Top Ten Spanish Wines 2013

Here we are, once again, presenting the top ten Spanish wines under 10 euros, chosen in a blind tasting by a panel of oenologists, wine producers, wine distributors, wine journalists, bloggers and wine aficionados.

Everyone in the panel had to rank all wines without knowledge of what they were drinking. All labels were removed and all bottles disguised. None of the producers who sent the samples paid to be part of the ranking. No panel members were paid, and if they happen to blind taste their “own” wines during the ranking (as oenologist/producers), those specific scores were taken out.

Our objective was clear: to find and promote wines with an excellent price-quality relationship. Wines that are within reach of the expert consumer that is looking for something new to try, as well as to the general public looking for a good bottle.
The Ranking
In No. 10 is a wine that marks the return of the fruity and lingering taste to the Ribera del Duero region. I won't bother introducing Germán R. Blanco at this point, as he needs no introductions. The wine speaks by itself and as they say in Burgundy, you can always recognize the best producers through their basic wines. The wine is Quinta Milú 2012, Ribera del Duero.
In No 9. , as all followers of this of this young competition will attest by now, Spain's most popular variety of grape is always present in our top ten. A grape that, far from being the preserve of cheap ordinary plonk, has shown in recent years that in the right hands it can produce some really sublime wines. Of course, we are talking about the Grenache grape variety. This wine comes from Calatayud and is called Misticos 2011
In No 8 is a wine that already finds itself among the classic contenders in this list and is always among the big players. This  is no doubt down to its high quality, drinkability and above all its ability to show the true character of the Ribeira Sacra in each and every glass. This is one of the mainstays of the national scene, and a variety that has a bright future in Spanish wine. This is a real, undiluted Mencia: Viña Regueiral 2012.
No 7 was a big surprise. As this was selected in blind tasting by a panel, I know that I should not talk about personal experiences, but I feel I really must highlight a visit to this producer given how enriching I found the experience, and for the sheer excitement I got from hearing and seeing his work. The man is Alberto Nanclares, an authentic wine maker with a touch of hippie about him, who settled in Rias Baixas to make some truly memorable whites. His entry level wine, Tempus Vivendi 2012, is a precise, sharp and very tasty Albarino.
In No 6 is a wine that was meant to make into the top ten. Xurxo Alba’s Albarinos are among the very best Spanish whites of 2011. Despite being Albarinos, the wines held until their second year to show their very best, and no taster could fail to note the salinity, earthiness and algae that make this wine so authentic and characteristic. Last year’s wine was the winner in 2012 list, this year we are talking about Albamar 2012.
In No. 5, in the very middle of the league, I am pleased that it has found its place the variety that put 20th century Spanish wines firmly in the world scene. We are of naturally talking about Rioja. The Spanish wine scene owes so much to Rioja, and as in the D.O. regulator would say when you find one as authentic as this, its always going to be a hit. The charming oenologist David Sampedro has managed to extract from the 2008 vintage all the classicism, finesse and complexity of a Rioja reserva: one wine that expresses this perfectly is the Marques de Closa 2008.
In No. 4 is German R. Blanco again. This time we travel from the Ribera del Duero region to the outer limits of El Bierzo region. Due to boundary lines and the use of the veteran Cabernet Sauvignon vines it can not claim the Bierzo DO though.. This wine, warrior-like and wild, shows us just how well the Mencia grape, when combined with the historical Burdeaux variety, can work. Without losing any of their identity, the two varieties come together to show just what the high and poor lands of the northwest can offer. A wine that keeps growing in the bottle and gives you so much to talk about: Altos de San Esteban 2010.
In No. 3 we move from the Bierzo region to find a Mencia wine that returns to the list once again and has even managed to climb a few places since last time (it was 10th last year). This is another winery that I have had the pleasure of following over the last few years and have been able to observe the exponential growth in the quality of its fantastic wines. The influence of Raul Perez is still highly visible in here, but as with all the projects that he is involved with, Pablo Frias’ talent, knowledge and expertise begins to show up in wines like this Tilenus Roble 2010.
In No. 2, an artisan made wine, virtually unknown that is both highly promising and incredibly exciting, gatecrashes the list once again to claim one of the top spots. The Moldes family is back with its 2012 vintage, even finer than last year, more vibrant and more explosive than ever. The packaging has also been given a simple but beautiful face lift. This poorest of vineyards - old, full of sand and pebbles, treated with loving care but with minimal interference - has lots of great things to say, like this Finca A Pedreira 2012. If this wine keeps on improving at this rate, it will soon be making history.
The winner is one of those wines that vindicates in us the organiser spent all these hours in front of the keyboard, and even longer time in front of a wine glass. David Sampedro and Bruno Murciano revive and bring dignity back to the local unknown Bobal grape and demonstrate that some truly fine things can be done with it, such as this wine with its groundbreaking presentation, intimate nose and unsettling, fresh and silky taste. This is a wine that is thirst quenching, refreshing and enjoyable, but at the same time never fails to show off its origins and tipicity, showing off clearly about the land from where it came from. The winner this year is La Malkerida Bobal 2012.
Dear friends, that is just about it. I hope you get to try all these wines in your local bars or at the dinner table. They won’t disappoint.

