The reign of Spain: How to find top-notch, great-value wine


First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 6th April, 2019

Spanish Wine Week begins next Monday – has details of tastings, dinners and other events – but I am not sure that Spain needs any further help from us: its wines appear to be doing very well in Ireland.

I went to a portfolio tasting of the leading Spanish wine importer recently, and as happens every year, I was introduced to a host of new grape varieties, mostly unique to Spain. Not all were brilliant, although most were, but there was an array of unique flavours.

Spain covers all climates and styles of wine, from cool to baking hot, from the lightest, crisp, Muscadet-like freshness of a Txacolí from the Basque Country to the full-bodied Monastrells of Murcia and Valencia. Generally speaking, wines from the cooler Atlantic north tend to be white and light, and those from southern and central Spain red and warming. But vines grown at higher altitudes, or closer to the Mediterranean Sea, can produce very elegant wines, even in the deep south; the Los Aguilares Pinot Noir from Malaga (Celtic Whiskey Shop, €38) is a perfect example.

Spain has plenty of other great indigenous grape varieties: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell and Mencia for the red wines, Albariño, Godello and Xarello for whites. Even Palomino Fino, once reserved for sherry, is now responsible for some excellent table wines. As well as new regions, more established names such as Rioja, Priorat and, best of all, Sherry continue to reinvent and improve themselves.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Spanish Tempranillo is one of the best value wines in the world, and inexpensive Garnacha is not far behind, But I would suggest increasing your budget a little and go for something from €15 to €25 (or even the €31 wine below). At this price, Spain offers a host of brilliant, unique wines that offer fantastic value for money.

Spanish food has also been on something of a roll in recent years, largely thanks to a group of superstar chefs. Done simply, using the finest raw ingredients, it is one of the great cuisines of the world.

My own dream Spanish feast would start with a glass of chilled fino sherry accompanied by a plate of the finest Iberico ham, some olives, and a few toasted almonds, followed by an Albariño or Godello from Galicia alongside a plate of simply dressed seafood; then a bowl of rice with chicken and vegetables, and a glass of red wine from Valencia. Then on to the main course, grilled lamb cutlets with a glass of the finest Rioja or a lighter red from Ribeira Sacra, either of which would also go nicely with the cheese course.

Finca La Solana Monastrell 2017, Jumilla
14.5%, €9 (down from €13.45 for April) 

A substantial wine with sleek, muscular, powerful dark fruits overlaid with a touch of new oak, and a savoury dry finish. Perfect with grilled steaks or a cocido – Spanish stew with beans, vegetables and various meats, that varies by region.
From O’Briens,

Cucú 2017, Barco del Corneta, Rueda
13.5%, €18

A Verdejo like no other; rich exuberant exotic tropical fruits with a lovely citrus streak. Perfect with all sorts of spring salads.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin,; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6,; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin,; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow,; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3,; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin,

Ube Miraflores 2017, Bodegas Cota 45
11%, €23.50

A magnificent delicate wine with clean peach and apple fruits, subtle toasted nuts and a tangy saline dry finish. Choirs of angels sang. By itself or with toasted almonds and/or the best Iberico ham you can afford.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin,; Martin’s Off Licence, Clontarf, Dublin 3,; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin,; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6,; Loose Canon, Drury Street, Dublin 2,

Lomba des Ares 2016, Ribeira Sacra, Fedellos do Couto
12.5%, €31

Made from a host of local grapes, mainly Mencia, this is wonderful wine. Fragrant and floral with refined refreshing cool dark cherry fruits, a nice grip and a lovely smooth finish. With charcuterie of any kind or belly of pork.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin,; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6,; Loose Canon, Drury Street, Dublin 2,

Posted in: Irish Times

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