Charles de Gaulle is famously quoted: “How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?”
My version, adapted for Spain, might read: “How can you govern a country that has at 246 varieties of cheese, does not eat dinner until 10pm and sleeps on average an hour less than every other country in the EU?”
Luckily, I am no leader of nations, but rather an enthusiastic traveler, eater and drinker, and the Spanish wine buyer at K&L, a solid seven hours of sleep be damned. A day and a half ago I landed in Madrid and have already enjoyed a steady diet of morcilla, morunes, croquetas, even a Sunday lechazo (a wood burning oven roasted suckling lamb – the local specialty of Ribera del Duero wine country). That said, it was the delicious omakase at Miyama Castellana, paired with a tasty Jura white and bookended by Fino sherry and Hakushu 18 year old single malt (an incredibly generous comp courtesy of their maitre d’) that officially kicked things off on my first day here. Welcome to Madrid!
Let’s return to de Gaulle and the idea of protected regions of origin. France of course boasts many AOC’s, over 300 I believe. Spain, despite covering a similar land mass and having an even wider spread plantation of vines, has far less than one-third the amount of DO’s. That said, one of them, Rioja, controls roughly 40% of all Spanish wine sales—this is a figure that more or less jibes with our Spanish wine sales at K&L. Now, I love Rioja, and will be spending two days there later in the week. But if I were to be self critical, then I would say that we can and should do a better job of encouraging people to try a wider variety of wines in Spain. While there are not 300 D.O.’s, there are at least that many varieties of grapes, and plenty to explore. It is with that in mind that I will be focusing on two D.O.’s this trip, two places in the Castillian heartland which arguably have some of the most exciting terroir in all Spain: Ribera del Duero and Bierzo. It is a big country with a lot of ground to cover, so I am about to get to it, beginning just outside the village of Roa, in the province of Burgos, the heart of Ribera del Duero wine country.
Next up: a visit with our good friend Noe Perez and Pedro Cabestrero at Lambuena.
- Joe Manekin