Viñateros seems a long time ago, and indeed it’s a week since I managed to get Part 1 published (if you didn’t see it, follow the link here). I’m sure quite a few readers will know I’ve been ill, which is the principal reason why I’m here writing this rather than up in London at more tasting events, those taking place despite the cancellation of Raw Wine.
This second part of my coverage of the major London tasting of Spanish wines carries on from the first in terms of excitement. I won’t repeat all I said in Part 1’s introduction, but Spain really does seem to be where it’s at right now, as we move into the third decade of the century. The wines on taste back at the end of February, and the producers who came along to show them, seem to have that same buzz we all experienced when the new wave of South African producers first came over a few years ago. This buzz is largely based on a rediscovery of the value of native grape varieties, and the exploration of new regions and old techniques, sometimes together. Below, we have the produce from eleven more producers, whose wines I hope you may get the chance to enjoy.
GOYO GARCIA (Ribera del Duero)
Goyo Garcia does make some wine in Cantabria, but is certainly best known as a producer of somewhat unusual Ribera wines. I say unusual…I’m known to find the densely tannic and alcoholic wines of this “premium” wine region problematic, but if I tell you that Pierre Overnoy was a great inspiration to Gregorio, you will see that we are plainly dealing with a different kettle of fish.
The regime here is zero intervention, completely natural wines (not that they fit the stereotype when you taste them). Goyo farms just a few hectares of very old co-planted vines, spread over three plots near Roa de Duero, almost smack bang in the middle of the region. The grapes are vinified in a century old traditional cave cellar, where the wines are kept in old French oak barrels in cool ambient temperatures, to age.
Los Quemados 2017 is perhaps the entry level. It still comes from 55-year-old vines in Goyo’s highest parcel at 850 metres asl. It’s mostly Tinta Fino (aka Tempranillo but a variety which occasionally goes under the name of Tinta del Païs here), aged one year in barrel. The night time temperatures can drop 25° here, so the wine is tannic but very fresh. The fruit is elegant too. The 2016 is actually a bit darker than this with a touch more power.
Peruco 2014 is from three plots of 100-y-o vines, again Tempranillo which this time spent three years in old oak. The vineyards are sandy and you get a deep spicy bouquet and bags of salinity. This really is remarkably salty-fresh. Uncanny. Valdeolmos 2014 Is a similar wine in many respects, but it comes off limestone and is unquestionably more mineral.
Cobero 2018 This wine comes from the Cantabrian vineyards, 70-80% Mencia with Palomino in a field blend (co-fermented). The vines are at least 100 years old. There is bite and grip here, and 13.5% abv, which only enhances the sheer depth of fruit.
Odd to try last, but Joven 2018 is a typical young cuvée with lifted fruit and totally lacking the chewy oak of the majority of Ribera del Duero, which is why I would recommend it if you see it and need something to glug. It is the only wine here not seeing oak, but it does have a skin maceration of about three months to give a textured dimension, adding interest. What is interesting is that Joven may mean young, but the vines are old, so a young wine from old vines. Classy.
Imported by Vine Trail
ALFREDO MAESTRO TEJERO (Various Regions)
This producer was formed in 1998 at Peñafiel, right in the heart of Ribera de Duero, but has expanded to produce wines, in addition to Ribera, in Gredos, Cigales, (the area immediately north of Valladolid) and to the south of Madrid. This is a producer many don’t know by name but you will almost certainly be familiar with at least one of their labels, most likely the “Red Riding Hood” of the first wine tasted below.
Lovamor 2019 is described in the event catalogue as “white”, but it certainly looks more amber with a hint of pink (I’m sure I swilled my glass). It’s made from Albillo, from Peñafiel. It’s an incredibly good value wine with texture, a big-fruited palate, acids, freshness and zip. It really shines for a wine where 10,000 bottles are made, but the key is old vines…planted between 1899 and 1910.
Sobrecasa Claret 2016 is from Cigales, a wine made in the old fashioned style, a pale red made 80% from Garnacha with Moscatel, Palomino and Verdejo. The 4ha parcel is at 750 metres asl, planted 1936. Only 3,000 bottles are made each year, and ageing is in old Oloroso casks. It’s pale, savoury and extremely refreshing. On my wish list, a lovely wine…I was about to type “curiosity” but that is not true as it isn’t in any way odd. Just very interesting.
Vina Almate Tinto 2018 100% Tempranillo sourced mainly from Peñafiel, up at 900 metres at the higher end of the plateau. They use 50% whole clusters here and age in concrete. The wine is pale and has a lightness I like which seems to permeate a lot of this producer’s wines.
