Wine has been made in Spain for more than 3,000 years and until the past couple of decades or so, little changed in the approach to winemaking in the country.
There has been a renaissance there, though, and not only are Spanish wineries producing modern wines using modern techniques, some are now using modern marketing approaches.
Casa Rojo is one of those wine producers that is modern in all aspects of its production and marketing. At a dinner hosted by Cayman Spirits Co. that featured Casa Rojo’s wines at Luca restaurant on Nov. 9, guests were able to see for themselves that these were not their grandfather’s Spanish wines.
Black sheep and oranges
Casa Rojo basically offers a wine tour of Spain. It produces seven different wines, each from a different region, with all of the major wine-growing areas covered. Rather than using the grapes from each region to make wines that are all similar in style, Casa Rojo’s goal is to produce wines that express the authentic terroir and character of the region from which the grapes come.
The dinner started with Cava, Spain’s premier sparkling wine, usually made from a blend of indigenous grapes grown in Catalonia near Barcelona. Casa Rojo’s Cava, called Moltó Negre – meaning “Black Sheep” – is a sparkling wine that offers consistent bubbles and crisp acidity, and a moderate alcohol level of 11.5 percent.
“This is refreshing, clean and dry, especially in comparison with Prosecco,” said Cayman Spirits Co. Wine Sales Manager Christian Esser.
“It is a perfect Sunday brunch wine that will go with seafood dishes, salads and white meats.”
The other white wine served was made from a grape called Godello that is grown in the wine region Valdeorras. It is named “The Orange Republic,” partially because it grows among orange daisies and thousands of orange trees, and partially because producing a wine with a lesser-known grape from a lesser-known wine region is a bit rebellious.
The wine’s aromas and flavors are of summer stone fruits and there’s even a hint of orange blossom, as if the orange trees the grapes grow near have imparted some of their traits on the grapes.
This is a wine that is fresh enough to drink on its own, but paired with citrus-cured beet tartare, capers and a crunchy quail egg, it also showed it had enough texture and body to drink with food.
Spain is best known for its powerful red wines, and the wine dinner at Luca featured two of them. The first was called Maquinon, which roughly translates to “machine.” It’s a wine made from Garnacha, which is the Spanish word for Grenache, the grape of French origin.
The wine comes from the Priorat wine region southwest of Catalonia from grapes grown in slate and quartz soil called llicorella. The grapes are farmed biodynamically in nutrient-poor soils, allowing this wine to show its terroir beautifully.
It is an intense, ruby-red wine with aromas of violet, spice and dark fruits. The highly rated 2014 vintage drinks very well even young, but has the structure to age for a decade or more. This is a stunning wine made all the more enjoyable by its reasonable price point.
The final wine of the night was made from Tinta Fina grapes, which is what Tempranillo is called in the wine region of Ribera del Duero, located in the harsh climate of Spain’s northern plateau.
Rioja might be the most famous wine region for Tempranillo in Spain, but wines made from the grape in other Spanish wine regions have been gaining in popularity because of their elegance. Ribera del Duero is the place from where Spain’s most famous wine – Vega Sicilia – comes, and part of the success is the unique climate and soil of the wine region.
Made from vines that are 25 years old, the Casa Rojo wine – humorously called “Alexander vs. The Ham Factory” – paired terrifically with the cocoa-braised pork cheeks with wild mushroom croquettes and Serrano ham-wrapped roasted asparagus.
“This is a smooth wine with silky tannins and concentrated fruit,” said Esser.