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New red releases to try in 2023 This compilation includes wines of varying price points and styles, but we sense a growing interest among producers to strengthen their premium ranges. Photo credit: Abel Valdenebro.

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New red releases to try in 2023

Amaya Cervera | May 22nd, 2023

As promised, we have compiled a list of new red wines that have stood out in our recent tastings. Unlike our previous selection of whites and sweet wines, the retail prices are considerably more varied here.

Rocafosca 2020, Costers del Priorat (Priorat)

The latest release from this winery, led by winemaker José Mas, is a red wine that seeks to convey the character of Priorat's distinctive slate soils in a pleasant and accessible way. To achieve this, he blends Cariñena and Garnacha from two vineyards, one in the centre of the region (Mas Alsera in Torroja) and one in the south (Sant Martí in Bellmunt). Both varieties are fermented separately, with part of the stems in concrete and stainless steel tanks, and aged in Slavonian oak vats and amphorae. With a very moderate extraction, the nose reveals the blueberry and smoky notes of Cariñena, while Garnacha rounds off the palate, making it pleasant and tasty. 

We enjoyed the freshness and fluidity of the wine on the palate, as well as its fruit-driven style and sense of place. According to Mas, Rocafosca is the result of a lot of thinking over the last five years, a process that will lead to changes in the range and new projects to be revealed in the future.

Production: 25,000 bottles
Price: €19.80
Alcohol: 14.5% abv

A’Rocha Castes Tintas 2018, Tiro al Blanco (Ribeiro)

We tasted this wine at a blind tasting organised by Argentinian sommelier Paz Levinson at Madrid Fusión to showcase the work of various Argentinian winemakers in Spain. Among them, Matías Michelini is particularly dynamic and enterprising. After teaming up with Viña Zorzal in Navarra, he went on to explore the northwest. In Ribeiro (Ourense, Galicia) he has teamed up with two locals: Alex González, who looks after the vineyards, and Sergio Cortés, who is in charge of sales. They produce around 25,000 bottles here and have now expanded to neighbouring Ribeira Sacra. Their range is divided into village and single vineyard wines. A'Rocha falls into the latter category.

As the name suggests (rocha means stone in Galician), the vines coexist with large granite boulders. The wine is a red blend of mainly Caíño, Brancellao and Sousón. The grapes are harvested at different stages in order to obtain the optimum ripeness for each variety. Fermentation and ageing take place in amphorae. The wine is a good combination of fully ripe fruit and the added freshness of the partial fermentation of the whole bunches. It is very flavorful, with lively acidity and tension and moderate alcohol. Really pleasant to drink.

Production: 1,200 bottles
Price: € 46 
Alcohol: 12.5% abv.

Belote Timba 2020, Bodegas Belote (León)

This small project, focused on the Prieto Picudo variety, came as a pleasant surprise. Alberto Viejo, the driving force behind it, launched Belote in 2012 in Roales de Campos, one of the villages in Valladolid province that belong to DO León. It has since been joined by three other partners committed to the recovery of vineyards in the area. The wines are made in one of the caves in the village's Barrio de Bodegas, a district known as Belote, from which the wine takes its name.

We particularly liked the new Timba, which we hope will remain in the winery's range. It is a wine that skilfully combines three months ageing in barrels with a further three months in tinaja (clay jars). The local Prieto Picudo variety appears at its best, with superb flavour and freshness, vibrant fruit and a dash of energy that invites sipping. This is a sensible approach compared to other more extracted reds, where the nuances of this grape are often blurred.

Production: 8,000 bottles
Price: €14 
Alcohol: 13.5% abv

Palenzuela Quintero 2020, Vinos Sinceros (Arlanza)

As a wine merchant in Valladolid, Luis Martín is involved in several projects in his native DO Arlanza and knows the region well. Although he has focused most of his attention on the village of Covarrubias (Burgos, Castilla y León), where he is currently a partner of Viñedos Olvidados with Bodegas Valtravieso, he has continued to explore the potential of other areas in the appellation, as evidenced by this new red. 