Valdecastrillo 2017 is darker and deeper though. Twelve months in French oak combine with a surprising 15% abv to give this some oomph! But as well as density it is undeniably fresh.
El Marciano Garnacha 2018 is from the Gredos vineyards. The Garnacha, with an average age of seventy years, is grown up at between 900 and 1,100 metres asl. This is gorgeously smooth but chewy at the same time. All of these wines have the advantage of being well priced. This wine is easy to spot on the shelf – Marciano is, of course, “Martian”.
The Thing 2018 (“La Cosa” in Spanish). “The Thing” is a sweet wine made from Muscat of Alexandria fermented naturally to 11% abv, and bottled in 375ml. Scented like pure floral Muscat, it begins sweet on the tongue and very concentrated, but then, in a matter of a couple of seconds, the acidity says hello and everything seems to spill all over the palate. Although concentrated, and indeed very long, this is a joyful wine. Wines like this make me remember that I do love a good sticky. A resounding yes please!
Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene
BODEGAS ARTUKE (Rioja)
This is one of the new wave of Rioja producers. Roberto de Miguel started this small bodega at Baños de Ebro in 1991, and today it is run by his children, Arturo and Kike. They belong to a group unsurprisingly called Rioja ‘n Roll (the younger generation in Spain all seem to be passionate about rock music, almost experiencing in the post-Franco era something that everyone else enjoyed in the 60s and 70s, but which many have forgotten). Their aims are to conserve and promote Rioja as a terroir wine, rather than as a mere brand. The Artuke vines, 22 hectares of them, are farmed biodynamically, and they have a particularly personal approach to the use of oak compared to the old certainties of Reserva, Gran Reserva etc. Their use of different cask sizes and ageing periods means that they deliberately do not comply with these labels.
The Artuke entry level wine is the exceptional value Maceration Carbonic 2019 which is simple and fruit-driven but very tasty. Stepping up, we go to Pies Negros 2018. This comes from high vineyards near the Sierra Cantabria at Abalos (we are in the far north of Rioja here, east of Haro). Tempranillo is blended with just over 10% Graciano and is aged 75% in 500-litre oak and 25% in concrete vat. The result is a youthful wine of some vibrancy.
Finca de los Locos 2018 comes from a 3-hectare block at 500-metres asl, over near at the bodega’s home in Baños de Ebro (Rioja Alavesa). Again we have Tempranillo (80%) blended with Graciano, plus this time a splash of Viura. The large oak in which it ages doesn’t overtly get in the way of quite intense strawberry fruit and a herbal edge.
Paso de las Mañas 2018 is another step up in price and seriousness. One of the Artuke importers (Justerini) says two very pertinent things about this new cuvée. First, the vines aren’t all that old, and they say this wine proves wonderful terroir can trump vine age. Second, they suggest this wine bears a resemblance to Barolo from La Morra. I’d not thought of that but it’s an inspired observation regarding the wine’s bouquet.
La Condenada 2018 is the first of two very serious wines. You will pay somewhere around £230/4 bottles in bond for this. Tempranillo is blended with 20% made up of Graciano, Garnacha and Palomino, just over 1,000 bottles made. The vines are again at Baños de Ebro. It pairs with the only slightly cheaper El Escolladero 2018, from Abalos. This wine comes off limestone terrain, which adds a mineral freshness to a wine of structure and complexity, one for the future.
This last pair are very fine wines indeed, but they do also help to remind me just how good the cheaper wines from Artuke can be, wines of which I am somewhat more familiar.
Imported both by Justerini & Brooks and 266 Wines (formerly The Sampler’s importing arm).
DANIEL LANDI/COMANDO G (Madrid/Castille)
Daniel Gomez Jiménez-Landi, to give him his full name, but he won’t mind me calling him Dani, makes wine under his own label, whilst joining with his friend Fernando Garcia to make “Comando Garnacha” (originally along with Marc Isart). I think enough is known about Dani (and Fernando) to jump to the wines. They are now generally acknowledged as being among the very finest winemakers in Spain, and perhaps for promoting, better than anyone else, what may be Spain’s current asset of the moment: Gredos Garnacha.
Las Uvas de la Ira 2018 This cuvée, which translates as “the grapes of wrath”, of course, comes from Méntrida vineyards, but not the Méntrida vines of Dani’s old family bodega, Jiménez-Landi, which he left in 2012. It is very much in the Dani Landi style of Grenache/Garnacha – elegance, a lightness, and in this case dusty tannins, supporting a wine both fruity and savoury. 750-800 metres altitude off granite and sand, whole clusters in open top fermenters, ten months in foudre, simple…but not the result.
