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Wines from Spain among the big draws at Food & Wine Classic

By Dave Buchanan

ASPEN – Cruising the Grand Tasting tents at the Food & Wine Classic can be an elbow-squeezer for room but among the most-popular areas this week is the Wines From Spain tent.

But it’s not just at Aspen where Spanish wines are finding a growing audience, said Helen Gregory, representing the Wines from Spain trade association. She noted that last year Spanish wine exports increased by more than 21 percent.

One reason is “People recognize the artisanal nature of Spanish wines, most of which come from small, historic family-owned wineries,” Gregory said.

Among the favorites this week were wines from the Ribera del Duero in northern Spain. Tempranillo reigns here, where vines grow short and bushy in the high altitude (2,500-2,800 feet).

Alvaro Comenge (at right) was showing off his Bodegas Comenge wines, among them the line of Don Miguel wines topped by the fruit-driven Riserva made from select, small-plot vines. Don Miguel Comenge, Alvaro’s grandfather, literally wrote the definitive book on Spanish wines, his La Vid y los Vinos Espanoles, in 1940.

Also notable was the Malleolus from Bodegas Emilio Moro. One sip of this powerful Tinta del Pais (aka tempranillo) and you understand why its continually gets high points from major critics ( priced accordingly at $100-$140).

The Wine Spectator called Malleous “massively structured, powerful and unyielding, as if chiseled from granite.” Don't let that scare you away; underneath all that power is a base of dark fruit, minerality and rose-like floral notes.

And for a real change, and because I'm such a Reisling fan, there were several stops at the German Riesling table, where I was attracted to the Weingut Donnhoff 2010 Dry Slate, its crisp acidity and lots of minerality, green apple and pear note making it a perfect food wine.

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