Here comes a bunch of wines which have been either released along 2019 or simply deserve more attention. All of them are really enjoyable and add extra kudos to their respective regions and categories. Find out the stories behind them, so that you can share with your family and friends during the festive season. The list is a joint effort by Amaya Cervera (A.C.) and Yolanda Ortiz de Arri (Y.O.A.).
Kimera Garnatxa Espumoso Ancestral, LMT Wines and Gonzalo Celayeta Wines (No DO). Luis Moya is an artisan and "nomad" producer from Navarra who makes wines in different places. Together with his friend Gonzalo Celayeta, winemaker at the San Martín de Unx cooperative, they have developed Kimera, a series of three wines that began with a red Garnacha and has now been joined by two ancestral sparkling wines, one with Garnacha Blanca and a rosé, which we review today, that blends 80% red Garnacha and 20% Garnacha Blanca. Grapes for this wine come from the slopes of San Martín de Unx, a village with a long-standing wine tradition 45-minute drive south of Pamplona. it is aged on its lees for 10 months in the bottle before disgorging and no sulphur is added.Deep colour, in keeping with the tradition of rosés in Navarra, this is a straight-forward wine, with sweet and expressive red fruit, intended to be enjoyed at leisure. Perfect as an aperitif. Only 700 bottles but at a very reasonable price. Y.O.A.
Find this wine for €14.70 at Vinissimus.
Julia Bernet 130 2013 Brut Nature (Corpinnat). The latest member to join Corpinnat (the group of top producers that abandoned the DO Cava earlier this year), Julia Bernet is the equivalent of a grower Champagne producer in Spain. Xavier Bernet and his wife Cristina grow seven hectares of vines planted in small plots in the Ordal mountains (Penedès, Catalonia), the natural continuation of the Garraf mountain inland. They produce 40,000 bottles, most of them sparkling and some still wines. They blend Chardonnay and Xarel.lo for some of their wines but those meant for extended ageing, such as Julia Bernet 130, which has been aged for almost 70 months, are only Xarel.lo. In outstanding years, the wine is kept with its lees even longer to produce their top María Bernet (around €47 in Spain, the current vintage is 2009). Julia Bernet 130 offers amazing value and is a great introduction to this producer’s style. A consistent wine with toasted bread, fennel and white fruit aromas. Fine texture and nicely integrated mouse end on a dry finish with pleasant bitterness. Perfect to drink now. 5,000 bottles produced. Disgorgement dates are printed on the label. A.C.
€22 at the winery. A few bottles sold at Vinissimus for €18.80.
Clímax 2016 Brut Nature, Can Ràfols dels Caus (No DO). One of the latest producers to leave the DO Cava after renewing its sparkling range from the 2016 vintage, Can Ràfols dels Caus have not joined any other groups. “We just wanted to focus on the sparkling expression of the Garraf Massif”, manager Rosa Aguado told SWL. Called Clímax, the new range is organically certified and it includes information on disgorgement dates. As well as a Pinot Noir rosé, the Clímax range features this blend of Xarel.lo with 25% Macabeo and 5% Chenin Blanc. Bright colours on the capsule and the label in a striking new look. The wine is fresh, straightforward and mineral, focusing on the varieties rather than on the ageing with citrus acidity and chalky, dry stone notes on the finish. It will gain complexity over the next few months. Another terroir-driven example in the increasingly complex scene of sparkling wines in Spain. A.C.
Retail price: €24. Distributed by Vila Viniteca and Alma Vinos Únicos. Find it also at Vins y Licors Grau.
Pere Ventura Gran Reserva 2012 Brut (DO Cava). This wine was the star at a press presentation held by DO Cava in Madrid last June to announce the demarcation of specific geographic areas within the appellation. Released in the 2012 vintage, it was not produced in 2013 but was awarded the single vineyard (cava de paraje calificado) category in the 2014 vintage (both 2012 and 2014 can be currently found in the market). Grapes are sourced from 5.8 hectares of land located in Subirats (Penedès) with five organically farmed, old-vine plots within the Can Bas estate. A brut with moderate levels of sugar (4.5 g/l), the ageing is at the centre of the wine. Toasted bread aromas over a citrus background and a broad palate with creamy bubbles and lovely sweet- bitter-acid- balance. The bottle features glass diamonds and is a patented design destined to their range of extended ageing Cavas. All of them spend at least 43 months with their lees, source grapes from old vines and are fermented with natural yeasts. You might love the packaging or find it rather ostentatious; in any case, the wine speaks for itself. A great Cava to bring to the Christmas table. A.C.