He makes it with Ricardo Velasco, winemaker at Valtravieso, and sells it under his own Vinos Sinceros label. The wine is a single-vineyard red from the Quintero plot, located in Palenzuela, a village at the western end of the DO (in Palencia province) where limestone soils are dominant. It is a blend of one third Tempranillo, one third Garnacha and one third white grapes, mainly Alarije. The white grapes bring freshness to the nose, but it is the palate that is particularly inviting, savoury and delicious. While Garnacha is responsible for the soft texture, the limited presence of Tempranillo also helps to avoid the big tannins that are common in the area. The freshness and good texture make for immediate enjoyment. 

We also liked the label's emphasis on terroir and the fact that the village and plot are mentioned on the label. Arlnza is greatly influenced by the powerful reds made in neighbouring Ribera del Duero, but heavy extraction in this colder area tends to result in harsh tannins.

Production: 1,300 bottles
Price: €22 
Alcohol: 14% abv.

Pago de los Abuelos Viñedo Saturno 2021 (Bierzo)

Nacho Álvarez works mainly in Puente de Domingo Flórez, his home town in the western end of Bierzo, almost on the border with Galicia, and in nearby villages such as San Pedro de Trones, where he is doing an exceptional job recovering old vineyards. But he has also found time to explore other nearby villages, such as San Juan de Paluezas, a treasure trove of limestone soils, which are very rare in the area.

2020 was the first vintage of Viñedo Saturno, but in 2021 Nacho was able to establish what he considers to be an Atlantic style, making the most of the distinctive freshness of the soils. The vineyard was planted in 1902 at 550m elevation on a slope with a 35% gradient. Fermented and aged in oak for eight months, this wine has the signature Mencia wild berry flavour, but is also spicy and lively. Expressive and finely textured, it has substance but also flows smoothly and gracefully. The tannins are firm but approachable. Its sapid freshness makes it addictive. What a pleasure to enjoy such a genuine expression of Bierzo!

Production: 5,000 
Price: €24 
Alcohol: 13% abv

Alma de Contador 2020, Bodega Contador (Rioja)

The latest Spanish release sold through Place de Bordeaux in March comes from one of Rioja's top producers: Benjamín Romeo. Alma is a red wine specially created for La Place and named after Romeo's daughter. He has also come to understand that the "soul" of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, the village where he works and where his winery is located, lies in the ability to blend different plots in such a way as to capture the complexity of its soils and exposures. Alma is the result of blending three plots at different elevations: La Liende, in the lower area close to the Ebro River at around 450 metres, on alluvial soils with plenty of gravel; El Bombón, in the middle area at around 520 metres, on shallow stony soils; and Diasol, a small hilltop facing north at 620 metres, planted to Tempranillo and Garnacha on clay-limestone soils. The wine was then aged in new French oak barrels for 20 months.

Alma is slightly less structured than other Romeo reds, but retains the firm structure of a wine intended for cellaring, good acidity and a relatively low pH. The fragrant nose reveals aromas of red and black fruits, pencil lead and mint. Firm, with well-integrated tannins, fairly fresh on the palate, with toasted notes on the finish. Serious, elegant and with plenty of life ahead.

Production: 10,000 bottles 
Price: 120 €. 
Alcohol: 14.5% abv

Harrobia 2021, Jade Gross (Rioja)

Born in Hong Kong to an American father and Chinese mother, Jade Gross embarked on a multifaceted career that took her from New York to London and, pursuing her passion for cooking, to various renowned French and Spanish restaurants (she was head chef at the two Michelin-starred Mugaritz), until she fell in love with wine and decided to settle in the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria in Rioja. With a little help from Abel Mendoza and Maite Fernández, who mentored her, Gross has developed a very personal range of wines, made in small quantities and recognisable by the oriental inspiration of her labels.

Her latest release is Harrobia. The grapes come from La Cantera in Labastida (harrobi means cantera -quarry- in Basque), a goblet-trained plot planted with 36-year-old vines in the San Ginés area at 600m elevation. This 100% Tempranillo was fermented with 30% of the stems in open vats and then aged for 11 months in oak barrels. It has remarkable tension and the kind of crunchy red fruit that can be found in the upper reaches of Labastida; a moreish, lively red that retains a touch of elegance throughout.

