Friends having tapas at restaurant
On weeknights, I love to watch old episodes of Made in Spain, the PBS PBS show hosted by Chef José Andrés. This series ran in 2008, before World Central Kitchen was conceived. The trouble with that show — during which viewers travel with Chef from his home kitchen in Washington DC to his Spanish homeland to discover food and wine culture — is that it ignites cravings. It’s a comforting and entertaining show, but it’s impossible to turn it off and go to bed without raiding the pantry for a snack and a sip of wine.
Finding myself in this position, thirsty for wine and facing more of the workweek ahead, I’ve found two Spanish wine categories that are perfect tonics to weeknight cravings. Both of these are probably new to many people but have centuries of winegrowing heritage, which makes them all the more interesting for discovery. And glancing at prices for these bottles online, there are affordable options around.
Jumilla is known for growing Monastrell. This red-skinned variety is called Mourvèdre in France and Mataro in the US, but it’s considered original to this spot in southeastern Spain in the Levante area — a treasure zone of 90+-year-old ungrafted bush-trained vines. This means they are growing on their own roots (most vineyards have grafted vines) and they have no stake or trellis holding them up.
There are three styles of Jumilla wine: Rosado (the Spanish term for rosé), Tinto Joven (little or no oak), and Crianza (12 months oak treatment). Unoaked and younger wines have a dark fruit core, and balance juicy acidity and structure. These are fantastic with charcuterie, taco night, or burgers. When aged in oak they take on more tannic structure and balsamic notes, making excellent candidates for grilled or slow-roasted meats. The rosado style is lively and fruity, a partner for soft cheeses, salads, or pastas.
These wines tend to get little press in the US market, but this doesn’t indicate a lack of quality. In fact, consumers will likely be impressed with the prices (I found plenty under $20 on WineSearcher) and will be able to purchase organic bottles (70% of vineyards are certified organic), many from those outstanding old vineyards.
For a white wine that will go with snacks and weeknight meals, Rueda has a spot-on option. Located northwest of Madrid in the Castilla y León region, vineyards share a landscape that’s famous for castles. The signature grape here is Verdejo, a variety that’s crisp and complex, with interesting savory notes. This area is not a secret, but these wines don’t seem to come up in conversation or on wine lists as much as other white wines from Europe, so for many people there is discovery potential.
White there is a smattering of red, rosé, and white wines produced from other varieties coming out of Rueda, the name of the game is Verdejo. There are producers working with old vines, pre-phylloxera vines, farming organically, and experimenting with oak and lees aging. So while there is a solid through line of a common grape, there are slightly different styles coming from different wineries and different areas of Rueda. However, there aren’t any sub-appellations within the denomination, so there won’t be any indication of that on the front label. There is also a sparkling wine called Rueda Espumoso, which must contain 75% of Sauvignon Blanc or Verdejo. These wines are lovely with vegetarian dishes, soft cheeses, and shrimp meals.
Rueda wines are gathering attention worldwide at the moment. In 2021 a new classification, Gran Vino de Rueda, was activated for bottlings from vineyards 30+ years old, along with specific yield requirements. This might be the time to get in on these wines, with plenty of $20 and under bottles available.

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