Spain excels at red wines made simply and well, because the benign climate broadly means grapes can be picked at optimum ripeness and health. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that Spanish reds are quite possibly the best-value red wines in the world at the moment.
It is the well-known Spanish red grapes – tempranillo, garnacha, monastrell, cariñena and blends thereof – that tend to make the most interesting wines. Cava is terrific quality at under £12 but sadly its poor brand perception in the UK market means it is often seen as unfashionable; but it is a sparkling style made exactly like Champagne (the second fermentation that gives the fizz happens in the bottle it is sold in) and as such offers a brilliant alternative.
Judging by demand and sales, members are really enjoying Rioja at under £10 but also at the finer end of the price spectrum. Look out this year as we start to release 2015 Gran Reservas, an excellent vintage. As I write, I have just returned from Rioja, where I blended the 2017 vintages of our exclusive Contino 937 wine and La Rioja Alta 874. These wines are designed especially for members and feedback has been incredibly positive. From Ribera del Duero, the range has been extended this year, along with the introduction of The Society’s Exhibition Ribera del Duero which comes from the small Bóhorquez property.
For those with a more adventurous mindset, Spain also has plenty to offer. The revolution in white wine quality continues apace, led by albariño, but I am excited about godello too. The big story is that, at last, white Rioja is starting to show its success after many years of poor quality and/or international styles. The Society’s White Rioja, launched last year, is a case in point. Look out for a growing trend amongst Spain’s more dynamic winemakers for high-altitude/Atlantic reds: mencía from Galicia shows a different side to Spain’s reds: fresh, vibrant and more in line with Beaujolais or Loire reds.
The 2019 season in Spain was warm and dry but when rain came, it came at the right time, meaning vines developed and berries ripened gradually and steadily. It was a long, ‘easy’ harvest, lasting from the beginning of September to the end of October, marked by favourable weather allowing growers to bring in their fruit gradually as each plot, area and variety reached the optimum moment for picking. Whilst it is early days to make a quality statement (I have yet to taste many 2019s), key Wine Society suppliers from Rioja and Ribera del Duero are optimistic about quality.
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