Production: 950 bottles 
Price: €35. 
Alcohol: 13% abv

Viña Vicuana 2018, Bodegas Bilbaínas (Rioja)

Bodegas Bilbaínas is successfully exploring its foundational roots to recover the brands and wine styles that defined its DNA in the first quarter of the twentieth century. There is no doubt that its 200 hectares of vines in Haro (Bilbaínas is the largest vineyard owner in the village) are a major asset. The centrepiece of this new wine is Vicuana, a sandy-clay vineyard of just over five hectares acquired by the company in 1918 and originally planted with the region's main red varieties. The wine is made from Tempranillo and Graciano, as these are the oldest vines still in the vineyard, but 1.7 hectares of Garnacha have been recovered in order to restore the plot's original identity.

The blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Graciano works wonders in a fresh vintage like 2018. Aged in concrete vats, Tempranillo delivers plenty of red fruit, while Graciano, aged in foudre for 20 months, leaves its mark with fresh herbal and minty notes. This is an aromatic wine, not too structured, but consistent and with firm tannins. The best thing about it: its addictive vibrancy. The worst: an overly heavy bottle by today's standards.

Production: 3,130 bottles
Price: 50 €. 
Alcohol: 13.5% abv

Vareia Beronia Viñedo Singular 2019, Bodegas Beronia (Rioja)

Despite the scepticism of some producers, the number of Rioja wines classified as 'viñedo singular' continues to grow. One of the latest to join the category is Beronia. The company has chosen a 1.6 hectare plot planted in 1950 to Tempranillo on clay-limestone soils with gravel in Ollauri, where the winery is located. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in concrete vats and is then aged for 11 months in a 3,500-litre foudre, confirming that the trend towards large wooden casks is also reaching relatively traditional wineries; these formats are probably also seen as a better way of expressing the character of distinctive vineyards.

Vareia shows a marked fruity character (blackberries, plums and other dark fruits) over a mineral, minty background. The palate is also fruit-driven, with an enveloping texture, light toasted nuances and a fairly long finish with hints of liquorice.

Production: 4,000 bottles
Price: €70. 
Alcohol: 14.5% abv

Bardos Viñedos de Altura 2020, Bodegas de Bardos (Ribera del Duero)

Viñedos de Altura is part of the revamped range of wines that the Vintae group has begun to present in its Ribera del Duero winery. Basically, they are moving away from the traditional ageing indicators to focus on the areas where they source their grapes. This includes two new village wines, from Moradillo de Roa (Burgos) and Villálvaro (Soria), due to be released after the summer. This is a logical step after concentrating their efforts on two specific areas within the DO: the province of Soria and the alluvial plateau of Moradillo de Roa.

The grapes for Viñedos de Altura come exclusively from Soria, in an area that stretches eastwards from Alcubilla de Avellaneda to Villálvaro. This is the highest part of the DO, with an average elevation of just over 950 m. The blend is dominated by Tempranillo, although small quantities of Garnacha and the local white variety Albillo Mayor may be included, as they are usually intermixed in old vineyards. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks of various sizes (from 225 to 600 litres).

The wine has fresh, expressive fruit (red and black plum) over a herbal background. The tannins are relatively firm but well integrated, showing a Ribera that is still powerful but driven by an acidity that prolongs the finish. A good value red to explore the lesser known but fascinating areas of the region.

Production: 19,000 bottles
Price: €13.5 
Alcohol: 15% abv

Áster El Espino 2020, Viñedos y Bodegas Áster (Ribera del Duero)

Based in Haro, La Rioja Alta has been firmly established in Ribera del Duero since the 1980s with the creation of Áster, a chateau-like winery surrounded by its own vineyards in Anguix (Burgos). A better understanding of its plots over the years has led to the release of El Espino, which, unlike the top red El Otero, does not come from a specific vineyard, but seeks to capture the best expression of the estate and present it in a fresher, more contemporary style. The grapes for this first vintage come from three plots: El Espino, Fuentecojo and El Picón. In terms of winemaking, the pre-fermentative maceration is intended to preserve the aromas, while the ageing takes place mainly in seasoned French oak, with only 20% new barrels for 12 months.

