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  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
  • Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines
1. Agustín Trapero 2. Álvaro Prieto 3. Carlos Echapresto 4. David Robledo 5. Guillermo Cruz y Pilar Cavero 6. Juan Ruiz Henestrosa 7. Lucas Payá Photos: Yolanda O. de Arri, Juan Martín (D. Robledo photo) and the sommeliers featured in this piece.

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Spain’s best somms reveal their top Christmas wines

Yolanda Ortiz de Arri | December 9th, 2015

Last year, Amaya Cervera and her team of contributors recommended wines that we had enjoyed. On this occasion, we have passed the baton onto some of Spain’s leading sommeliers to find out what they plan to drink for Christmas.

Our aim was not to find out which are the best wines they have tried; instead we asked them to recall wines which, as well as being technically good, have managed to move Agustín Trapero, Álvaro Prieto, Carlos Echapresto, David Robledo, Guillermo Cruz, Pilar Cavero, Juan Ruiz Henestrosa and Lucas Payà.

Although they have chosen wines to suit all tastes, sherries find a little corner in most of their hearts. Below is a list of this year’s favorites for eight of Spain’s most renowned sommeliers:

Agustín Trapero. Launceston Place, London

When in 2001 Agustín moved to London from Ávila, a small city northwest of Madrid, he could not imagine that he would become the first Spaniard to pass the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Course. He managed to do just that in 2013 and now he is training for the final test next October, when he will sit the Diploma. If he is successful, he will make history as Spain’s first sommelier to join the select team of Master Sommeliers, around 200 of them in the world. He has worked in 3-Michelin starred restaurants such as El Celler de Can Roca in Catalonia or The Fat Duck in England, and since 2011 he is the chief sommelier at Launceston Place, a renowned London restaurant. These are his three Spanish wines for Christmas:

Ossian Capitel 2013 (VdT de Castilla)
Ismael Gozalo is the winemaker behind Bodegas Ossian, a project he launched initially under the supervision of Pierre Millman in Nieva (Segovia). 100% Verdejo from a small plot planted with 160-year-old pre-phylloxera vines and a tiny production of barely 1,000 bottles per year. Complex aromas of ripe stone fruit alongside dairy notes like butter, yoghourt and cream and a refined, long finish. Burgundy revisited on the palate. (around €40 at Vinissimus and Wine Searcher)

Finca Catalino 2009, Bodega Garnacha Alto Alberche (VdT de Castilla)
A small vineyard at almost 1,000 of altitude planted on granite soils in the village of Burgohondo (Ávila). Very old vines with yields below 1.3kg per plant. An extremely fine Garnacha, with warm climate red fruit, black prunes and scrubland notes. Delightfully mineral with autumn leave nuances and a balanced silky structure. It reminds me of Piedmont; Barolo meets Castille. (€18 at the winery)
Cuva Vella 1980 (DO Valencia)
A very special sweet wine with an interesting history. It hails from Chiva (Valencia), where an 1980 chestnut barrel was accidentally found hidden in the depths of Bodegas Valsangiacomo. This Muscat of Alexandria sweet mistela displays a wide range of roasted aromas like coffee, burnt caramel, nougat and dried figs ending in an opulent palate with balanced sweetness and refreshing acidity. (From €27.70 at No Solo Vino and Wine Searcher)

Álvaro Prieto, Hotel Valdepalacios, Toledo

Recently returned to Spain, Álvaro was named Best Sommelier in Castilla y León in 2015. Born in León 32 years ago, he has managed to build up plenty of international experience. He knows the British market well after working at London’s Ametsa, a 1-Michelin star restaurant owned by Basque chef Arzak, and Clos Maggiore, with a wine list of over 2,500 selections. Álvaro Prieto points to the “classic and traditional” image of Spanish wine in the UK and the recent popularity of en rama sherries in London’s specialist bars. “It’s a very mature market but Spanish wines still have some room to improve”, he says. These are his three recommendations:

Raventós i Blanc, Enoteca Personal Manuel Raventós 2001 (Conca del Riu Anoia)
From its origins, Raventós i Blanc has always stood for tradition, and that is one of the reasons that led this cava producer to quit the appellation in 2012. One of the major changes undertaken by Raventós i Blanc is their move towards native varieties —the proof is this sparkling blend of 60% Xarel.lo and 40% Macabeo, with no Chardonnay at all. A ripe sparkling wine with lots of aromas and sensations. Full of character and complexity, this is not an aperitif Cava to toast on New Year’s Eve; the versatility of the Enoteca Personal range reaches its most sophisticated wines. (€269 at Cavapack)

