Noche con Zapatos
The Zapatos family texted with a last-minute invitation to dinner yesterday, and when you get an invitation from the Zapatos, you go! Always good food, provoking conversations and the memorable evenings that stick with you. But yes, first wine out of the fridge was this bottle above. Nobody paid much attention to the bottle as we were mostly talking about the week and eyeing the meatballs simmering on the stove, at least at first.
Once the table was set and the wine was in hand (and mouth) though, curiosity overcame social protocol, and we all had a quick look at the bottle. Airen? What IS that? Nope, had never heard of it but seemed to be a Spanish white and flipping to the back the bottle noted its location in La Mancha.
Now, La Mancha has a soft spot in my heart going back to college when Mr. Higuita and I collectively owned one CD, the original Broadway production of Man of La Mancha. Don Quixote is, no surprise to anyone familiar with college students, a favorite of idealists and latinophiles. That was me and still is in a lot of ways. Anyway, there may have been a short rendition of Man of La Mancha in the kitchen with the Zapatos when we learned about the heritage of this bottle.
View Castile-La Mancha, Spain in a larger map
Popular, in an unknown kind of way
And it turns out that this particular grape, Airen, is unbelievably popular. As in, more acreage is dedicated to Airen than to any other white grape… more popular than Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, or any other white grape anywhere in the world (and almost every red grape too).
Sancho’s Flask Unveiled
This, despite being planted really only in Spain and predominantly in La Mancha. So you better believe that when Sancho Panza was haplessly following around Don Quixote in the bleak La Mancha landscapes, what he was secretly swigging from that flask behind Rocinante’s skinny tail was copious quantities of Airen.
Quite a bit of fruit on the nose (even with an already-opened bottle!) but the really attractive part was the mild acidic bite and the crisp, really clean taste. Refreshing and a pleasant discovery.
Fuente del Ritmo AirÃ©n 2012 with 11.5% alc. from La Mancha, Spain
* 14 entrepreneurs came together in La Mancha to create the Allozo winery that makes this wine and quite a few others (and a cognac) – yes, they are interested in elevating La Mancha’s status and yes, they seem certain to do that… even if because the baseline is so low
* 30% of all grapes grown in Spain are Airen – crazy to think about how much wine never leaves Spain
* Read about Airen’s dark past to becoming so profligate and what Franco and Francia had to do with it becoming the most planted grape of any grape anywhere in the world for quite a long time