This is a serious, fine red with aromas of black fruits and coffee beans over a minty background. High concentration is avoided in order to deliver intense flavours framed by an enveloping texture that makes the wine approachable and attractive, without losing the punch expected from this area of Ribera.

Production: 35,000 bottles
Price: €34 
Alcohol: 14.5% abv

El Perdío Bobal 2020 Tinto, Viticultores de San Juan Bautista (Utiel-Requena)

In 2010, Cherubino Valsangiacomo, one of the largest wine groups in the south-east of Spain, processing around 85m litres for multiple uses (vermouth, must, bulk wine, bottled wine...), purchased the Requena cooperative Viticultores de San Juan in order to produce quality Bobal wines. The flagship cuvée is Bobal de San Juan (200,000 bottles), a red aged in concrete vats and bottled the year after the harvest, although they also make a rosé and the oak-aged red Clos de San Juan.

Grapes for El Perdío, their new premium red, come from the eponymous vineyard, a nine-hectare plot with seven hectares under vine surrounding a hill. This makes it possible to differentiate between flat, sloping, hilly and summit areas, as well as a curious combination of sandy, clay and limestone soils. In fact, grapes are harvested separately and the batches can undergo different winemaking processes (the plain, for example, produces larger berries that can be used to smooth out the concentration in certain vintages). About 25% of the ageing takes place in concrete. The name of the vineyard refers to the poor condition in which it was found. 

Although 2020 is the second vintage, it has been the one to define the style of the wine (2019 was aged entirely in oak; 2021 will see and increasing role of concrete). The wine displays ripe fruit and earthy nuances, with a good tension on the palate, and the punch of freshness from Bobal's good acidity. Hopefully we will see more terroir-driven Bobal in the future.

Production: 3,470 bottles
Price: €19. 
Alcohol: 14.5% abv. 

Araia Garnacha Arcilla Roja 2020 Tinto y Tiaso de Sommos Garnacha Pizarra Gris 2020 Tinto, Sommos Garnacha 

We write about two wines, both new releases from Sommos Garnacha in Aragón, focusing on two different types of soil. The grapes come from Orcajo in the case of Araia and Murero for Tiaso. These two villages, together with Daroca, Villafeliche and Manchones, all in Zaragoza province, form the extended area approved by DO Calatayud in 2021. The names of the wines are inspired by the ancient Celtiberian settlers. For them, tiaso was the stone with which they roofed their houses, and araia the farming land.

Sommos is strongly committed to goblet-trained Garnacha, which is grown in the area around Murero, where the winery is located; the landscape here is formed by small plots of vines that are quite distant from each other. Araia is made from vines planted between 1958 and 1965 at 900m elevation, where the vines develop thicker arms due to the clayey soil. The wine is aged in 600-litre French oak barrels. Ripe wild berries are present on the nose with floral notes (violets) and a slightly smoky background. With moderate extraction, the palate is dominated by blue berries, leading to a slightly warm but intriguing finish.

Tiaso comes from vines planted between 1920 and 1970 on grey slate at 800m elevation. The wine is aged in clay amphorae. Despite being lighter in colour, it is more structured and consistent, although there is some freshness, perhaps due to the effect of ageing in clay, which offsets the higher levels of maturity usually achieved on slate soils. Juicy and pleasant to drink, with a hint of graphite on the finish.

Production: 4,586 bottles (Araia) and 3,446 Tiaso
Price: €25 both wines
Alcohol: 15% abv. both wines


Six old wines that won our heart in 2022
New white and sweet releases in 2023
Ten Spanish whites to enjoy this summer, including some orange wines
Wines to enjoy in 2022 (and III): bubbles and generosos from southern Spain
A motley selection of wines to welcome the spring
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