Tag Archives: Spain


Albariño from Rías Baixas: Your Go-To Summer Wine

If you’re looking for a wine that is synonymous with summer, look no further than Albariño from Rías Baixas. This white wine from northwest Spain is dry and refreshing with a delicious mix of fruit, floral and mineral notes.

To find the Rías Baixas Denominación de Origen (DO) on a map, look to the upper left corner of Spain. It’s located in Galicia, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west and Portugal to the south.

Picnics, pool parties and beyond, Albariño is the wine to uncork at any warm weather celebration. It pairs well with the flavors of the season, especially salads, seafood and shellfish. Or enjoy it with spicy cuisines like Thai, Indian and Mexican.

Albariño is meant to be enjoyed young, from one to three years after its release.

Here are some great Albariños from Rías Baixas to try:

Pazo Señorans Albariño 2013

Pazo Senorans AlbarinoThis Albariño comes from vineyards that are close to the sea, at altitudes of less than 300 meters. Stainless steel and temperature controlled fermentation help preserve the fresh characteristics of the grape.

Pale greenish-yellow in color, the wine opens with aromas of citrus and white flowers that develop on the palate. Refreshing acidity and gentle minerality give the wine a lively mouthfeel, and the crisp finish has a lingering touch of white grapefruit.
$25, 12.5% alcohol

La Val Albariño 2013

La Val AlbarinoThe grapes in this wine come from two estate vineyards at the southern end of the Rías Baixas DO. The Taboexa vineyard with its sandy and granitic soil is situated at 300 meters above sea level, and the Arantei vineyard is at 30 meters above sea level and has clay and pebble soils.

Bright straw yellow in color, the wine has notes of lemon, white apricot and fresh herbs, with orange peel and subtle bay leaf adding depth at the end.
$18, 12.5% alcohol

Burgáns Albariño 2013

Burgans AlbarinoThis wine from Bodegas Martin Códax with its distinctive label is one of the easier to find Albariños at wine shops. It’s named for the hill where the winery is located, which offers views of the Salnés Valley.

Pale yellow in color with some green tint, this wine is aromatic with citrus and stone fruit. Crisp flavors of lemon, golden apple and white peach are nicely balanced with soft acidity. The finish is clean with lingering mineral notes.
$15, 12.5% alcohol

To learn more about Albariño from Rías Baixas visit

Codorniu Raventos

Rioja vs Ribera del Duero: A Tale of Two Tempranillos

Can you taste the difference between Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in a blind tasting?

The question was posed to a group of wine professionals last week. We had gathered at St. Cecilia in Buckhead for a lunch and tasting with two Spanish winemakers: Diego Pinilla of Bodegas Bilbainas in Rioja and Jorge Bombin of Legaris in Ribera del Duero. The wineries are part of the Codorníu Raventós group.

Both winemakers offered a glass of what they felt was the characteristic Tempranillo of their region. They then offered a brief history of their winery and how the location affects the Tempranillo grape, to assist us in guessing each wine.

Spain wine mapBodegas Bilbainas is located in the city of Haro in Rioja Alta (within the darker shaded portion in orange on the map). It was established in 1901, and was the first bottler in Rioja. With the Atlantic Ocean 100 miles to the north, the vineyards are influenced by the Atlantic climate. Clay soils give the vines water little by little, and mountains protect the vineyards from getting too cold.

Legaris is located along the Duero River in the Ribera del Duero region (within the darker shaded portion in yellow). It was established in 1999, bringing together tradition and innovation. The vineyards are planted at an average elevation of 2800 feet, and are influenced by a harsh continental climate with hot summers and low rainfall. Pebble soils reflect the sunlight back towards the vines.

Based on the terroir and growing conditions, Tempranillo from Rioja is typically higher in acidity with floral and red fruit notes. Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is typically higher in alcohol content with black fruit notes.

Then it was time for the blind tasting. After knowing what differences to look for in the wines – acidity, alcohol and fruit – it was clear that the wine on our left was from Rioja, and the wine on the right was from Ribera del Duero.

The wines were revealed: Viña Pomal 2010 Reserva from Bodegas Bilbainas and Legaris 2011 Crianza.

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rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume


New Look for Anna de Codorníu

Looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or just want to add a bit of festivity to any night of the week? Try a bottle of the Anna de Codorníu Brut or Brut Rosé. The Spanish sparkling wines have a new look for 2014 but still have the same great taste and value.

Anna de CodorniuThis Cava comes from the Penedès region in northeast Spain. Most of the grapes come from estate vineyards in Lleida, west of Barcelona. The sparkling wine is made using the traditional method, just like Champagne. In fact it was Josep Raventós who first mastered this technique in Spain – he is a descendant of the Codorníu heiress for whom the Cava is named. The Raventós family has owned Codorníu since the marriage of Anna to viticulturist Miquel Raventós in 1659.

The Anna de Codorníu Brut NV is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada (one of the three traditional grapes in Cava, along with Macabeo and Xarel·lo). Pale straw yellow in color, the Brut has dry citrus and toast aromas, with flavors of white grapefruit, lemon and pineapple. Small, energetic bubbles give this Cava a pleasing mouthfeel.

The Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé NV is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. To achieve the rosy pink color in the finished sparkling wine, the must and skins of the Pinot Noir grapes were left in contact for three to four hours. Subtle red berry aromas introduce flavors of raspberry, wild strawberry and a touch of golden apple. Like the Brut, the Brut Rosé is lively in the mouth, and culminates in a crisp finish.

The Anna de Codorníu Brut and Brut Rosé can be enjoyed on their own as an aperitif, or with appetizers, shellfish, sashimi or lightly spiced carpaccio.

Costing just $14.99 a bottle, these are sparkling wines you can enjoy on many occasions.

11.5% alcohol for the Brut, 12% alcohol for the Brut Rosé

Related: A Guide to Sparkling Wines

More sparkling wines | More under $20

Valor: Spain’s Favorite Chocolate Available in the US

Quieres chocolate? Whether you answered ‘si’ or ‘yes,’ you’ll want to try the dark and milk chocolates from Valor, Spain’s oldest family-owned chocolate company.

Valor chocolatesWith a commitment to “bean to bar” and keeping their chocolates free of artificial flavoring and preservatives, Valor has become Spain’s leading chocolate brand. Starting with cocoa beans from Ecuador, Panama and Ghana, Valor’s master chocolatiers expertly roast, shell and ground the beans for a distinct aroma and flavor.

When you take a bite of a Valor bar there’s no waxy taste or texture – it’s just really good chocolate. It is made even better with whole Marcona almonds, which add a delicately sweet and nutty flavor.

In addition to their traditional chocolates, Valor has sugar-free and no sugar added chocolates that are so tasty you won’t feel like you’re missing out. The sugar-free chocolates are made with Stevia.

Valor is based in Villajoyosa, Alicante, on the eastern coast of Spain. For more information visit www.ValorChocolate.com.

Purchase Valor Chocolates online at the following sites:

Disclosure: The Amateur Gastronomer received complimentary samples.

Celebrate with Cava

Looking for a budget-friendly bottle of sparkling wine to ring in the New Year? Look to Spain — Cava, the country’s answer to Champagne, is a delicious and affordable alternative to French or California bubbly.

Cava comes from Penedès, a region in northeast Spain near Barcelona. It is made from three Spanish grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. It is becoming more common for Cava producers to use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two of the three grapes used in Champagne.

Like Champagne, Cava is produced by the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise). The bubbles are a result of a secondary fermentation that takes place in the bottle.

Cava can range from dry to sweet. If you prefer your sparkling wine dry, look for “brut nature” or “brut” on the label. “Seco” offers a hint of sweetness, and “semiseco” and “dulce” are the most sweet.

Open one of these bottles of Cava at your 2013 celebration:

Anna de Codorníu Brut ($15)
Anna de Codorníu was the first Cava to incorporate Chardonnay. This sparkling wine is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. Yellow apple, citrus and toasted almond aromas and flavors from the Chardonnay are balanced with floral notes from the Parellada, with a crisp and refreshing finish.

Parés Baltà Brut ($11)
This sparkling wine is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. Aromas of toast, citrus and apple introduce dry flavors of golden pear, yellow apple and grapefruit. Well-balanced acidity and small, energetic bubbles make this a pleasing sip.

Segura Viudas Aria Brut ($11)
This dry sparkling wine is 50% Macabeo, 40% Parellada and 10% Xarel·lo. Lively flavors of pineapple, pear and baked apple mingle with a touch of toasted almond and straw, culminating in a crisp and clean finish.

Poema Brut Cava ($9)
A blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo, this sparkling wine is fresh and lively with subtle citrus flavors.

Numanthia: Bold Red Wines from Toro

By Robin Alix Austin

With a name like Toro, you’d expect this region in Spain to produce big and bold wines. That’s one element of the wines of Numanthia – red wines that have intense dark fruit flavors and massive tannic structure. Yet these wines also have elegance and finesse, a bull and a matador coming together in a show of artistry.

The matador of Numanthia is Manuel Louzada, a winemaker who is able to reel in, tame and refine the Tinta de Toro grape. This is a variation of Tempranillo that has adapted to the hot climate of Toro. Compared to Tempranillo, Tinta de Toro has thicker skin and a darker color.

Toro is located northwest of Madrid in the western area of Castile and Léon. It has a continental climate with long, hot summers and little rain. In Toro harvesting grapes at just the right time is extremely important for preserving the fresh fruit flavors and maintaining an appropriate alcohol content in the wine. As harvest approaches, Manuel tastes the grapes every two to three days to determine when they are ready to be picked.

Manuel shared a taste of Numanthia’s current releases while in town for the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Numanthia was one of the few non-American wineries and the only Spanish winery participating in the weekend of wine events.

Numanthia was founded in 1998 and pays tribute to the area’s heroic past. The estate took its name from the towns of Numancia and Tiermes, whose people resisted Roman invasion in 134 BC by preferring death to surrender. Numanthia’s vines are strong too, resisting the Phylloxera outbreak that devastated Europe’s vineyards in the late 1800s.

