As the post-pandemic rules relax, the sheer concentration of events this spring prevented us from reporting many of the tastings we attended. We have written bits about some of them on our social media, but we think they deserve to be properly published on the site. With apologies to all those organisers whose tastings we were unable to attend, this is the summary of our spring vinous adventures.
Fevino, Galicia's leading trade fair, embarked this year on a three-stage event. Called Viños D.O. Camiño, the focus was the Jacobean year and the Galician wines of St. James' Way.
The first event took place on 30 May in Ferrol, Fevino’s usual location. Producers Rodrigo Méndez, Raúl Pérez, Telmo Rodríguez, Luis Anxo Rodríguez, José Luis Mateo and Fernando González —all of them have championed Galician wine in recent years— were named "Guardians of Wine" together with Masters of Wine and Spanish specialists Tim Atkin and Sarah Jane Evans. The following day, Fevino travelled east to Betanzos to hold a workshop on the Blanco Legítimo grape variety. Finally, on 13-14 June, a large fair was held in Santiago de Compostela with around 200 producers from all over Spain and an extensive tastings programme.
I was delighted to conduct one of the sessions in Santiago with the five Masters of Wine who were later awarded the "Guardians of Wine" distinction: Sarah Jane Evans for a second time, Álvaro Ribalta, Almudena Alberca, Norrel Robertson and Fernando Mora.
Their wines, or those presented by the MWs who don’t make wine, were great examples of the new styles that are all the rage in Spain now but also of the quality that they can achieve.
The first wine, Filoxera & Cía.'s La Mujer Caballo Toronja 2020, is made in Valencia. The Spanish specialist and co-president of the Decanter World Wine Awards, Sarah Jane Evans MW, described it as "a skin-contact wine like those of yesteryear, made by a strong woman", referring to producer Pilar Esteve. According to Evans, this was an outstanding orange wine, an example of the recovery of indigenous varieties (a blend of 60% Valencí, Airén, Moscatel Romano and other grapes) and a very food-friendly wine -she praised a pairing with a nutty chocolate dessert.
Álvaro Ribalta MW is the Spanish wine buyer for Indigo Wines. Based in Catalonia over the past year, he is about to launch Massal Selection, his own distribution and import business. His choice for the tasting was Cortezada 2019, a red wine made by Fedellos do Couto in Ribeira Sacra but without the appellation’s seal. He said it was a great example of the successful rise of Galician reds in a relatively short period of time. There was also an emotional component given that the 2019 vintage was the last to be released. Although introducing new styles of Spanish wine in English-speaking markets had not been easy, Ribalta pointed out that they had eventually managed to get the attention of sommeliers, prescribers and wine writers. He thinks it’s just a matter of time that the wines will permeate other market segments.
Almudena Alberca MW, technical director at Entrecanales Domecq brought her new Secreto 2 RS 2016 to show that Ribera del Duero is a highly diverse wine region. Rather than the monolithic view of many consumers, she talked about the personality of Ribera’s various villages, capable of expressing their individual nuances or creating complex blends. The most characterful vineyards, she said, deserve to be bottled on their own like Secreto 2 RS. Grapes of unusual refinement and finesse are sourced from a plot in Peñaranda, on the border with Soria province (RS stands for Ribera Soriana). As ambassador for the wine investment company Oeno, Alberca added that, despite the modest presence of Spanish wines in the secondary market, there are opportunities ahead so we will see a growing number of Spanish wines listed on auction houses and brokers.
Established in Calatayud since 2003, Norrel Robertson MW, aka The Flying Scotsman, pointed out that, after the latest uprootings prompted by European funds, vineyards in Aragón were relatively stable and praised the wealth of old vines to produce wines of character and quality. His Cismático 2019 was an excellent example: a deep, evocative red that offered an outstanding expression of the region's finest Garnacha. Robertson said he is confident that this style of wine will develop and age gracefully, thus helping to raise the region’s status and its signature grape variety.
