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Over A Glass - with Katrin Naelapaa

I first met Katrin Naelapaa 15 years ago on a Wines from Spain writers’ tour of Ribera del Duero, Toro, Bierzo, Rías Baixas and points in between. Although I had been to Madrid on a few occasions for business, it was my first journey through the heart of Spain’s wine country. Katrin was, and still is, head of Wines from Spain in the U.S., and last week we met briefly to catch up over a glass of wine in Manhattan.

The venue and the wine were both well chosen. It was just before the lunch crowd hit at Ortzi, chef Jose Garces’ casual spot on West 41st a couple of minutes from Broadway, and I asked for a glass of Alan de Val’s Pedrazain Barrica Mencía from Valdeorras. It was being poured as Katrin walked in.

“So what’s new and exciting?” I asked as she ordered a glass of the same. I reminded Katrin that it was in Bierzo to the east in 2004 that I had my first glass of Mencia with winemaker/co-owner Ricardo Perez at Descendientes de J Palacios.

“I’m excited about what has been going on Galicia,” she said.  “You remember when we were there everything was about Albariño and Rías Baixas.” Indeed, that was early in the wave of the perfumed, well-structured white wine that hit the American wine-by-the-glass scene like a vinous tsunami.

Katrin went on to explain that there is now a lot of interest in other areas of northwest Spain – the Galician green coast – including Valdeorras, the homeland of the Mencia we were sipping. The other DO’s, in addition to Rías Baixas, include Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei.

Each region has its own terroirs, traditions of making wines and grape varieties used.  In fact, for grape groupies, Galicia has a fascinating array of them – Godello, Treixadura, Loureiro, Torrontes, Caiño Blanco and, of course, Albarino. If you’re just learning about Spanish wines, pay special attention to the white Godello.

As I was draining the last drops of Mencia and making my goodbyes, Katrin gave me her card.  On it was ‘Director, Trade Commission of Spain.’ “They now have me talking about food as well as wine,” she laughed.

So our next glass may have to be a Toro – with some succulent slices of Ibérico.

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