Five years ago, if most people in the noticed Spanish wine, it was for Frexinet, the inexpensive (and perfectly acceptable) sparkling wine, or Sangre de Toro, an equally inexpensive (and equally acceptable) red wine complete with a little plastic bull attached to the bottle.


          These days, all that is changing. , like , has become popular not only with the wine cognoscenti, but also with those of us looking for a bottle to have for dinner in the middle of the week. More and better wine is becoming available in this country, proof of a long and productive Spanish winemaking tradition. Some Spanish vines date past the beginning of the last century.


          One reason for Spain’s relative anonymity is that very little wine there is made with the grapes best known to Americans — cabernet, merlot and chardonnay. Instead, the Spanish climate and soil conditions favor grapes such as the tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo. The former, a staple of the Rioja winemaking region in the north, thrives in sunlight and warm weather and produces fruity, sturdy red wines that are versatile enough to serve with beef and chicken. If you can find it, try Osborne Solaz 2000, a mostly tempranillo blend for less than $10, an amazing value from a 225-year-old legendary Spanish wine family.


Garnacha is grown at altitude in northern in rocky soil with little rain. On the French side of the border (where it’s known as grenache), the grape is usually used for inexpensive, red table wine blends. In , it’s not only blended for table wines, but used to make some of the country’s most spectacular high-end bottles.




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