So, finally, the Ranking of Best Spanish Wines under 10 Euros for 2013 is...

1. La Malkerida Bobal 2012, Bobal, Utiel-Requena
2. Finca A Pedreira 2012, Albarino, Rias Baixas
3. Tilenus Roble 2012, Mencia, Bierzo
4. Altos de San Esteban 2010, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mencia, V.T. Castilla y Leon
5. Marqués de Closa 2008, Reserva, Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano, Rioja
6. Albamar 2012, Albarino, Rias Baixas
7. Tempus Vivendi 2012, Albarino, Rias Baixas
8. Viña Regueiral 2012, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra
9. Místicos 2011, Grenache, Calatayud
10. Quinta Milu 2012, Tinta Fina, Ribera del Duero


Capricho de Merenzao 2010

Producer: Ponte da Boga
Wine Name: Capricho de Merenzao
Type: Red
Wine Region/ Appellation Ribeira Sacra
Vintage: 2010
Grape varieties: 85% Merenzao, 5% Brancellao, 5% Sousón, 5% Mencía
Alcohol: 14,5 %
Guide Price: 25 €

Our Rating: +++++^ (5+)

About the area

See this previous post about Ribeira Sacra in here.

About the wine

The Ponte da Boga winery is located in Terra de Caldelas, an area with privileged varieties of wine with a very long history, as they were reported to be enjoyed by Roman emperors. The team is led by the talented and much awarded Dominique Roujou de Boubée.

Several « cuvées » are made. There is one white wine as well as several reds using traditional grapes from the region: Mencía, Merenzao, Brancellao, Sousón for red and Godello, Albariño and Doña Blanca for white.

On September 16th, 2010, there was something of an unusual vintage. The Merenzao - a grape variety in Ribeira Sacra, was picked  and 85% of the wine's coupage consists of this varietal. Two days later the Mencia grape (5%) was picked. Finally, the Brancellao grapes (5%) and Sousón (5%) completed the picture. The Sousón varietal, despite arriving last, its low percentage and its long cycle, gives the harvest its own terroir, instead of using chemicals.
Following 10 days of fermentation and a not too long a maceration, 60% of the wine is aged in used French oak barrels and the rest is kept in stainless steel tanks for a total of 10 months.

