Right or wrong, French wines seem to conjure up images of wood-paneled studies where "serious" oenophiles sip Burgundy and debate Bordeaux futures. Italian wine perceptions run the gamut -- you've got Barolo fanatics who kneel before the throne of King Nebbiolo along with fans of simpler stuff like pinot grigio.
But Spain? Spain is different. There is something about Spanish wine that evokes visions of sultry summertime evenings spent doing nothing more strenuous than planning your next round of tapas or soaking up the mellifluous strains of flamenco. In a word, Spanish wine is sexy. Below, our picks for five of the sexiest Spanish wines to savor -- particularly as summer gives way to fall.
Mercat Brut Nature Cava NV ($14): As much as we may lust for real-deal Champagne, the fact of the matter is, we rarely find ourselves flush enough to splurge on it. Which is why this cava (and many others), made using the traditional méthode champenoise, is so utterly satisfying. A typical cava cuvée made from the Spanish grapes macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada, its creamy texture and bright, apple cider-y flavors will make you feel like you''re drinking much pricier stuff.
Txomin Etxaniz Getaria Txakoli 2010 ($18): True, the number of consonants on the label is a bit overwhelming, but if you visually replace all the "tx"-es you see with a "ch", you'll be good to go. Txakoli (pronounced "cha-koli") is one of the most intriguing Spanish whites we've ever come across: full of crisp citrus flavors, it manages to deliver a gorgeously succulent mouthfeel. This wine was (quite understandably) mistaken for a Portuguese vinho verde at a recent blind tasting event, what with its similar slight effervescence and mineral-driven aroma. Txakoli wines -- like vinho verde -- are also generally lower in alcohol than other whites. Don't think for a second that means this txakoli won't deliver loads of satisfaction.
Albet I Noya "Xa" Xarel-lo 2011 ($13): If you're feeling like the word "xarel-lo" looks familiar, that's because it's one of the grapes typically used to make cava -- like the Mercat above. Here's an opportunity to sample this luscious variety all by itself, where its deep melon bouquet and flavors alongside a decidedly silken texture, really get to shine. Drink with classic Spanish-tapas fare like Marcona almonds or nutty-salty squares of Manchego topped with quince paste.
Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra 2011 ($15): If there is one wine whose characteristics are practically synonymous with "sexy," it's grenache (which just looks so much cooler when it's spelled Catalan-style, doesn't it?). Made from old-vine garnacha (Spain's more broadly used spelling of the grape), this is a bold, lusty red that delivers all kinds of baked, dark cherry fruit and spicy licorice. You're getting hot and bothered just thinking about it.
Finca Torremilanos Monte Castrillo 2010 ($13): We're guessing that you've probably heard of -- and consumed -- plenty of Rioja. But just in case you've forgotten (or are new to these wines), Rioja is the name of a region in northern Spain where red wines are typically made from the tempranillo grape. This is that same variety, but hailing from the Ribera del Duero region -- which is situated southwest of Rioja -- where it's called tinto fino. Blended with just a titch cabernet sauvignon, the resulting wine is full-bodied and hearty; perfect for enjoying on its own, or better yet, with someone you're even more attracted to than what's in the glass.
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