Spain has had a long history of winemaking, from classic Riojas, newer Mencia from Bierzo, to Cavas and more. During the Vancouver International Wine Festival, I and several other attendees joined Master of Wine, Barbara Philip to explore a wide range of Spanish wines and to listen to the forward-looking producers behind them.
The winery principals speaking to us were: Fernando Gimenez Alvear, Andres Bastida, Javier Delgato-Aurteneche, Yves Laurijssens, Miguel Torres Maczassek, Javier Murua, Ines Oro, Joao Machete, Pereira, and Howard Price.
Our featured wines:
- Torres Albariño Pazo das Bruxas 2016
- Losado Vinos de Finca, Losada, Bierzo 2015
- IberWine Monte Hiniesta Tempranillo 2015
- Bodegas Alceño Premium 50 Syrah 2015
- Bodegas San Gregorio Anciano 35 Year Old Vines Garnacha 2015
- Bodega de Moya Sofia 2015
- Arínzano Vinos de Pago La Casona D.O. Pago De Arinzano 2008
- ARAEX Grands Spanish Fine Wines Rolland & Galaretta Rioja 2012
- Muriel Wines Conde de los Andes Red 2001
- Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Y Gay Gran Reserva Especial 2007
- Artadi La Poza de Ballesteros 2014
- Bodegas Alvear Pedro Ximénez De Anada 2015
Winery Principal Observations
We had Barbara ask the winery principals questions about their wine as well as some topic related to Dynamic Spain. Dynamic to me indicates “change”. So what changes are underway in Spain? Below are a mix of the winery principals’ comments and my synthesis of various comments.
When most people think about a Spainish wine they think of red wines; Rioja in particular. Spain does also produce white wine and people should start tasting the fresh, crisp wines from the Albarino grape grown in the Rias Baixas region. The BC Liquor stores carry 4 Spanish Albariño wines. Hopefully, more will be on our shelves soon.
In the 1990s there was a turning point toward the vineyards in Spain. Trying to get the purity of the grapes from the vineyard. Not to mask the message of the vineyards. Spanish wines used to be oxidized and not as interesting, but now there is an investment in better technology, such as a move to stainless steel tanks. Also winemakers are now going to formal winemaking training. In the past, traditionally the new winemaker would learn from the current winemaker at the winery. Typically father to son.
Red wines in the past, e.g. from the Toro region, were very alcoholic and dense; so dense that some bars could dilute the wines and they would still be acceptable. Now red wines are lighter and fresher. The international market tells us what sells so we have to adapt to the market.
We try to adapt to the international market, but we also need to work with our terroir and climate. Inland areas of Spain are very hot and sunny. We have to make the best, most representative wine from these areas, but doing so in a more methodic style (e.g. from formal winemaking training). Things like checking for daily sugar levels in the grapes so that they do not get overripe, and properly cleaning concrete tanks, are now undertaken. Spanish wineries need to honour tradition but also allow for innovation.
Besides indigenous grapes like Tempranillo and Bobal being grown, there are also international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are also being grown and added to the wines. The winery principals noted that these international varieties add complexity and colour to their wines.
What is the role of Old Vines in Spain? In the past old vines were ripped up and popular, but not best vines, suited for the region were planted. Old vines Garnacha and Bobal are seriously undervalued. Old vines are the new way for Spanish wines.
Garnacha and Mencia are the new red ambassadors of Spanish wine. Mencia is less structured than traditional Spanish wine. Very drinkable and elegant.
Rioja is a large area with many different terroirs and vineyards. Rioja according to some winery principals is not an appellation. It is a wine region. Rioja is the biggest appellation in the world! They want to find the unique small villages creating different wines in the region. They are missing identifying terroir and soils. But the Rioja region is more interested in producing a large volume of wine, rather than breaking down the region into sub-regions producing wines with different aromas and flavours. Different geology produces different flavours of Tempranillo wines. One winery, Artadi, has withdrawn from the Rioja appellation until the region starts to identify unique sub-appellations.
The wines we tasted below show some of what the winery principals talked about, such as producing a wine that speaks about the vineyard, and terroir, where the grapes are grown. It should be interesting to see if vineyard terroir takes hold in Spain and the production of sub-appellations, as we see in France, Italy, and California for example.
My Tasting Notes
- Torres Albariño Pazo das Bruxas 2016 ($24.99) – Nice citrus, citrus rind, stone fruit and lees aromas. Dry and round, with higher acidity. More citrus, citrus rind and stone fruit on the palate, with a mineral backdrop. Nice.
