Quote from the organizers:
Spanish Wine Cellar: An exclusive showcase of up-and-coming wines from Spain. All participating companies are seeking distribution and look forward to sharing their products with you! This year’s events offer the opportunity to meet over 40 wine companies; and for buyers and sellers, to connect directly with the goal of importing new Spanish brands to the U.S. market. The Spanish Wine Cellar features companies representing over 100 wines from regions such as Jumilla, Rías Baixas, Ribera del Duero, Rioja and Toro.
Spanish wines are hardly for wine geeks or wine snobs. Not that there aren't any geek-worthy wines from Spain, but frankly greatness is not a term I would use to describe them. But I love Spanish food! And this trade tasting served the most incredible array of tapas, cheeses, fish, olive oils, vinegars, and assorted preserves. Were they trying to overcompensate for the wines?
Then I realized - Spanish food is unpretentious, but it's flavorful and fun. And that is exactly how I think of Spanish wines! These are wines for common people to enjoy. With ridiculously low price-tags for most wines (under $7-15), you can party all day and all night without breaking the wallet. I tasted about 40 wines out of perhaps 100. While the food was great, I found myself challenged with finding wines that matched it. A good number of over-extracted thick chocolaty reds and banal whites would surely please many a palate, but only a few at the tasting rose beyond alcoholic juice and into the realm of gastronomy or contemplation.
Always start with sparkling. Made in a traditional method of Champagne, I don't think anything beats Cava in the $10-$30 price range - a Spanish answer to Champagne, which quality-wise puts similarly-priced Proseccos out of their misery. Cupatge d'Honor - the top bottling from Pere Ventura made of 70% Xarel-lo and 30% Chardonnary and aged for 24 months on the lees, was rich and refined (~$25), with the simpler Tresor and Brut Rosé showing nicely at a lower price point. Another Cava by Torre Oria - Brut Reserva NV - a blend of 90% Macabeo and 10% Perellada that spent 33 months on lees - was complex and refreshing, though nowhere as lush as the Cupatge d'Honor.
This was the first time ever I had a Spanish Syrah - the Durius Natural Reserve Ryrah 2005 from Marques de la Concordia made in the VT de Castilla y Leon region reminded me of Northern Rhone - cool, dark, fresh meat, plush texture, very good. 100% Syrah, aged for 24 months in French oak casks. Their Rioja Signa Crianza 2006 had quite respectable meat and pepper, neither wine exhibiting the big and heavy style evident in many other reds at the tasting.
I noticed a lot of Cab, Merlot, and Syrah blends with Tempranillo and other native varietals. Perhaps something of a trend spilled over from Italian Super Tuscans? Super-Spaniards? Not a huge fan of the trend, although one wine - Estola Gran Reserva 1999 from Bodegas Ayuso in La Mancha was quite good - a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the fruit and oak receding with age.
A sweet wine caught my eye - Carpe Diem Anejo from Tierras de Mollina located in the Sierras de Malaga - caramel colored Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel blend, aged for 8 years in American oak casks, the wine had a nice balance between fruity caramel and acidity, that could benefit from long-term aging but was also enjoyable now. An excellent value dessert wine. (They mentioned having a 25 year old version as well, which I later evaluated here.)
This was not a show of the famous wines of Spain. Rather, it was a way for relatively unknown wineries to get an introduction on the American market. To my palate, in general the wines lacked acidity, nuance or finesse. That, combined with the arrival of Super-Spaniards suggested Parkerization and catering to New World palates, which is something I understand but personally do not appreciate. That said, at these price points, it's hard to complain.