Tasting Spanish Wines At SWE Conference – An Exquisite Experience

Although some two months have passed since I did the Spanish Wine Tasting at the Society of Wine Educators Conference in Sacramento, California in late July, I can still remember everything about those exquisite wines. I can truly say that together with a vertical tasting of Hungarian Tokaj at MIWINE 2004, it was one of my favorite wine experiences.

The tasting began with an aged Cava from Gramona. This 1998 wine was nutty and yeast with lively and bright acidity. It was beautiful and intriguing.


The show stopper was a white wine from 1970, yes 1970 Vina Tondonia from Lopez de Heredia. This wine was beautiful with good acidity despite its age and an amazing perfume bouquet of rose petals. I have never had an aged white of this depth.

vina tondonia 1970

One wonderful part of the tasting was that we were seeing some of the producers on a large screen thanks to Skype . Pancho Campo, the head of the Spanish Wine Academy was in the field with five producers while Esteban Cabezas and Rony Baque were in California. This bi-continental chat was very new age and appealing. The producers were sitting in the fields behind Marques de Riscal’s extravagant new winery by Frank Gehry.

Spanish Wine Academy

The other wines in the tasting were all delicious as well but the Marques de Riscal 1956 and the Tondonia Red from 1964 were the ones that made my head swim with pleasure and joy at this lovely opportunity. None of these wines are of course readily available but must be bought at auction or from someone’s collection.

Vina Tondonia 1964

As if these great wines weren’t enough, the Academy brought Vega Sicilia’s Unico from 1995 and 1994 and Perelada’s Finca Garbet 2003. These were also remarkable wines with depth and breadth.

Vega Sicilia Unico

I think the only thing missing from this lovely tasting was some delicious Spanish food. Later that evening we were treated to some nice dishes with a beautiful Sherry pouring as entertainment. All in all, the tasting just made me even more interested in Spain, its wine and its foods.


I am excited that next week I will have at least two more opportunities to try some of the multitude of Spanish wines. On October 6,Wines from Spain is holding a tasting and from October 7 to October 9, the Spanish Wine Academy is holding a certification program in New York. I have done the certification but am going to go back for a sherry class.

The Spanish regions are all quite different from one another in terms of their microclimates, soils and varieties. White wines from Rias Baixas using the Albarino grape made with stainless steel are just as much an image of Spain as are the deep, heavy wines made from Mencia in Bierzo or Monastrell in Jumilla.

If you tire of Italian or French wines, Spain offers a lot of options from many different regions that are worth trying. These wines tend to have lively acidity and work very well with food.

While Italy will always remain my first love, Spain has been tempting my heart of late. Perhaps it is the tango or my Spanish classes, who knows, but I find that lots of Spanish wines are making me happy.

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