The world of Spanish wine has kept us busy, and sometimes even life gets in the way of writing about good wine. Our apologies to our loyal readers for the lack of blog entries over the past 12 months.
Mariano Fisac has ran again the successful “Best Spanish wine under 10 Euros” competition. This year it had a slightly different format: while all producers were invited to submit any wine that met the requirement, a panel of experts also submitted bottles based on their own personal tastes.
Our panel of experts for this year was: Eva Pizarro, Cristina Alcala, Isabelle Brunet, Orlando Lumbreras, Joan G. Pallarés, José Luis Louzán and Mariano Fisac .
A total of 50 wines were submitted via both routes to a blind tasting panel of experty s, bloggers, and consumers which ranked all wines. Bottles and labels were disguised in true blind tasting fashion.
This year the panel used a slightly unusual criteria: for each and any of the wines, they were asked :
“How much would you pay for a bottle of this wine?”
The final ranking is therefore looking at which wine gives the best value for money. The greater the [positive] difference between the actual retail price and the price the panellists were willing to pay, the better. The ranking was then drawn by adding the differences between the price the panel was willing to pay and their actual retail price, and wines were ranked from top to bottom.
No matter what some D.O.s may have been thumping on in press releases, the reality is that the 2013 vintage wasn’t the best for some Spanish wine regions, and the ranking does reflect that somehow. There are some real gems in here, so go out and fetch a bottle or two.
In tenth place, a new entrant. It reflects a growing trend in the world of Spanish wine. This is a wine made by the Envínate group who are committed in their revolutionary work of finding terroirs that can be expressed in an environmentally-friendly way, wines that are also fresh and easy drinking. The grape variety is Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet, Carignan Jeune), which has in the past been less regarded and relegated to mass production in the La Mancha region, or merely used to add colour to wines. This producer gets the best out of it with care and respect, giving a fresh, genuine, tasty wine with a great potential for food pairing. It is called Albahara 2013.
In ninth place a daring and radical Rioja. With a personality that didn’t leave any panel member indifferent. We wouldn’t call it a modern Rioja, though. Despite its volume and intensity, brings out the tradition of village wine, thirst quenching but loyal to its geographical origins and terroir. All grapes are organically grown and islargely Tempranillo based with a tiny bit of Viura. The whole package is rounded by a fresh and amusing label design and bottle presentation. This wine is ideal for aunexpected present. Named Malaspiedras (literally, bad stones), is produced by Bodegas Compañón Arrieta en Lanciego, Rioja Alavesa. Bring a bottle of two of this to a dinner party and you will grab everyone’s attention.
In eighth place, an albariño shows up for the first time. The albariño grape, when used honestly and without further manipulation, always outperforms rivals in blind tasting events due its intensity, terroir and freshness.
There is not much that hasn’t been said about Bodegas Zárate already, as it is one of the big names in quality Rias Baixas wines. Their bigger brothers, Zarate’s grand cuvées such as “El Palomar” or our favourite “Tras da Viña, are well known and spoken about globally. But Zarate lives to its reputation too with this submission: their exceptionally good basic wine. It will start to give its best from next year onwards. We recommend you stock up on Zárate 2013, as we suspect this wine won’t last for long on shelves.
In seventh place, another new entrant. Jesús M. Recuero, of a long lineage of local winemakers. He is the son, grandson & great grand-son of a winemaker. He works out of the remote area of Sierra de Gata, bidding his time. He has been working at restoring soils and vines in Villamiel in the middle of Extremadura, that sleeping giant region. The vineyard is pepper-potted by olive trees, heather and rockrose plants, which flow through the wine. It is called Antier and is a blend of old vine grapes: tinta fina (Tempranillo), piñuelo (Grenache) y rufeta (he believes is a variety of Grenache), all vinified right in the vineyard. It has a Mediterranean soul to it, but also reminds you of some of the great wines from south Portugal. A great find.
In sixth place, we kept on being surprised in this ranking. This little gem coming out of a tiny town in Férez (Albacete). Organic Bobal and monastrell grapes. There were just about 6 barrels made, full of fruit flavours. The wine is Lacerta 2012 , produced by Bodegas Lazo, their exclusive distributor is Ezequiel Sánchez Mateos, the terroir-hunter that can be found in Reserva y Cata. It is a massive find with an excellent value for money.
In fifth place another newcomer. We are not aware of the reasons why the D.O. Rias Baixas rejected this exceptional Albariño so it doesn’t carry its D.O. seal. We would want to hope that the fact has done so well in our ranking would be noticed by those in charge of that decision.
For the rest of us, this Dena wine is a clear example of the most mineral albariñoversión, the Meaño cru over granite soils. Half of it spent 5 months in oak barrels, the rest of it aged in inox tanks. The blend results in a vibrant wine full of character that took the panel’s heart. The wine is called Pescuda 2013 and is made by the Moldesfamily, which we have seen in the ranking other years with the other wine Finca APedreira. If you manage to get hold of any of it, grab it quickly as there is very limited produce.
In fourth place, probably not a surprise to anyone that has been following XurxoAlba and the wines that he keeps on crafting year on year. Xurxo Alba was the winer in 2012 with his now cult status Albamar 2011. Panel members may have changed, but his wines never leave anyone indifferent. The waves, algae, sea aromas are so distinct. If you want to show someone how a certain area expresses itself through an albariño grape, Albamar 2013 is a fine example. And it is a very good wine too!
As we approach the critical podium area, something unexpected in third place. It is a wine that comes from the efforts and love for an area by a priest, a hotelier and a farmer. Through respect and integrated viticulture they have brought up this Txacolia few notches above the rest. This is far from your average thin Txacoli, it is full of minerality, tension and flavour. It has great potential for food pairing and opens a new door for wines of Atlantic character. This is Txacolí Uno 2013 produced byGoianea.
In second place, one of the usual suspects year on year. This year has deservingly achieved its highest position in the ranking. A single-vineyard wine, of delicate and Burgundian character despite each vintage’s own peculiarities. This 2013 is a delicate poem of balsamic and distinction. Not recommended for those loving concentration and tannins. Despite not having had any oak-barrel aging, keeps and evolves very well in bottle, so don’t be afraid of getting a whole box and enjoy it as it ages with you. The wine is Viña Regueiral 2013.
And finally, there can only be one. In first place which makes it the overall winner for the 2014 Ranking, the wine that left the panel speechless.
It is a Moscatel, but its most complex, balanced and sensual variety. It is made in Chiclana (Cadiz) and had managed at last to place Andalusian wines where they deserve in the ranking. A ridiculously low price for this great sweet wine given everything it has to offer (a wine of this quality would be priced five times more if it was made in Germany or Hungary). A well deserving winner for the 2014 Ranking: Collantes Moscatel Oro "Los Cuartillos".
Lastly, we would like to say thank you to all that in one shape of form have made the ranking possible, specially to many producers whose wines have almost made it to the list bar a few decimal points. We frown upon other rankings where gold awards are dished by the hundreds, which we believe kind of removes the value in having a ranking in the first place.
Our approach to highlight the best of the best only allows for 10 wines to make it to the list, which makes others unfortunate “collateral damages”. We do know and regret that otherwise fantastic wines haven’t made it to the list, and we would like to encourage those that didn’t make it to keep up the good work.
Winegossip of Spain will be publishing individual entries for each and any of the wines with more detailed descriptions of those wines as well as detailed tasting notes over the next few weeks.