In Spain, there is jamón (ham) and there is jamón ibérico, the latter coming exclusively from a breed of pig known as pata negra, or “black hoof.” And while most Spanish hams are delicious, jamón ibérico is the country’s best ham bar none.
Fitting, then, that J. García Carrión, Europe’s largest winery, would choose to name its new Spanish wine brand after this iconic animal. Because once you’ve tried a bite of pata negra ham, you’re not going to want to go back to the basic stuff. Similarly, once you’ve cracked open your first bottle of Pata Negra Rioja Reserva or Cava Brut Reserva, you’re not going to want to go back to what you were drinking before.
With wineries in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Cava, Valdepeñas, Rueda, Toro and most recently Penedès and Jumilla, Pata Negra is producing wine in Spain’s best wine regions. The fact that Pata Negra wines are uniformly accessible and affordable only adds to their appeal, especially at a point in time when Spanish food and wine remain red hot in the United States.
To better introduce you to Pata Negra, let’s look at a number of geographically diverse bottlings from the brand’s portfolio, wines that are all quintessentially Spanish in origin, composition, drinkability and food-friendliness.
Beginning in Rioja, the granddaddy of Spanish wine regions, Pata Negra operates out of the medieval town of Briones. Its Rioja Reserva is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, Spain’s signature red grape, with 5% each of Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graciano. After 24 months spent in American and French oak followed by a year in bottle, this structured Rioja goes perfectly with grilled meats, intense cheeses like Manchego and, of course, pata negra ham.
Another top region for structured, powerful red wines is Ribera del Duero, located on the high plains of Castilla y León. Pata Negra’s Ribera del Duero Crianza is 100% Tinto Fino, the local clone of Tempranillo, made at García Carrión’s modern winery that was built in 2004 on the site of an old fortress.
Just to the west of Ribera del Duero one finds the Toro region, best known for producing burly, concentrated wines from a Tempranillo clone called Tinta de Toro. Pata Negra’s Roble is a young Toro wine that spends only four months in oak in order to maximize fruit expression. Made as part of joint venture with the owners of Bodega Sietecerros, this is a wine to enjoy with grilled burgers or cured meats (more pata negra, anybody?). Also full in body and dark in flavors and overall character is Pata Negra Apasionado, made mostly from Monastrell grapes grown in the hot, dry southeastern region of Jumilla.
Moving northwest, Valdepeñas in La Mancha is a sprawling, historic region with a wealth of old vineyards. Pata Negra’s Gran Reserva from Valdepeñas hails from high-density Tempranillo vines planted 60-to-80 years ago; hallmarks include lively tannins, bracing acidity and length on the finish.
Turning our attention to white grapes, Pata Negra produces a classic Cava Brut Reserva in Catalonia, Spain’s leading cava-producing region. Made from Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay, this toasty sparkling wine offers hints of citrus and green apple on the nose, backed by a zesty palate with snappy white-fruit flavors. Great as an aperitif, this is also a perfect bubbly to sip with sushi, shellfish, caviar or anything from the sea.
Fans of crisp white wines should sample Pata Negra’s Rueda-based white, which is made from 90% Verdejo and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Low in alcohol (12.5%) and loaded with snappy acidity, this is perfect for seafood-based tapas and salads. For something fuller in body, with a pronounced but controlled oak character, Pata Negra’s barrel-fermented Chardonnay from the Penedès region in Catalonia fits the bill.
So next time you’re shopping for authentic Spanish wines that won’t break the bank, think Pata Negra…one name for all of Spain.
J. García Carrión Quick Facts
- Founded in 1890
- Largest Winery in Europe by Volume
- 4th Largest Winery in the World by Volume
- Owner of Jaume Serra Cristalino, 12th Largest Sparkling Wine Brand in the U.S.
- Wines Imported by CIV(USA); Sacramento, CA; www.civusa.com