I first heard these immortal words uttered when I was a child, but they came to mind in my first ever Press tasting.
I’ve been to many trade tastings, almost exclusively as a producer, there to serve my wines and tell others, especially the Press about them and their unique stories. Despite blogging about wine in general for about 2 years now, as I didn’t review wines I never thought of myself as having a role on that other side of the fence.
However, as I want to share information on the best things of Rioja and Spain with this blog, I now have the opportunity to review other wines and regions, and so I was invited to a tasting of Green Spain by Wines from Spain. I think this is the first time I participated as “Press”, sharing a room with John Radford, Tim Atkin, Jamie Goode and many other respected journalists.
Green Spain (follow this link for tourism information) is the name for a large swathe of land to the North of the mountain ranges that run along the north coast, where the weather is wet and cool and totally unlike most people’s perception of “Spain”. Green Spain also refers, in this case, to some specific wine regions/DOs: the three Txakolis (pronounced Chacoli), Monterrei, Valdeorras, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra and, most famously of all, Rias Baixas.
For most of us, this part of Spain has become famous for one thing in particular – Albariño. After this tasting, I think this will justifiably become even better known, but you will almost certainly also need to start learning about Godello too.
There were 40 wines in this tasting, including 32 Albariños, plus a smattering of Godello, Txakoli, and some blends based on Treixadura amongst others. I was very impressed with the entire range, but won’t try and give you tasting notes across all of them, but I would like to talk a little about the styles and the differences I found.
Txakoli (made from Hondarribi Zuri): I have actually come across this before, as it is the wine of the Basque country and therefore you will be able to try it in Bilbao bars and many seaside restaurants up and down the coast. It is usually a zippy, fresh wine with tons of acidity (think Vinho Verde from Portugal for a comparison) and also some flavours of crisp, green apples and limes. At best it is a very refreshing, sometimes slightly sparkling, wine, and I really liked the 2007 Txomin Etxaniz Getaria (£11). I suggest that this is one of those wines that is probably best tried on its home ground first, as it is really a product of Basque cuisine and culture.
Godello: I’ve also tried Godello (pronounced godeyo) wines before, one of which I remember came from The Wine Society, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that these wines were truly yummy. All the ones I tried had that intense lemon/lime fruit, plus some floral hints and a combination of richness in the mouth and fresh acidity that make them stunning food partners. For those who have already “discovered” Albariño, I really do reccomend that you check out wines made from Godello. It is hard to pick just one, but maybe the 2006 A Coroa Godello (£11) just pipped the others.
Albariño: With so many wines side-by side, it was interesting to note the different styles available from the same grape and same (tiny) region. There were the lighter, fresh, leafy versions that reminded me of a combination of Verdejo and even Viognier. There were the intense green apple and grapefruit versions, with bags of acidity and long finishes. And then, my favourites I must admit, those with rich honey (someone said cheesy?), lemon curd and pink grapefruit flavours.
I think the latter wines have been treated to a percentage of malolactic fermentation, combining a richness of fruit flavours with the fresh acidity of the grape, and this grape has acidity to spare!
I had a few favourites here: 2006 Ria de Arosa (£9), 2005 Family Reserve (Castro Martin) (£11), 2006 Gundian (£10) and 2007 Terras Gauda o Rosal (£14) (nb. this one’s a blend).
So, it isn’t easy being from Green Spain, apart from anything, look at the range of names of regions and grape varietals you have to contend with. It has taken many years for the world to discover Albariño overnight, and the other great wines from the area could still be overshadowed by this success, but these wines are also helping to raise Spain’s profile as a premier class wine producer, not just for Rioja, but other wines too.
If you are considering exploring Rioja, you should also see it in the context of all the innovation, history and culture of the surrounding regions in Spain.
And as Kermit says:
Green can be big like an ocean,
or important like a mountain,
or tall like a tree
So, to mix metaphors, similes & cultural references horribly, Give Green a Chance!