- Losada Vinos de Finca, Losada, Mencia, Bierzo 2015 ($26.99) – Opaque ruby. Ripe blackberry, black cherry, plum with oak on the nose. Fuller bodied, dry, with fine tannins. Soft, juicy red fruits, a hint of sweet spice and light oak. B|right acidity. Tannins firmer on the finish. –
- IberWine Monte Hiniesta Tempranillo 2015 ($16.99) – We were told that in the past these wines would have had more oak treatment, and would have been harvested later when the grapes began to get overripe. Now the opposite is true. This wine is opaque ruby in colour. Ripe raspberry and dark fruit, as well as a dustiness on the nose. Fuller bodied, firmer tannins and medium acidity. Ripe red cherries and light leather flavours. Vanilla at the very end, and a grippy finish.
- Bodegas Alceño Premium 50 Syrah 2015 ($17.49) – This wine does have some Monastrell added to it. This wine is opaque ruby in the glass. Light intensity, ripe plum, and dark fruit aromas. Bigger mouthfeel, and very smooth. Fruity, blackberries, black cherries, and other black fruits, and vanilla. Medium tannins. I’d say this wine is very food friendly.
- Bodegas San Gregorio Anciano 35 Year Old Vines Garnacha 2015 ($21.99) – Anicano wines first appeared on the shelves in BC and has spread across Canada. I believe this brand is the top-selling red Spanish wine in Canada. This wine has a light intensity nose, with floral and raspberry aromas. Fuller body, round and mouth-filling. Juicy ripe dark fruit, some pepperiness and leather flavours. Medium plus tannic finish.
- Bodega de Moya Sofia 2015 ($44.99) – This is a blend of Bobal primarily, with some Cabernet Sauvignon added. Bobal was a new grape for me, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the aromas and flavours of the grape. This wine is opaque garnet in colour. It is very aromatic; ripe red fruits and sweet spices on the nose. Fuller body, dry with tannins picking up mid-palate to the finish. Juicy red fruit flavours up front, with vanilla and chocolate flavours showing up mid-palate. A nice fruit, acidity, tannin balance. A very tasty wine.
- Arínzano Vinos de Pago La Casona D.O. Pago De Arinzano 2008 ($47.99) – a blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Merlot. This wine is medium plus garnet in colour. It has a light, bright red fruit nose. Medium body, lighter mouthfeel with bright acidity. Ripe raspberries and blackberries, together with some pepperiness and leather. Firmer tannins. A refreshing red wine with finesse.
- ARAEX Grands Spanish Fine Wines Rolland & Galaretta Rioja 2012 ($25.29) – Made from the Tempranillo grape, this wine is a medium plus dull garnet colour. Ripe red cherries, leather, vanilla and sweet spice aromas. Full body, round and mouth-filling feeling. Dark ripe red fruits, light sweet spices and oak on the palate. Medium acidity and fine tannins.
- Muriel Wines Conde de los Andes Red 2001 ($70) – this is one of the oldest wineries in Rioja. The oldest bottle in their cellar is from 1890! We were told that 2001 was an outstanding vintage for Rioja wines. This wine is medium intensity garnet with some brown tones. Leather on the nose. Medium body, dry with medium acidity and softer tannins. Red fruit and leather on the palate, along with a mineral component. Soft mouthfeel, but a tart finish.
- Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Y Gay Gran Reserva Especial 2007 ($138.99) – This is the largest estate in Rioja. This wine is a blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo. This wine has a very deep garnet colour. It has a medium intensity nose, showing ripe raspberries, red cherries and a hint of cedar. Fuller body, dry and round with medium tannins. Juicy, ripe red fruits and black pepper on the palate. T|his wine can still age for many years.
- Artadi La Poza de Ballesteros, Tempranillo 2014 ($189.99) – This winery was part of the Rioja DOC until 2015, after which it departed as it felt the appellation was too large and should be sub-divided into more unique appellations. Opaque garnet in colour. Light intensity black fruit and bramble on the nose. Fuller body, round and silky with flavours of dark fruit, and hints of sweet spice, pepper and floral. Medium length with grippy tannins.
- Bodegas Alvear Pedro Ximénez De Anada 2015 ($29.49) – This was our one sweet wine in the lineup. The PX grape used for this wine was open-top fermented in amphora over a period of 2 years. This wine has a medium bright copper colour in the glass. Intense raisiny nose. Fuller body with an intense raisin flavour. Medium acidity that trails off, leaving stronger raisin and fig flavours. A bit of spiciness as well for this wine.
Thank you to Barbara Philip MW for leading us through this seminar, to all the winery principals for sharing their stories and their wines, and the Vancouver International Wine Festival for providing me with a ticket to attend this event.