Tasting Notes

A promising low robe of purples and browns. Expressive, intense in the nose, with a hint of wild notes that disappear with aeration, giving way to aromas of dried blueberry, storm, wet earth, fern, and thyme.
Sharp and airy in the palate with very good acidity. Lightweight tannins, easy but thick, which give it a more smoky taste in the mouth (maybe the sousón variety?). Let down by its acidity and alcohol as they are less well integrated (?).Overall it is tasty and fruity, with a discerning glimpse of raw wine material. It has the Atlantic soil and character. It has a ripe and spicy finish thanks to its typicality, but with the St Joseph’s region style, lustrous and very pleasant.
It currently lacks time in bottle in order to add an even wilder taste, but I think there is good quality in here and lots of it.
The first thing that comes to mind with this wine is to have lamprey Bordeaux-style; its acidity would contend with the fat of the small fish and the stew would fuse with the wine’s spicy finish.

Unfortunately, are not in lamprey season at present and since there is no other dish that can be compared to it, I recommend any pork dish. A Terrine would be perfect. A robust pasta dish, puttanesca style, wouldn't be bad either.


Jardín de Lúculo: Los Bohemios 2012

Producer: Bodegas El Jardín de Lúculo
Wine Name: Los Bohemios
Type: Red
Wine Region/ Appellation: Navarra
Vintage: 2012
Grape varieties: 100% Garnacha (Grenache)
Alcohol: 13,5 %
Guide Price: 9 €

Our Rating: ++++ (4)

About the area

The Navarra denomination is an exceptional location, virtually unique in the Iberian peninsula as it becomes the confluence of the Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean climates present elsewhere in the peninsula. Its proximity to the Bay of Biscay, the influence of the Pyrenees mountain range and the temperate influence from the Ebro valley are the key factors that give Navarra its unique range of different climates.

The last two decades have seenongoing changes in the wine-making sector in Navarra.

Firstly, in the eighties, non-native varieties were introduced such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These varieties started to be grown alongside the native Viura, Tempranillo and Garnacha (the latter being the most widely grown and most popular variety in the area); these are international varieties that are well suited to the region which, whilst not neglecting the enduring potential of the traditional grapes, aided the development of new wine styles.

Now Garnacha is key to the Navarra fine wines and their “terroir”.

About the wine

At the heart of the project was the restoration of old Garnacha vines grown in the traditional goblet system. Key to the changes in the Navarra wine scene has been the conservation and recovery of old vineyards.

The producer has 21 select vineyards, small plots in the municipalities of Artazu , Mañeru , Cirauqui and Adiós.

The average vine age is well over 60 years old and have been selected and cared for during years by Rafael San Martin, a traditional winemaking enthusiast who has collected them over the years.

All of them grow Garnacha following organic farming techniques. Harvest takes place in October. The must is then fermented in large cement tanks, where it rests all winter. Then is stabilized and bottled. Naturally we are this is a young wine.

Tasting Notes

Intense red, showing violet reflections. Ripe fruity nose, predominantly red fruit (redcurrant). Banana. Sponge cake. Violet sweets.

Fresh and soft in the mouth. Thin tannins. Spicy. Easy-drinking. It shows elegant notes of bitterness, reminds one of cocoa. Not very long finish, but fine and pleasant.

I love this Grenache wines with soft goat cheese, and also with “piquillo” peppers, served warm with garlic and virgin olive oil.


Tilenus Roble 2010

Producer: Bodegas Estefanía
Wine Name: Tilenus Roble
Type: Red
Wine Region/ Appellation Bierzo
Vintage: 2010
Grape varieties: 100% Mencía
Alcohol: 14,5 %
Guide Price: 9 €

Our Rating: +++++^ (5+)

Here is the 10th Spanish Wine under 10 Euros according to our Ranking. (Vintage 2009)

About the area

See previous post about Bierzo.

About the wine

More than ten years ago, with the help of top oenologist Raúl Pérez, the Frías Family commenced a journey of hard work: recovering old vines sitting on small vineyards that have as of today almost 40 ha. of these almost centenarian vines. These small vineyards have clay minerals soils, and are located mainly in the valleys and alluvial conglomerates around Pieros and Valtuille de Arriba.

