It’s not the first time I’ve defended that one of Spain’s greatest cultural assets is its diversity. From the simple charm of a whitewashed town in the sierras of Andalucía, to the cosmopolitan appeal of cultural capitals like Barcelona -and everything in between-, there’s something here for everyone. And a great way to discover Spain’s diversity is through its wines. With 64 different wine D.O.’s (Denominations of Origin) across the country, Spain has a wine style for every drinker.
In this list of must-try wines from Spain, you will find great examples of wines from world-renown regions like: Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat or Jerez. Also, for those wanting to explore a little further, some reasonably priced examples of wines made in more obscure places, from indigenous grape varieties like: Bobal, Mencía or Hondarribi Zuri that may have you wondering why you haven’t started exploring Spanish wines sooner. (photo by bernat)
So why not make a New Year’s resolution to explore Spanish wines?!
This intense yet elegant red comes directly from the vineyards planted in the steep walls of the Sil River canyon in Galicia, home of the most extreme grape-growing conditions in Spain. Concentrated aromas of ripe blue forest fruits and sweet spice embrace the mineral earthiness characteristic of the Ribeira Sacra soils. With slightly more body than the average, its respectful oak treatment results in a balanced expression of the virtues of the Mencía grape variety. A must try for 2015.
This Grenache blend (70%) is a great example of what can be achieved in D.O. Priorat, even at the entry-level. Artigas 2012 is intense and round, with an excellent balance between ripe fruit and spice. With well integrated tannins, it displays dark chocolate, toasted oak and earthy aromas. This is a great choice for those who want to begin exploring the tipicity of the wines from Priorat.
The recently released 2011 Izadi Crianza is an icon of Rioja’s new generation. Hailing from the Alavesa subzone, Izadi is consistent and versatile. This 100% Tempranillo is focused more on showcasing pleasantly tangy red fruit rather than the spicy toasted oak scents so characteristic of the classics. Izadi is a personal favorite among the more contained modern Rioja wine styles.
A list of top Spanish red wines can’t be complete without a wine from Ribera del Duero. Pago de los Capellanes 2011 reflects Ribera’s modern style –as an alternative to the classics like Vega Sicilia- Concentrated, structured and creamy, it showcases nicely the region’s characteristic balance and finesse.
The D.O. Utiel-Requena and its Bobal are certainly the discovery of last year for me. Despite being considered a hard to grow variety that results in very straightforward wines, this native grape can achieve an appealing complexity when treated right. In this case, the sweet spice from its 8 months aging in oak works well when combined with its dry red cherry and raisin aromas. It’s rich yet approachable thanks to a combination of bitter, rustic tannins and fresh fruity acidity.
Made from 100% Malvasía grown in volcanic soils, this is an alternative for those exploring Spanish sparkling wine beyond Cava. Light straw yellow with fine bubbles and a steady crown; it displays aromas of fresh citrus, peach and fennel. The “brut” style guarantees crisp acidity and a mid-weight mouthfeel. The region’s black ash soils are played up in its mineral finish.
This classic from the O Rosal subzone of the Rías Baixas proves why Galicia has become the major player among the quality white wine regions of Spain. Albariño, the region’s star white grape, is complemented here with four other native varieties: Loureiro, Treixadura, Caíño Blanco and Godello. These add body and aromatic complexity and result in a wine that is fuller than the average yet maintains Albariño’s characteristic tartness.
This bright and enticing Txakoli from Spain’s northern Basque region is made from 100% native Hondarribi Zuri grapes as opposed to the more traditional blends common in the region. Tart citrus and green apple aromas mingle with wild flowers (jasmine) and herbs (lemon verbena). It’s pretty straightforward: fresh, fruity and flavorful with a slightly sharp finish. Certainly, Txakolí and Hondarribi Zuri are worth discovering.
Sherry’s comeback may be considered the latest bluff to hit the wine industry (at least in the sweeter end of the spectrum) yet there’s a growing interest in the dry styles like Manzanilla and Fino. Despite this growth not becoming a major trend in the market, these wines are slowly becoming more popular both in and outside Spain. La Ina, a Domecq brand now under Lustau, is one of the more popular and easy to find labels in the USA. It showcases a very appealing bouquet of dried orange peel, salted almonds and bread (from the flor yeast veil). Taste is dry and contained yet wonderfully nutty. The classic bitterness and soft oaky spices give way to a light yet noticeable saline finish.
Easy drinking and sincere, this fresh and fun Verdejo is a patio sipping stunner. Aromas of citrus fruit (lime, grapefruit) combine with hints of peach, green apple, pear and anise. Round, it combines nicely its tart acidity with a slight creaminess, yet it remains light and refreshingly quaffable. A delightfully simple yet downright delicious Rueda.
Have a lovely Holiday Season and don’t hesitate to offer your own “Must Try” Spanish wine below! We’d love to hear it.