Tuscaloosa’s Spirits Wine Cellar provides an introduction to Spanish Wine

March 14, 2013
Alpine Living | Courtney Gilley

Alpine Living | Courtney Gilley

Our staff is young. We consist of juniors and seniors in college still grinding for those credit hours and a respectable GPA. Long nights are typical and early mornings are a necessary evil. Especially now – less than a week away from our departure to Spain- the degree of our workload can only be rivaled by the level of our excitement. But hey, even a group of twenty-somethings can use a little R&R. So this past Tuesday, when the owners of Spirits Wine Cellar in Tuscaloosa kindly agreed to host a wine tasting featuring eight variations of Spanish and Portuguese wine, many of us jumped at the chance for a brief hiatus away from the stacks of paper and strings of emails.

Jennifer and Matt Bologna have been in the wine business for over 10 years. Their extensive knowledge and combined love for wine have allowed them to turn their passion into a career. In 2001, they opened Spirits and can now boast of supplying 3,000 bottles of wine at any given time for their customers.

Jennifer received us promptly at 7 p.m. and we began with a brief tutorial on the process of tasting wine. The specifics of this process can vary between all ranges of novices and connoisseurs, but a generally accepted method can apply in simpler situations. Once the wine is poured, expect completing seven steps to get the most out of the experience.

See the wine. Hold the glass up against a light background and look at the color and clarity. To get an idea of the alcohol content, tilt the glass and watch the legs (streaks of wine) that stick to the glass. The longer the legs remain, the more alcohol is in the wine.

Alpine Living | Courtney Gilley

Alpine Living | Courtney Gilley

Swirl the wine. This oxidizes and releases the natural aroma of the grapes.

Smell and identify the scent, or the nose/ bouquet. Enjoying wine is a very personal experience, so try and identify any scents that trigger a certain memory.

Taste the wine. Take small sips and move it around in your mouth. The longer you keep the wine on your palate the better.  It will change flavors as it makes contact with different parts of your tongue.

Swish the wine around your mouth. Focus on the changing of flavors and the texture and judge how tannic the wine is.

Finish the wine. You can swallow or spit the wine back out. This decision will not affect the taste. Afterwards, try and focus on any additional flavors or finishing touches. Ask yourself if the wine lingers or not. If the flavor does linger, the wine is more acidic in composition.

Summarize your experience. Does the wine leave a good impression? Do you find yourself craving another sip? These reflections can have a big impact on your decision to purchase the wine.

The Wines:

Conde de Subirats Cava NV

Cava, secretly referred to as Spanish champagne, is a sparkling wine that is solely produced in the Pendes region of Catalonia, just south of Barcelona. The name cava originates from the method of storing the wine in cave cellars. The white grape varieties used to produce the Conde Subirats brand are macabeo, Parellada and for added French influence, chardonnay. These grapes are harvested early to maintain the crisp acidity and are then fermented separately to add the carbonation. This carbonation enhances the fruity taste, which bites at first but the warmth that follows is unmistakable.

Octave Vinho Verde 2012

Alpine Living | Courtney Gilley

Alpine Living | Courtney Gilley

A young wine, the Octave Vinho is very low in alcohol content and is considered a simple, fun wine. One of the more refreshing wines in the lineup, this light white wine is produced in Minho, Portugal from the trajadura and avessa grapes. On the nose there is a fresh fruit combination of sliced apples and pears that results in a sweet aftertaste.  This particular brand is perfect for a hot day during the summer and is excellent with crackers and cheese.

Salneval Albarino 2011

My personal favorite of the bunch, this Albarino is a more treated, full bodied white wine. It has a creamy texture that pairs well with shellfish and other seafood.  The consistency of the color adds to the aromatic nature of the region from where it was produced. The grape Alabarino is grown in the Rias Baxias region outside of Galicia, Spain.  Its name Alba-Riño means “the White from the Rhine.” On the palate there is an emergence of citrus fruit that leaves a long and lingering finish.

Vino Borgia 2011

This Borgia is produced using the garnacha grape; the most widely planted red grape variety in the world. This specific garnacha hails from Campa de Borja, Spain and produces a wine of a dark violet color that carries a spicy, berry flavor, which is soft on the palate. The vineyards of this wine are located 1,200 feet in elevation on chalky, limestone soils. This climate creates an almost velvety texture for the wine that is smooth along the tongue. This red pairs well with strong meats and cheeses.

Cortijo Rioja Tinto 2011

Another red wine, Cortijo Rioja Tinto is from La Rioja, the most famous wine producing region of Spain. Rioja produces the tempranillo grape as well as the garancha, but the tempranillo is the most grown in this region. Aged for 6 months in 3 year-old oak barrels, this dark red includes flavors of cherries with hints of roasted herbs and spices. This medium bodied wine is considered the most age worthy of the selection.

Barranc dei Rei Monastrell 2011

This robust red is rich, full bodied and bold, to say the least. Produced from the monastrell grapes in Valencia, Spain, it has a deep magenta color with a nose of ripe black fruits and sweet leather. The taste is strong and lingers on the palate long after the finish. The aging process lasts 6 months in neutral oak barrels that results in high alcohol content and an earthy note from start to finish.

La Cartuja Priorat 2010

A lighter red, La Cartuja is also aged for 6 months, but in larger French oak barrels. The larger the barrel results in a reduced oak taste in the wine. This lends to the overall minerality of the first sip. Notes of wet rock, steel, blueberries and raspberries contribute to this medium-to-full bodied red.

Maritavora Tawny Port NV

The second wine from Portugal, this fortified, more commonly known as Port, wine is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley. It is most commonly consumed with desserts such as toffee cakes, caramel pie, pecan pie and chocolate. This tawny is aged for 3 years and by adding natural grape spirits, the fermentation process is stopped. This allows the sugar to breakdown completely, adding to the sweet taste and high alcohol content of Port wine. It consists of a light ruby color with maple syrup and hazelnut aromas. It’s both spicy and sweet with a satisfyingly long finish.