The harvest is particularly labour intensive as it can only be done by hand, since there is not enough space for tractors and also the slopes are too steep. Each vine has a limited efficiency which often lies below 1.2 kg.

This cuvée of Tilenus is aged in french and american oak between 8 and 10 months and then rests in bottle for around 12 months. The oenologist will review it and only will declare it ready when it has reached the most optimal ageing time. 


Deep red hue with a purple-blue rim.

Lovely pure cherry and blueberry fruit in the nose, marmalade, violet sweets and chilli. Charcoal with mint notes. Fresh grass. The savoury, firm palate shows good acidity. Well balanced. Strong and square tannins. Elegant bitterness. Very long, tasty and fruity finish. Easy drinking wine.

Perfect to drink now or in a couple of years. Will be great with trout and bacon or with barbecued vegetables.

This was the best vintage of this wine I ever tasted.


The Flower and the bee 2011

Producer: Coto de Gomariz
Wine Name: The Flower and The Bee
Type: White
Wine Region/ Appellation Ribeiro
Vintage: 2011
Grape varieties: 100% Treixadura
Alcohol: 13,5 %
Guide Price: 12 GBP

Our Rating: +++++^ (5+)

About the area

The  Ribeiro  designation  of  Origin  is  in Southern Galicia, on the North-West edge of the Ourense province , where the  valleys  formed by the Miño, Avia, Arnoia and  Barbantiño rivers meet. It has 2,685 hectares of vineyards.
The  vineyards  spread over  areas of  varying  altitudes, from 75 to 400 metres above sea level, in valleys and sometimes very  steep  hillsides  on  terraces locally known as “socalcos” or “bocarribeiras” that follow the hill’s contours.
The area’s distinctive climate is due to its sheltered position and its southern location in Galicia. The land is well protected from sub-Atlantic storms and enjoys an Oceanic-Mediterranean eco-climate, making it damp with mild temperatures that reach an annual average of 14.5ºC. Its mixed Oceanic and Mediterranean climate enables the grapes to ripen whilst preserving their aroma and acidity.
The first written records about high quality wines in the Ribeiro area, the oldest wine region in Spain, were made by the Romans. Between the 16th and the 17th centuries, Ribeiro wines were the most popular Spanish wines in Europe. They were so highly regarded that Royalty, writers, painters and all sorts of artists demanded to have Ribeiro wine at their dining tables. 
Unfortunately, the wars between the Spanishs and the British  empires, as well as their religious disagreements slowly weakened this prosperous trade, both with the British and the Dutch, who were Galicia’s most important trading partners. That led the British to side with the Portuguese, boosting their Porto (Port) wine industry from the 18th century onwards, being detrimental to the Ribeiro area.

About the wine

Nestled on the eastern edge of Galicia, the Ribeiro DO is split by three rivers. Coto de Gomariz is located in the part of Ribeiro where the slopes overlook the Avia river and their production is made of 27 hectares. Shisteous, granitic and sandy soils, steep slopes, tiny yields and a unique microclimate make this spot ideal for growing the local varieties which include Treixadura, Godello, Loureira and Albariño. Winemakers Ricardo Carreiro and Xosé Lois Sebio introduced biodynamic principles. 

Grapes undergo selection in the vineyard by the pickers and are hand harvested into 18 kg plastic-crates. They are then sorted on tables before being transported to the winery. Once there the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and gently pressed. The free-run juice is statically settled and fermented at low temperature in stainless steel tanks.


Light yellow with golden reflections.

Endearingly focused and intense nose, marrying citric notes of lime, roses, freshly cut grass, and mineral notes. Easy-drinking on the palate, resh and crunchy at point of entry. Salty and and oily. Elegant bitterness at the finish, with white fruit flavours.

A very enjoyable white that will match perfectly with mussels, fried peppers or just a plate of chips.


