Spanish Wine Tasting Recap

Continuing with my series of regional tasting reports, I’ve spent the past month concentrating on the vast diversity of Spanish wine. From Tempranillo and Grenache to the huge array of indigenous blending grapes, I continue to believe that Spain is currently making the best quality wines for the money of any country in the world. And that doesn’t even begin to touch upon the breadth of individuality that each of its regions expresses; a Tempranillo from Rioja has completely different qualities than one from Ribera del Duero or Toro, so I have broken them down as such. Here are some of my favorites after tasting over 100 Spanish wines over the past month:

GRENACHE (Priorat, Campo de Borja)

1. Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja 2007, 93 Points, $50- Exotic, explosive nose of sinus-opening mint, lavender and violet above vanilla bean, black cherry and blackberry fruit. Gorgeous and velvety on the palate, with rich, bursting blackberry and cherry fruit leading into layers of toffee, orange peel spice, violet perfume and subtle smoked game. Complex as can be, with white pepper spice creeping in late and expressive fruit lingering long with soft but gripping tannins.

2. Vall Llach Priorat 2005, 92 Points, $90- Very deep and perfumey with its juicy blackberry and cedar notes. Velvety palate, with thick blackberry, toffee and cedary forest floor elements. Classic perfumed, deep fruit style but also very dark, with a hint of tar creeping in late with dark chocolate and exotic spices. Deepens through the finish with a tannic grip.

3. Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi Priorat 2005, 92 Points, $85- Intense, concentrated purple fruit on the nose: dark plum, raisin, blueberry, fig. Smooth, elegant and polished, with ripe plum, currants and black licorice above layers of mineral, oak and exotic spice. Long, sustained finish, bursting with dark fruits and spice.

4. Alto Moncayo Garnacha Veraton Campo de Borja 2007, 92 Points, $30- Lots of toasty oak on the nose above elegant black plum, dark raspberry and spice box aromas. Perfumey body of floral black and purple currant fruit, with raisin, blackberry, spicecake and plum notes above creamy oak and loads of peppery spice. Long finish with hints of toffee creeping in along with intense, spicy fruit lingering. Drinking quite well for its youth with impressive depth of flavor.

5. Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi Priorat 2006, 91 Points, $85- Lush, fruity nose of red cherry, raspberry and mineral. Initially minerally on the palate, with a body of creamy red plum, cherry and licorice that leads into tobacco and herb spice through the long finish. Pretty tannic and still needs time.

6. Marc Rippol Sans Closa Battlet Gratallops Priorat 2004, $50- Juicy blackberry and dark plum aromas with hints of oak and black olive. Dark violet perfume and cassis fruit flavors mingle above hints of leather, cocoa, maple syrup and exotic spice. Long finish, very deep and lush. A big wine, but maintains elegance with just a touch of new oak lingering.

7. Vall Llach Embriux Priorat 2006, 90 Points, $30– Supple aromas with black cherry, red licorice and mineral notes. Very floral, with violet, blackberry, cherry and exotic spice. Lovely body, with hints of white chocolate along with orange and floral spice creeping in. Moderately tannic, but spice adds balance through the finish.

8. Domini de la Cartoixa Clos Galena Priorat 2005, 90 Points, $40- Creamy cherry and French oak aromas with minty mineral undertones. Very elegant, with cedar and forest floor notes combining above violety black cherry and blackberry. Exotic spice lingers with silky tannins and a hint of mineral through the finish.

9. Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses 2006, 89 Points, $35- Dark red cherry, oak and mineral aromas. Soft on the palate, with elegant cherry and dark raspberry  fruit above well-balanced oak, mocha and mineral notes. Firm tannins still here but fruit is pumping through the finish.

10. Cellar Cal Pla Mas’ En Compe Porrera Priorat 2006, 89 Points, $40- Explosive red cherry and licorice aromas with a hint of vanilla bean. Suave and elegant, with vibrant red fruits pumping above smoke, mineral and white pepper spice. Long finish with a hint of vanilla and oak creeping in last of all.

TEMPRANILLO- Rioja

1. Vinedos de Paganos La Nieta 2006, 94 Points, $150- Lush, concentrated, perfumey blackberry aromas above subtle mineral. Deep black currant fruits are shaded by hints of coffee bean and floral orange peel spice. Elements of leather, chocolate and white pepper spice creep in late. Super-elegant and focused, long finish with soft tannins.

2. Artadi Pagos Viejos 2006, 93 Points,$90- Elegant aromas of smoky oak, dark plum and blackberry. Soft on the palate with its vivid blackberry, black licorice and plum notes leading into complex undertones of smoke, graphite mineral and herbs. So soft on the palate, exquisite mouthfeel and texture. Long, beautiful finish that deepens with perfumey black fruit pumping.

3. Bodegas Muga Rioja 2006, 89 Points, $25- Pretty aromas of violet and blackberry. Concentrated body with perfumey blackberry, plum and black cherry above minerally spice and a subtle chocolate note. Balanced through the long finish, with a refined, smooth texture all the way through.

4. R. Lopez de Heredia Bosconia Rioja Reserva 2000, 89 Points, $35- Hint of barnyard earth evolves into elegant cherry crème on the nose. Rustic yet soft and delicate on the palate with red cherry, licorice, subtle oak and mineral pumping. Finessed, with earth and herb notes carrying the creamy fruit through the long finish.

