I have been in this industry long enough to see regions die (I am talking to you Australia, hope to see you again soon) and regions suddenly spike in popularity. At Tex-Som, there was a focus on wines from South Africa and from Greece because these might be the next big areas to hit the market but I had to agree with Doug Frost, MS that the next area to hit it big is the area that is already booming, Spain.
Since the EU has allowed La Mancha to irrigate their lands, there has been a rapid interest growing in this arid climate. Known best for making the neutral-tasting Airen for Spanish brandy, this area is primed to explode on the world market as the next great buy at your local retail shops.
While some of my contemporaries have already spoken about their experiences at the La Mancha event (Andrew Chalk and the Dallas Wine Chick) I wanted to focus on what La Mancha can mean for us in the future. Most of the wine I got to taste was a wonderful example of the region but is not currently available in our market. Therefore, rather than describe wine that is unattainable, I decided to describe the style so when it does hit, you already know what you want.
In the La Mancha tastings, most of the suppliers focused on tasting through their lineups based on age, with Joven being the youngest wines and the Gran Reservas being the oldest. Jovens typically showed strong fruit flavors overwhelming the palate, with little structure or body. This is typical with what you would expect for your everyday drinking wines. A close representation would be 14 Hands Merlot. These are meant to be softer on the palate without the complex nuances and price tags that come from oak aging.
Next came the Crianzas, which had the strongest oak flavor of the lot. By oak flavor, I am talking about the all-spice, cinnamon and dill notes accompanied by a stronger pepper note that had not mellowed out. This is the wine you put next to pepper-crusted steak or blackened catfish as those spice notes will help bridge those flavors and accentuate the fruit in the wine and the flavors of you food.
For me, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are where these wines truly shine. Most of the wines we tried had a price tag under 5 euros back in Spain, basically leading to a $15-$25 price point here in Texas. Both the reserva and gran reserva are more complex; a style that works in layers as opposed to singular notes like the previous wines. It is in these wines that you can find those beautiful notes of leather, mint, tobacco and subtle earth that round out the now dried flesh of both red and black fruit.
My personal favorite for the event was a 1995 Tempranillo from Senorio de Guadianeja, a wine that showed just how well a bottle of Tempranillo can age if it could ever make it that long in my cellar, which it won’t.
When these wines finally do hit the market you need to ask yourself what are you in the mood for? If you are planning on eating a burger and want something other than a Zinfandel to go with your food, try a Joven and enjoy the fruit forward style at a great price point. Want something more complicated to go with your meal? The stronger the flavors of the food, the younger the wine you want.
Sommeliers are always looking for the best wine at the best price that best matches the food and you can follow in those same shoes. For my money, La Mancha is a perfect place to start and it is only going to get better as more of these products become available.