Fernando Mora MW championed the unique character of the best terroirs in Aragón. He explained how lucky he was to discover the Barrandijos valley, saddled between Valdejalón and Cariñena in the village of Alpartir where his top-of-the-range, €170+ wines are made. He brought El Jardín de las Iguales 2018 white, made from Macabeo grapes sourced from a vineyard planted at the end of the 19th century. According to Mora, these vines opened his eyes to the greatness that this grape variety could achieve in Aragón. He also admitted that, despite the rapid rise of Bodegas Frontonio, the path had not been easy as it took a lot of work to find the right markets for the wines. Nevertheless, he thinks this is a great moment for Spain’s terroir-driven wines.
At Fevino, I also attended the tasting conducted by The Wine Advocate’s specialist Luis Gutiérrez featuring wines made in regions along the St. James’ Way in France and Spain. Spain was represented by the spicy and firm Tabuérniga 2019 by Cía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, followed by Raúl Pérez Pan y Carne 2020 from Bierzo. This red generated a debate about the names of some of the newly approved grape varieties in the area such as Estaladiña and Pan y Carne. Both names are, rather confusingly, used in Bierzo to refer to Merenzao, although Pan y Carne is officially considered a different grape.
We really enjoy Xurxo Alba’s Noventa e Nove Arrobas 2019 Albariño, which is our wine of the week, and the red Finca Genoveva 2019, a fresh, juicy, vibrant and truly Atlantic wine.
A benchmark producer in Rueda since the late 1990s, the Prieto Pariente family celebrated its 25th anniversary with a retrospective of past vintages including their entry-level white proving the ageing potential of Verdejo. In fact, José Pariente 2009 was a bit reduced, but the acidity kept it alive and there was no sign of oxidation. Meanwhile, the delicious 2019 (herbal, with fresh tropical fruit, juicy and complex), was a good reminder of the good evolution of Verdejo after a couple of years of bottle ageing. Since 2017, the blend includes small percentages of wine aged in wooden and concrete vats.
Founder Mariví Pariente said she would never have imagined that the wine she made the year after her father's death from the vineyard he tended would turn into what José Pariente is today. With his father's name as a benchmark brand in Rueda, the future is guaranteed thanks to her children Ignacio, in charge of management, and Martina, who looks after the vineyards and the wines.
We tasted a saline and minty José Pariente Cuvée Especial 2019, the region’s first Verdejo to be aged in concrete, and a complex, unctuous 2016 with a similar herbal profile. Grapes for this wine are sourced from two old, late-ripening plots planted on sandy soils in 1934 and 1926, respectively.
In contrast, grapes for José Pariente Fermentado en Barrica (barrel fermented) come from stony soils. In recent vintages, new oak has been reduced to 5-10%, and 500-litre barrels are increasingly favoured. We noticed significant differences between a toasty and creamy 2008 with praline-like flavours, and a slightly spicy 2019 delivering white fruit and with nuanced oak notes.
We also tasted two vintages of Finca Las Comas: a very young 2020 tank sample and an elegant, finely textured 2018 with hints of fennel. This is a single-vineyard white made from a plot planted in 1910 in El Camino del Puerto in La Seca on the region’s stony soils. It is fermented and aged in a 2,500-litre foudre.
The icing on the cake was José Pariente 25, the very last Verdejo made by José Pariente. This wine has remained 25 years in a barrel with regular top-ups. The alcohol content (17%) is the result of the natural concentration during all these years. The complexity of the nose is fascinating, with plenty of nutty aromas and orange and mandarin peel. The palate in elegant and finely textured with excellent citrus acidity offsetting the comforting warmth of the alcohol. Production is tiny -only 538 bottles have been made.
