Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > Food> Drink > From Rioja to Madrid, a primer on Spanish wines

From Rioja to Madrid, a primer on Spanish wines

A wine expert from Spain decodes vino from a country with an abiding love for gastronomy

Wines from Spain offer a bouquet of flavours.
Wines from Spain offer a bouquet of flavours. (Marcel Gross, Unsplash)

The wine country of Spain has a bouquet of fantastic reds, crisp whites and the ever popular sparkling Cava. As Indian wine enthusiasts seek newer wines from unexplored terroirs, exporters have geared up to meet the changing demand. Next week, Ivan Aquino, export director of Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe of the Spanish wine exporter Araex, will be in India for a multi-city tour of sit-down dinners for an immersive experience of their premium bottles. They have reds and whites from the wineries, Gran Sello in southwest of Madrid, Luis Cañas in the famous Rioja area, and Bodegas Dominio De Cair from Ribera Del Duero. He will be hosted by the Indian spirits importer Anggels’ Share.

In an interview, Aquino talks about the basics of Spanish wines and shares an itinerary for gourmands.

Also read | As world warms, Swedish wines grow

What are the ABCs of Spanish wines?
If you know a little bit about Spain, you would be aware our climate is slightly warmer than France. We have a little bit more sun which influences the wine, giving it body, slightly more alcohol and less acidity. The climate changes as you move from north to south which affects the grape. For instance, the Tempranillo in Rioja is different from the one in Ribera Del Duero which is closer to central Spain and gets more sun. The grape is smaller and has developed a thicker skin (as sun protection) which yields a jammier wine with an elegant finish.

What are the different types of Spanish wines?
To put it simplistically, north has elegant wines; central as well as south has jammier styles; our whites can be quite interesting; and we produce a lot of Cava.

We have to talk about Rioja which is the first region to produce high quality wines in the country. Since it’s close to Bordeaux, it’s influenced by French winemaking. The north of Spain makes more elegant wines with more acidity compared to the rest of the country. In the Anggels’ Share portfolio, we have wines from central Spain's Castille Da Mancha region, located to the south of the capital. This area has high plateau with very hot summers and equally cold winters, which is known as continental climate. You get richer styles here. The one that is doing really well in India is from the winery Gran Sello which blends Syrah and Tempranillo. It is rich, starts of slightly sweet and ends on an elegant note.

There’s a misconception that Spain only does reds, but we also produce a lot of whites. These are cold climate, fresher styles. The sparkling wines, Cava, is big business.

Also read | Syrian wine and a history lesson

Can you share a little bit more about the whites?

I would say the most important, and maybe the more premium styles, come from the north of Spain from the Albariño grape. It's a very expressive and aromatic fruit. The wine is quite popular and expensive because they produce it in small batches. If we look at large scale production, there's the Spanish version of the Sauvignon Blanc called Verdejo. The name comes from the word verde which means green, and it yields a very fresh wine. The third category would be whites from Rioja. In the olden times, the families that owned a vineyard would plant two red grapes and some whites in same land and then blend the two. You will have Tempranillo for structure, Garnacha (Grenache) for fruit, and Verdejo for a touch of freshness. Now, we (Araex) go to those old vineyards, and harvest the white grapes separately to get some unique bottles from age-old wineries.

Ivan Aquino, export director of Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe of the Spanish wine exporter Araex.
Ivan Aquino, export director of Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe of the Spanish wine exporter Araex.

Can you suggest a gastronomic itinerary for Spain?
Start from the Basque Country in the north. People there don’t go to a pub to unwind. Their idea of hanging out is meeting in someone’s kitchen, cooking together and sharing good wine. Food is like the national hobby: At lunch, they talk about dinner and at dinner they discuss next day's lunch. San Sebastian is located there which is famous for having the most Michelin Starred-restaurants per capita. Then you can plan a trip to centuries-old wineries in Rioja. Next, visit Ribera Del Duero which is the birthplace of the river El Duero. It’s a very well known river for the different wineries that are located close to it. From there, drive to Madrid which is the capital, and drop by our winery Gran Sello. If you have a little bit of time, you can fly to Barcelona and try the Cavas there. All along this route, you will experience fabulous food and wine.

Anggel's Share will host a Spanish wine tour with Ivan Aquino in Mumbai at Four Seasons on September 5 and Olive on September 6; and in Bengaluru at Lupa on September 7 and Le Cirque at The Leela Palace on September 8.

Also read | 7 wine forward restaurants in India

Next Story