Hello from Autumn. We thought we’d instil a bit of Spanish fire into the proceedings just to get us all acclimatized. Not that the summer we just had left us with much acclimatizing to do… Anyway, we don’t really need an excuse to drink Spanish – they do a great job of channelling that wonderful European sensibility that says life is all about putting the right wine with the right food, and the right company, and just going for it. In one of the oldest vinous cultures in Europe, food and wine are deeply instilled within the Spanish soul, so we’re heading off on a journey through the various regions to cherry-pick the best of the best. Join us.
Rioja: Finca Nueva
Finca Nueva is the younger sibling of Rioja’s highly respected, almost mythical Allende winery, the creation of one of Spain’s finest winemakers, Miguel Ángel de Gregorio, and his sister Mercedes. Finca Nueva was created as a device to shrug aside the constraints of Riojan tradition and allow the talented Miguel Ángel a wider scope for his skills. While the Allende wines are serious in nature – tannic wines derived from vines immersed in iron-rich clay – the Finca Nueva expressions are fruitier and more immediately accessible, grown on largely calcareous soils in Briones and crafted for a new generation of wine drinkers.
Bierzo: Domino de Tares
The somewhat lyrical Dominio de Tares say their wines are of ‘great equilibrium’ and ‘cradled in noble woods.’ Responsible for putting the once moribund region of Bierzo back on the map, they’re just over a decade old, an infant in Spanish wine terms. However, they utilise ancient vineyards and painstakingly artisan-like practices to create expressions as pure and characterful as can be coaxed from the multiple microclimates in which they operate. With their fierce focus on improving vintage by vintage and harnessing of some of the best oenological minds in Spain, they are a winery to watch.
Rioja Baja: Palacios Remondo
Álvaro Palacios, the man who has revolutionized Spain’s Bierzo and Priorat regions, took over the Riojan family vineyards established in 1945 by his father, José Palacios Remondo, and from 2000 on has tipped them upside down in similar fashion. A perfectionist with irrepressible energy, Álvaro lowered yields, heightened quality and filled his bottles with colourful, high-quality expressions of the historic region. Palacios Remondo own all their vineyards, a rarity in Rioja, and so have complete control, their vines now boasting some serious age.
Rias Baixas: Pazo De Barrantes
Home since 1511 to the Counts of Creixell and their families (also owners of Riojan labels Marqués de Murrieta and Castillo Ygay), the Galician palace, Pazo Barrantes, is surrounded by 12 hectares of Albariño vines. All the vines are trained on a traditional high trellis system to assist ripening and guard against mildew and rot. The white variety has been cultivated here for generations, but it wasn’t until 1991 that the property gained its beautifully appointed high-tech winery and was turned into an estate designed specifically for the production of Albariño wines.
Ribera Del Duero: Emilio Moro
This family-owned winery, with its 120-year-old history, is remarkable in many ways, not least for the riches it delivers in the bottle. With vines planted in 1932 at vertigo-inducing heights 700 metres above sea level, they already have a head start in the old vine and unique terroir stakes. Add to that the use of a very pure Tinto Fino clone transplanted from their earliest vines and a family ethic that looks to instil their heart and soul within each wine, and you begin to understand that you’re drinking something pretty special.
Toro: Teso La Monja
The Eguren family have been cultivating vines and producing wine for five generations, imprinting their own personal stamp on the six wineries currently under their care within the DOs of Rioja and Toro. Via their sustainably operated Teso la Monja winery they have been instrumental in transforming the Toro appellation, originally seduced by the vineyard’s pre-phylloxera vines and deep roots to venture beyond their Riojan roots.
The Perelada castle has been involved with winemaking since Carmelite monks were there in the 14th century. With viticultural activities revitalised in the 1920s by Don Miguel Mateu, and much fame achieved in the 1960s, Perelada is one of Spain’s most significant producers, the wines a scintillating blend of centuries’ worth of knowledge and cutting-edge modernism. They source their fruit from the DOs of Penedès and Empordà, and while focus is on the famous cavas of the former DO, the company also craft a range of premium-quality still wines to augment their sparkling portfolio.
Valencia: Mas de Bazan
Located off the eastern coast of Spain in the DO of Utiel-Requena, this winery was purchased by Agro de Bazán in 1995, when the opportunity to buy this historic cellar dating back to 1905, and use it to house one of the region’s most modern wineries proved too good to pass up. The beautiful building now brims with technologically advanced equipment, and Mas de Bazán is amassing a solid rep for its excellent red wines.
Recognised globally for their quality, Spain’s sparklers are named for the caves or cellars in which they are aged. Indigenous varieties are used, prices are generally very user-friendly.