Day 5 – 12 days of Wine – Spain and Rioja
Campo Viejo Rioja Gran Reserva 2014
As we head east from Portugal, we come to Spain. This mountainous country has, at its center, a large raised plateau, the Meseta. Most of the country sits at over 2,000 feet above sea level.
The country’s northern border sits on the Bay of Biscay to the west and on the border with France in the Pyrénées Mountains to the east. Along the Bay of Biscay, you find the Basque region, known for its Txakolina wine, and the fantastic city of San Sebastian, known for its Basque dishes.
The western edge is mostly Portugal, but the northern corner of Spain touches the Atlantic Ocean. This region of Galicia is known as Green Spain and has a great deal of Celtic influence. You’ll find delicious Albariño in this region.
In the Southwest, you will find the Sherry triangle; in the Northeast, you will discover Catalonia, where sparkling Cava is most prevalent.
In the interior, you find regions prized for Garnacha and Verdejo, but the best-known red wine in Spain comes from Rioja.
Rioja is a wine region in North Central Spain along the Ebro River. Wines here are Tempranillo based, with Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo also allowed.
The Rioja DOC was the first in Spain and the first region to become a DOCG. This red wine becomes softer and more complex as it ages.
Rioja is made in several styles, from the youngest and freshest, called Joven, to the Crianza, aged for a minimum 2 years with 1 year of that in barrel; Reserva increases the aging to 3 years with one year of that in barrel, and Gran Reserva 4 years with 2 of those years in barrel.
You can expect to smell aromas of cherry, blackberry, and, as it ages, more cooked berries, dried berries, and spice notes, plus toasted wood, cedar, dried fig, tobacco, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. Yep, a lot is going on in a Rioja wine.
Campo Viejo was founded in 1959 by local winemakers Bernardo Beristain and Jose Ortigüela. In 2005 they became part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio. The name translates to ‘old field’, and the winery sits in the heart of the Ebro Valley on a high plateau.
Campo Viejo Rioja Gran Reserva 2014
This Gran Reserva is Tempranillo blended with Graciano and Mazuelo.
This wine has quite a bit going on when you get your nose in the glass. There is spice, smoke, cedar, cooked berries, cinnamon, plum, baking spices, vanilla, nutmeg, caramel, dried berries, tobacco, and I even got a hint of geranium. In your mouth, it is all berries, plums, and spice.
13.5% abv $24.99 Total Wine $27.99 Wine.com
Why we picked this wine
Campo Viejo is one of the largest wineries in Spain. In 2001 they opened their state-of-the-art winery in Rioja, built for sustainability. The winery was designed in harmony with the landscape. It is gravity flow, using gravity to move the wine rather than electric pumps. It is built into the hillside, creating an environment with less temperature fluctuation during the year, the earth providing insulation. This insulation cuts down on energy needs for keeping the wine cool.
The heating in public areas is geothermal, and the winery runs on renewable energy.
In this region that depends on wood barrels for its style of wine, they purchase oak from sustainable forests in France and build the barrels in Spain to reduce the transport footprint.
They recently released their first organic wine and look forward to continuing in this direction.
They have certified their carbon footprint through AENOR and are committed to ensuring that they care for the land to remain healthy for future generations. They became the first carbon-neutral winery in Spain in 2012.
They also are led by three women winemakers!
Their parent company Pernod Ricard has acknowledged its’ duty to lead’ in sustainability in the wine and spirits industry. It has set a roadmap to 2030 through nurturing biodiversity, valuing the people who impact the products, from employees to suppliers to the local communities, minimizing waste and encouraging responsible drinking.
Lamb with parsnip puree, with berry, wine, and rosemary pan sauce.
If you know me, you know that lamb is not typically something I eat. It is all about thinking of baby animals. But I understand that doubling or almost tripling your herd each year is not sustainable for farmers.
So, I have tried lamb for the first time since childhood seders. Here’s the thing, these 3 little lamb chops will give us 24 spoons, so it goes a long way. It is delicious and pairs beautifully with a wine from Rioja.
We added parsnip puree. Sweet and nutty, the puree brightens the dish and is beautiful with the lamb.
Check out our book series “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, this book creates “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
Robin has always had a love for spoons, with a drawer full of them in all different shapes and sizes. There is comfort in eating something from a spoon and something very sensual also.
Creating a spoon filled with flavors and aromas that will be eaten in a single bite, allowing the flavors to meld and pop in your mouth, is a joyful endeavor, and you are encouraged to make these your own.
The spoons range from savory to sweet, with something for everyone, and while they are paired with wines, they are delicious on their own.
These recipes are wonderful for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres or simple to create something delicious to spoil yourself, much like a pint of ice cream.
Each of these spoons is paired with a specific wine, and you get a bit of background on the wine, its flavors, aromas, and a bit of its story. She also includes other suggestions for wines to pair with the spoon.
The book is a feast for your eyes, with photos of each layered spoonful.
There are also photos of the wines with the elements of their flavor profile surrounding them. Those elements often inspire the pairing.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”
“Tempting Spoonfuls – Pairing single bites with glorious wines” – Our first book paired wines from boutique wineries on the west coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with delicious spoonfuls.
This book is 60 pages, 18 recipes, lots of beautiful photos, and insights into some wonderful small wineries!
“Tempting Spoonfuls – small bites paired with wines from around the Globe” – This book takes us around the globe to explore 12 wine regions, a wine from the region, and then gives you a recipe for a pairing!
A slightly larger book at 104 pages, this time you learn about pairing with a type of wine from a region. Rather than a specific bottle, you can look for a style of wine from a region and feel confident that it will go well with the recipe pairing we provide. We give you 12 recipes, each to pair with a wine.
Either of these books gives you wonderful recipes to create appetizer spoons to pair with wines for a party!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.