Other interesting sparkling releases reviewed on SWL include Izar-Leku, made with Hondarrabi Zuri grapes by Artadi in Zarautz (Basque Country) and Mas del Serral, the pure, almost radical bubbly made by Pepe Raventós in Penedès. Read our thought on both of them at the end of this piece. Find Izar-Leku for €22.40 at Vinissimus and Mas del Serral for €133 at Vinoselección.
UBE Paganilla 2018, Cota 45 (Outside DO). Ramiro Ibáñez is a new voice in the recovery of the wine memory of the Sherry region and one of the most respected producers among wine lovers and connoisseurs in southern Spain. His wines seek to express the terroir and characteristics of the vintage as in this new Ube Paganilla, a vintage white wine, in the style of the old manzanillas, with a layer of flor, no alcohol added and easy to drink. This 100% Palomino Fino comes from Paganilla, an inland vineyard with a high content of albariza de barajuelas, which adds a savoury note and length to the wines. UBE Paganilla is the latest addition to the UBE range, which includes two whites from coastal vineyards (UBE Miraflores and its older brother UBE Carrascal) and UBE Maína, an inland vineyard in Sanlúcar, which produces vibrant wines with flavour and muscle. UBE Paganilla could be defined as the introductory wine to UBE Maína.
Like the rest of its siblings, this wine spends nine months in old sherry butts under a thin layer of flor that adds refinement but without being overpowering so it is an excellent wine to start exploring the fascinating history and character of the wines of Jerez and Sanlúcar. As it is a low-alcohol vintage, Ibáñez added a little sulphur before bottling. Y.O.A.
Find this wine at Licores Corredera for €14.20.
Vino Atlántico 2018, Península Viticultores (DO Bizkaiko Txakolina). Masters of Wine Andreas Kubach and Sam Harrop have proved to be a particularly active duo in Spain in recent years. Their deep knowledge of the wines of the world helps them to identify unique elements in various Spanish regions and make distinctive yet affordable, market-driven wines. This unusual mix of pragmatism and authenticity has been successfully implemented in Uclés together with Bodegas Fontana, in Rioja in partnership with businessman Gorka Izagirre (Badiola), in Gredos and in Bizkaiako Txakolina in the Basque Country, where they produce their own txakoli at Izagirre’s winery in Larrabetzu. The wine is a single-vineyard Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbou) sourced from a plot in the village of Amorebieta. Following a terroir-driven design, the label presents detailed information that goes beyond local standards (grape variety, type of soil, the fact that it comes from a single plot…) and stresses the idea of an Atlantic wine. The fruit feels ripe and round, with marked citrus notes and the vibrant, fresh character expected from this area. The best part comes from the intriguing salty notes on the finish that invite to drink. Almost 13,000 bottles were produced. A.C.
Find this wine for €15.95 at Ideavinos.
Villota 2016 Blanco, Viña del Lentisco (DOCa. Rioja). Despite being produced in tiny quantities (only 1,500 bottles), this wine is particularly revealing of the huge potential of Rioja to produce distinctive whites with the ability to age. With both 2016 and 2017 vintages now on sale, the 2016 offers some extra complexity given the longer period spent in bottle and still has plenty of life ahead. Behind this wine is the Villota family, co-founders of Contino together with Cvne who contributed their extensive estate in La Serna on the banks of river Ebro. When Cvne took full control of Contino, the Villotas decided to launch their own project with the vineyards that still remained in their hands. With Cvne’s historic winemaker Basilio Izquierdo as consultant, this Villota 2016 is a pure and clean wine with lovely citrus and fine smoked notes evolving to floral and talcum powder aromas. Well-defined flavours on the palate with fabulous acidity and tension; there is a lovely, distinctive chalky texture on the finish. The wine was fermented and aged for six months in 500- and 225-litre barrels. A.C.
Find this wine for €29.95 € at Mantequerías Manzano wine store in Madrid.