Early in June we attended the 20th anniversary of Viñedos Alonso del Yerro, one of the most ambitious wineries established in Ribera del Duero in the early 2000s. From the very beginning, there was a strong focus on producing high quality, terroir-based wines with the support of renowned advisors. It was an endearing event, held at the Santa Marta family estate in Anguix (Burgos), and was attended by importers, distributors, wine journalists and fellow producers from the Grandes Pagos de España association of which Alonso del Yerro is a member.
One of the highlights was the chance to taste old vintages of the three wines produced by the family: two in Ribera del Duero and Paydos in Toro. The labels were redesigned in the 2018 vintage, the most recent, with noticeable changes and white backgrounds, as you can see in the image below.
The vertical tasting confirmed my previous impressions: the ability of Alonso del Yerro to handle cold, challenging vintages. This was obvious in the 2008 and 2013 vintages of Alonso del Yerro, the house’s flagship red, and also in María 2013. All the 2018s are high quality wines with a fresh and elegant profile, slightly more powerful but long and finely textured in the case of María, and with firm tannins and lots of fruit in the case of Paydos. The season’s conditions were more favourable than in 2008 and 2013 with slightly higher yields that naturally benefit concentrated areas such as Toro and Ribera.
We particularly liked María 2014 (fine, juicy, but with promising firm tannins) and the positive development of 2012 and 2011 even if the style of the wine is usually riper and more structured. María 2010 was the most powerful of the series.
In Toro, grapes are being harvested earlier for Paydos. This is especially true in the 2018 vintage, with much more finesse than what’s expected from the area.
Matador is one of the most successful efforts in Spain to bring wine and art together. An art and trends magazine published annually, its promoters release each issue with a different cuvée featuring a piece of work of a guest artist on the label. Meanwhile, the producers who make the wine are encouraged to unleash their imagination and take risks. In the spring we attended the presentation of this year’s wine, produced for the magazine’s 10th edition by Comando G, held at the idyllic Botanical Garden in Madrid.
Telmo Rodríguez, who is in charge of Matador's wine section, said that choosing Comando G was a way to pass on the baton to the next generations, but also to present Gredos as an example of the prominence of forgotten wine regions in Spain. There was an emotional component to the wine as Comando G’s founding team was reunited with Marc Isart (he quit the project for personal reasons but has maintained links with Gredos all this time) alongside current partners Daniel Jiménez-Landi and Fernando García. They appear on the photo below next to Telmo Rodríguez and photographer Alberto García Alix, whose work appears on the label. The photograph is part of Fantasías en el Prado (Fantasies at Prado Museum), currently on show at the Royal Botanical Garden’s Villanueva Pavilion. It is a series of double exposure photographs of some of the museum’s masterpieces.
The wine intends to sum up the spirit of Gredos but using a different approach. In contrast with Comando G’s practice of working their best vineyards separately, the trio have blended various plots. The first one, Los Canchones, represents two thirds of the wine. It is planted on granite soils in Villanueva de Ávila, a cold, south-facing area at 1,000 m elevation. The second vineyard is El Reventón in Cebreros, and the grapes were fully destemmed. They were fermented and aged separately in foudre and barrel; then blended and put in concrete tanks. The García Alix 2020 is fresh and herbal, but has the Mediterranean nuance of orange peel. The palate is somewhat fuller than the standard Garnacha from Comando G; savoury, fresh, almost addictive. The 2,100 bottles on sale will set you back €77.
After the failed 2020 edition as a result of the pandemic, Vinoble welcomed back professionals who travelled to Jerez to enjoy the latest releases and the excellent tastings organised at the Alcázar thanks to the drive and efforts of Juancho Asenjo, a member of the advisory committee.
With a somewhat cryptic title —Versatility Theory: PX=M2—, the last tasting of Vinoble 2022 featured wines from Montilla-Moriles presented by two young sommeliers. Their names may not ring a bell yet, but Paula Menéndez and Virginia García, founders of In Wine Veritas consultancy, are here to stay and we will probably hear their names more often —these two women are both knowledgeable and passionate about wine.
