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Spain: Taste the flavors of the region

Sunday Feb. 17-BRIDGEWATER CORNERS- Discover wines from Spain from 4-6 p.m. at a tasting at Z Corner's Inn. Here's a bit of background about the flavors of the region:

One of the most exciting rivers in the wine world flows east to west on the Iberian Peninsula. From its source near Duruelo de la Sierra in the north-central mountains of Spain to its outlet to the Atlantic in Portugal historic city of Porto, the River Douro passes through the wine regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda, meanders through semi-arid plains better suited for wheat than grapes, forms a long section of the border between Portugal and Spain, before it enters a region of narrow canyons, that form a historical barrier for invasions and a cultural/linguistic divide between those two countries.

Traditionally the wine was taken down river in fast moving and shallow waters using flat-bottom boats called 'rabelas' to be stored in Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from the city of Porto. In the '50's and '60's dams were built mainly for hydro-electric purposes and the transport of grapes moved into tanker trucks.

Upriver in Spain Ribera del Duero is one of eleven 'quality wine' regions within the autonomous region of Castile y León and is widely recognized for its quality wines. Known almost exclusively for its red wines the main grape for the area is Tinta del País (otherwise known as Tempranillo), but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and the more typical Garnacha (or Grenache in French) are grown and permitted to used in blends. The vineyards are among the highest in Spain at around 2500 feet with very hot and dry summers.

The region of Rioja lies practically across the mountains to the north and is probably the best-known area in Spain. With a long history of quality wines, Rioja is more regulated and while Tempranillo is the main grape here as well, other international varieties are not allowed other than the indigenous Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo (otherwise known as Carignan).

Rioja is also recognized for its white wine made from Viura grapes (in the rest of Spain known as Macabeo).

Both Ribera del Duero and Rioja classify wines as much for their longevity as their grape quality, and produce some extremely well aging wines. The requirements in both areas are the same: Wines labelled as "Crianza" must age two years with six months in oak. "Reserva" wines age at least three years with a minimum of 12 months in oak, and "Gran Reserva" wines spend five years aging prior to release with 18 months in oak.

As the Duero River continues its way west to Portugal, it passes by the wine region of Rueda, known for its dry, fruity, and refreshing white wines made almost exclusively from the Verdejo grape, though small amounts of Viura and Sauvignon Blanc are allowed to be blended in. Rueda wines are an affordable, crowd-pleasing choice for white wines excellent for parties.