Rofe Blanco 2018, Puro Rofe (DO Lanzarote). One of the most unique projects in the Spanish wine scene in recent years, Puro Rofe seeks to express the spectacular volcanic landscape and indigenous varieties of Lanzarote, worked sustainably by a handful of local growers in partnership with a distributor (Rayco Fernández) and a winemaker (Carmelo Peña) from Gran Canaria. Although technically the first vintage was 2017 (it was entirely shipped to the United States), it was in 2018 when Puro Rofe began to shape the style of wines that this group wishes to make. Rofe is their island wine, which blends grapes -mainly Malvasía (65%) and Diego (35%)- from different vineyards on the island. They first harvest their Malvasía to maintain freshness and avoid an excess of exuberant aromas and blend it with Diego, a variety that stands out for its crisp acidity, and a small amount of Listán Blanco. They are all stomped in the winery's traditional wine press before being pressed, avoiding malolactic fermentation and using only natural yeasts without filtration or clarification.
With a mineral and reductive character which is frequent in terroir wines from the archipelago, Rofe Blanco is a fresh wine with citrus and saline notes, ample and with plenty of volume on the palate. A captivating personality in this white wine. Around 3,500 bottles released. Y.O.A.
Find this wine at El Sumiller por €34.90.
Tras los Muros 2017, Pazo Señoráns (DO Rías Baixas). The latest release from Pazo Señoráns, a flagship producer in Rías Baixas, Tras los Muros (behind the wall) is the brainchild of Berta García, Marisol Bueno's daughter-in-law who is married to her son Javier. A chemical engineer with 10 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Berta made a drastic U-turn to study oenology in the University of Tarragona and continued her training with legendary French producers in Bordeaux (Haut-Brion) and Burgundy (Louis Latour). Following her experience in Burgundy, she decided to make a single-vineyard Albariño aged in French and Caucasian 225- and 350-litre barrels (bâtonnage varies depending on the characteristics of the vintage). This is a wine that needs some time in the glass. It starts with smoky aromas and develops gradually towards pear and white pepper notes. Despite the oak’s creamy flavours, acidity ends up taking a central stage on the palate. I think it will age beautifully. In fact, I would love to taste this in 10 years’ time alongside the same vintage of Selección de Añada, the oustanding Pazo Señoráns Albariño which is usually aged for over 30 months in stainless steel tanks. Tras las Muros has set a record price for the winery. 3,000 bottles and 60 magnums were produced. A.C.
Find this wine for €42.90 at Bodeboca.
One of the most interesting white releases this year in Spain was El Jardín de las Iguales 2016 from Bodegas Frontonio (we wrote extensively about this project in May). Grapes are sourced from a very old Macabeo vineyard planted around 1890 which provides extraordinary depth and length to the wine. Only 900 bottles produced. Find this wine for €175 at Decántalo. We also include La Otea by Isaac Cantalapiedra, a vigneron who works in La Seca and whose wines are made outside the DO Rueda. This Verdejo, set to be released in early 2020, comes from an ungrafted vineyard planted 150 years ago on sandy soils with a pH of 2.86. Great complexity and volume.
La Dula Viñas de Altura 2018, Sierra de Toloño (DOCa Rioja). Sandra Bravo is a grower and winemaker from Rioja with a deep appreciation of the mountain-grown Garnacha from Rivas de Tereso, on the slopes down the old monastery whose ruins are erected in the Sierra de Toloño. In 2015 she bought La Dula, a vineyard with Garnachas planted in 1944 where she makes one of her single-vineyard wines. She liked the result, made with a variety that was once fairly common in this cool area of the Sonsierra, so she decided to seek out similar plots. The first vintage (2018) of La Dula Viñas de Altura, a crunchy Garnacha that is pure freshness and pleasure, has just been released. To make it, she buys grapes from four old vine plots on white clay soils of calcareous origin in Rivas and ferments them destemmed without bleeding in 1,200-litre vats. To round off the wine, she ages the wine in earthenware tinajas, an unusual vessel in Rioja but one that Sandra prefers to create this ethereal, subtle and vibrant red in which the delicate fruit stands out. Y.O.A.
Fuente de los Huertos 2017 Tinto, Ca’ di Mat (DO Vinos de Madrid). This captivating, single-vineyard Garnacha is part of the new project of winemakers Curro Bareño and Jesús Olivares (Fedellos de Couto and Peixes in Ribeira Sacra and the Bibei valley in Galicia) with Gianpaolo Armando (this explains the Italian name which means “mad house” in the Piedmontese dialect) and his wife Victoria in her hometown of San Martín de Valdeiglesias, the part of Gredos in the province of Madrid. Its aerial, fragrant profile (pumice, petals) is in tune with the style of wines favoured by this duo of winemakers. The palate, mineral and persistent, speaks of a traditional, +70-year-old northwest facing vineyard planted on quartz granite soils. Production is tiny (1,500 bottles) but the wine offers outstanding value. They produce another single-vineyard Garnacha called Andrinal from a higher plot on a sort of plateau. Sourced from 90-year-old vines planted on pink granite soils, it delivers more depth and consistency at a higher price. A.C.