El Tamboril Blanco 2017 is Garnachas Blanca and Gris off a tiny north facing 0.2ha site at 1,230 metres. The bottle run is a mere 395! Textured, long and concentrated, this wine is magic, but priced accordingly. I felt pretty honoured to get a good taste.
La Bruja de Rozas 2018 This is the wine most people will be familiar with, the “village wine” from the astonishing vineyards south of Madrid. I say astonishing. By the late 1990s I’d drunk bottles of Marques de Griñon’s Dominio de Valdepusa Syrah, back then a mere Vino da Mesa (of Toledo), now a Pago of its own, from zero to hero in the Spanish wine classification, so to speak. But there wasn’t much else down there apart from the genuinely stark beauty of the country between Spain’s old and new capital cities, which I remember from travelling these regions in my youth. It has a lovely texture but the fruit is so pure, as always with Comando G. A wine which completely justifies being called “alive”. This wine is great value considering the cost of the higher echelons of the Comando G range.
Tumba del Rey Moro 2017 is from a single vineyard of ungrafted Garnacha bush vines on pure white granite at 1,100 metres, and north facing. Tannic at the moment but a very fine wine. A “Grand Cru” in concept, it’s a new vineyard taken on by Dani and Fernando at Villanueva de Ávila. This needs time.
Rumbo al Norte 2017 is also a small single vineyard off granite at 1,150 metres asl near Navarrevisca. It’s a vineyard scattered with boulders and bush vines hugging the ground, beautifully photographed in warm sunlight by Estanis Núñes in Luis Gutiérrez’s “The New Vignerons” book (which I shall review soon). The wine is just remarkable, very accomplished, but also possibly a little more open (it has an extra year in bottle) than Tumba.
The key for all of these wines is the strawberry purity of the Grenache fruit, which is both focused yet also disappears like mist when you try to grasp it. The wine I didn’t taste (there wasn’t a bottle on the table) was the Rozas 1er from the Val del Tiétar. I have a 2015 which I may open soon, so look out for it in my regular “Recent Wines” in a little over a month. These Gredos wines should be in everyone’s cellar.
Daniel Landi’s own label is imported by Indigo Wine, whilst Comando G is under the command of Les Caves de Pyrene in the UK.
CELLAR PARDAS (Penedès)
So we step down a notch here, in terms of fame, but that’s not to say that Celler Pardas is not making some marvellous wines. They equally focus on terroir, albeit with different grape varieties, principally the locals Sumoll, Macabeo and Xarel-lo. They have a distinct advantage over the likes of Comando G, and that is price. We are in what is known as the Alt Penedès here, so these are not hot Mediterranean wines, but wines made from high altitude fruit taking advantage of diurnal temperature shifts and a long growing season.
Collita Roja 2015 I’ve drunk this cuvée with its striking red label quite a few times. It’s made from one of my favourite Spanish varieties, Sumoll, and from old vines. It sees 50% concrete and 50% used wood for ageing, and the result is a concentrated gastronomic wine of some interest.
Rupestris 2018 The name has nothing to do with vitis rupestris, it means “something that comes from stone” in dialect. It’s a blend of mostly Xarel-lo with 15% Malvasia de Sitgès. Everything is done in stainless steel with seven hours on skins during fermentation and then three months on gross lees during ageing. Vibrant, “elevated” (if that makes sense to anyone).
Xarel-lo 2017 is made from a selection of the oldest parcels of the variety and this is more mineral and textured with a nice refreshing acid balance.
Moving to the reds, Sus Scrofa 2019 might sound ever so slightly off-putting to English speaking ears, but it’s delicious. Sus Scrofa is really just Latin for Wild Boar, which is the emblem of Celler Pardas. 100% Sumoll, 12% abv, 50% whole bunches, a purple wine but all red berry fruit with just a smirk of unexpected grip on the finish. Delicious, honestly.
Negre Franc 2015 is a wine made not principally from a Catalan local, but from Cabernet Franc, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Sumoll. Fermented in resin-coated concrete it then goes into 300-litre French oak for eleven months before bottling. Dark, more tannic than their other reds, it is chewy and grippy but the fruit is big enough to hang in there. It’s not my favourite from the range (though it is the most expensive I’ve seen), but it is unquestionably a terroir wine of character.
