodegas, you can see tradition and technology side by side. For most of Rioja’s history, the wines have suffered from laws that caused the wines to be overly light, wooded and often just plain bad. While this style of long aging can still be found, it is for the most part being abandoned for new oak, longer macerations and bigger richer wines (to the pleasure of some and the dismay of others). Sometimes, the pendulum swings a bit too far towards the new winemaking practices, and at times you find bodegas that completely refuse to let their pendulum swing at all!
As I move around the country, I find that many regions are so new that they only have modern technology and techniques being employed, save for the one “crazy” guy in the far corner of the village who still makes wine the way his father did. In fact, Spain has had such an identity crisis in the past 30 years as they look to see how they want to be defined post Franco that I feel some wineries are just trying to do whatever they need to to make a EURO!
What I do love is that even in the most modern wine producing villages, there are wines that are still being made that reflect the past. One example is in the Priorat/Montsant area where although they could ride the wave of international praise for their wines to the bank and back, it’s in the smaller pueblos where treats like Mistella – a wine made from blending fresh press grape must with alcohol – can be found. Another incredible treasure is Rancio – a red wine made there that is aged and allowed to oxidize like Sherry in a Solera like system.
In the end, it depends on what the region requires as a whole to produce a good wine. In the Sherry houses of the South, you cannot make Sherry without following age-old tradition. On the other hand, regions like La Mancha need to focus on technology to make wines worth drinking due to the extreme heat and tendency to over ripen the grapes.
Spain is Old World in that they have made wine here as along as the Italians have. For this reason, traveling here can be so much fun as I constantly come across wines or styles that I may have never heard of before. But as the heat becomes more intense annually, and the export demand rises, Spanish producers have had to embrace New World technologies to make their wines more marketable to the outside world.
Hope that helps and thanks for the question!
If you want to take part in Catavino’s 2+1 Iberian Wine Survey, send us a note at: comments(.at.)catavino(.dot.)com