Food & Drink

April 9, 2012

Discovering Spanish wines with Emilio Guerra

Today’s post is from our guest wine contributor Emilio Guerra, who is the Regional Manager for Dreyfus Ashby & Co., purveyors of fine wines. Click here to read Emilio’s first article on South Florida Food and Wine.

Let’s take a trip to Spain “La Madre Patria” or better yet let’s take a tour of its major wine regions. As far back as I can remember the American wine drinker has identified Spanish wine with one region…Rioja…but if that is all you’re drinking, you’re missing out on a lot of great juice.

There are five major wine regions in Spain and every wine savvy consumer should know what they are. I will cover them in future postings along with other less known regions that are also important.

Located 240 miles north of Madrid, the Rioja region (the name comes from Rio Oja) continues to produce world-class wines. Rioja’s traditional wines are made in the Bordeaux style using the Tempranillo grape; many French families migrated there to make wine due to the Phylloxera epidemic that struck the Bordeaux vineyards in the late 1800’s. Rioja wines are known for their elegance and longevity due to the extended oak aging regimen they often go through.

Warm Mozzarella Bruschetta with Sauteed Mushrooms photo credit:

A Rioja Crianza is full of red fruit flavors, moderate tannins and is easy to drink; El Coto and Ibericos Crianza are good examples. As the wine ages longer in oak and in bottle it becomes a Reserva yielding more complexity, earthy aromas and vanilla flavors in the wine; Baron de Oña and Marques de Murrieta Reserva are good choices. In great vintages, a Gran Reserva is produced meaning the wine spent two years in oak and three years in bottle before it is released. Some top producers at this level are Rioja Alta, Viña Tondonia and Castillo Ygay. However, in response to demand from the US market some Rioja producers have begun to make wines that are bigger and bolder with less oak aging to mimic the Napa style. Look for Torre Muga and Bodegas Lan if you want to try the “newer” Riojas. A traditional Rioja can be paired with tapas style plates; Paella, Serrano Ham, Chorizo, Tortilla (Spanish Omelet) or Rotisserie Chicken. Click here for the recipe of the tapas pictured above from

Galicia or specifically Rias Baixas is another major wine region in Spain with lush green forests, a beautiful coastal landscape with the city of Vigo in the center of it all. It is here that white wines rule. Located on the Northwest coast of Spain, the cold Atlantic Ocean has a strong influence on the climate and this is where the Albariño grape is king. Some say that the Albariño grape is a close cousin to the Riesling since both wines are very fragrant but the Albariño tends to have more body with a dry and apple/pear finish. Now consider that the vineyards are next to the sea and you know what these wines pair best with… crab cakes, mussels, sardines, shrimp, oysters, octopus, grilled fish and also great with Sushi. Albariño is meant to be drunk young, within two years of the vintage. A few of my favorite producers are Martin Codax, Valdamor and Lagar de Cervera.

Paella, photo credit:

Click here for the Paella recipe from



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  1. SFLFoodandWine Editor

    Thanks for commenting Joan, yes there will be more wine recommendations and pairings with recipes to come. Stay tuned…

  2. Although I’m essentially a red wine gal, I tend to favor Albariños when opting for a white wine. Recently, though, I started experimenting with Verdejos from the Rueda region of Spain and have been enjoying them. I hope we’ll get more recommendations like this in future editions of this series.

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