Blau Cru 2018 is made from Malvasia de Sitgès, destemmed and macerated for seven hours. The result is a wine of purity, with both stone fruit yet also a sort of Riesling quality to it. As striking as the blue and yellow of the label. It really unfurls in the mouth, I like it a lot. I’m sure the element of precision is the result of altitude and the limestone rich soils here, adding a mineral note.
Celler Pardas is imported by Indigo Wine.
BATLLIU DE SORT (Catalunya)
The vineyards of Batlliu de Sort look out on the beautiful wild Pyrenees, in the valley of the Noguera Pallaresa river, close to the Aigüestortes National Park. The region is known as the Conca de Tremp, which I have never heard of. In fact, of all the wine producers at Viñateros, this is the one I knew least about. However, keep reading…
Pantigana is an old vine Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia blend from vineyards 40-50 years old on limestone and clay. It’s pale, apple-fresh but soft with a slightly chalky texture on the palate. A nice and quite inexpensive old vine cuvée. I managed to avoid checking the vintage here, which wasn’t printed in the show booklet.
Finca de Borda 2016 is very different, a dry Riesling. The terroir here is slate, up in the mountains, and the wine is dry, textured, slightly chalky again but focused…and pretty impressive.
Finca Les Lleres 2015 is a floral wine with a slightly earthy nose, clearly made from Viognier, but without the heaviness of some Rhône versions. Mouthfilling, this has good acids and even, surprisingly, a little complexity.
Negre Finca Barrero 2017 is all Pinot Noir, vinified in stainless steel. The purity is there again, with velvet cherry fruit lifted up in the mix, so to speak, with the bass and rhythm section provided by a touch of grippy tannin.
Pinot Noir 2018 is from a different location, at Costers del Sègre. It is quite pale but with plenty of depth, and has zero sulphur added.
The importer is Les Caves de Pyrene.
FINCA CASA BALAGUER (Alicante)
This is a project (as was explained to me at Viñateros) directly taken over by Les Caves de Pyrene from the previous company, who were joint-managing the project (or something like that). 2019 is the first vintage where a team under Les Caves’ direction has been in control. Andres Carrul and Marta Ribera set up this garagiste operation a decade ago. The vines grow in the high Alpujarra mountains on slate soils, where it’s a small miracle vines can grow at all, but of course they do and the results can be magical. This is an exciting new addition to the Guildford operation’s portfolio.
Tregolargo Blanco 2019 Moscatel and Malvasia bottled with zero sulphur. Cloudy, perfumed, a skin contact wine, evident from the nose, and a wine of some interest to the more adventurous.
Moscatel Salicorno 2019 is even more perfumed, with more evidence of skin contact (apparently five days) and, wait for it, flor ageing too, in concrete vat. Creamy and rounded but with a twang of salinity, yes this is more than merely intriguing to me.
Colección El Carro de la Mata 2019 I’m not sure what the variety is here, but it is an amphora wine which saw a month on skins followed by four months ageing. It has more skin texture than the colour suggests but it seems very gastronomic.
Benimaquia 2019 is another amber/orange wine made from grapes grown in the Parc Natural Lagunas de la Mata, which surrounds one of two lagoons, the grapes growing within about ten metres of the tide line. The soil is sand (phylloxera-free, of course), with a high salt content, and in the breeze too. The wine sees five months on skins in amphora. It is quite chewy and unsurprisingly saline, packed with flavour.
Tragolargo Tinto 2019 comes, by way of contrast, from inland Alicante. The wine is 100% Monastrell but unlike its counterpart in France (under the name of Mourvèdre), it is a juicy entry level wine, easy going with just a bit of bite/grip on the finish to ground it.
Garnacha La Rambla de Peligres 2019 is slightly more serious. The grapes are aged in concrete giving a wine with a fragrant strawberry bouquet and a nicely rounded flavour with dusty tannins and plush fruit. Quite an elegant wine, not at all like you might imagine a red Alicante of old to taste.
A producer worth exploring, especially if (like me) you enjoy the old skin contact regime.
Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene.
The Cava wines of Colet are well known, and equally well regarded. I apologise to them, and to my readers, that on this table I restricted myself to just a taste of their collaboration with Equipo-Navazos.
Colet-Navazos Reserva 2014 is the Chardonnay wine (the non-reserva is Xarel-lo) made from Penedès fruit. It is made by the traditional bottle fermented process and is Extra Brut (so very dry). The twist is that the liqueur in this case is made from Manzanilla and Manzanilla Pasada supplied by Equipo Navazos. The unmistakable smell of flor is very present on the bouquet. You will either dislike this, or find it thrilling (obviously most readers will be of an adventurous type and be with me in the latter camp). This cuvée had long lees ageing (around 40 months, I think), and further time in bottle, post-disgorgement. The result is quite subtle but it still has pristine fruit, a great bead and a rapier-like focus. Sadly I have drunk mine, and I think I even passed last time around (2015 was disgorged in October 2019). I’m a fool!
