The Country Vintner's Dave Martin and some primo Spanish vino Sarah Walor photo
I recently caught up with Julia Battaglini and Dave Martin, an oenophilic duo with fresh ink in their wine journals from a recent adventure in Spain, which has the most land devoted to vines yet produces much less wine than France or Italy. "There a lot of distinct regions," says Battaglini, "and as a country, it's undervalued." She's owned Carytown's River City Cellars for a decade, and he's pulled corks for The Country Vintner as a wine distributor for years. Over a plate of trecce di Giulietta (tresses of Juliet) pasta with basil, mint, dry thyme, garlic, sautéed zucchini, bacon and Parmesan cheese, they trebled my Spanish knowledge over the following trio of wines, two of which came from spots they visited personally in February. If you're inspired to do a little exploring of your own, Martin has some advice: "Look for old families and small producers, as well as lower alcohol levels indicating old Spain versus the new, international-style Spain."
Three to Try:
Can Feixes Blanc Seleccio 2007 – $16
At a liver-friendly 12 percent ABV, this organic white from Penedes (just outside Barcelona) is predominantly parellaeda and Chardonnay, but it also includes malyasia sitges and macabeo. Together, these four grapes harmonize to create a medium-bodied-yet-mouth-coating, goes-with-almost-everything white highlighted by beautiful acid that makes Can Feixes "more serious than quaffable; a thinking man's refreshing," says Battaglini.
Luzon Verde 2007 – $10
This organic red feels like a wine from France's lower Rhone Valley, but it actually comes from Jumilla, an up-and-coming — if undiscovered — region, hence the bargain price. The nose of dark berries, pomegranate and ripe strawberries led to a juicy but acid-fresh palate.
Mas Igneus Priorat 2004 – $30
The Mas Igneus is a blend of mainly garnatxa negra (grenache noir), with carinyena (carignane), Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grown in slate soil way up in the mountains, "out of cell-phone range," Martin recalls. The wine smells like nebbiolo, with its tarry nose of rose petals, Japanese plums and dusty spice. And just like the behemoth wines of Italy's Piedmont, it needs food: "big-ass meat on a stick," says Battaglini, "or Catalan suckling pig."