Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! When I want a good deal on a bottle of wine, the Spanish section is often one of the first places I look. Prices can vary from $12 a bottle (for the cheapest options) to hundreds if not thousands for the pricier wines. The key factor in Spanish wine is the consistency of the wine, no matter the price you end up paying. Besides this, there are many regional single varietals and unique wine blends to discover, so the only thing holding consumers back is a willingness to try new flavors/grapes that they may be unfamiliar with.

Speaking of grape varietals, what kinds of wines can we expect from Spain? Since Spain is quite hot in general, red grapes with thick skins and long growing seasons excel, and produce ripe, fruity wines full of complex layers of flavor. The most common red grapes from Spain include Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Monastrell (Mouvedre or Mataro), Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Lesser-known varietals exist as well, which are more often seen as small amounts in blends; in this category, you will find Graciano, Bobal, Mazuelo or Carinena.

Lovers of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape will often find something to suit their style such as wines containing both Tempranillo and Garnacha which brings a combination of intense, dark fruits (blackberry, currants), gripping tannins and balanced acidity. Wines containing Monastrell are also often blended with either Garnacha or Tempranillo (sometimes both) to add a grapey layer of flavor with an inflection of smoked meat/leather.

I didn’t get my hands on any Spanish white wine this week, but the country is full of amazingly accessible and affordable options like Macabeo (also used to make Cava), Albarino, Verdejo, Xarel-lo (Cava once again) or Pedro Ximenez (a grape used primarily for Sherry production). Other grapes in the white varietal category are Airen, Albillo or Godello.

White wines from Spain are usually crisp and fresh with subtle flavors and moderate acidity. These types of grapes/wines pair exceptionally well with regional dishes like seafood and freshly prepared vegetable dishes. My personal favorite pairing is ceviche with a Macabeo/Albarino white wine blend, but these wines are also excellent choices for pan-seared whitefish or scallops.

Moving on from Spain for a moment, I’d like to talk about a style of beer that confuses many kinds of beer drinkers: sour beer. The Cuvee des Jacobins is a lambic beer from Belgium and its one of the best I’ve tasted in a while. Technically, the Jacobins is a Flemish Red Ale which is renown for its mouth-puckering acidity and beautiful balance of toasty, biscuity and fruity flavors. AKA as “lambic” beer, Flanders Red Ales are spontaneously fermented which means the yeast is not added or manipulated and instead, wild yeast from the surrounding area (including yeast floating in the brewery air) inoculates the mash and begins converting sugars into alcohol. This results in funky flavors in the beer. Which beverage would you choose? Here are my wine picks of the week!        

Cuvee des Jacobins Flemish Red Ale (Rouge). (Belgium). Sour Belgian beer with a reddish/brown color and cream-colored foam. There is a layer of light foam on the beer at all times with thin lacing sticking to the glass. Intense scents jump from the glass like pureed stone fruits (pears), red fruits (strawberry/cherry) and fruity, sour funk. The beer is dry to the taste with a tart, tangy character and high acidity which makes the mouth pucker. The mid-palate is packed with intense flavors of cherry, green apples, pears and that beautifully complex dank, sour funk. Carbonation is crisp and refreshing which makes the beer incredibly balanced and drinkable. Medium tannins build slowly and come in on the long finish. This Belgian ale is created using spontaneous fermentation which contributes to the sour, funky flavors. To finish the beer, it has spent 18 months in oak barrels. A must-try for sour beer fans. Very good! $9, 5.5% ABV

Bodegaverde Organic Garnacha/Syrah 2020: (Carinena, Spain). Dry to off-dry red, deep purple with garnet tones. The nose is fruity and jammy with cherry and raspberry compote, earthy cocoa, hints of toast and red licorice. The first few sips reveal a medium-intense red with blended, fruity flavors, smoky notes (smoked meat), sweet violet flowers and medium acidity. The wine never tastes too sharp and is quite mellow on the palate. Near the end of the mid-palate comes a bite of black pepper spice which carries into the long finish. Some bitter notes come in with tight, high tannins but the bitterness is softened by flavors of black licorice, toast and earthy cocoa. While the wine can seem slightly astringent at first, the palate adjusts quickly, and the wine becomes very easy to sip. A faint note of olive brine twists in and out of the mid-palate and finish. An excellent choice to pair with Manchego or Coastal cheeses. Very good! $23, 15% ABV  

Campo Burgo 100% Tempranillo 2021: (Rioja, Spain). Dry red, medium purple color. The nose is simple but fruity with bright notes of red fruits (strawberry, candied cherries) as well as dark fruit like blackberries and preserved plums with a trace of vanilla. To the taste, the flavors are medium in intensity with a bit of sharpness from the medium-plus acidity. The higher acidity creates a mouthwatering effect which allows the simple flavors of preserved plums and cherries to jump out. The wine could use a bit more concentration and tastes somewhat thin, but the fruity flavors make the wine an easy sipper with juicy blackberries, red grapes (grape juice) and a touch or pepper after the fruit. Since the tannins are around medium, the wine doesn’t taste too bitter but there is enough grip and texture in the wine for it to pair well with salamis or slightly sweet olives. The finish is quick and leaves a small touch of fruit and vanilla. Good! $22, 13.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!