Just west of St. Louis, immigrants from Germany’s Rhine River valley planted one of America’s first wine regions. Nearby Hermann, and Augusta are home to numerous Missouri wineries just a stone’s throw from the ‘Lou. But what to do when you’ve seen and sampled all of the local fermented fare you can stand? Try Spain on for size. Galician whites, Riojan reds, Catalonian Cavas, and Andalusian Sherries all hail from the Iberian peninsula.
1. Rías Baixas, Galicia –Head to Cambado in the Rías Baixas region of Galicia to sample Galicia’s best selection of Albariño wines at the Albariño Wine Festival, celebrated annually during the first week of August. Pronounced al-bah-ree-nyo, this pale golden wine is dry and fresh. With a nose that tends towards the floral and the fruity, it’s the ideal white for a summer meal al fresco. While you’re in the area, sample some of Spain’s best and least expensive seafood (razor with your Albariño and don’t forget to pay your respects at Santiago’s famous Cathedral before you fly out.
2. La Rioja –If you’re meaty, oak-aged red wine lover, tour Spain’s well-known Rioja wine region. While Rioja also produces some rosés and whites, it’s best known for it’s vino tinto or red wine. Produced mainly from Tempranillo grapes, rioja reds are known for an ideal balance between alcohol content, color and acidity. Younger wines have a fruity flavor, and aged wines often acquire an almost velvety paladar. If you’re fluent in Spanish or could care less about the commentary, skip the rental car and sober chauffeur and visit wineries and cultural sites in Rioja via the department of tourism’s new vinobus. Whatever you decide, try to fit in visits to at least one castle, and one monastery in between tastings. If you consider yourself something of a linguist and are interested in the origin of languages, explore the Castilian Language route.
3. Penedès, Catalonia–Like your wine dry and white, or white and bubbly? This Catalonian wine region is your ideal pairing. Savor cavas and whites made with the region’s flagship grape variety, Xarel.lo. Fly into Barcelona, see the Sagrada Familia, gorge on Guadi, and then wander off the beaten path into Penedès wine country. From huge multinationals like Cordoníu to small mom-and-pop style cava botigas, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is a must-see for every cava aficionado.
4. Jerez, Andalusia- Jerez is Spanish for sherry. It’s also a place. Fly there for the horses and the Flamenco, and stay for the wine. This highly alcoholic (15 to 20 percent alcohol) white wine gets its name from the town where it’s traditionally produced. Even if you think you don’t care for sherry, give Jerez and the wealth of sherries available in Andalusia a chance (sherries can be dry, and sweet, and lots of things in between). From manzanillas to olorosos, at least one sherry is likely to catch your fancy. If not, at least you had lots of amazing tapas in the city’s charming old town.
Worst case scenario, if your plans for a Spanish wine tour flop, head to your favorite St. Louis International Liquor Store, or a larger chain grocery like Trader Joe’s, Wholefoods, Walmart or Target superstores, and host your own tasting for family and friends. Cavas, Albariños and Riojas are all widely available in the lou and for the most part reasonably priced, and some of the Spanish Sherries can be a real steal of a deal at chains like Trader Joes.