The fine wines of Spain

By April Hall
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Introduce the wines of Spain for a delicious addition to your fine dining
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We've all been there. You sit down at a fancy restaurant, looking sexy and sophisticated; imagining that every eye in the room is focused on you. You work hard to turn your plain, Midwestern accent into a modern rendition of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's as you calmly ask the waiter what the chef's special that night. After listening to a list of delicious entrees, you settle back with the menu when the waiter asks you that fated question, "What type of wine would you like with your meal tonight, Madame?" In that moment, reality comes crashing back down on you hard: You grew up in Des Moines, your dress has a spit-up stain on the front, and the only thing you know about wine is that you like all of the flavors of Arbor Mist…

As hopeless as this situation may sound, there is hope out there! No matter what the type of cuisine, one of the varieties from the wines of Spain might just make the perfect compliment. And don't be intimidated because you don't have any knowledge of these wines; Spanish wines are fairly easy to learn, and they are almost all delicious.

Wines of Spain - Quality Levels When looking at wine labels from wines of the Spanish regions, do not try to understand all of the details; rather, get a handle on the following six terms, one of which will be on every label:
  • Vino de mesa: This is a table wine, that does not come from a specific wine region in Spain.
  • Vino joven: Young wine. A vino joven does come from a particular wine region, but does not have enough ageing to be a "roble" or "crianza".
  • Roble: Roble means oak; this term usually means a wine that has been "oaked", but is not as aged as a "crianza".
  • Crianza: This is a wine that has been aged two years, with at least 6 months in oak.
  • Reserva: This is top quality wine; aged at least 3 years, at least 1 year in oak, and is made from top vintages.
  • Gran Reserva: This is the granddaddy of wines of Spain. This wine has been aged 2 years in oak, and is made from outstanding vintages.

  • What Type of Wine do You Want? Wines of Spain come in all kinds of variety: from a "tinto", or red wine, to a ""blanco", or white wine. If you are dining in a restaurant that serves pasta, or your entrée is based on vegetables, you may try a sparkling wine, called "cava" or "espomuso" wines. It might also be fun to end your meal with one of these sparkling wines as a sort of send-off back into the real world!

    How Sweet Is It? Choosing one of the wines of Spain may be getting easier now that you understand the terms that designate quality, but how will you choose the actual type? A rule of thumb with Spanish wines is to consider the type of dish served with the wine: A savory dish, like a paella, is best served with a sweet, or "dulce" wine. A dish made with a lot of oils, or a seafood dish, is a good compliment to a drier sherry—ask for a "seco" or "brut" variety.

    Don't fret if you don't memorize all there is to know about the wines of Spain. It is always fun to simply ask the waiter for his suggestions for a wine that might go well with your dish; or just ask for the type that you want. For instance, ask for a dry sherry, and see what the restaurant suggests. It is important, however, to specify the quality of wine that you are looking for. There is usually a great difference in price between a "Vino de mesa" and "Gran Reserva" wine!

    Just remember that all wine connoisseurs were once novices, like you; so don't be embarrassed if you aren't sure which wine you want with your meal. Keep your aura of sophistication about you as you casually, with your feigned Uptown accent, lean towards the waiter and reply to his question about wine selection with, "I have no idea. Bring me whichever wine you would drink, sir."

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