Magna Vides 2016 Tinto (DO Ribera del Duero). A new project worth following in Ribera del Duero, partners Pablo Arranz (a native of the region) and Andrea Sanz left the city to lead a simple life as grape growers in La Aguilera, a village with a rich heritage of old vines. Despite selling a considerable amount of grapes from their 20 hectares under vine to leading producers in the area, this wine contributes to expand the range of styles in the region. A blend of Tempranillo with 5% of white Albillo, grapes are sourced from two different sites in the village: Sotillejo and the cooler area of El Sardal in the Gromejón valley which Pablo and Andrea regard as their particular grand cru. The 2016 vintage delivers fully ripe, well-defined fruit (blackberry, violet, plum, black liquorice) and fantastic freshness and tension. A.C.
Find this wine for €29.50 at Bodega Abierta.
La Zorrera 2015, J. Chivite Family Estates (3 Riberas). The first Garnacha made by Chivite in Navarra is a single-vineyard red sold under the PGI 3 Riberas. Grapes are sourced from the Finca Legardeta estate in Tierra Estella, one of the coolest, northernmost subareas in Navarra. The 6.5-hectare southwest facing plot stretches along a slope with an inclination of 17% to 22% at an elevation between 487 and 550 meters above sea level. It was planted in 2000 with a selection of low yielding clones on soils with a relatively high limestone content. The style is just the opposite to Fuente de los Huertos: structured, mineral and with plenty of weight on the palate, but its zesty acidity delivers an extremely vibrant, lively palate (its low pH -3.2- offsets the 15% vol.). This is a firm red with ripe blackberry and wild fruit (bramble) aromas, with plenty of structure and acidity to age gracefully. 5,283 bottles were produced and come from a selection of grapes picked in the highest part of the plot. A.C.
Find this wine at El Despacho Clandestino in Madrid for around €35.
Aliaxe Fabaiños 2017, Bodegas Fulcro (Sin DO). This wine is not for sale yet, but we really wanted to have it on the list because it is one of the most fascinating reds we have tasted this year.
Grape growers of a certain age from Sanxenxo (Pontevedra) remember that in Fabaiños their grandparents planted red varieties because it is sheltered from the winds, but phylloxera and later the commercial success of Albariño meant that the area was replanted with the star variety of Rías Baixas. Luckily for wine lovers, some Espadeiro plants managed to survive and fall into the hands of Manuel "Chicho" Moldes, an artisan vigneron who produces fresh wines from his handful of vineyards in the Salnés valley.
Aged over 200 years old, the Fabaiños vineyard produces a very fine and delicate red with the Espadeiro variety that is aged for 12 months in a seasoned French oak barrel and then bottled with 11.5% vol. The process is similar to his other reds, but in this case extraction is longer, resulting in a wine with floral and violet notes, balanced and with an incredible purity of aromas and flavours.
As the vines are so old and scarce, the yield is very small but the good news is that Moldes is using this Espadeiro clone to plant other vineyards. Y.O.A.
Aliaxe Fabaiños 2017 will be on release in the spring of 2020 at approximately €37.
La Gándara 2016 Tinto, Fuentes del Silencio (VT Castilla y Léon). A highly original single-vineyard Mencía for several reasons. To start with, it doesn’t come from the variety’s traditional growing area near rivers Sil and Miño. The Jamuz valley extends south of Bierzo in León (Castilla y León) but lies within the Duero basin. The vineyards stand high on Spain’s northern plateau at an elevation between 830 and 1,000 metres -these are the highest plantings of Mencía in the country. La Gándara is a very singular plot in this area. It is located over an old cellar carved out of the rock in an area with ancient Roman mines. Very old vines including some pre-phylloxera are grown on reddish sandy clay soils. Several analyses have shown a very different, highly active microbial life (the yeasts that carry out the fermentation in this wine for instance are not saccharomyces). This light-coloured red is really different. Herbal aromas reminiscent of seaweed and a tasty, delicate, earthy palate. This wine is unlikely to be a crowd-pleaser, but I’m sure it will provide a fascinating experience to many wine lovers. A.C.
