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Spanish Wines: Filling Up American Goblets

Spanish Wine
Spanish Wine

Drop by Chef Jose Andres' house in Aspen, Colorado for a little summer evening gathering--you and a couple of hundred other people--and the talk will undoubtedly turn to wine. Spanish wine. "Spanish wine. I can tell you many things about it, but, the best is, drink it baby", Andres says with a glass in his hand.

And that's exactly what the five thousand or so folks were doing at the 25th annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic--drinking it, baby. The Spanish wine industry is celebrating a quarter century of exports to the U.S. Exports that in the last six years have increased by 100 per cent to 4.3 million cases. That's roughly 250 million dollars--making Spain the fourth largest foreign player the American market. And in the minds, and on the pallets of some, including 'The Wine Geek', Steve Olson, it's, "Right now, the most exciting wine making nation on the planet, and that's including France and Italy."

And one of the reasons is Andres, the man credited with giving us tapas, with winning an 'Iron Chefs America' competition, but more importantly with being on the front end of the revival of Spanish cuisine. A cuisine that has pulled its country's wine industry along with it. Spanish wine making has roots that go back centuries, but that only in the last decade have born the fruit of increased investment. Spain is a country of small and medium sized wineries in some 60 different appellations and regions. Regions that up until a year ago few people knew.

Well they do now, thanks in large measure to a marketing push across the U.S, which when it comes to the international wine industry is 'the' market. We don't drink a lot, but there are a lot of us, and in the next two years we will become the world's number one consumer of wine.

"Per capita we're no where near number one, but we're vast. And if you add up all those little 'per capita', it adds up to a great big market. And the dream of all wine makers is that the per capita goes up, " says Ray Isle of Food & Wine.

The question for all wine makers everywhere is how to make that happen. For Spain, it's a matter of increased distribution and price. Collectively they've breaded their distributor base in the last two or three years, and as for price, Steve Olson says, they have no match: "If you literally took a dozen bottles that were all $6.50 from all over the world, and put a couple of key Spanish wines in there, I guarantee you those are the wines you'll walk off with."

Wine and cheese in Aspen--or is that Cava?

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com