This is a longer version of an article first published in The Irish Times, Saturday 19th May, 2018. It includes four ‘bonus’ wines at the end.
Spain is on something of a hot streak at the moment, with wine sales in Ireland and elsewhere increasing every year. The country excels at less expensive red wine. The vast vineyards of La Mancha produce huge quantities of Tempranillo (called Cencibel here). The best wines are both cheap and attractive with pure light elegant fruit, perfect for everyday drinking. I frequently prefer them to the more ambitious, and more expensive oaked wines. If your tastes run to more full-bodied red wine, you can find plenty of hearty Garnacha from the Campo de Borja and Calatayud regions. All of the above wines are relatively inexpensive, and available in most of our supermarkets.
Rioja is Spain’s flagship wine region, responsible for 31 per cent of all quality wine exports (and a whopping 40 per cent in value). It is hugely popular in Ireland. More recently Rioja has been joined by two other wines; the powerful full-bodied reds of Ribera del Duero and plump refreshing white Albariño from Rías Baixas.
These three regions all produce some great wines, but the real excitement is happening elsewhere in Spain. Over the past decade, a quiet revolution has been taking place, with producers literally returning to their roots, using long-forgotten varieties or simply starting to treat local traditional grapes with respect. The results have been astonishing; a steady stream of fascinating wines with real character, reflecting the diverse history, climates, soils and people of Spain. I call it the “new old” Spain, as most see themselves as returning to the traditions of the past.
This piece is to short to cover every “new” wine of Spain. Personal favourites include Mencía, Godello and other varieties from the North-west of Spain, and Garnacha from D.O. Madrid and surrounding areas, but every part of Spain, including the Canaries and Balearic Islands, seems to have its own new generation of winemakers. It is not just red wines either; there are some superb white wines, sometimes from regions previously considered to warm.
Readers looking to discover more should buy a copy of an excellent new book, The New Vignerons by Luis Gutiérrez (Planeta Gastro, available from a few independent wine shops). It is more of a story book, mercifully free of scores and long-winded tasting notes. Instead, it takes an in-depth look at fourteen on the best, most innovative ‘new’ Spanish producers, alongside some of the local dishes. Gutiérrez, an intelligent and inspiring figure, visited Ireland recently, and anyone who met him cannot fail to have been converted to the ‘new old’ Spain.
Several wine importers expressed a frustration that some retailers and sommeliers don’t always make the extra effort required to sell these wines. It is very easy to sell Rioja Reserva, less so a Mencía from Ribera Sacra. “Once people taste them, they get it,” said one importer. “They love the lighter fruit, the less oak, the less alcohol and the interesting flavours. And they are quite happy to pay €20 because they know they are enjoying a genuine hand-made wine.” I would argue that many of these producers are the future superstars of wine, and offer great value for money. It won’t last; I am willing to bet that many will be twice the price in five years time, as the world discovers how good they are. Now is the time to buy them.
Given that Portugal is also producing some thrilling red and white wines, the smart wine buyer should head to the Iberian peninsula for both value and excitement. As these wines are often made in small quantities, it can be difficult to find them in supermarkets. So this weekend take yourself off to a real wine shop, and ask for an interesting “new” Spanish wine.
Bottles of the Week
Canforrales Tempranillo Clásico 2016, Campo Reales, La Mancha 14%, €13.50
A medium to full-bodied rounded supple red, loaded with ripe juicy dark fruits. A real crowd-pleaser and excellent value for money. Try it with all sorts of grilled or roast red meat.
From Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Liston’s, Dublin 2
Vermell 201, Celler del Roure, Valencia 14.5%, €16.50
Full-bodied yet elegant with concentrated savoury dark fruits and liquorice. A very food-friendly wine; serve with roast chicken or pork, but big enough to stand up to red meats too.
From Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Green Man Wines, Terenure; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Searsons, Monkstown; Blackrock Cellar; Power and Smullen, Lucan
Malayeto 2015, Viña Zorzal, Navarra 14%, €21
Wonderful medium to full-bodied wine bursting with supple fresh ripe blackcurrant and dark cherry fruits. Try it with grilled lamb.
From Clontarf Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Deveney’s Dundrum; Michael’s, Mount Merrion; Kelly’s, Clontarf
T Amarela 2016, Parcela Valdemel, Envínate, Vino de Mesa 13.5%, €24.99
Made by one of the most exciting new producers, this is a complex intriguing wine, with floral aromas, subtle ripe dark fruits, and a lovely freshness.
From Clontarf Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny; Crafted, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny; Michael’s, Mount Merrion; Deveney’s, Dundrum
A very lovely light juicy wine with just ripe damson fruits, and a cool texture- it works really well, and was even better with a roast shoulder of new season lamb. Made from a blend of Garnacha Tintorera, Mencía, Portuguesa (Trousseau) Palomino.
Stockists: La Touche Wines, Greystones; Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Martins, Fairview.
The white version of this wine, made from Treixadura is delicious; the red, made from Sousón (Souzâo in Portugal) is a very attractive light juicy wine with crisp raspberry and red cherry fruits. Good acidity and very refreshing.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure; Kelly’s, Clontarf; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Michael’s, Mount Merrion; Clontarf Wines; 64 Wine, Glasthule.
This is an enchanting wine, brimming with fresh racy dark fruits, underpinned by a strong mineral streak. Light but with real depth and excitement. More expensive but certainly superior to the Cortezada from the same producer. Bastarda is known as Merenzao in Valdeorras and Trousseau in its native Jura in France.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Alex Findlater, Limerick.
Pale in colour with a beautifully lifted perfumed nose; ripe strawberry fruits with a powerful mineral core and good grainy tannins on the finish. Great wine.
Stockists: Clontarf Wines; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Baggotstreetwines.com; Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St.; Kelly’s, Clontarf; Power and Smullen, Lucan.