Borsao Selección 2011

Producer: Bodegas Borsao
Wine Name: Borsao Selección Jóven
Type: Red
Wine Region/ Appellation Campo de Borja
Vintage: 2011
Grape varieties: 70% Garnacha (Grenache), 20% Syrah, 10% Tempranillo
Alcohol: 14,5 %
Guide Price: 5 €

Our Rating: +++++ (5)

Here is the 6th Spanish Wine under 10 Euros according to our Ranking.

About the area

The Aragonese DO of Campo de Borja is located south of the River Ebro. It is one of three DOs within the Zaragoza province along with Calatayud DO and Cariñena DO. In all three regions Garnacha is a distinguishing feature and it is certainly the main point of interest for Campo de Borja which refers to itself as  “The Grenache Empire”.

Campo de Borja has almost 7,500 hectares (20-25 Million kgs of Grapes). Garnacha represents over 60% of the plantings across the D.O. vineyards. 

The oldest vineyards in the D.O. date back to 1145 and over 2,000 of the 5,000 hectares of Garnacha are between 30 and 50 years old.

About the wine

Vineyards with an age of 15 to 25 years on stony and slimy soils of clay and limestone. Peculiar maceration over 3-4 days over a total of 10-12 days.
Separate fermentation of each variety in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of between 22º-24º C.


Deep red hue with a purple-blue rim.

Charming aromas of blackberry, plum cake, spices and menthol.

Full bodied, muscular and concentrated. Fleshy, a wine showcasing fruit and spicy aromas. Remarkable balance on the palate, combining power and warmth. A full bodied wine that will drink well in a year or two.

Would be great with Spanish omelette, but as a Game of Thrones fan, I would really enjoy it with this pork pie.


Pago de Valdoneje 2011

Producer: Vinos Valtuille
Wine Name: Pago de Valdoneje Joven
Type: Red
Wine Region/ Appellation Bierzo
Vintage: 2011
Grape varieties: 100% Mencía
Alcohol: 13,5 %
Guide Price: 8 €

Our Rating: +++++ (5)

Here is the 4th Spanish Wine under 10 Euros according to our Ranking.

About the area

Bierzo is a Spanish Denominación de Origen for wines located in the northwest of the León province. The area is about 3,000 km² and has 23 municipalities.

The Romans brought agriculture to the area, introduced new crops including the Vitis vinifera vines, and new technologies such as the Roman plough. However, the greatest expansion of viticulture in the area was due to the growth monasteries in the area during the Middle Ages, specifically the Cistercians.

The Bierzo DO has a special microclimate which is beneficial for viticulture. On one hand it has a similar climate to neighbouring Galicia in regards to humidity and rainfall, and on the other hand shares parts of the hot, dry climate of the Mediterranean coast.

The average annual rainfall is just over 700 mm, and the vines receive about 2,200 hours of sunshine per year. Soils in the mountains consist of a mixture of fine elements, quartz and slate. Vineyards are planted mainly on humid, dark soils which are slightly acidic and low in carbonates. 

About the wine

Valtuille Wines has 12 hectares of old vineyards, 90 years old on average, and it stretches along Valtuille de Abajo, in the municipality of Villafranca del Bierzo. This is the heart of the Santiago Pilgrimage Route (El Camino de Santiago). These are vines, where -as in the Ribeira Sacra in Galicia- the Mencia variety is the queen. Vines are located on clay slopes that lead to a balanced ripening. The vineyard is arranged in narrow planting small plots with glass pruning, which requires manual labour.
Grapes for this young wine come from 80 years old vines planted on clay soil, with sand and iron. They are harvested by hand during the last days of September and the beginning of October. The must is then fermented in stainless steel tanks.


Deep red hue with a purple-blue rim.

Lovely pure cherry fruit on the nose, marmalade, violet sweets and chilli. Charcoal with honey notes and fresh grass. The savoury, firm palate shows good acidity. Well balanced. Strong and square tannins. Elegant bitterness. The finish is fruity and tasty.

Perfect to drink now or in a couple of years. Will be great with trout and bacon or with barbecued vegetables.