Back in May, I went on a buying trip to Spain with a few San Francisco wine buyers and wine directors. We covered a lot of ground, from San Sebastien in the north, east to Rioja, down south to Madrid, and back to up Barcelona. This trip was eye opening and changed my entire perspective on Spanish wines and spirits. I wasn’t aware of how truly diverse the wine regions of Spain are, and how regional are their drinking cultures. Like most, I thought Spain was mainly big oaky wines like you find in Rioja or Priorat, and what are grown are more international varieties like Garnarcha (Grenache) – how wrong I was!
Spain is very diverse with a long and proud history of wine making, and the more obscure regions and styles are starting to make their way to the U.S. market. I met with Juan Antonio Ponce who is championing Bobal, a red varietal grown in Manchuela, a region just west of Valencia. Bobals are known to produce wines that are similar to Beaujolais, the of-the-moment region of France that sommeliers are falling in love with again. I also met with Marc Isart in Madrid, where he’s making amazing wines from a white varietal called Malvar. This grape is rarely planted anymore and is only made by just a handful of producers.
However, it isn’t all wine in Spain – their spirits culture is alive and thriving. Gin and Tonics are ubiquitous at bars, and there are even establishments dedicated to vermut (Spanish vermouth). I discovered the unique flavors of Spanish brandy, made from sherry wine to give it a nutty counterpart to the normally sweet spirit.
We’re so inspired by this thriving drinking culture, we invite you to make the most of the end of summer (and hopefully warmer SF days soon) with a taste of Spain! Stop in and chat with us – we’re happy to recommend a Spanish tipple for however you like to imbibe. And don’t forget to pair it with a tapas or two…
Marc Isart “El Malvar de la olla” Madrid, Spain 2013 | $19.99
Malvar is indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, and while not known for outstanding quality or distinctive character, Marc Isart is the lone exception. Organic farming and careful fermentation give this wine great charisma and freshness.
Ameztoi Txakolina “Rubentis” Rosato Galicia, Spain 2015 | $21.99
Everyone’s favorite geeky Rosé from Basque Country, this pink sibling of Amestoi’s flagship white is vibrant and a little spritzy. Made from a mixture of white and red grapes, the Rubentis is briny with hints of watermelon and strawberry. Absolutely thirst quenching!
Bodegas Ponce “P.F.” Bobal Manchuela, Spain 2013 | $22.99
P.F. stands for ‘Pie Franco’, roughly translating to ‘on its own feet’ and is a reference to the fact that the vines for this wine are ungrafted – a true rarity, since phylloxera destroyed most vines on old rootstock in Europe. This red is made from a native grape of the region, Bobal, and is aged in old French oak barrels.
Xoriguer “Mahón” Gin 1L Menorca, Spain | $49.99
A cult gin from Mahon in Menorca, Xoriguer is one of the only gins in the world (alongside Plymouth) to have a geographical indication, Gin de Menorca. Gin has been made on Menorca since the time of the British occupation in the 18th century, and Xoriguer commands a devoted following of happy travelers. Unusually, Xoriguer is made in wood-fired potstills from distilled wine (eau-de-vie) rather than the more usual grain-based distillate, and is rested in American oak barrels before bottling.
Destilerías Acha Vermouth Blanco Atxa | $19.99
Founded in 1831, Destilerías Acha has been at the forefront of distillation in the Basque Country for years. Acha’s Vermouth Tintois made in accordance with an early 19th-century recipe passed down through the family. It is made from a blend of a neutral wine and alcohol macerated with a selection of traditional herbs, fruits and roots, including wormwood, gentian and cherry.
Navazos-Palazzi 50 Year Old Single Cask Montilla Brandy | $109.99
One of the more unique artisanal brandy producers in the world, Navazos-Palazzi only bottle their brandy from a single cask. This particular one is at least 50 years old and aged in ex-Oloroso sherry cask. This bottle was bottled in 2013. Masculine and feminine at the same time, this is a sipping on a snapshot of a time long gone and one that will never come again.