What advice can you give to Somms, Wine Directors or Retailers in how Spanish wines can help expand their offerings to consumers?
A few years ago Spain was all about big reds – Priorat and Ribera del Duero – which provided the massive extract and inky color without the price tag of a Napa cabernet. But now Albariño is being taken seriously. Cava receives more respect as many have realized it’s a “champagne-method” sparkler. And lighter reds, especially Galician Mencia based reds, are a must-have’s right now. If you look at the Instagram feeds of young sommeliers or just go out and look at good wine lists, the hot red wines right now are not so “big” anymore. Everyone’s crazy for Beaujolais, or Trousseau from the Jura, or wispy little Nebbiolo’s from the Valtellina in Italy. Something like a Mencia from Ribeira Sacra fits right into that. And they’re actually really good, affordable and unlike anything else out there.
What do you think Spain has to offer right now that other countries cannot?
Newness. Among the “Big 3” European wine countries (IT-FR-SP) Spain is #1 in vineyard land but #3 in wine produced. I believe that will change as so many historic terroirs are re-discovered and revitalized. The Sherry phenomenon is the best example. No self-respecting wine program today is without a Sherry “program” of some type. Two other regions that are rapidly growing are Galicia (blowing up) and Catalunya (with lots of attention to kooky native grapes).
What is your perspective on how consumers think about Spanish wine?
It reminds me of when I first started at Babbo after spending a year in Italy researching “Vino Italiano.” There was a sense then that tons of positive change were afoot in Italy, but most people, even wine people, couldn’t keep up its pace. As a result, people were totally open to and intrigued by indigenous grapes they’d never heard of, or more classic wines that were totally under-valued for what they delivered. I think consumers still don’t know quite what to make of Spanish wine, but they’re curious, because there’s so much innovation and so much “intriguing wine of place” newness.
What’s your favorite Spanish wine?
It’s a tie between Rias Baixas Albariño and Grand Reserva Rioja from a traditionalist producer.