Spilled wine is a sign of happiness, but break the bed and all will have long faces. (Spanish Proverb)
For this entry my viticultural journey took me to the country of Spain. Now although this land was once under Roman rule centuries ago, Spain has developed a history, a culture all its own that encompasses music, food and lifestyle. And the lifestyle is where we will focus a bit today.
The LAN Winery began its story in 1972. The name itself, LAN, is composed of the initials of the three provinces that make up the D.O.Ca. Rioja: Logroño (now La Rioja), Álava and Navarra. It is closely linked to the land and has been sort of a pioneer in the area of sustainability. Almost completely surrounded by water the region is home to various birds and other wildlife as well as a wide variety of riverside plants. With the prevailing gentle winds blowing across it and a slight elevation the region has almost its own microclimate. Each winter the vines are manually pruned and natural healing agents are applied to prevent disease. With its own weather station, it has become easier to plan things like pruning, fertilizing and such and a historical record has been created for each parcel of land.
Some of the vines are as old as sixty years which shows the attention to detail given in the fields. These vines dig their roots deep into the soil through a mostly pebble base to find nutrients they need. This effort is part of the reason for the superb taste and minerality of the wine.
Crianza wine is obviously a Spanish wine made mostly from Tempranillo grapes. By law it must be aged in oak barrels for one year and then in bottles for another year before it can be sold. There is reason for this is tradition. Some wines can actually be aged for too long and this would bring disgrace to a family. While it is not unusual to be aged longer it has become a matter of personal taste to vintners who operate within an acceptable time frame.
Looking at the label you will find the words “denominación de origen calificada,” (denomination of qualified origin) usually abbreviated to DOCa. This is the highest category in Spanish wine regulations reserved for the products with highest quality controls. Rioja was the first region to be granted this designation, awarded in 1991. LAN Crianza is the most famous wine from this family which also is a product of a very distinctive aging process. Made from predominantly Tempranillo grapes, this is a premium blend which adds both Mazuelo and Garnacha grapes in small amounts to add a more distinctive flavor, richer with a little more fruit. The vines are between 10 and 20 years old so they are mature and well established, making the most of the native soil and terrain. Hybrid barrels with French oak bases and American oak staves are used for initial 14-month aging followed by an additional 9 months in the bottle. The final product, well worth waiting for is an intense red color which can reflect light amazingly making this wine a perfect choice for a decanter, which I highly recommend. Aromas of red fruits, notably strawberry and raspberry are evident. On the palate, it is nicely balanced, dry, with a hint of earthiness and cinnamon which is a pretty rare combination. This wine goes down smoothly after a short stay on the tongue but does provide a strong, lasting and very pleasant finish.
This is a good stand alone wine but also pairs nicely with cold starters, macaroni (commonly called pasta), or grilled beef. This is a wine that will shine on your table and warm the hearts of your guests. And when you think about it, there is no higher compliment, nor is there a better reason to share wine.
I am retired and living in North Carolina, a transplanted northerner, with my wife. I also have two sons and a grandbaby. Professionally I am pretty varied having been a teacher, stock brokerage clerk, business owner and Postal Service Postmaster. I have always liked to write and am hoping to publish a book in the future which includes the wine and food columns I have been writing for the past few years.