I had the chance to try some of the following wines at a tasting held in Madrid a couple of weeks ago by Cvne. The Rioja group presented its new distribution company, called Montenegro, which sells an interesting portfolio of wines as well as Cvne, Imperial, Viña Real or Contino.
Under the guidance of wine geek Alberto Pérez Martín, most of the wines are made by small, offbeat producers who have their own style away from traditional winemaking ways in the regions they come from. The move also ratifies the growing interest of Cvne in expanding beyond production since their acquisition of Mikumi Wines in 2014, one of Japan’s largest wine distributors, while it remains a major stakeholder in US wine importer Europvin in partnership with Vega Sicilia and sherry producer Lustau.
As for the rest of the wines, I either tasted them with their producers or bought them in wine stores in Madrid. Unfortunately, many of them are still difficult to find outside of Spain but we have included links to Wine Searcher whenever available.
Aged for about three years, this is Callejuela’s entry-level wine, a winery run by mayetos (the local name given to winegrowers who own vines, a wine press and facilities to make wine). They are based in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and have been bottling and selling under their own brand since 2005. Maverick Sherry producer Ramiro Ibáñez is their current winemaker. This Manzanilla Fina went almost unnoticed at Cvne’s tasting, overshadowed by Callejuela Manzanilla Madura, with an average age of five years under flor, or the excellent, older Manzanilla Pasada Blanquito, but it pleasantly surprised me when I tried it a few days later at Taberna Palo Cortado in Madrid. Paired with traditional shrimp omelettes, you can taste the almonds and briny character along with a lovely creaminess that adds consistence. This great value Manzanilla is perfect for aperitifs and hard-to-match dishes like gazpacho, marinades, salads seasoned with vinegar and even artichokes.
Find this wine from €6.26 at Enológica La Bohemia.
I was pleasantly surprised by this good value Garnacha Blanca from Navarra made by Vintae, a group that controls 220 hectares of vineyards and produces around 5m bottles across different wine regions in Spain. I tasted it with Ricardo Arambarri, manager and owner of Vintae, and winemaker Raúl Acha, during a dinner featuring their lesser-known wines. Aroa is located in the Yerri valley, a cool area close to the boundaries for vine growing on the Tierra Estella sub-area in Navarra. Oak goes almost unnoticed with just some smoked notes, so the variety’s white fruit and herb aromas are well-defined. The palate gracefully combines the glycerin usually found in Garnacha Blanca with a bright acidity and a long finish. Only 10,000 bottles were produced.
Máquina & Tabla is the brainchild of Catalan producer Oriol Illa, a natural wine pioneer with Els Jelipins, and creative editor Susana Pastor. The project extends to different regions in Castilla y León and their grapes are sourced from distinctive, traditional vineyards. This was my first contact with their wines, but I hope to taste the whole range soon. I bought this Rueda Verdejo at Vinoteca La Mercería in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid). Following biodynamic and non-interventionist practices, Páramos de Nicasia shies away from standard natural wine styles and the classic profile of whites from Rueda. The use of different aging vessels gives prominence to the lees, herbs and white fruits and adds a pleasant unctuousness on the palate ending with a distinctive, briny finish. This is a white wine meant to be enjoyed with food. The striking label —as is the case with all their wines— reflects the struggle between nature and humans.
Find this wine online from €9.75 at Vila Viniteca.
I tried this under the recommendation of Lavinia’s manager Juan Manuel Bellver as a way to delve deeper into single vineyard Albariño. No doubt the Burgundy approach has been adopted by some winegrowers in Rías Baixas as they get to know their plots better. Alberto Nanclares and business partner Silvia Prieto produce a striking wide range of wines out of just five hectares grown in the Salnés valley; seven, low-production Albariños that ferment with their own yeasts and don’t undergo malolactic fermentation. Fermented and aged in a large French oak vat, Soverribas comes from a southwestern exposed plot called Manzaniña and planted with 35-year-old vines. The wine has a distinctive Atlantic, sea-influenced character with some aniseed notes, lovely texture and a salty finish. This is a fresh, long Albariño. Only 1,294 bottles have been produced.
José Pastor Selections is the US importer. Find it in Spain at Lavinia from €20.17 or online at Juncal Alimentación from €17.95.
The acquisition of Arínzano in 2015 by SPI, a group controlled by Russian millionaire Yuri Shefler whose main asset is vodka brand Stolichnaya, has brought change to this breathtaking estate located in Navarra. A new entry-level range called Hacienda de Arínzano has been incorporated and it includes a white, a red and this rare Tempranillo rosé I tasted on a recent visit to the property. It is made as a blanc de noirs, with the must drained from the press taking up a blush of colour thus fitting the current trend of pale rosés. It is pretty delicate, with rose petals, talcum powder and pink grapefruit aromas and a vivid, citrus palate. It is worth noting that since this winemaking practice is not approved in the DO Navarra, the wine carries the lesser known 3 Riberas PGI designation.
