We journalists always seem to be a bit obsessed with making lists. We love to group wines based on their value, wine region, grape variety or style. Throughout the year we get to taste many wines that we certainly enjoy but it’s not always easy to fit them in our regular sections. Instead they may get a quick mention in our social media channels. To reverse that, we have decided to write a little bit more about ten of those wines that left their mark on our palates.
Ibizkus 2014 Red, Ibizkus Wines, VT Ibiza. Although the presence of Monastrell in the Balearics is mostly testimonial, it is a parent of Gargollassa, an indigenous variety. That’s why I was particularly intrigued by this Monastrell from Ibiza. The winery was established in 2007 but changed hands in 2016 when a group of Swiss investors bought it and hired French flying winemaker Dominique Roujou as consultant. “There’s an incredible heritage of ungrafted old vine Monastrell in Ibiza -around 30 to 50Ha- although only half of them are under production,” confirmed Roujou, who also looks after the wines of another Mallorca producer. Grapes for the 2014 Ibizkus were sourced from six different plots planted with 60-year-old vines on sandy soils close to the sea in San Agustín and San José. This red wine is full of character with earthy notes and sun-drenched (not overripe) fruit, although it’s not overpowering. It has the depth you would expect from old vines but the profile is clearly different from inland Monastrell.
€18.50. Check the producer’s page for stockists.
Abadal Mandó 2015 Red, Bodegas Abadal, DO Catalunya. After 15 years of hard work to recuperate this grape variety, Abadal has released its first wine made from Mandó. Widely grown in the Bages region near Barcelona during the first quarter of the 20th century, Mandó has also been recovered in Valencia (Celler del Roure) and in Conca de Barberà, where it is known as Garró. Here, the Torres family uses it for their Grans Muralles wines. Abadal Mandó is expected to carry the DO Pla de Bages seal from the 2016 vintage onwards following its inclusion in the appellation.
Abadal grows almost 4Ha but expects to have 15Ha in two years’ time. According to Valentín Roqueta, president of the wine group formed by Abadal, Roqueta Origen and Lafaou Celler in Terra Alta, "we want Mandó back as a flagship wine for our region." Mando's distinctive features (late ripening variety with high acidity and low alcohol) are highly appealing to fight climate change and go well with the current trend towards fresh, easy-to-drink reds. This wine is fragrant with scrubland and spicy aromas on the nose and a juicy, aromatic palate that invites further drinking. 3,800 bottles have been produced.
Sin Blanca 2016 Red, El Hato y el Garabato, DO Arribes. Arribes is a remote wine region close to the Portuguese border in the province of Zamora. Without the rusticity that is usually found in the area, this wine made us realize that the region deserves a visit. Winemaker José Manuel Beneitez and his wife Liliana Fernández started this small venture (12,000 bottles) in 2015 working with 10Ha of very old vines ranging from 70 to 120 years. Sin Blanca is a field blend dominated by Juan García, the region’s most widely grown variety. Beneitez employs partial whole bunch fermentation ever since he noticed that the use of stems doesn't add extra rusticity to these grapes; on the contrary, he achieves quite the opposite effect. This is a clean, fruit-driven, savoury red wine that will appeal wine lovers eager to discover new regions and grapes.
El Espinillo Viñas Viejas Garnacha 2015 Red, Bodegas Vega Berciana, DO Méntrida. This wine was one of the highlights at a recent tasting hosted by DO Méntrida in Madrid. Grapes are sourced from a vineyard in El Real de San Vicente (Toledo), the only village in the appellation that is part of Sierra de Gredos, a mountain range north of Madrid. The plot is owned and tended by Mateo, one of the best growers in Méntrida's cooperative. Consultant winemaker Carlos Sánchez has also had a hand in the wine. He knows the area well as he runs his own project, Las Bacantes, in the Madrid part of Gredos. The wine ferments with natural yeasts in concrete tanks, and is later aged in 300-litre used French oak barrels for 12 months. Sweet and liquor red fruit notes dominate on the nose. The palate is fruit-driven and aromatic with more persistence and depth than the average for a red wine retailing at €10. 1,500 bottles have been produced.
To buy the wine contact the cooperative on +34 918 177 004.
Ars Nova 2013 Red, Tándem, D.O. Navarra. Navarra was one of the regions that embraced international varieties in Spain. Now that the trend has shifted to all things local, the region doesn’t hit the headlines except when the news involves the recovery of its Garnacha heritage. Regardless of this, a smart combination of local and international grapes can also produce appealing wines as is the case with Ars Nova 2013, a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet and Merlot in a cool vintage. The spicy, peppery edge of the international varieties is tempered by a Mediterranean ripeness and by the use of concrete tanks for malolatic fermentation and aging (24 months) following nine months in oak barrels. A smooth, fresh wine with pleasant fruit and good texture.
