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Spain`s riches

Rioja is still the big name of Spain, best known for its Tempranillo reds – many of them matured in American oak, adding to red fruits (notably strawberry) their distinctive vanilla- spice character. But have you discovered Ribera del Duero yet? These tend to be more heavy-weight – so while Rioja`s food match is pork and lamb, so Ribera del Duero tends to be the better match for beef and game. Our `Protos` is a fine example, comparable structurally to claret and worth the trouble of decanting. The grape Tempranillo tends to be seasoned with Grenache or Mazuelo, adding body, acidity and warmth; and it`s also the practice to use French oak for the most premium wines nowadays. Tinkering in the vineyards has also led to better quality fruit, and so today it`s fair to make the point we have never had it better. Spain also has a reputation for producing decent, richly flavoured Rioja Blanco made from the Viura grape – a superb match for seafood Paella. The crisper whites from Penedes are more suited to the local fresh fish, and sparkling Cava from the same region can be very good value and an ideal aperitif. The pink rosado wines can work as well with rice dishes (especially with saffron) and the more flavoursome fish. Yet the most exciting white wine of the last few years – and in-trend right now – is Albariño from Rias Baixas. Try the Alma Martin, it`s a beauty. It`s deliciously aromatic and tropical, with weight and freshness in equal measures. Finally, to my heart`s desire, there`s sherry, the fortified wine of Jerez. Christopher Colombus shipped it, William Shakespear wrote about it and England`s nobility worshipped it. It`s one of the treasures of our world: a blessed, aged, complex beverage – a fortified wine – which thrills the taste buds and warms the soul. Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cotado, Pedro Ximenez … these are names to describe the myriad sherry styles, from pale and dry, through amber, to dark and sweet. We stock them all!

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