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Conversar sin vino es gran desatino - Spanish proverb

The theme of our last wine tasting meeting was Spanish wines and tapas. We were nine guests and we had a total of 4 white wines and 5 red wines to taste. We tasted the white wines separately and blind tasted the red wines together. A assortment of tapas were served with the tasting.

To discover the multiple facets of Spanish wine, the best is to start with Andalucia and a glass of Manzanilla Hidalgo La Gitana.This wine's dry and salty taste makes it a perfect match for Spanish green olives and anchovies.

Compare La Gitana with the darker, more aromatic and complex Jerez Cortado Hidalgo. This wine is a perfect alternative to a single malt scotch.

For guests that are not too keen on drinking Sherries, offer them a glass of Cava, a sparkling wine made in Calaluna in the Penedès appellation. The Cava Brut Marquès de Gelida has a light and delicate nose and a fresh palate.

On the Atlantic coast, in Galicia, the cooler and wetter Rias Baixas is another region renowned for its white wines made with the Albariño grape. The 2003 Nora Albariño has a crisp acidity with a citrus and white peach nose that makes it the perfect complement to shrimps with garlic.

Back to Cataluna, Priorato was recently rediscovered as a premium wine region. The land is planted mainly with low-yielding old Cariñena and Garnacha vines.

The 2001 Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses has a warm, cassis nose with some good concentration, round tannins and a nice finish. This wine was one of the group's favorite. Try it with a Spanish tortilla and some chorizo.

In the high plateau of Castilla Y Léon, along the Douro Valley lie the Ribera del Duero vineyards, Rioja's main rivals for red wine fame. Tempranillo is the most important grape planted in these two regions.

The 2000 Condado de Haza is a good example of the wine what Ribera del Duero can produce. The nose is fruity and gamey and on the palate, it has a pleasant balance of fruit, tannins and acidity. Try it with beans and jamon serrano.

Rioja has recently seen some changes in winemaking techniques. The wine was typically fermented fast and then aged for many years in old American oak. In order to obtain a richer, fruitier, more modern style, some winemakers are now increasing the maceration time and bottle the wine much earlier after some time in French oak. The traditional Rioja style was not very popular among our group, especially when tasted side by side with the other fruitier wines.

The 2000 Rioja Sierra Cantabria Crianza was brought to the tasting to show some traditional Rioja characters. It had an herbal nose, a light to medium body, and some acidity that could soften with age. Because of its lack of balance, the wine ranked last by the group during blind tasting.

The 1996 Rioja Luis Cañas Reserva Selecciòn de la Familia tasted also like a traditional Rioja with a discreet cherry nose and a light to medium body. The group found this wine too weak and ranked it second to last.

The 2000 Rioja Finca Allende is a good representative of modern style Rioja. It is a delicious wine with a fruity, spicy and peppery nose and a rich, warm body. It is the perfect match for Manchego cheese and jamon serrano. This wine was one of the group's favorite.

See our other tasting reports.