Demencia Villegas 2010 (DO Bierzo)
The name of the project, Demencia (Dementia), is in itself a statement of intentions beyond championing Bierzo’s native variety as the main player. Villegas is a spot in Valtuille de Abajo, one of the top quality villages the appellation. Villegas 2010 is a blend of three plots planted with old vines in that spot. It is an elegant wine with red fruit flavors are blended to perfection with the oak over a subtle mineral background. Villegas is a good excuse to get to know Bierzo and discover Mencía’s potential. (€33.90 at El Sumiller)

Valdespino Amontillado Contrabandista (DO Jerez)
This is one of the most renowned producers in Sherry Country. Grapes are sourced from Macharnudo Alto for this Contrabandista, a wine which has spent eight years aging under flor (yeasts) and eight more years of oxidative aging. It is a good example of the art of sherry blending (vinos de cabeceo) as it is lightly sweetened with a little bit of Pedro Ximénez. 

This wine could be seen as Amontillado Tío Diego’s semi sweet (abocado) sibling. In fact, it’s that sweetness that can play an interesting role in Christmas menus, both in aperitifs and desserts —sweet and savory such as cheese and foie gras. This is a great wine for different occasions and at an amazing price! (€12.95 at Magerit Cádiz and from €17 at Wine Searcher)

Carlos Echapresto, Venta Moncalvillo, La Rioja

“Bubbles are always a must during Christmas: it means happiness, celebrations…” explains Carlos Echapresto, sommelier at Venta Moncalvillo in Daroca (La Rioja), the smallest village in the world boasting one Michelin star. Very passionate about Rioja’s wine culture, he has a very interesting collection of wines from this region, which he knows very well.

Manuel Raventós Magnum from an old vintage (Conca del Riu Anoia)
Since Christmas 2010, when we were awarded the Michelin star, we have been opening an old vintage of this sparkling wine during New Year’s Eve dinner. Our family holds very dearly the values that are passed on from generation to generation. Our family cellar gives us a special bond to our land, the family character, championing natural, authentic, local and real things, local varieties…

Toasting with a bottle of this brand has become a sort of ritual —it brings warm memories of our successes, our hard work and it’s also a toast to the following generations. (Old vintages for sale are hard to find. Blanc de Nit 2013 Magnum is available at Vila Viniteca for €31.25)

Contino 1974 (DOCa Rioja)
As a true advocate of the greatness of Rioja and its “old” wines, Christmas is a perfect occasion to open some of those beauties that I store away to enjoy at special moments, with the family. Wines with history behind them, such as Viña Tondonia, Monte Real, Imperial... wines which prove that Rioja has real gems that are truly capable of withstanding the passing of time, wines which prove that beyond its power, Tempranillo is a fine elegant variety in perfect unison with Graciano and Mazuelo’s acidity.

This Christmas I will probably open a Contino 1974; it was not the best year in terms of winemaking, but it was Contino’s first ever vintage and the year I was born. (€350 at Vino Vintage Santander and Wine Searcher)

Apóstoles de González Byass VORS (DO Jerez)
Christmas brings sweet memories —the ever-present tray with nougat, chocolates, Soto marzipan and other “Golmajos” (Rioja sweets). Sweet wines are therefore a must; something like a Cream, a Medium, a sweet oloroso or a PX. A wine combining the sweet notes of raising grapes with the oxidative character of this kind of wines.

Apostoles by González Byass is just the ticket —a Very Old Palo Cortado VORS with that little touch that makes it a timeless wine, perfect to enjoy both in mid-afternoon with a good read in front of the fire or a relaxed sip after lunch that makes you dream. (€55 on the winery's online shop and from €24/375cl at Wine Searcher)

David Robledo, Santceloni Restaurant, Madrid

The sommelier of this classic Madrid restaurant with 2-Michelin stars and 1,200 selections from Spain, France and the rest of the world thinks of himself as “a waiter specialized in wine”. Named Spain’s Best Sommelier in 2014 and holder of the country’s National Gastronomy Award, David is convinced that he and his colleagues must “promote wine as part of our identity”. As such, he says, “we must show our cultural heritage” to foreign diners who want to enjoy the food served at Santceloni, where he has been working since it opened in 2001. These are his three favorite wines for Christmas:

Amontillado Sacristía AB (DO Manzanilla)
After the success of the wonderful Manzanilla en Rama, Antonio Barbadillo has now released this much-awaited Amontillado, of which he has selected just a few casks. I never tire of saying that sherries are the greatest wines in Spain —this Amontillado is a clear example. Simply extraordinary. (50 cl., €79.90 at Vinissimus; €126 at Wine Searcher)

