This article is brought to you by Chris Ringland.
Kiwi-born Chris Ringland’s winemaking has taken him around the world. Since 2001 he’s worked on projects in Spain and believes he has found a country that’s like “the Australia of Europe” in terms of climate and attitude. “The Spanish are easygoing and it’s conducive to having a good time,” says Ringland. Here are five reasons why anyone who’s passionate about wine should be following in his footsteps.
The culture is steeped in wine
Spain has about a million hectares of land planted with vines – more than any other country. “Wine is treated as a natural part of life; it’s just there,” says Ringland. “They don’t treat it with that geeky connoisseurship that we can. A few euro can get you a damn-good bottle of red wine.”
Quality is only getting better
“In the past 10 years the Spanish have started to realise, ‘Wow, we’re making these world-class wines’,” explains Ringland. While the projects he’s involved with – El Nido and Alto Moncayo – were largely exported in the early years, there’s now a significant interest locally. “People are starting to realise that if they want the best, they have to spend north of €50.”
You’re expected to linger over a bottle
If lunch in Spain doesn’t come with wine – and doesn’t stretch for more than an hour – it’s just a snack. “It’s almost a religious observance. More often that not it’s the main focus of the day,” says Ringland. “At the vineyards, lunch wouldn’t begin until two or three and we would wind up at five. Then we’d have maybe an hour to relax before heading back to the winery or the vineyards to get a bit more done before the sun went down.”
The Spaniards have the food to match
“Spain is just bloody amazing when it comes to food,” raves Ringland. “Near my project in the hinterland close to Alicante on the Mediterranean coast, there’s what they call arroz – we’d call it paella. Unlike the paella in Valencia, where it’s mostly a seafood dish, in the mountains it’s a combination of wild rabbit and snail. That combination with a full-bodied Spanish red wine is a bit of a no-brainer.”
There’s a world of wine to discover
From the reds of Rioja and the sparkling cava from Catalonia to sherry produced in the region surrounding Andalusia’s Jerez, Spain offers an almost daunting range of wines. With more than 60 regional Denominación de Origen (DO), over 100 grape varieties and a surprising range of climatic conditions, you’ll never run out of a new drop to try. Even Ringland is still learning. “A few weeks ago we tried some of the really amazing reds that are coming out of the Canary Islands; it was really quite an eye-opener. That fires everyone up – it’s important not to get stuck in a rut and explore what’s going on.” And that’s true whether you’re a celebrated winemaker or a celebrating wine drinker.