Wine Talk

Snooth User: jsncruz

Spanish Wine Madness

Posted by jsncruz, Mar 22, 2012.

First of all, THANK YOU to all the Snooth regulars who have been honing my skills and experiences with wine in general. I have learned so much from this forum, from trying as many wines as I can humanly and conveniently afford, to posting tasting notes online. This brings me to the second point..


I was invited last night to have dinner with the owner of the only Spanish wine distributor in the Philippines, the Ambassador of Spain and his wife, plus the export managers of Bodegas LAN and Bodegas Fontana. I will be reviewing six of their wines, so we had the following along with food to match:

  • Estella Galicia beer
  • Vallformosa Claudia (muscat), '10
  • Vinas del Vero (riesling), '11
  • Cuatro Pasos rose (tempranillo), '10
  • Ponte de Boga (tempranillo), '08
  • Quercus (tempranillo), '06
  • Bodegas LAN Gran Reserva (tempranillo, garnache), '03


I did feel obliged and honor to mention to these people that my wine skills - as young as they are - hails from the experts and mentors-of-sorts from :) They were very appreciative that I started in the culture at a very young age (I'm only 23), and I was even more touched when I was gifted a Bodegas LAN Crianza '06. Just like that, my tasting notes and experience increased by six in one night.

So thank you, and the kind people who are helping me in my journey of wine appreciation, collection, and experiences. I am currently working on my website, which will have a section on my wine tasting notes and escapades. I owe a lot of what I know to you guys, thanks again.


Reply by zufrieden, Mar 22, 2012.

My suggestion is that, although the Spanish Wine exprience is delectible, I would start with the French experience first. The reason for this is quite simple: the modern experience of wine did not begin, - as a a conoisseurship,- in  Spain.  Then move to Italy before moving from France to Spain...

Reply by jsncruz, Mar 22, 2012.

Hi zufrieden, thank you for your reply.


As much as I would love to experience French wines more, the prices here in Manila make it rather inaccessible, save for the French wines in the $20-$25 per bottle and below range. I had this extensive Spanish wine experience because of an invite  - total cost of the wines above is PHP 11,000, almost $300 - and not because I purchased any.


I will, however, be having a tasting of French wines tomorrow, and I will tell on the experience after it's done :)

Reply by EMark, Mar 22, 2012.

It sounds like you had a fun evening, Jason.  And it was very gracious of them to gift you with the Rioja.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 22, 2012.

Congrats Jason, sounds awesome.

Nothing wrong with starting on Spanish wines. Rioja's in close proximity to Bordeaux afterall.

Though there are plenty of affordable French wines you should try to seek out. Bandol/Provence, Languedoc-Rousillon, Cahors, Cotes du Rhone, the Loire valley. There are even some Bordeaux and Bordeaux Satelites on the cheaper end well worth a look in good vintages.

Reply by GregT, Mar 24, 2012.

Zuf - I normally agree with most of what you say but I can't agree with your advice here. People who grow up in Italy don't ignore the local wines and try French, ditto Austria, Australia, California, Spain or Greece. Some have been making wine since pre-Phoenician times and production in Greece, Italy and Spain probably pre-dates production in France.

You did say "modern" experience and I understand that you're not talking about ancient days, but that really applies mostly to British and American wine drinkers, and then perhaps to Chinese, not to the other wine-producing countries in Europe.

Moreover, the wines that people are drinking from France today are very much influenced by California and Australia and elsewhere. The traditional producers have cleaned up their cellars and improved their winemaking. Thus, the wines coming out of the Rhone are worlds apart from what they were a few years ago and people are claiming that wine is being ruined by "globalization" because Rolland is making everything taste the same. With the exchange of information these days, and the cross influences around the world, there's no reason to start with France or anywhere else. Better just to start!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 24, 2012.

Again I side with GT on something.  Sigh.

But he's pointed out elsewhere that the first modern wine intervention--topping up the barrels to prevent oxidation--was introduced to the French by the Spanish.  So why not start there? Quality wine in France is a product of such foreign interventions--what makes the French so special? Plus it's easier to see what aging does, since the Spaniards sell pre-aged wine stored in their caves.  The joven/reserva/gran reserva system should be emulated everywhere.

I often tell New World drinkers that the way to go into European wines is through Spain--affordable, and the techniques combine the proper use of sterile technique with some traditions that aren't completely universal, whether it's use of American Oak or larger barrels.  Sounds like the French have ceded the Phillipines to the Spanish, too. 

Reply by dmcker, Mar 25, 2012.