Imported by Indigo Wine.
The often quoted fact about Loxarel founder Josep Mitjans was that he was only 16 years old at the time he bottled his first wine, quite remarkable. He’s now a little older, and perhaps wiser, and married to Teresa Nin, a member of her own wine dynasty, with a sister well known in Priorat. They make a variety of wines from biodynamically grown fruit off a fairly large 40-hectares (about half coming from each family). I’m always most enamoured with the sparkling wines, but Josep was noted for re-introducingr amphora into Catalonia, and all of the range are well worth exploring.
Al Pèl Barba Roja 2018 The label of this pair is as distinctive as you can get. I know we should not be drawn in by labels, but there’s nothing wrong with praising creative design. What I find with a lot of creative winemakers is that they want to extend that to the package as a whole. This is a sparkling wine made by the Ancestral Method (bottle fermented but no traditional disgorgement) and it’s a wine that is so bright, like tiny fireworks in the mouth and on the tongue.
This wine actually comes in two colours, a pure Xarel-lo and a blend of Sumoll, Xarel-lo, Vermell and Garnatxa. The terroir is mainly limestone which adds a distinct mineral element, sharpening up the wine along with, especially in the Xarel-lo, its vibrant acids. Both come crown-capped, wrapped in printed paper and tied with string, a laborious task, but the wine is fun.
A Pèl Red 2018 follows the same label theme without the paper bag. The slightly unusual blend here is Garnatxa with Merlot, and this DO Penedès does pack 14.5% alcohol, not that you notice because this is a natural wine with no added sulphur, so it retains an incredible degree of vivacity to go with its predominantly dark fruits (with typical dark fruit acids). There certainly are some tannins evident, but soft tannins nevertheless. Quite a big wine, but worth singling out, very tasty.
Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene.
RECAREDO (Alt Penedès)
Recaredo has a hundred year history making sparkling wines in Catalonia. Their vineyards dot the hills above the Bitlles river valley in Barcelona Province. The mainly forested limestone scenery is dominated by the landmark of Montserrat. Farming and winemaking follow biodynamic principles, with the quality additions of very long ageing on lees and all disgorgement is done by hand (interestingly, without freezing the neck). This excellent producer aims for wines which will age well and gain in complexity.
All Recaredo wines are well worth trying, and indeed they provide a perfect example of why quality sparkling wine from Spain is making a real comeback after the discount fiasco which saw £5/bottle Cava destroyed when it was supplanted (as will always happen) by the fashion for Prosecco. I shall just reproduce notes from two of the more interesting cuvées.
Intens Rosat 2014, Corpinnat Gran Reserva Brut Nature 86% Monastrell with 14% Garnatxa, this 2014 was disgorged in May 2019, so it has just had eight months pda in which to settle. I am a massive fan of this particular cuvée which simply brims with bright red fruits in the 2014 vintage. It’s a different take on fizz made with red grapes, light enough to drink as an aperitif if required (though it is very dry), but I think more suited to food (where it should not be served too cold) for the more adventurous.
Gran Reserva (Reserva Particular) Brut Nature 2005 This is quite a treat. I did say that Recaredo like to age some wines for a long time, and this one has seen 130 months on its lees. It was disgorged at the beginning of March 2017. The blend is pretty much a 50:50 split between Xarel-lo and Macabeu, old vines planted in 1952. Wow, this has such depth, but also, though it shows signs of maturity, it doesn’t lack for freshness. The spectrum of complex flavours begins with citrus zest, moving through orchard fruits, with apple prominent but by no means alone. As the wine’s great length unfurls you begin to taste nuts as well. This is a wine of stature, for sure.
Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene.
This rather fine bottle from Recaredo brings to a close my coverage of Viñateros 2020. If there were producers I have not covered which you would have liked to have seen, then I share your disappointment. I tasted from the moment the doors opened until 3.00pm, no slacking, no lunch, but by the end a flagging palate. Most of those I missed I have tasted before, but a second day might have afforded me the chance to visit old friends Suertes del Marqués, Telmo Rodriguez, Marañones, Raventos I Blanc, and Nin-Ortez, to name just a few. How people taste everything…not to mention the masterclasses…I have no idea. But at least in what I did taste I kept my Spanish palate topped up with pure excitement. What a brilliant tasting that was!