How Spain is Finding Elegance by Breaking from Tradition

Turning away from the bold, full-bodied wines that have been their hallmark, Spanish winemakers are now adopting a “freshness first” mantra for the future.
Getty

The world of Spanish wines has never been more sound, as the country’s offerings continue to improve and excel. Regions like Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Bierzo and Priorat stand out in recent tastings of more than 250 wines from all across Spain.

Other parts of the country like the Levante (southeast Spain), Málaga, the Canary Islands and Galicia in the northwest also showed their might and potential.

One of the most important trends happening now is the movement away from highly extracted, full-bodied red wines. Winemakers throughout Spain are shifting toward fresher, lighter, more elegant reds, even in areas long known for power over precision.

For example, in the Priorat region in Catalonia, numerous wines from 2013–15 showed more elegance and snap than ever before. Rioja has also shown elegance, while in all corners of Spain, the mantra of “freshness first” is taking over.

Wines affected by weather in 2013 (abnormally cool) and 2014 (rot issues from frequent rains) are showing far better than originally thought. The 2013 wines are racy and agile, while the 2014s are cleaner and fresher than expected.

It’s important to note that the 2016 Albariños from Rías Baixas in Galicia are mostly excellent. Other whites that stood out are the Moscatel-based dry and sweet wines from southerly Málaga as well as numerous Cavas, Spain’s premier sparkling wines.

All in all, now is the right time to enjoy Spain’s vinous bounty.

Wine Enthusiast Podcast: The Past, Present and Future of Spanish Wine

Recommended Wines

Red

Terroir Al Límit 2014 Dits Del Terra Carignan (Priorat); $90, 95 points. This Carignan welcomes you with fresh berry aromas that are like jam, accented by spice notes. Secondary aromas of coffee and toast lead to a full, saturated palate with a vise grip. Deep, savory flavors of roasted plum are spicy on a complex finish that blends power and elegance to the end. Drink from 2018–2030. Editor’s Choice.

Dominio de Tares 2012 Bembibre Mencía (Bierzo); $45, 93 points. Grapy blackberry and cassis aromas come with charred oak and pastry-like richness. In the mouth, this notoriously ripe Mencía is loaded with tannins. Spicy blackberry flavors can handle the classy oak this wine has seen, while flavors of tobacco, lemon and spice drape over a full-fruited finish. Drink through the 2020s.

Suertes del Marqués 2015 Los Pasitos Babosa Negro (Valle de la Orotava); $45, 92 points. Have you ever tried varietal Baboso Negro from the island of Tenerife? Give it a shot and you’ll likely be impressed, as I was. Cherry and plum aromas are in the red zone, while this wine feels crisp and fresh, with edge. Salty raspberry and plum flavors end with racy snap. This is a versatile and elegant food wine; drink through 2020. Editor’s Choice.

White

Comando-G 2014 El Tamboril Navatalgordo White (Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León); $75, 90 points. While this high-elevation (4,035 feet) white Garnacha is mostly neutral smelling, it offers stony notes that are direct, minerally and clean. On the palate, it is tightly wound and showing vital malic acid. Salty but fresh persimmon and quince flavors are lasting on the finish. For a 2014, this is in fine shape; drink now.

Huguet de Can Feixes 2016 Blanc Selecció White (Penedès); $15, 90 points. Apple, melon and apricot aromas are pure and come with zero interference from natural funk or oak. A blend of mostly Parellada with Macabeo and other white grapes, it hails from the highest vineyards in the Penedès. Flavors of melon, lime and wet stones reflect gravelly soils, and it’s steady on a long finish. Best Buy.

Valmiñor 2016 Edición Especial 10 Años Albariño (Rías Baixas); $14, 90 points. Dry aromas of pithy citrus fruits come with a hint of fresh-cut grass. This feels steely and pure, with flavors of citrus fruits, nectarine and green apple. A racy finish offers tropical fruit flavors and a spot of bitterness. Best Buy.

Sparkling

Alta Alella 2015 Mirgin Reserva Brut Nature Sparkling (Cava); $22, 90 points. Light, fresh and direct describes the white-fruit aromas this brut nature is exuding. In the mouth, this is just round enough but mostly linear in plane. Flavors of dry lime, apple and fresh-baked white bread finish mild yet agile. This is affordable brut nature taken to a high level. Editor’s Choice.

Maria Casanovas NV GLAÇ Brut Nature Sparkling (Cava); $30, 90 points. Dusty, bready apple aromas are direct and not too yeasty. This feels tight and refined, with citric acidity. Lightly briny apple and citrus flavors finish steady and fresh, but also smooth. For brut nature, this gets things right.

Sweet

Telmo Rodríguez 2010 Molino Real Mountain Wine Moscatel (Málaga); $60, 91 points. On the nose, this wine is both woody and a touch oxidized, with clove and ginger notes. In the mouth, you can feel the resiny weight of French oak. Forceful spice, clove and woody flavors are dominant, but with such a long finish and good structure this old-vines Moscatel is singing. Drink through 2023.

Published on October 19, 2017
Topics: Spanish Wines
About the Author
Michael Schachner
Spanish and South American Editor

Reviews wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain.

Michael Schachner is a New York-based journalist specializing in wine, food and travel. His articles appear regularly in Wine Enthusiast, where he is a longstanding contributing editor responsible for South America and Spain. Schachner reviews more than 2,000 wines annually for WE and regularly travels to Chile, Argentina and Spain to keep abreast of the constantly changing global wine map. Email: mschachner@wineenthusiast.net.



SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories
Please enter a valid email address
privacy policy