Pigar Bobal 2016 Red, Bodegas Pigar, DO Utiel-Requena. Many quality wines are needed in order to create a category or to change perceptions in a grape variety as vilified as Bobal. That’s why it is a joy to discover new producers like Juan Piqueras who is doing great work with one of the leading varieties in Spain's southeast as well as trying to find his own style. The winery is in Campo de Arcís, near Requena, but grapes for this wine are sourced from a very small plot (less than 0.5Ha) located in an area called La Serratilla. The wine displays intense fruit aromas (blackberry jam, maceration-like aromas), backed by vibrant acidity, a fine texture and good balance. Juan is happy with the 2016 vintage. Grapes ripened slowly and beautifully keeping their acidity. The wine fermented with natural yeasts and low levels of sulphur were used (Bobal’s low pH helps). Only 1,500 bottles were produced, but the price is affordable and the wine has the potential to be cellared.
Find this wine for € 15 at Cutanda Vinos y Licores.
Malkoa Single Vineyard 2015 White, Bodegas Astobiza, Arabako Txakolina. The latest area in the Basque Country to become an appellation, Álava (Araba in Basque) is locked inland and has less influence from the sea, but it is quickly picking up the pace in terms of quality. Astobiza clearly benefits from having Pepe Hidalgo and Ana Martín as wine consultants -Martín advised leading txakoli producer Itsasmendi for over ten years. The winery has recently released its first single-vineyard wine chosen from their plots in the Ayala valley. Made from Hondarrabi Zuri, the wine was aged for 20 months in concrete egg-shaped tanks. With good structure and acidity, it fits in well with the recent trend of extended-aging txakolis seen predominantly in Bizkaia.
Find this wine for €32.75 at El Club del Gourmet-El Corte Inglés.
La Malvar de Mas Que Vinos 2015 White, Más que Vinos, VT Castilla. In the 16th century, the grape variety Malvar was used in a famed white wine made in the village Valdemoro and other parts of Madrid. Since then, Malvar has lost ground in its natural territory in central Spain mainly due to a historical confusion with the widely planted Airén which has remained to this day. Hence the interest of winemaker Gonzalo Rodríguez and the Más Que Vinos team in showcasing its true colours. Grapes are sourced from 50-year-old dry-farmed vineyards planted on limestone soils in Cabañas de Yepes and Dos Barrios in Toledo. Some traditional winemaking techniques are being used: part of the wine is fermented in tinajas (amphorae) with skins and is later blended with a second batch fermented and aged in barrel. It is slightly oxidative (a trendy style after the increasing interest in sherry among leading producers in Spain) on the nose with petrol notes that add complexity. The consistent, smooth palate offsets the low acidity of this grape variety. A superb wine to pair with food although few bottles of this vintage are still on sale; the 2016 vintage is about to be released.
Filitas y Lutitas 2016 White, Viñedos Verticales, DO Sierras de Málaga. With its rugged landscape, Axarquía in Málaga is one of Spain’s most fascinating wine regions. Few projects have sprung after the small revolution started by the likes of Telmo Rodríguez and Jorge Ordóñez in the 1990s, so it is great to discover Viñedos Verticales (literally vertical vineyards). This is the brainchild of Juan Muñoz, third generation of wine growers and producers in the area (his family manages Dimobe), and winemaker Vicente Inat, who consults for Descalzos Viejos in Ronda.
The winery is named after the area’s dizzying slopes whereas the wine refers to its soil composition —phyllites (filitas) and shales (lutitas). The wine is a blend of 90% Moscatel (Muscat) de Alejandría fermented in a 150-year-old foudre that had previously contained brandy and 10% Pedro Ximénez fermented in Oloroso casks from Dimobe. Both are fermented separately and later blended in the big foudre where the final wine is aged for 10 months. Oxidative and with orange zest aromas, this white wine is complex and rich with mature notes but it is backed by bright acidity. 4,000 bottles filled in this vintage.
Bertola Palo Cortado, Diéz Merito, DO Jerez-Xérèz-Sherry. Often described as a sherry that combines the aromas of Amontillado and the palate of an Oloroso, most examples of Palo Cortado sit at the high-end of the range. Fortunately, there are exceptions like Bertola from Bodegas Díez Mérito. This producer has a checkered recent history: it was part of the Rumasa group, then acquired by Marcos Eguizábal, who also owned Paternina in Rioja. Since 2016 Díez Merito is owned by the Espinosas, a local family who has given a renewed impetus to the house by moving wines that had laid forgotten in the aging process. After 12 years, this Palo Cortado displays fine, nutty aromas with a intense, supple palate and it is sold at a remarkably favourable price.
Find this wine for €15.40 at Lavinia.