The Opposite of Wine – Course 105 Wines of the Iberian Peninsula

It was about this time that I deleted my wine database. You know, the one with all of the learning objectives, tasting notes, lists of wine regions and their important characteristics. I’m a computer professional. I’m pretty good about backing things up. In 10 years of work I’ve never lost something that I couldn’t retrieve at least some semblance of a backup of. Not this. Poof – gone.

My student neurosis hit an interesting juncture here. Sitting deflated, exhausted before my mocking screen I weighed my options. I could truly freak out and send my lap top out to somebody who would (after 4-500$) possibly be able to retrieve my data – I had already tried all of my own recovery software. I could start from scratch, re-enter everything – not sleep for several nights. Or I could just let it go. I decided it was fate – computer and wine will not mix, at least for now. Perhaps this is best. Just me and my pencils and cards. OK, now on to these Iberians.

You might be asking yourself, where is Iber and why are we just concerned with the Peninsula? If so then you probably had a public school education like me. The Iberian Peninsula is a region containing (among other countries) Spain and Portugal. These countries have a long history of contributing to the enjoyment and alcoholism of Europeans. Julia Child owes the pickled state of her interred liver to the people of Spain.

There were many interesting, somewhat “rustic” wines to be had from both of these regions. Unfortunately I’ve got the Sherry/Port bug that seems to hit some of us as we get older. All I can remember is holding an Oloroso Sherry that looked blacker than bong water that had been laying around since the 60’s. Perhaps I was drinking the charred remains of ancient Jerez peasants. Whatever it was it tasted great. (Homer Simpson sound effect) “aughaughlmmmmmmm charred peasant bong water.”

In this course I learned to appreciate oxidation. If you’re not familiar with wine, oxidation is what is happening to that bottle of vintage port you opened last year but only drank a little of. Oxidation occurs when wine is exposed to air for an extended period of time. Some wine is deliberately oxidized. Most oxidization happens because you don’t drink enough, or restaurants can’t sell enough.

When you think about it, buying wine by the glass is a bit of a risky proposition – especially when it comes to port or sherry. Wine that has been allowed the dignified process of being intentionally oxidized by professionals in a beautiful oak barrel develops a rich, nutty character that can enhance a sweet, fortified wine. Wine that sat out in the sun without a cork in it for a few days tastes like crap. Many bartenders are under the mistaken impression that all port and sherry are already deliberately oxidized and therefore able to maintain their original flavor weeks after having been opened. Since port and sherry don’t always sell well, you can bet that non-oxidized vintage port you got a glass of has spent the last month enjoying the sun and smells oddly like bartender sweat.

Other glasses of wine you have purchased while out dining might also have spend some time sunning themselves. One good way to tell might be to suck on an old plastic lid and then taste the wine. If they taste pretty much the same then there’s a good chance your wine is oxidized.
Those Iberians are OK with me. There’s some interesting potential for affordable wines and they really know how to make us gringos slaves to sweet high alcohol beverages.

* Much of British Imperialism could be discussed from the perspective of alcohol.
* LBV port is an interesting rout to go, if you’re not into oxidation but are rightly wary of vintage by the glass.
* Flor is a yeasty fungal disease that is a tasty flavor additive of sorts. Try it on popcorn!

previous chapter: “14 Wines Of Italy” ~ next chapter: “106 Wines Of Germany”

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