For the time being the wine can only be bought directly from the producer. Contact by phone or via their website. Retail price: €14.
This producer shone particularly at Montenegro’s tasting. Grapes are sourced from a estate located in the vicinity of Sorzano, Nalda and Entrena in the Iregua valley at 700m. of altitude. The range includes an exotic, minty white Viura and a bleeded Tempranillo and Mazuelo. Its top range wines cost around €22 and include an oxidative white aged for 30 months and a fresh, scented blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo. It is challenging to grow late ripening varieties like Mazuelo (Carignan) at such high altitude. Finca Mazuelo ferments at low temperature in stainless steel tanks but it is not devatted prior to malolactic fermentation, which is done with skins in order to gain volume. Aged in used barrels, the wine reflects the area’s cool climate with forest and herb aromas and lots of freshness. We love its good value, but also the way it explores a specific, extreme terroir in Rioja.
Find this wine from €9.5 at El Sumiller.
I was unable to resist buying this red at La Tintorería wine store in Madrid. It is the latest addition to the Marañones range, one of my favourite producers in Gredos. It is made with what for some time was thought to be Morenillo (a grape variety which is being successfully recovered in Catalonia’s Terra Alta) but it finally turned out to be the rather reviled Morate, winemaker Fernando García explained. This late ripening grape with big berries usually gives light-bodied wines, but given its high acidity and low alcohol (always below 13% vol.) levels, it was used to refresh Garnacha in Treinta Mil Maravedíes red wine. As usual with this producer, Darío is a 100% Morate made with full clusters. On the nose, the wine is earthy rather that fruity but there are wild berries and lots of freshness on the palate. It is so quaffable and fresh that you would not expect it to have such a long finish. I think it can develop beautifully in the next two to three years. As Morate is not authorized by Vinos de Madrid, Darío is currently bottled under no appellation or indication of origin. Very reasonably priced with barely 1,000 bottles produced.
Find it from €12.35 at El Sumiller.
This was another pleasant find in the Montenegro tasting. Gatzara Vins started in 2007 under the management of brothers Antón and Jordi Castellá and Josep María Sanahuja. This wine is a single-varietal Trepat, Conca de Barberà’s most distinctive grape variety. Clearly the trend towards less structured, medium to light coloured reds has given prominence to less powerful grapes like Trepat, which was almost exclusively destined to Cava production. Delicate, floral nose with talcum powder and wild berries aromas; aromatic palate with some earthy flavours (ash) and herbs; a lot of juiciness and a long finish with oak notes barely present.
This wine comes without appellation and is made by Laura Lorenzo, former winemaker at Ribeira Sacra’s Dominio do Bibei in Galicia. She still works in the Bibei valley sourcing grapes form old vineyards where a great diversity of varieties are grown. Azos de Vila is a blend of Mencía, Mouratón, Merenzao, Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and Gran Negro. Her top red Azos de Pobo was recently named Emerging Wine of the Year at the Mágnum Awards organized by the Instituto Galego do Vino (Galician Wine Institute). I bought my bottle at Vinoteca La Mercería in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid) and opened it a few days later to find a rather unfashionable deep purple colour, which differs greatly from current trends in the area. A firm, focused wine with wild fruit aromas (powerful Garnacha Tintorera came to my mind) and best to pair it with food. It will be interesting to see how it develops over the next couple of years.
Find this wine at Vinoteca La Mercería from €15.70 or online at Monvínic Store from €18.60.
I also tried this at Cvne’s tasting where I met Fredi Torres, an unconventional producer making his own wines in Priorat. In Ribeira Sacra, he works alongside brothers Juan and Carlos Rodríguez (Sílice) and in Montsant with Bordeaux producer Antoine Touton. Torres (no relation to the Torres wine saga) told me about his life there and then: he was born in Galicia but moved to Switzerland at the age of four, lived the life of a DJ for many years, then discovered Priorat, quit clubbing and embraced wine. The two wines he makes in Montsant are blended with white grapes to fix colour, obtain acidity and gain aromatic complexity. I loved the Velles Vinyes de la Deva made with old Garnacha, Cariñena and Macabeo vines. It fermented in large vats with 30% of full clusters. Original and aromatic, it features a lovely mix of orange zest, rosemary and chalky notes.
Buy it directly through Montenegro (Phone: +34 916 289 380.) Retail price: 21-22 €.