It’s our mission to uncover great wines at an exceptional value from premier wine-producing regions around the world. We take time to discover the characteristics that make each region special to bring you a quality selection of new and exciting wine finds.
Heinen’s Wine Director John Poggemeyer has always had his eye on Spanish and Portuguese wines. Why? Spain and Portugal have combined the best of old and new wine-making techniques. From centuries-old clay pots and traditional foot-trodden wines (grape stomping) to advanced wine-making technologies, the combination of techniques is undeniably fascinating.
The pleasing taste profiles and incredible value of Spanish and Portuguese wines make for an enjoyable tasting experience. So, after much research and sampling, John selected several vineyards and packed his bags for an adventure full of discovery.
To start the trip, John met with a fifth generation wine-making family at Juan Gil Estates in Spain. While with them, he visited four renowned Spanish wine-making regions. Each location was diverse with varying terrain and climates – differences that create the perfect environments for growing indigenous grapes we’re not familiar with in the United States.
Jumilla, a region of southwestern Spain, is arid and rocky with a desert-like climate. In fact, in order to grow grapes here, winemakers must drill through rock plates to allow the vine roots to reach water. That may not match our traditional picture of lush, green Napa Valley vineyards, but the climate is ideal for growing the monastrell grape, which creates a complex, flavorful wine that is vinified in fresh, fruity styles as well as well-structured, aged varieties.
Just west of Jumilla, the desert-like terrain turns to soil in the Montsant region. The moderate temperatures and chalk-like soil of this region create the perfect storm for producing this region’s delicious red wines. Montsant is considered “off the beaten path,” in terms of location, but it’s home to mazuelo, a popular Spanish grape. Black in color and used for blending, mazuelo provides depth and flavor to this region’s incredible, full-bodied red blends.
Up to northern Spain, cold winters, hot summers, and a seemingly endless spread of vineyards make the Rueda region a hub for white wine. In fact, the verdejo white grape has grown in Rueda for nearly 1,000 years. With its long history, fresh fruit flavor, and affordability, it’s no wonder Verdejo from Rueda is Spain’s most popular white wine.
Castilla y Leon
Castilla y Leon is a larger Spanish region that includes Rueda. It is the biggest wine-making region in Spain and the wine varieties meet the tastes of red and white wine enthusiasts alike. The rolling plains and sprawling mountains of Castilla y Leon make for versatile grape growing. No matter which wine you choose, if it comes from Castilla y Leon, it will likely feature the tinta de toro grape, a local hybrid of Spain’s most popular tempranillo grape. From the fresh, fruity flavors of a young tempranillo grape to notes of tobacco and leather when aged, this grape variety gives Spanish wine the dimension we crave.
West to Portugal
After touring those four regions of Spain, John made his way to Portugal for one last adventure. He visited Quinta Do Crasto winery in Douro Valley and Herdade do Rocim winery in Alentejo. Both regions are known for producing sweet and dry wines, but don’t let that fool you. The terrains of Douro Valley and Alentejo are incredibly different. One of the oldest wine regions in the world, Douro Valley is steep and covered in lush, green foliage, while Alentejo is flat, dry and very warm. Regardless of the growing environment, both regions produce red and white wines that taste great on their own or mixed into one of our original port cocktail recipes.
Tasting so many renowned Spanish wines was an unforgettable experience, but it was the lasting relationships John formed with the winemakers that made his trip valuable. Those relationships allow Heinen’s to offer the best selection of wines the world has to offer at the best value. It is what makes shopping in Heinen’s wine department an adventure unlike any other.
Discover the taste of Spain and Portugal for yourself as we kick off our Spanish Wine Program in July. A Heinen’s Wine Consultant would be happy to help you plan your next worldly wine adventure.