Find this wine for €47.50 at Bodeboca.
Our particular discovery in the southeast this year was Viña El Veneno Monastrell 2017 by Pepe Mendoza Casa Agrícola (find out more on this piece published on September; €25.95 at Decántalo). Heading north along the Mediterranean coast, another noteworthy release at a considerably higher price (€370) is Mas de la Rosa by Torres Priorat, one of the highlights at the presentation of Les Noms de la Terra, Priorat’s new vineyard classification in May.
Fino Caberrubia, Bodegas Luis Pérez (DO Jerez-Xeres-Sherry). Anyone with a vague interest in Sherry will surely have heard of Fino La Barajuela 2013, a wine that broke new ground when it was released because it was a vintage wine (most are aged in the criaderas and solera system) and unfortified as is usual in today's biologically aged wines. Its 15% alcohol occurs naturally after letting the grapes out in the sun briefly (asoleo). Labelled NV (Non Vintage), Fino Caberrubia is a blend of wines from several vintages -a common practice in Champagne rather than in Jerez: one 2013 butt, two 2014 butts, one 2015 and two 2016, each bringing different nuances to the wine.
The grapes come from Viña El Corregidor, in the pago Carrascal in Jerez, with albariza de barajuela soils. With more fruit on the palate than other finos (notes of apple and white fruit) thanks to the asoleo, the presence of flor is less evident although it has the sapidity and structure found in this type of soil and in the vintages of La Barajuela. Caberrubia is more affordably priced than La Barajuela 2016 (now on release at €70), which is set to be bottled from now on only in great vintages. A wine to discover a different style of Fino, a novelty among other bottlings in the market. Y.O.A.
Equipo Navazos La Bota 90 de Manzanilla Pasada Capataz Cabo (DO Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda). Since 2005, Eduardo Ojeda and Jesús Barquín, creators of Equipo Navazos, have been unearthing great Andalusian wines stored in forgotten butts contributing in a crucial way to the ever-growing ( albeit still residual) interest in sherry wines. La Bota 90 de manzanilla pasada is the successor of La Bota 10, a wine selected by Equipo Navazos in 2008 from a 15-butt solera that had hitherto remained unbottled. Although the numbering on La Bota De is random, Equipo Navazos has repeated the pattern in multiples of 10 bottlings, all Manzanillas Pasadas. In the same way as they did with La Bota 30 (Capataz Rivas), La Bota 90, bottled earlier this year, is a tribute to Cabo, the Jerez-born cellar master who has taken care of this wine legacy during the last decade and who is just about to retire.
For La Bota 90, Ojeda, Barquín and cellar master Cabo picked eight butts from the 15-butt solera that is stored in the old La Guita winery in Sanlúcar. With an average age of 14 years, the butts are kept almost full (a tocadedos, as they say in Sanlúcar), so that the flor can survive and give off intense biological and saline notes both on the nose and on the palate. A wine with tremendous length and power but without being overwhelming; you can taste some oxidative notes that contribute even more to the wine’s complexity. Y.O.A.
Toro Albalá Don PX Gran Reserva 1990, Bodegas Toro Albalá (DO Montilla-Moriles). If still wine consumption in Spain remains at very discreet levels compared to neighboring countries, sweet wine figures are downright depressing, though they are a great option at Christmas time to pair with desserts and make family dinners infinitely more bearable. The Cordoba winery Toro Albalá is a great specialist in sweet wines made with Pedro Ximénez grapes dried on the sun in paseras, a laborious and artisan process that is still practiced among producers in Montilla-Moriles.
This 1990 is the current vintage on release of the house's Gran Reserva range. It’s sort of eternal as it has been ageing in old American oak barrels for over 25 years before being bottled in early 2019. Very complex aromas of herbs, liquorice, citrus and spices, it is fluid and fresh on the palate despite its 350 grams of sugar per litre and 17% abv. Pleasant bitter orange peel notes on the finish balanced with sweetness and good tension. As Paco del Castillo, an expert in sensory analysis and a great connoisseur of Andalusian wines, says, "this wine should be in the fridge of every single Spanish household. It can last for up to two years without any loss of quality. Which wines can achieve that?" Y.O.A.