The Diversity of Spain – hidden gems & old friends

The other day I presented a tasting to Thanet Wine Appreciation Society, I called it the Hidden Gems of Spain, because I had dug deep to find interesting and great quality wines from as wide a range of Spanish wine regions as I could.

I really like going to address Thanet as the meetings are so large – there were 120 people there, most wine societies have 30-50. It was great fun and they seemed to really enjoy the wines on show. More satisfyingly the tasting introduced many of them to wines, regions and grapes they had never tried before.

I have a sort of theory that many UK consumers expect all Spanish wine to look and taste like Rioja, so – much as I love Rioja – I enjoy showing wines that are as different from Rioja as they can be, in order to show the great diversity of wine produced in Spain.

At first the wine society were unsure if they wanted a Spanish tasting, as they had one last year. However, I won them round when I explained that I could make it an annual event and never repeat myself and made sure that I showed nothing at all from the same regions as the previous year’s tasting.

In truth my problem was not what to show, but what not to show – I only had six wines plus an aperitif. It is hard to give an overview of how exciting Spain is in seven wines, so I kept pencilling wines in and then crossing them off the list again.

For the whites, surely I had to include a Godello from Valedeorras or Monterrei, a Malvasia from Arribes or Toro or an Alella? Sadly Verdejo from Rueda was out as they had tasted one last year.

Amongst the reds there surely had to be a Mencia from Bierzo, a Juan Garcia from Arribes, a Prieto Picudo from Tierra de Léon, a Bobal from Valencia, a Trepat or a Samsó – not to mention some of the amazing wines from Montsant or Priorat. Well, budgets were tight and you cannot have everything, what’s more, Ribera del Duero and Cava had been covered last year, but I still put together a really good tasting. Three of the wines have been mentioned in these pages before, but the others are all new.

Click for a larger view - the numbers in the red circles correspond to the wines in the list below

1 – 2009 Toro Loco Rosado

D.O. Utiel-Requena, Comunidad Valenciana

Grape: 100% Bobal

A great introduction to this very local grape, a crisp, dry and very well balanced rosado with none of that syrupy feeling common to so many rosés around at the moment. Not complex, but very pleasurable an excellent aperitif or general purpose wine. The 2009 is a little fleshier and fruity than the 2008 and delivers a lot of pleasure at a low price – 86/100 points.

12% alcohol – £3.49 from Aldi

2 – 2009 Txakoli Señorío de Astobiza

Okendo Txakolina, D.O. Txakolí de Álava – D.O. Arabako Txakolin, País Vasco

Grapes: 55% Hondarrabi Zuri, 30% Petit Courbu & 15 % Gros Manseng

A new winery in a tiny region that so far only boasts 5 producers. A terrific Txakoli with great depth of flavour of ripe succulent fruit all backed up by the classic high acidity of Txakoli and a seam of minerality keeping it lean and light – although it is richer than many other examples. There is even a little touch of spice on the finish and a lovely savoury salty tang – 90/100 points

13% alcohol – £14.49 from Noble Green Wines – 0208 979 1113 –

3 – 2009 Viña do Campo Blanco

Bodegas Docampo, D.O. Ribeiro, Galicia

Grapes: 70% Treixadura & 30% Torrontes

A rare chance to try some Torrontes from its original home rather than Argentina, here it is in a blend to give elegance and acidity to the more fleshy Treixadura, I have tried the whole range from Bodegas Docampo and they make beautiful wines.

A sumptuous wine with a rounded palate, ripe, creamy & nicely textured with juicy peach and apricot fruit and a squeeze of balancing grapefruit acidity.

The finish is long, lovely and  clean with the rich texture follows through to the very end. A beautifully balanced and delicious wine that straddles the line between fresh and rich to perfection and really wowed this audience – 93/100 points.

12% alcohol – £11.99 from Lea & Sandeman – 020 8878 8643 –

4 – 2008 Castell del Remei Gotim Bru

D.O. Costers del Segre, Catalunya

Grapes: 55% Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo in Catalan), 32% Garnacha, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot & 5% Syrah

This superb wine region was put on the map by the wonderful Raimat Estate, whose wines I love. Do try their Abadia – it remains one of the great wine bargains.

A fine, medium-bodied red with smooth tannins, rich fruit – both fresh and cooked, especially at the front, with some freshness and more savoury cedar, leather and balsamic notes.

Elegant and classy wine that goes beautifully with many a meat dish, it will gain a bit of complexity if aged too – 89/100 points.

14% alcohol – £10.20 from Philglas & Swiggot – 020 7924 4494 –

5 – 2008 Huerta de Albalá Barbazul

Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz, Andalucia

Grapes: 50% Tintilla de Rota – a near relative or clone of Mazuelo/Cariñena/Carignan, 30% Syrah & 20% Merlot

Perhaps the most traditional wine in the line up, this has a somewhat wild and funky side with earthy, mushroomy notes. It is medium-bodied and offers rich red cherry fruit that turns deeper and blacker – blackberry and black cherry – on the palate. The use of French oak and the grape introduce a slight touch of spice. There is a point of acidity keeping it fresh too, but you can taste that it comes from somewhere hot. The finish is long and balanced – a really interesting wine that needs food to show all the pleasure it can deliver – 88/100 points.

15% alcohol – £10.99 from

6 – 2006 Marqués de Griñon Caliza

D.O. Dominio de Valdepusa, Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha

Grapes: 65% Syrah & 35% Petit Verdot

One of my favourite bargains, this is superb wine and tastes far finer than its price tag. However the 2006 is a tad harder than the 2005 and could benefit from a couple of years ageing to soften it out. A great wine – 92/100 points.

15% alcohol – £9.99 from Marks & Spencer

7 – 2008 Juan Gil Silver Label Monastrell

D.O. Jumilla, Región de Murcia

Grape: 100% Monastrell – aka Mourvèdre & Mataro

Juan Gil has revitalised this sleepy backwater of a wine region and makes stunning wines that show how good the fruit is from this sunny southern region. He makes a big range that includes Monastrell-Shiraz blends and a Petit Verdot, but this is his top wine currently and the one that has made his name. It is lovely, the fruit is so ripe and sweet that it is really quite pretty with coffee and spice notes coming in later to show that it has complexity too. It is wonderfully concentrated and rich without being jammy or clumsy and it carries the alcohol very well and really impressed this crowd – 92/100 points.

15% alcohol – £14.99 from

This was a terrific tasting which opened many people’s eyes as to the quality of the wines that are available from Spain, as well as the variety. I really could make it an annual event and wouldn’t repeat myself for a very long time – any takers?

33 thoughts on “The Diversity of Spain – hidden gems & old friends

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    • Yeah, I found that disappointing too! Still the Spanish still waste their Torrentes, it can make some of the very best galician whites when blended with Godello to my mind!

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