There has never been a better time to explore the wines of Spain. Although the country's history in wine dates back centuries, recent investments in winery technology energized by Spain's move into the European Union quickly cultivated a "modern style" of quality winemaking. Now, exciting wine values from Spain are popping up on wine lists and retail shelves worldwide.
With more land under vine than any other wine-producing country, navigating Spain's vast wine regions can be a daunting prospect. Start your search by sipping wines of Rioja, Spain's most prestigious red-wine region. Blended mainly from Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, the ageworthy reds of Rioja are often compared to the elegance and earthiness of French Pinot Noir. But even though red rules in Rioja, don't miss out on the white Rioja made from the Viura grape. It offers a great value for summertime quaffing.
Just west of Rioja is Ribera del Duero, another exciting region with plenty of powerful reds. Sharing the same characteristics as Rioja, the warmer climate of Ribera del Duero produces riper grapes with richer concentrations of fruit and tannins.
While exploring labels, try selecting a bottle from the evolving wine regions of Penedes, Navarra, Toro or RÃas Baixas. Delicious wines are produced in every corner of Spain and chances are these wines are on a shelf or wine list near you, just waiting to be discovered.
Marianne Frantz, founder of the Cleveland Wine School, is joined by Josh Kaplan, general manager of Varietals Wine Bar and CafÃ©, in selecting wines for this month's Cellar Notes.
2000 Marques de Caceres, Rioja ($15): Strawberry, cherry, spice and leather surrounded by crisp acidity and firm tannins. This wine's modern styling pairs well with a variety of foods, making it a good choice for gift giving.
2001 Vina Mayor, Tinto Roble, Ribera del Duero ($12): Sun-drenched cherry, tobacco and learthery flavors with bright acid and firm tannins make this an excellent food wine. Try it with roasted meats.
2001 G Dehesa Gago, Toro ($10): Full of stewed red fruit, baking spices and a bit of toasted oak. The noticeably soft tannins make this red good on its own or with a juicy burger.
2002 Coto de Hayas, Tinto, Campo de Borja ($9): Intense strawberry, herbs and hints of green peppercorn. Crisp acidity and soft tannins make this an ideal summer red and a great value.
2002 Coto de Hayas, Garnacha Centenaria, Campo de Borja ($15): Bright red fruit and hints of blood-orange peel. Its firm, pleasing tannins require food with some weight, such as grilled steak.
2002 MarquÃ©s de CÃ¡ceres, Rioja White ($9): Light-bodied with ample acidity. Its profile of lime, citrus and floral-peachy flavors is perfect for patio season.