Summer Sips From Spain

By Sandra Crittenden
Summer Sips 

The Spanish wine story is long and begins far in the past before records were kept. The Phoenicians arrived there 3,000 years ago and found a developed and well-established wine culture with which to trade. The Romans would come and conquer and bring new techniques to help support the ever-expanding Roman thirst for the vino. After Rome fell, the Visigoth’s continued the viticulture tradition, but the Moors invaded in the 8th century and wreaked havoc on the industry with their ban on alcohol consumption.

Northern and central Spain saw a resurgence in wine production as Catholicism began to spread during the Middle Ages that continued through the Age of Exploration and Colonization. Later, demand rose and fell with the political tides and through the political unrest leading up to the first World War.

At the forefront of modern winemaking, Spain was early in delineating wine regions based on geography and was already establishing and naming regions of quality in 1926. Unfortunately, the ensuing global financial depression, the abdication of their king, and a civil war made growing and improving the wine industry incredibly difficult.

Fascism under Franco ushered in a period of quantity over quality production, and the country became more of a bulk table wine producer although there were always exceptions. Spain’s current reputation as a producer of high-quality wines began relatively recently, in 1986 after joining the EU.

Learning some of the many wine producing regions in the country today and knowing a few aging terms will help wine lovers find new favorites and make wine shopping far easier. Spain is a bit smaller than the size of Texas, but it produces a lot more wine and has far more designated production areas. It is the third largest producer in the world with the most area under vine.

The recommended wines for August come from three notable Spanish vineyards, and they can all be found at Spec’s on 61st Street.


Rías Baixas (pronounced Ree-ass By-shass) is a wine region in northwestern Spain in Galicia. The area is called Green Spain and is known for fragrant and fruity white wines that pair beautifully with seafood.

The vineyards are planted on sandy granitic soils which help elevate the natural pH in the grapes, producing wines with higher food friendly acidity. The underlying rock is porous enough to create deep-rooted vines which helps to create more layered yet often subtle aromas and flavors.

Albariño is the most important white grape here; it is native to Galicia.

Serra Da Estrela Albariño

This wine is produced by Adegas Valminor which was founded in 1997. A bright yellow in the glass, the wine has notes of apricot and peach with a light citrus blossom nuance that complements the lively lime and tropical fruit finish. $15


Rioja is in North Central Spain and is known primarily for its reds although it also makes some whites and rosés. Most bodegas make blended red wines with Tempranillo being the most important grape. Tempranillo is considered the most noble of all the native Spanish vines and gives wines elegance, concentration, and complexity.

The varied soils of the region contribute roundness and richness while the addition of oak aging helps create wines with personality and depth.

LAN Xtrème Crianza 2015

This red wine is made from 100% organic Tempranillo sourced from the Viña Lanciano Estate which was established in 1972. Persistent and richly flavored, this wine is an ideal accompaniment to smoked Texas barbecue or grilled steak.

It is a deep garnet red in the glass and exhibits intense aromas of cranberries, cherries, and dried apricots with notes of vanilla and cinnamon from the wine aging for 14 months in new French oak barrels. The official Crianza designation requires two years total aging with at least one full year in barrel.

Consumers will also find other age indicators on Rioja reds—Reserva for 3 years and Gran Reserva for 5 years total age time before being placed in the market. $23

El Coto Rioja Rosado 2017

This rosé blend is composed of Tempranillo and Garnacha, the Spanish name for Grenache. Garnacha is the most widely grown red grape in Spain. The producer El Coto de Rioja began in 1970 and is one of the largest growers in the region. In the glass, the nose has aromas of fresh strawberries with hints of rose and caramel.

It is easy drinking and silky with a fresh red fruit filled finish. A lighter wine to enjoy chilled with seafood paella, appetizers, and hearty salads, or it can also be enjoyed with Asian cuisine. Priced under $11.


Well-chilled and sparkling is a refreshing way to enjoy wine any time of year, but it seems especially pleasant during the hot days of August. Cava is the Spanish equivalent to Champagne - it is made in the same way, though the grapes may be the same or different, and it is priced more affordably.

While there is no Cava-specific region in Spain, the heart of Cava production is in the Penedes region, not far from Barcelona. Top choices for summer come from Castillo Perelada where wine has been made since the middle ages. Its modern history begins in 1923 and continues through three generations of the Mateu family who still own the winery today.

Dry, sparkling wines work well with raw oysters and simple seafood dishes but can also be served with salty snacks like popcorn and chips or with Spanish favorites like green olives, Marcona almonds, and Manchego cheese. Priced approximately $12 each.

Perelada ‘Stars’ Brut Nature Reserva Cava 2016

This white version is a blend of local grapes Xarello and Parellada with some Chardonnay. In the glass, find a generous stream of fine bubbles with light apricot aromas and flavors with some nutty, lightly oxidized notes from aging. It is crisp, yet smooth, and complex.

The ‘Brut Nature’ label lets drinkers know it is the driest type of sparkling available.

Perelada Brut Rosé NV

This pink option is a blend of local grapes Garnatxa and Trepat with Pinot Noir. Bright with fruitier aromas and the same generous stream of fine bubbles, this wine is balanced and fresh with a lingering red fruit finish.

In 2004, it was chosen as the official reception drink at the Spanish Royal Wedding, making it an elegant choice for any summer occasion.