André's Travel Log

January 2009: Notes on Spain

Some thoughts on Spain after trekking 4000 miles:

Spain today continues to be one of the most exciting areas for wine in the world. The combination of the varied topography and accompanying cultures creates the dynamics for an incredibly rich landscape. The innovation in vinification techniques and vineyard management (continuing exploration in sustainable agricultural practices) is what makes this incredibly forward thinking country so exciting.

The 2008 vintage appears to mirror past vintages as the harvest dates followed classic dates. Cold weather resulted in a long viticultural cycle that permitted the vines to take their time to mature through the various stages. In some areas of Spain flowering was hampered by wet weather that created difficulties, but overall the crop appears to have been rescued by late, sunny weather. This late sun, combined with the long vegetative cycle, allowed full maturation to take place and the results should be very well balanced, ripe wines. I found excellent wines throughout all the major regions of Spain that I visited.

Another qualitative factor to consider in Spain is the state of the economy. The construction boom in Spain fueled many new projects throughout Spain. As new wineries without track records but with full inventories dump their wines on our shores the level of perceived quality from specific viticultural regions will suffer. Areas such as Rueda, Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Rias Baixas will bear the brunt of this action.

More remote areas with limited production, such as the Basque Country, will not have this problem as they can barely keep up with local demand for their product.

Apart, and almost in a different world, there is Sherry. Never was such a magical land with so much history so forgotten. I travelled here with five colleagues and a magical silence pervaded the group as we stood in awe at Maestro Sierra and watched them perform a ritual known as El Rocio. The Rocio is the racking process that happens every four months or so at these wineries. Maestro Sierra is the last to perform this process by hand. This fantastical journey through Sherry Country cemented my belief that Sherry is truly one of the crown jewels of our little world of wine. Nowhere else do I know where mystery combined with lost time creates products as illusory and transcendental as those of Sherry.