5. Marques de Vargas Rioja Reserva 2004, 89 Points, $30- Loamy, barnyard earth aromas above perfumed red berry fruit. Rustic style, with red cherry and raspberry fruit understated and layered with mineral, mint and tobacco, soft but substantial. Long finish with white pepper spice lingering.

TEMPRANILLO- Ribera del Duero

1. Emilio Moro Tinto de Toro Ribera del Duero 2006, 92 Points, $25- Massive aromas of smoke, blackberry and herbal spices. More present, perfumed fruit here than usual, with focused blackberry, plum, black cherry and fig leading into layers of smoked meat, café mocha and exotic spice that finish with a chalky note and linger long. Complex and muscular, with more fruit expression than previous vintages.

2. Emilio Moro Malleolus Ribera del Duero 2005, 91 Points, $65- Lots of oak and hints of green vegetable shade smokey, leathery black currant fruit aromas. Juicy black cherry and dark raspberry notes on the palate with undertones of smoke, cedar and lots of creamy oak and lead pencil elements. Firm and structured through the long finish, with a tannic grip that should soften with time.

3. Dominio de Pingus Flor de Pingus Ribera del Duero 2006, 91 Points, $100- Deep and toasty, with blackberry, black cherry and mineral aromas. Intense and chewy initial fruit body of dark plum, blackberry and cherry with undertones of toffee and peppery spice. Dark and tarry mid-palate, with roasted coffee, leather and beef notes creeping in with hints of mineral. A blockbuster style that is still very tannic and oaky through the finish, needs time.

4. Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero 2005, 90 Points, $60- Dark aromas of black fruit, chocolate and green earth. Very deep, chewy body, with hints of charred oak, tar, leather and coffee shading the black fruit notes through the impressive finish. Lots of grip here from the tannins, cries for food.

5. Bodegas y Vinedos Montecrasto Ribera del Duero 2005, 89 Points, $50- Deep plum, fig and licorice aromas. Rich purple fruit flavors coat the palate, with sweet blackberry and licorice notes above its smoke and burnt oak hints. Juicy fruit lingers through the finish with an exotic floral spice note.

OTHER REGIONS- Toro, Jumilla, etc.

1. El Nido Jumilla 2007, 95 Points, $105- Deep purple fruit, mineral, toffee and smoke aromas, impressive layers even on the nose. Full-bodied mouthfeel of leathery cassis and dark plum fruit, violet, smoked meat, pepper spice and the slightest hint of orange peel. Finishes with a complex gravel and mineral note which lingers for minutes with the fruit. Structured, layered and constantly evolving, powerful wine all the way through, more exotic fruit present but missing that chocolate element in this vintage. Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell.

2. Bodegas Triton Tinta del Toro 2008, 92 Points, $20- Expressive bouquet reveals smoked meat above savory cassis fruit notes. Incredibly soft on the palate, with complex notes of heavy smoke, mocha and mineral combining above subtly perfumed blackberry and black licorice notes. Black pepper spice lingers with smoked meat notes, but this feels very elegant all the way through the long finish. A spectacular value, and it’s great to see this winemaker back with this new venture.

3. Avanthia Mencia Valdeorras 2008, 91 Points, $70- Funky bouquet of smokey earth and purple fruit. Velvety, elegant body of dark plum and blueberry above smoke and loam notes, deep and creamy with impressive balance. Mineral spice lights up the long, leathery finish. Tasted twice with consistent notes.

4. Teso La Manja Almirez Toro 2007, 89 Points, $25- Musky purple fruit aromas with notes of coffee bean. Pasty palate of dark plum, fig and blackberry lead into dark mocha and tar notes. Hints of clove spice creep in through the long finish. Very full and dark.

5. Bodegas Juan Gil Monastrell Jumilla 2007, 88 Points, $15- Deep, juicy blackberry and blueberry aromas above mineral and exotic spice notes. Hints of soy run through the dark currant fruit body, thick and juicy, with lots of spicy mineral undertones and a hint of tar lingering with the fruit.

VALUE WHITES

1. Shaya Old Vines Verdejo Reuda 2008, 88 Points, $15- Pretty aromas of lemon and pear fruit above undertones of mint. Balanced, rich citrus notes include green apple and lemon mid-palate, leading into a creamy finish of spicy ginger, orange zest and white pepper. Hints of vanilla linger through the long vibrant finish.

2. Bodegas Muga Blanco Rioja 2007, 87 Points, $15- Orange peel, smoke and earth notes combine in the nose. Spicy, complex palate, with green apple, pear, canteloupe and orange above smokey spice and a mineral hints. Long, vibrant finish. Viura and Malvaisa.

3. Paso a Paso Verdejo La Mancha 2008, 87 Points, $10- Lots of tropical melon fruit on the nose combines with lemon and lime notes. Creamy body with lots of melon and lime citrus lead into a crisp, refreshing mineral finish.

4. La Cana Albarino Rias Biaxas 2008, 86 Points $15- Tropical fruit aromas of pear and pineapple with undertones of green apple. Creamy mouthfeel shows vibrant acidity beneath its bright citrus fruit notes. Medium length.

5. Marques de Gelida Brut Cava 2005, 86 Points, $15- Lots of crisp green apple and pear citrus on the nose. Lively acidity, with flavors of pear, apple and peach above notes of bread dough and light sourness. Refreshing through the medium length.

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