Now that's an interesting twist on history, Fox. Or should we say the Americans have ceded their influence in this respect back to Spain? Though every former colony seems to have always developed a taste at the luxury level for products not from the colonizing country (witness Hong Kong's past love of Cognac over whisky, as only one example).

Jsn, dive into that Spanish stuff, however you can get it. Used to be hard to get it most places outside of Spain and maybe South America, but now access is so much easier in a wide range of countries.

Can you tell us more, now, about how you liked the wines? Perhaps even before your website/blog is up?

Reply by GregT, Mar 25, 2012.

Fox - I think the topping up, etc., actually came from France. One of the first to do it was Pontac in Bordeaux in the late 1600s - he shipped the stuff to England during the Restoration period and it was such a hit that everyone started copying him. Some Spaniards tried to adopt the French techniques during the 1850s and then finally got them established in the 1870s - Marques de Murrietta and Marques de Riscal. When phylloxera hit France, a lot of winemakers travelled to Spain to work and that really helped develop the wines of Rioja. Then in 1895 Riscal was the first non-French wine to win the medal of honor in Bordeaux. 

Good point about tasting the older wines - the Spanish age them for you, the French expect you to age them yourself and by the way, pay for them before you ever see them too!  Glad that idea didn't catch on!

Reply by shsim, Mar 25, 2012.

Wow that is amazing Jason, bet that was a great dinner! How did you like the wines?

hmm I doubt starting wherever would spoil anything. I like to start local, what there is around you before exploring any other places.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 25, 2012.

Hmm, I thought GregT had mentioned that the French learned the topping up from Spain.  Guess I remembered that wrong. 

I stand by the rest, and would add that the Spaniards did a bad job of getting their stuff into the market when wine went international--same for the Rhone wines, which were often added to the Bordeaux to improve them, but didn't have good access to England.  Given the rivalry between Spain and England for colonial power, they had little access to England and, in the boom after WWII, Spain was under Franco--bad for people and businesses.

And the Spanish friars in California brought winemaking, but they used Mission grapes for some unknown reason--not a good move.  Shame, because they probably could have made outstanding garnachas and tempranillos.  But the main purpose was sacramental, and, of course, because water was a dodgy proposition in so many places. 

Reply by dmcker, Mar 25, 2012.

Here's to the sacred in everyday life!

Too bad the Spanish were generally more interested in leaching from their colonies rather than introducing into. Most of the powerful grandees were down south, though it would've been interesting to visit at dinner some of the larger landgrant recipients up California to at least Monterey and listen to their gripes about local grapes and fermentation issues.

And don't forget, Fox, that Bourgogne was a separate country then fairly autonomous duchy for a great length of time, so that undoubtedly had its effects on intercourse with the north and west of the rest of France. That's also why land ownership was busted up into much smaller plots over there after the Revolution, contributing to the currently confoundingly intricate nature of mini-vineyard ownership and consumer mapping/intelligibility compared to, say, Bordeaux where the private-individual revanchists surged back in force rather quickly. Perhaps also why Napoleon loved his Burgundy so much?!

Reply by GregT, Mar 26, 2012.

I think they used the mission grape because it was widely available in Spain, and especially in the south where they were usually sailing from, as well as the Canary Islands, where they'd often make a stop to pick up slaves and stores. Tempranillo was really only Rioja and Navarra, while Garnacha wasn't really respected enough to make them choose it - it was mainly used for rosado and cheap local wines. The mission grape is the red version of Palomino, which is the sherry grape, and it's still grown in the Canaries.  I never really researched this but I think that's why it ended up in the new world. In fact, I may be wrong, but I think it may be releated to Palomino in the way that Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are, but that may not be true.

It was people like Agoston Haraszthy who moved out to CA during the gold rush who brought the French grapes.  Supposedly also Zinfandel, although there's some dispute about that.  But he did write the first treatise about wine making and grape growing in CA. Although he was from Hungary, it was a lot easier to get vines from France and also CA is a lot warmer than Hungary, which didn't really have world class reds at the time. Then again, there's some dispute about his claims vs his actual contributions so who knows?

Reply by Degrandcru, Mar 31, 2012.

jsncruz: I am a big fan of the LAN Riojas. A very good steady producer at a very accesible price point. Look for 2001, 2004 and 2005 Reservas. Great values, got plenty of them in my cellar.

You had dinner with the export managers, those are great contacts. I don´t know about the Philippines, but in Mexico there are not trade restrictions like in the US and if you know the importers they sell to you directly. So you save at least 30% over retail. As you mention that in the Philippines wines are quite expensive (as they are in Mexico), going direct is the way to do it.

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