Their blind tasting was instructive and stimulating, and it certainly achieved its goal: to demonstrate to the audience that Pedro Ximénez is an all-round variety, capable of transmitting the terroir and of producing young and fresh wines such as Los Injertos de Los Insensatos, with eight months ageing in tinajas, to sapid and long finos such as Fino en Rama Pérez Barquero, but also styles with muscle (Fino Cebolla, 15 years ageing) and other timeless wines such as Palo Cortado La Inglesa, with 80 years of average age and extraordinary complexity and elegance. This jewel, born in barajuela soils in Moriles Altos, was one of the 11 wines and one very old vinegar that Paula and Virginia presented to prove 12 hypotheses —some of them quoted in the next paragraph— that they made about the wines from Montilla-Moriles, an area with 25,000 hectares under vine in the 1970s but with barely 4,800 hectares left at present.
The other wines at the tasting were Alvear Tres Miradas Cerro Macho ("PX shows the greatness of the soil it comes from, revealing its chalky content"), Miut Santa Magdalena ("PX adapts well to French oak, producing wines with ageing capacity"), Robles Piedra Luenga ("adapts to forms of viticulture with minimal use of systemics"), Amontillado selected by the Consejo Regulador ("PX has spawned a number of literary mentions"), Alvear Oloroso Asunción ("is the flagship variety of one of the oldest wineries in Spain"), La Aurora Gran Pedro PX en Rama ("show the way to diversify sweet wines") and Toro Albalá Convento Don PX Selección 1955 ("produces one of the sweetest wines in the world”).
On the eve of Vinoble, 22 teams tested their senses and memory in the 3rd Spanish Team Blind Tasting Championship. Organised by distributors Ribeira de Fefiñans, Eclèctic Vins and Arrabal 18, with the support of Spiegelau and local distributor 4Gatos Wines, the participants gathered at the historic El Corregidor estate in Jerez, now owned by Bodegas Luis Pérez, surrounded by a spectacular sea of vineyards covering the albariza soil.
The groups, a colourful mix of sommeliers, restaurateurs, journalists, merchants, wine lovers and producers such as Jonatan García (Suertes del Marqués) and the footballer David Silva, owner of the recently launched Tameran in Gran Canaria, had to blind guess, in just about an hour and a half, eight wines, some of them of rather obscure varieties and designations of origin like Maturana Blanca from Rioja or a red wine from Cahors.
The winners (pictured from left to right) were Eduard Ros, owner of Bisavis tavern in Barcelona, his partner Marla González, who works for Catalan merchant Clos Terroir, winemaker Raúl Moreno, who makes a fascinating collection of wines in Sanlúcar, and physiotherapist and wine lover Fran Montoya from Malaga. The four friends will travel to Reims in October to represent Spain at the World Tasting Championship, organized by La Revue du Vin de France. They are just happy to take part, but they will try to improve the third position of the Spanish team last year. The rest of participants will have to wait till 2023 to try their luck in the next Spanish blind championship, likely to be held in Rioja.
Second place went to the Catalan team formed by María Carmen Vico, Anna Casabona, Rosa Aguado and Jordi Sella, whereas Asturians Rafael Salas, Felipe Ferreiro, Tano Collada and Damián Arana came in third.
Once the competition was over, participants and a bunch of wine loving professionals and aficionados moved to the forecourt in front of El Corregidor —where La Barajuela grapes are laid out in the sun during the harvest season—, to share bottles of wine in a laidback and fun party with music under the southern sun. It was courtesy of Territorio Albariza, an association of forward-thinking producers who defend a greater focus on the vineyard and Jerez’s rich heritage.
Formed by Bodegas Luis Pérez, Cota 45, De la Riva, Callejuela, Muchada Léclapart, Forlong, Primitivo Collantes and Meridiano Perdido, this year they also count on Peter Sisseck, who has joined the association with his new project in Jerez, Bodegas San Francisco Javier. During the three days of Vinoble, their stand in the Alcázar was one of the busiest.