Revisiting Spain’s fine sherry, rich Rioja

Spain is one of the most exciting countries for wine enthusiasts to explore. In a quarter of a century, Spanish winemakers have progressed from mostly low-tech production for local markets to promising and innovative exporters. High-quality wines are emerging to satisfy the world’s undeniable thirst for new and exciting styles.

Many think of sherry as the classic Spanish wine. But in the past 10 years, the image of this abiding drink has suffered a setback. It’s sometimes viewed as that oxidized bottle sitting on a bar shelf or part of a restaurant wine list’s cheap and sweet offerings. This is changing as producers market sherry as the “new” drink and attract younger wine consumers. Fino sherry, a bone-dry style served fresh and chilled as an aperitif, is one example.

Apart from sherry, Spain’s most recognized wine is Rioja, named for a northern province. This region has seen tremendous growth in recent years, thanks mostly to the production of good quality wines at reasonable prices. Gone are the dried-out, bland red wines of the past.

Today’s Riojas, made mostly from the tempranillo grape, can be young, fresh and fruity, or robust, complex and age-worthy.

Rias Baixas, located in Spain’s northwest corner, is another exciting wine region. Its cool climate is ideal for growing the Albarino grape, which produces a crisp, fresh and fragrant wine. It is best described as having the peachy aroma of a Viognier and the flowery spice of a Riesling.

The future seems bright for Spain’s wine industry. If you’re looking for more diversity in your wine buying without spending a lot, consider exploring these Spanish wines.

THE VALUES

  • 2005 Campo Viejo Crianza Rioja (about $15 retail)
  • 2007 Laxas Albarino Rias Baixas (about $17 retail)

THE SPLURGES

  • 2003 El Coto Crianza Rioja (about $24 retail)
  • 2007 Vionta Albarino Rias Baixas (about $23 retail)
  • 2004 Marques de Riscal Rioja (about $27 retail)