Has there ever been a better time to drink Spanish wine? For many, of course, Spain has always meant the dark-fruited, often lean and old-fashioned, red wines of Rioja, with an occasional foray west to Ribera del Duero, a case or two of Penedes to the east, and many sips of sherry. Rioja dominates for many reasons. It produces wine at every level – at the top end, venerable old wineries like Beronia (below), Cune and Muga, Viña Tondonia and Marques de Murrieta produce perfumed, delicate wines that will last five decades and more; but even the vast commercial producers like Pernod-Ricard’s Campo Viejo (every corner shop in the UK is required by law to stock it) are utterly reliable.
But wine is produced in every corner of this vast and thirsty country, from the rainy coast of Galicia in the north-west, to the desert-like vineyards of Alicante to the east. In Rias Baixas on the Atlantic coast, you’ll find fresh and luscious Albariños and Godellos, like the award-winning Bioca below. On the other side of the country, on the Mediterranean, the vineyards are arid and sandy, the winemakers coaxing elegant Monastrell and Bobal from stunted vines.
Spain’s winemaking tradition is at least as old as the beautiful Arab watercourses that criss-cross the vineyards. Now we have dedicated importers who know and love the country, bringing in wines from Somontano (see the lovely Blecua below) Ribeiro, Mallorca, Campo de Borja (the Borsao, below), La Mancha or Bierzo. These wines are modern and fresh, full of bright acidity and lifted fruit. They go perfectly with dozens of dishes (try Godello with grilled sardines, or the classic combination of Rioja and lamb).
The wines below are all IWSC 2017 top medal winners. Try them and you’ll see why the judges loved them.
Deep ruby hue; cherry and black fruit with coconut oak; palate shows creaminess with just enough linen tannin texture and bright acidity, well-balanced and quite complex, lifted finish.
Where to buy: Amazon, £44.20
Deep ruby colour; strawberries-and cream with cinnamon spice accent; savoury palate, lively acidity and line-textured tannins, great fruit definition with integrated oak, toasty finish. ‘Individual’, slightly edgy, faceted.
Where to buy: Vinissimus, £25.34
Interesting Godello with higher notes of intense lemon, ripe lime and a hint of orange blossom on the nose. The palate is balanced with lovely fresh acidity, and full of fruit and touch of spices.
Where to buy: Fareham Wine Cellar, £11.50
Pale greenish yellow colour. The nose offers lemon, melon and stone fruit characters which caress the palate and bring a layer of minerality. The wine is medium to full bodied, lashings of fruits and bags of personality.
Where to buy: Morrisons, £8
Deep ruby-purple; dense, ripe cassis with cigar box on nose; powerful and rich palate with masses of extracted fruit and firm structure. Long finish. Time-in-hand. ‘Parkerised’ wine, but none the worse for that.
Where to buy: SmartBites, £48.67
Mid-depth ruby colour; dark berry fruit with rose petal and white pepper accents; creamy attack on the palate, quite full-bodied with spicy oak more noticeable, crisp acidity and supple tannins, nicely integrated wine with no sharp edges.
Where to buy: Asda, £5.48
Medium ruby with garnet rim; attractive cranberry and raspberry with vanilla oak and earthy overtones ; svelte palate with flesh behind, lively acidity and velvety tannins in support; savoury note on the graceful red-fruited finish.
Where to buy: Tesco Wine by the Case, £30 per case
Deep ruby colour; aromatic cranberry and strawberry fruit with nicely balanced vanilla oak, classic Rioja Reserva; elegant and fresh, almost frivolous on the palate, lovely linen-textured tannins. Creamy finish.
Where to buy: Exel Wienes, £14.75
Almost opaque purple-black colour; rich cassis aromas with toasty oak; on the palate big and bold, dense tannins, yet good freshness to balance the massive fruit and high alcohol, savoury and spicy, long powerful finish. Glorious now, but will certainly improve.
Where to buy: Decantalo.com, £12.91
Deep ruby with garnet rim; ultra-ripe summer-pudding fruit, almost raisined, spicy oak overtone; rich and full, rich plummy fruit balanced by supple tannins and fresh acidity, gamey-earthy accents, nice length.
Where to buy: Decantalo, £5.40