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There's a new reign in Spain and it's definitely not rain



The Spanish wine armada sailed out of Vancouver last month, but not before entertaining a large portion of Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival ticket holders who seemed genuinely charmed by the length and breadth of the wines they poured all week. It seems the New Spain, the one seemingly promised for decades, has arrived.

It's hard to point to any one factor behind the current fascination with Spanish wine. Maybe it's the lack of conformity that's Spain's charm, or the country's plethora of almost unknown grapes. Then again, there's the diversity of regions, and while Spain has the most vineyards in the world, it doesn't produce the most wine. Naturally, a low-yielding vine that simply won't overproduce has to be an asset.

Perhaps it's the fabulous, modern label designs and their bright colours. Or maybe it's just because Spanish wine tastes so good with food. It could also have something to do with tapas and the fact that we've all embraced the small plate concept, but I'll let you connect the dots.

In the aftermath of an intensive wine festival week and all this excitement over Spain, I want to share some of the Spanish producers and wines that you can find in BC wine shops, both private and government.

Miquel Torres Jr. and his sister, Mireya, have successfully pushed their father to spread the legendary company's  vineyards out from its Vilafranca, Penedès, origins to some of Spain's other well know regions. The result is several terrific new labels, including Celeste (Ribera del Duero) and Salmos (Priorato). The duo pairs effortlessly into the original Torres line-up that features such classics as Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon, Vina Esmeralda and Torres Coronas.

As the weather warms up, be sure to check out the Torres Vina Esmeralda ($13.50), first created in 1961. The Upper Penedès white blend is a delicious mix of 85/15 moscatel/gewürztraminer. Now under screw cap it displays an even brighter level of minerality. Expect a bright, zesty wine with lychee, green apple, lemon lime notes. The styling is delicate yet perfectly suited to calamari or mussels or curried chicken.

Meanwhile, winemaker Anna Espelt is busy building the Espelt name with the best selection of wines she can make from her 200-hectare, 80-year-old property that lies close to the now defunct El Bulli restaurant in the appellation of Empordà in Spain's northeast corner. You can't miss the colourful labels of Espelt, designed by well-known artist, Javier Marisca. The wine to look for is the Espelt Sauló ($12.50), named after the region's decomposed granite, a blend of garnacha and cariñena that over-delivers for the price. Grilled anything is the match.

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