Ossian 2009 (VdT Castilla)
Fabulous organic white made in Segovia proving that Verdejo is capable of producing extremely complex wines. Powerful, complex and with great structure, it is long-lasting and persistent on the palate. I recommend to drink it after at least a couple of years in bottle, as it needs some time for the oak to integrate and develop its full potential. A wonderful wine. (€47 at Wine Searcher; 2011 and 2012 vintages available for €21.90 at El Sumiller)

Alpendre 2012 (DO Ribeira Sacra)
Less than 1,000 bottles of this wine are released each year by producer Ronsel do Sil. Made from Merenzao, a local variety grown in Ribeira Sacra, northwestern Spain. Elegant, fine and delicate —a very different style to the majority of wines made in Spain. I love it! (Available at the producer's online store. 3 bot/€66)

Guillermo Cruz, Mugaritz, Gipuzkoa

At 30 years of age, life is smiling at Guillermo Cruz after years of hard work and study to become one of Spain’s most accomplished sommeliers. Admired by his colleagues for his humility, friendly disposition and dedication, Guillermo is now training to represent Spain at the World Sommelier Championship in Argentina in 2016 where he has promised to “give it all”. With the proviso that “wine is meant to be enjoyed”, Guillermo recommends three wines “with identity”:

Recaredo Reserva Particular 2004 (DO Cava)
Arguably one of the country’s most singular wineries, this wine is made by the Mata family in Catalonia’s Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. One of their secrets is their biodynamic work in their vineyards, with minimal intervention and recovering ancient techniques and beliefs.  All of their Cavas are Brut Nature, without dosage, to display their wines purity — no fine tuning or make-up here. This long-aged Cava manages to be highly expressive thanks to the patience and serenity of this family. (€4295 at Gourmet Hunters and €80 at Wine Searcher)

As Sortes 2013 (DO Valdeorras)
Rather than crafting a great wine, Rafael Palacios manages to fit a landscape inside a bottle. He analyses, understands and embraces his surroundings to obtain a wine with soul, a wine with personality, character and feelings. His intimate knowledge of Godello is present in each of his bottles, where he manages to evoke its most elegant expression. As Sortes represents Rafael Palacios’ passion and emotion —aren’t we lucky to be able to enjoy such a creation? It’s a cult wine which displays the region’s identity as well as its soils and climate —that’s something beautiful. (€36.15 at Bodega Santa Cecilia)

Valtuille Cepas Centenarias 2011 (DO Bierzo)
Raúl Perez, one of Spain’s most revered winemakers, sources this wine from very old vines. The pass of time makes these ancient vines to drop their yields, but each of their grapes is full of wisdom and experience, managing to extract the best Mencía expression. I think this is one of Raúl’s most special wines, perfectly balanced and with a tremendous aging potential. (€32.90 at El Sumiller, from €64 at Wine Searcher)

Pilar Cavero, Remírez de Ganuza pop-up store, Madrid

Named Spain’s Best Sommelier in 2013, Pilar’s professional career is much more solid than what would be expected from a 31-year-old. Born in Aragón, as her friend and colleague Guillermo Cruz, she trained as a pedagogue but her call was the world of wine. Pilar has worked in restaurants such as 3-Michelin starred El Celler de Can Roca and Lavinia, among others. “A good sommelier needs to have empathy and attitude rather than knowledge”, she says. These are the three wines she has chosen for Christmas:

Turó d'en Mota 2001 (DO Cava)
Recaredo’s Cavas are always Brut Nature, without added sugar, and long-aged to extract the expression of terroir. Turn d’en Mota is an exceptional Cava, made from a single Xarel.lo vineyard planted in 1940 and with over 100 months of lees contact. It is a limited release millésimé which is perfect to share in special occasions. Just wonderful. (€149 at Vila Viniteca and Wine Searcher)

Údico 2014 (DO Arabako Txakolina)
Tentenublo is Roberto Oliván’s project, a young winegrower who has earned the respect of his peers and everyone who has tried his wines. He makes this Txakoli in Álava using only Hondarrabi Zuri, which he ferments in chestnut oak barrels and releases barely 1,300 bottles. Its freshness makes it an ideal partner for seafood and traditional Christmas starters. Watch out, it’s addictive! (€21 at Coalla Gourmet and €24 at Wine Searcher)

Darío 2014 (DO Vinos de Madrid)
Bodegas Marañones is located in San Martín de Valdeiglesias and own around 20 hectares under vine, mostly Garnacha and Albillo Real. They also have a small plot with Morenillo vines from which they source this unique, surprising and elegant wine. A real discovery. (€12.30 at Ideavinos)

