St. Patrick's Day, Olé

Spanish wines meet Irish cuisine.
Spring’s around the corner, and Cleveland’s starting to look a little green again. OK, maybe not, but the beer is certainly greener. For many, St. Patrick’s Day means meeting friends downtown to sop up mounds of corned beef, cabbage and colcannon with crusty bread and lots of beer.

But for those who won’t give up their beloved vino for any occasion, you can keep the Irish theme with wines from northern Spain.

Yes, Spain. While these sun-drenched wines might seem an odd match for Gaelic peasant cuisine, it’s actually a natural pair. For centuries, Spain’s northwest corner (called Galicia) has proudly honored its Irish-immigrant roots. Galicia and Ireland even continue a cultural relationship to this day. In fact, the entire region has been nicknamed Green Spain.

Similar to the Celtic coastline, the Galician climate is wet and cool, giving white grapes such as Albarino a comfy home. The native grape vines are trained high above the ground on pergolas to maximize sun and avoid rot, creating wine that is aromatic and light in body with crisp acidity. A young Albarino is a great choice for cleansing the palate between bites.

If red wine is part of your festivities, move up the Duero River and sample wines from the premier region of Ribera del Deuro and Rioja. Crafted from the native Tempranillo grape, reds of Ribera del Deuro have firm tannins and deep aromas that can stand up to the earthiness of cabbage and the richness of beef.

In Rioja, Tempranillo is blended with Grenache, Mazuelo and Graciano, creating stellar wines for the table that everyone will enjoy.

For a trendier experience, head toward the Mediterranean coast to Priorat, where Grenache is blended with all sorts of red grapes, including Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and even Pinot Noir. Known for its red slate and mica-laden soil, called llicorella, Priorat produces small quantities of very high-quality wines.

This year, celebrate the luck of the Irish by springing into Spain with friends and family and replacing the green beer with bubbles from Cava.
Marianne Frantz, CWE and founder of the Cleveland Wine School, was joined by her tasting consultants in selecting and sampling wines for this month’s Cellar Notes.

2001 Legaris Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain ($24):
Dry and full-bodied. Firm tannins with dark fruits, leather and toasty aromas from oak aging. Made from Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), the wine requires straight-forward food such as grilled meats.

2001 Vina Salceda, Rioja, Spain ($21):
Medium-bodied with cherry, black currant and vanilla aromas. Medium tannins give the wine an approachable nature, making it a great partner for most foods. Just set the bottle on the table.

2005 Finca de Arantei Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain ($23):
Dry, light-bodied with lots of peach, citrus and floral aromas. Aromatic with mouthwatering acidity, reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect for starter courses or as an appetizer wine.

2006 Adega Valdes Gundian Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain ($17):
Dry, medium body with aromatic peach, apricot and apple aromas. Plenty of refreshing acidity makes it easy to pair with most foods, and a great bargain for the price.

NV Mont-Ferrant Brut Cava, Spain ($19):
Dry, light in body with crisp acidity and beautiful beads of bubbles. Citrus, peach and apple aromas give way to a bit of toast. Serve chilled as an aperitif alongside salty or fried appetizers.

2005 Scala Dei Negre, Priorat, Spain ($22):
Dry, full-bodied with mouth-warming alcohol. Made from 100 percent Grenache, the wine has firm tannins and loads of dark cherry and plum fruit with a hint of spice. Pair it up with roasted meats or cheese after dinner.

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