During the High Museum Wine Auction, Numanthia’s wine held its own among the numerous full-bodied Napa Cabernets. All made entirely from Tinta de Toro grapes, these are wines so intense and mouth-filling you’ll almost want to chew them before you swallow.

The first wine Manuel shared was the 2009 Termes, made with grapes that were harvested from 30 to 50 year old vines. The wine spent 16 months in oak barrels.

Manuel’s aim with the Termes was to capture the lively and fresh fruit that he tasted in the vineyards. Deep magenta in color, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry, plum and fig layered with cinnamon, vanilla and tobacco. Chewy tannins give the wine a pleasant weight in the mouth.

The second wine Manuel shared was the 2008 Numanthia. The grapes for this wine came from 60 to 100 year old vines. The wine spent two years in new French oak barrels and another year in bottles before it was released.

With this wine you still find the fresh fruit of the Termes but it is enhanced by additional flavors of white pepper, molasses, cloves, dark chocolate, black tea and licorice. The texture is just as intense as the flavor, with sweet tannins and a crushed velvet mouthfeel.

The final wine was a showstopper. Speaking about the 2008 Termanthia Manuel said, “I feel honored to make a wine like this.”

The grapes for the Termanthia came from vineyards that were planted between 1870 and 1890. Manuel used delicate winemaking techniques to produce this wine including destemming by hand and “pisado,” stomping the grapes by foot during fermentation. The skins were so thick, said Manuel, that the men were able to stand at the top of the vats without their feet sinking in.

The wine went through two series of aging in new French oak barrels, spending a total of 20 months in oak.

The 2008 Termanthia is a wine you could spend hours describing. Complex aromas of blackberry, cedar, cocoa and spice expand and evolve on the palate. Layers of black cherry, cassis, clove, mocha, truffle and vanilla add depth, while delicate flavors of rose and violet add elegance. Concentrated yet silky tannins give the wine a lively mouthfeel, and the finish has long lingering notes of black fruit and spice.

This is the kind of wine that makes you crave a steak – and demands the finest dry aged cut. It’s a wine you want to sip all evening, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the intricate flavors and how it changes over time in the glass.

To learn more about Numanthia visit www.numanthia.com.

This is part of a series of articles on wines from the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Click here to read more.

AG Pick: Xarmant Txakolina 2010

If you’re looking for a wine to get you ready for warmer weather try the 2010 Xarmant Txakolina. It may be a bit intimidating to spell or pronounce but this white wine is extremely easy to drink.

Xarmant Txakolina comes from the Basque region of Spain, in the northeast part of the country. The Basque is located on the Atlantic Ocean just southwest of the French border.

The wine is produced by Arabako Txakolina, a winery that was founded in 1989 by eight growers from the same family. They came together to revitalize local winemaking that had been abandoned after the phylloxera epidemic wiped out vines in the mid 19th century. In 2003 their efforts were rewarded and the region was granted an official Denominación de Origen status.

The wine’s name means “charming” in French, though it is spelled in the Basque way. When pronounced, Xarmant sounds like “charmant.”

Xarmant is a blend of two grapes that are indigenous to the Basque region: Hondarribi Zuri (80%) and Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia (20%). The wine was fermented in stainless steel which preserves the fresh fruit flavors.

If you like Albariño you’ll like this wine. Light, upbeat and yes, charming, this is a wonderful warm weather wine. Xarmant Txakolina has an aromatic and floral nose, with crisp flavors of pink grapefruit, lime and apple. The finish is dry and refreshing with just a hint of spice.

Serve Xarmant Txakolina with oysters, mussels, white fish, salmon or salads. Or enjoy the wine on its own, as an aperitif or outside on a sunny afternoon.

A bottle of the 2010 Xarmant Txakolina costs $17.

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

AG Pick: Paco & Lola Albarino 2009

There’s something about Albariño that always puts me in a good mood.  Maybe it’s because I drink Albariño with fun foods like raw oysters and sushi, or that it’s one of my go-to wines on a warm and sunny day.

Though the weather may not be cooperating, I’m ready for springtime — and enjoying a glass of Albariño can transport me someplace warm.

Albariño is a white wine grape from Spain.  It is grown in the Rías Baixas region in the northwest, just north of Portugal.  You’ll also find it in Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho.

Albariño produces dry and fragrant wines that are high in acidity with moderate alcohol.

Imagine yourself on a beach or at a picnic — the the 2009 Paco & Lola Albariño is the wine you’d want to enjoy there.

Everything about this wine says fun, starting with the polka dot label.

Pale straw yellow in color, the Albariño is crisp and aromatic with floral and tropical fruit aromas.  On the palate are fresh flavors of white peach, pineapple, apricot and honeysuckle, with a hint of white flowers.  It’s bone-dry with nice minerality and a silky, refreshing finish.

Pair the Paco & Lola Albariño with shellfish, seafood, sushi, light pasta dishes and salads.  Or enjoy a glass as an aperitif outdoors on a warm day.

A bottle of the 2009 Paco & Lola Albariño costs around $20.

12.5% alcohol by volume