Juan Ruiz Henestrosa, Aponiente, El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz)

Named Sommelier of the Year by the International Academy of Gastronomy, Juan Ruiz Henestrosa manages to channel the emotion of sherry onto diners visiting Aponiente (2 Michelin stars), Spain’s most marine restaurant with chef Ángel León at the helm. “Without the presence of the word ‘sharing’, wine means work to me”, he says. “We sommeliers must tell the stories that others write”. These are his three favorites:

Amontillado 1830 del Maestro Sierra (DO Jerez)
This wine, with around 50 years of oxidative aging, is kept in the original casks built by the founder of this sherry producer in Jerez. A maximum of 200 bottles are released each year. This amontillado is a festival; it represents the truth about sherry. If someone asked me to explain sherry in a drop, I would choose this wine. Biological aging is vividly present in the wine, but it also has oxidative nuances, hands, slate, chalk and albariza soils. It is a drop of light in a bottle. (From €47/37.5cl at Gourmet Hunters and Wine Searcher)

Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva 1981 (DOCa Rioja)
Made with Viura and some Malvasía, this white wine comes from Bodegas López de Heredia’s flagship vineyard. This legendary Rioja producer releases this wine after several years aging in old barrels and some additional time in bottle. For me, it represents the meaning of evolution, the patience of wine in a bottle. Because I am convinced that white wine must be allowed to rest. (€200 at Vino Vintage Santander and from €125 at Wine Searcher)

Viña Magaña 1980 (DO Navarra)
It is one of the first Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blends of this region. This wine brings me sensory and emotional memories —I enjoyed it with my father and on this vintage my mum was pregnant with me. This wine sums up the great moments I enjoyed with my dad which is why it is special for me; after all, that’s what wine should be about — emotions. (€20 at TodoColección)

Lucas Payà, consultant sommelier

Having worked with some of the most respected international figures in gastronomy, Lucas has earned global recognition as a sommelier (ASI Diploma). He has worked for top gastronomy figures such as Ferrán Adrià (El Bulli) and US-based chef José Andrés (ThinkFoodGroups) where he was involved in the direction of renowned restaurants like Bazaar (SLS Hotel in Miami), Mi Casa (Ritz-Carlton in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico) or Minibar by José Andrés. Lucas now works alongside Greg Lambrecht, the inventor of Coravin.

Palacio de Fefiñanes, Albariño III año 2012 (DO Rías Baixas)
The wine was certainly beautiful, showing great complexity, tight fruit and a lively palate.  It was described by La Guía Peñín as “The best white wine from Spain” this year. It could be considered a benchmark Albariño that has the potential to develop nicely, in bottle, in the coming years. On top of this being a gorgeous and delightful wine, its attributes were enhanced by the company with whom I I shared it. I truly enjoyed tasting along-side Carlos González, the guide’s director, during a presentation at their “Salón de los Mejores” in Madrid this November. I appreciated Carlos’ tasting notes as well as his thoughtful reasons behind his personal ranking of the wine. His presentation was as informative as it was cool, resulting in a stunning combination. (From €32.95 at Vinissimus and Wine Searcher)

Pingus 2012 (DO Ribera del Duero)
There are five reasons why this is a special bottle for me:  
1) The wine was hand delivered to us by Peter Sisseck himself during our visit to the winery back in October 2014. 2) The bottle was “label-less”, as it had not yet been released for sale.  3) A few months later, the wine received a perfect score (100pts) by RP/WA. 4) Recently, the bottle came down to me from Boston, missing some wine in it. The bottle had been accessed via Coravin last Christmas by none other than Greg Lambrecht --Coravin’s inventor and founder (he fully expects it back after I enjoy my glass in 2015). 5) Despite being still very young, the wine delivers all of its supposed potential and personality and I can’t wait to taste it again in a couple of winters... When was the last time you shared a bottle over the course of a few years? (€864 at Gourmet Hunters and from €660 at Wine Searcher)

Lustau Oloroso Don Nuño (L0148) (DO Jerez)
Those of us who love sherry are more often than not surprised by the fact that it is not a more popular wine worldwide. Sherry’s overall quality, authenticity and uniqueness is unquestionable; in many cases these wines have the best value on the market. Lustau is a top producer from El Marco, offering a wide range of styles while distinctly expressing the different profiles of wines coexisting in the region. This particular Oloroso is no exception. Further, it is great fun to be able to taste it side by side with the same wine bottled 5 years ago (the 148th day of 2010 to be precise). This past October, we had the wonderfully special experience at the bodega in Jerez. Anyone who says these wines will not improve in bottle is totally off base. (€20.30 at Vila Viniteca and Wine Searcher)


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