Text: Christine Parkinson
Spanish wines have always featured on restaurant wine lists and in wine bars. Most restaurants have at least one Rioja, probably several other wines from Spain, and quite likely one or two by the glass. When I had the chance to pick wines for a masterclass for the on-trade, I wondered how Spanish wines could go further, and do more.
I realised the key was to make every wine on the list earn its keep. We all get excited about great wines, but how do we sell them? In fact, there are so many opportunities that it’s just a matter of thinking them through: by carafe on a terrace in summer; a glass of something special dispensed by Coravin; an alternative to something familiar; wines for group dining and events; wine flights; food pairing; food and wine packages; unusual wine of the month, etc etc. All I had to do was identify some wines that could be used in these ways.
I also wanted to avoid stereotypes, and show some wines that might be less familiar. Spanish whites have really flourished in recent years, so that was an obvious place to start. Whilst most people have tried a young, fresh Albariño, I thought a ‘serious’, lees-aged example could be a surprise. The Martín Codax ‘Lías’ reminds me of an Alsace Riesling, and is every bit as food-friendly.
Albillo Mayor (there are several different Albillos) is a variety you could give to anyone who doesn’t understand the term ‘minerality’ – one sip of this, and they would get it right away! Funky producer Neo makes a wine with a great back-story, ideal for a wine of the month, or story box.
Then there’s white Rioja. I’m always amazed at how many people overlook this, especially a majestic Reserva like the Marqués de Murrieta ‘Capellanía’. It’s a premium wine, but also a genuine alternative to fine white Burgundy. It would be fantastic offered by the glass using a Coravin.
Spain also produces some amazing, light, fresh, unoaked reds nowadays. A carafe of chilled red wine outdoors on a terrace is delightful, and Safrà, from Celler del Roure (made with the very rare variety, Mandó) is perfect.
Oaked Mencía from Bierzo is well-known, but what about the peppery, crunchy unoaked version? The tasty Abad Dom Bueno has the vegan & vegetarian credentials that are essential on any group-dining wine list.
My final choice was a Ribera del Duero Crianza, from Dominio Fournier. The Crianza category is too often overlooked, yet is ideal for the on-trade. It’s more affordable, yet still oozes class, and would add lustre to any drinks flight or pairing menu.
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