Wines from Spain 2014

Wine

I love tapas - really … totally … absolutely, but with one caveat - they have to be authentic, served in a Spanish bar, preferably in … wait for it … SPAIN, accompanied by a small beer or glass of wine. It all fits together so well - the food, the drink, the people, the language … in other words, the complete atmosphere and above all, it has to be natural, not forced, not a copycat version. Keep it real and I'm happy!

I have a rule when travelling abroad to countries where English is not the first language. If I have a smattering of the local lingo, I refuse to go to a bar or restaurant displaying an English menu, as I know the food won't be authentic and perhaps the wine choice won't be up to scratch either. Friends can vouch for this, but it's stood me in good stead when searching out great food and wine in Spain, Germany, Portugal and other countries.

Having spent some time in Spain in the 1980s, where I acquired my taste for tapas, I only later developed a real appreciation of the country's wines. A pivotal moment came when I attended a tasting given by the late great Spanish wine expert, John Radford. He introduced me and other participants to a grape variety, still unknown to this day to many people around the world and indeed within Spain itself. That grape was Godello - a personal revelation, as it effectively stuck out its tongue at Chardonnay and said "Hey look at me - I can make great wine too and I'm interesting, with my typical apple, stone fruit, honey and mineral characteristics bolstered by a deliciously creamy mouth feel!"

And so it was that when I bought wine in London or went back to Spain, Godello is what I often looked for. I'm now pleased to see more wines made from this indigenous Spanish grape starting to become available in the UK, but it doesn't stop there and you need only look at the more authentic tapas restaurants in London to see this reflected in their wine lists.

There is a New Spain, to quote the title of John Radford's superb book. There are now over 60 regional demarcated wine regions in the country, many new, which have lifted the reputation of and interest in Spanish wine to almost dizzying heights. Regional individuality is key - going beyond renowned areas like Rioja - as is investment in new technology, innovation and modern approaches and ideas to winemaking in general. A huge variety of terroir translates into an enormous diversity of wine styles from light and aromatic to intensely powerful and tannic. Both the big guns and small family wineries are building on this wealth of indigenous and international grapes planted throughout the country. With this in mind, I made a point of visiting the 25th Annual Wines from Spain Trade Fair in London on 20th March. Showcasing wine from around the country, there were also two featured "help yourself" tastings - 'White Wines from Indigenous Grape Varieties' and 'Tempranillo' - both of which gave a glimpse into the gamut of styles available from this European wine mecca. My personal highlights, in order of tasting, are mentioned below:-

Wine
Indigenous Whites

Wine
Tempranillo

Wine
Around the room

The global relevance of the Spanish wine industry should not be underestimated. According to the drinks business, Spain, which has a larger planted surface of vineyards than any other country, has now become the world's biggest wine producer, showing an increase in volume of 41% in the past year. Moreover, Drinks International reports that the most admired wine brand for 2014 is Torres.

Modern or pioneering companies like Torres, Bodegas Martín Códax and Bodegas Beronia, or traditional yet forward-thinking wineries like Marqués de Riscal, CVNE and Bodegas Faustino have made the world wine map all the more intriguing. They've also added to my immeasurable pleasure of eating at a Spanish restaurant and especially of 'ir de tapas' - the choice of wines to go with my tapas ever more rewarding. ¡Muchas gracias, señores y señoras. Muchas gracias!