So I just finished up a whirlwind tour of just about every wine shop in the Twin Cities, Minnesota that I could find an exit for; which translates to the fact that I still need to familiarize myself with driving in Minnesota again because I constantly seem to miss the roundabout when I am here. Writing about wine in Spain obviously doesn’t allow me to get the full picture as to what is available in the States. Therefore, my goal was to both research which Iberian wines are available and how familiar people are with them.
First off, I will say that the experience I had chatting with people in the store was extremely enlightening being that their knowledge of Iberian wine was generally divided into two categories. One side knows that Spain and Portugal are in Iberia, while the other side thinks Iberia is a small dictatorship in Southern Africa. No really! People don’t know where Iberia is, or rather don’t know that the Peninsula that hosts both Spain and Portugal has a name! On the other hand, it appears that both Chicago and Minnesota are starting to flesh out their Spanish wine shelves, stocking anywhere from 30 to 100 different types of Spanish wine. Overall, I would say that the selection I’ve seen is quite good with some really quality wines to choose from. Regionally, I would say that on average, you have around 10 DO’s from Spain to choose from with a big focus on Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Jumilla! For those of us in Spain, Jumilla is considered a backwater that doesn’t get much play around the country, but here it seems to rule as king with its big fleshy Monastrells all spiked with a bit of Alicante Bouschet or Syrah. If you take a moment to consider the American palate, I suppose it’s understandable that they would be some of the first wines to really stand out here in the States. I did speak withone retailer, however, who really wanted to talk more about Albariño, a sentiment that surprised me considering the high price point most Albariños tend to fall in, as a result of it being considered the quality white grape of Spain. In all honestly, it is a fantastic grape and one that I hope more people discover.
Flipping to the other side our Iberian wine perspective, with the exception of a Port or Vinho Verde, Portugal didn’t show up much on the radar! As I went from wine shop to wine shop, my disappointed deepened, until I came to a wine shop that made my head spin. I encountered wines from the Dão, Barriada, Beiras and Alentejo, along with Douro reds and other interesting treats. As a result of a local distributor, these wines are slowly becoming more available allowing people to both familiarize, and consequently, appreciate them! Really, I can’t stress it enough. Portuguese wine is AWESOME, full of exotic flavors and spices that pair well and uniquely with a wide range of foods. PLEASE CHECK THEM OUT…and if your wine shop doesn’t have them, ask them to request that their distributors get them to you. These are great wines to taste and worth the money!
As for my recent daily rant, let’s go with Brasilian wine. Yes, Brasilian (if you spell it the Brazilian way!) wine. I was recently contacted by an Importer out of Florida who requested that I taste his wines. As you know, I love tasting wine, and gladly accepted the two bottles of wine justifying their relation to Iberia in that they have Portuguese roots. Made complete sense to me! Although, I had tasted one Brazilian wine once before made from Portuguese varietals, it unfortunately resulted in my being both depressed and disappointed at the time. But like anything you dislike in the past, we are all required to try it again, which is why I brought the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chardonnay to a dinner some wine “geeks” to taste before we got to our 1997 Cali Cabs and 2000 CDP’s. I know it sounds weird, but they were both damn tasty! The verdict: among the six of us, we all gave a thumbs up on the white – a Chardonnay that had been oak fermented. Ironically, the oak didn’t destroy the rich fruit, and instead, did what oak should do, give a full and well rounded body. It’s a great wine and really worth seeking out. The second wine was as first interesting, but as time went on, it lost its luster. In fact, I brought half a bottle home to share with the folks, and by the next day, it was acrid and hollow. It was sad really because I wanted to love it. I really did, but alas, it just wasn’t up to snuff, at least for the long term. I still encourage you to seek out Brasilian wine if you have the chance – there is promise of good wine in the land of the Capirinha.
I have more thoughts on my travels, but that will have to wait a bit, for now,
The Brasilian Wines I tried
The red, the white, and the importer
Shops with good Iberian wine selections in MN and CHI that I have seen personally:
Solovino (St.Paul, MN) – Over 30 wines from Portugal and many more from Spain. Friendly and helpful staff.
Sam’s (Minneapolis, MN) – Nice diverse selection of Spanish with a Portuguese red thrown in for fun.
Sam’s (Chicago, IL) (different owner/shop) – Pretty much everything that is available. Lot’s of variety and worth checking out. Ask for Angel!
The Wine Shop (17521 Minnetonka BLVD, MTKA, MN 55345 – No website yet) – Arranged by varietals. Ask the staff for a tour. I ended up finding some great prices and diverse Iberian wines.