THE SPANISH WINE BUSINESS
Spain has more vineyard acreage than
any other country, but because of lower
yields and slower development of the wine
industry, it ranks below France and Italy in
wine production. The industry reawakened
in the mid 1970s after General Franco’s
demise. After Spain joined the EU in 1986,
modernization of winery practices and
equipment was broadly implemented.
As soon as guests see the tapas menu at
Amada, they know Spain is the focal point.
“Yet diners are not savvy about Spanish
brands, and rarely request them by producer.
But they recognize the value,” says Lundell.
The Freixenet Group, among the top 10
largest wine companies in the world, is
the only Spanish company on Amada’s
wine list. Owned by the José Ferrer family,
Freixenet sells more than 160 sparkling
and still wine brands, and with 18 estates
in six countries, offers a wide swath of
wine to pair with food. The most familiar
and largest production brand, Cordon
Negro Brut, or the “Black Bottle Bubbly,”
was an early Spanish wine export.
There are many classic Spanish wine
regions, such as Jerez for sherry, and up-and-coming areas such as Rias Baixas
for Albariño and Bierzo for red. But
Tempranillo and cava sales continue to
TEMPRANILLO, A VERSATILE RED
At the globally inspired, cutting-edge Qsine,
a specialty restaurant on the Celebrity
Solstice class ships, Steenrod likes the
pairing possibilities of Tempranillo with the
vertically arranged display of Mediterranean
meze and innovative tapas. The wines pair
with lamb shank and saffron seafood risotto
in the main dining rooms.
Tempranillo is the primary grape in both the
Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions. Lundell
sums up the main difference: “Rioja is soft,
elegant representations, while Ribera can
be fully rich and powerful.”
Ribera is an up-and-coming region two
hours drive north of Madrid, with clay soil
that promotes strong tannic development.
The area’s wide temperature swings bring
balance to grape acid and sugar levels.
At Bodegas Valdubón, part of the
Freixenet portfolio, winemaker Javier
Aladro mixes traditional and modern
techniques to produce a new style of
Tempranillo that is fruit forward with
enough structure for food pairing.
He ferments juice from older vines in
traditional wooden vats, while using
newer carbonic maceration techniques
in stainless steel tanks with juice from
The mix of old and new styles attracts
restaurateurs such as Fernando León of
Tapeo in Boston. León prefers the newer
style of Tempranillo such as Valdubón,
which is not overly oaked.
Mendoza at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
recommends Alidis Reserva Ribera
del Duero 2004 with filetto di manzo
(beef tenderloin). “This wine expresses
Tempranillo in an elegant fashion with
notes of cherries, oyster mushrooms, black
THE YEAST DIARIES
At Freixenet, laboratory director/assistant
winemaker Pilar Urpí is the queen
of yeast. Working with the Freixenet
technical team, she has established a
yeast farm that’s a maze of huge tanks
and high-tech automated controls.
The yeast grown in the tanks is derived from
the original strain of native yeast captured
on the Freixenet estate. Urpí has the
process down to a science—literally. From
initial launch of the yeast cells to maturation
takes 15 days. The yeast is then released
into the grapes ready for fermentation.
Why the obsession with yeast? With
production of nearly 1 million bottles
a day, consistent quality and speed of
production are crucial. Only the yeast that
is hardy enough for the task at hand—to
work furiously for a short time to convert
the grape sugars to alcohol—is released
into the grape juice. The most important
job of the yeast, however, is to maintain
the flavor profiles of the legacy Freixenet
brand around the world.
Urpí has an undergraduate degree
in biology and graduate degrees in
enology and viticulture. She needs all
these skills to track the genetic profile
of the Freixenet yeast and guard its
quality. She reviews the aroma, taste
and harvest conditions of each batch of
grapes, while keeping a close eye on the
chemical and biological profiles of the
yeast in the tank farm.