Tasting Notes: ‘Beyond Rioja – the wines of Spain’, 28 June 2017, by Sarah Rowlands

Sarah is a member of a number of Wine Clubs around the south of England, including the Hextable Club that I know well.  We had another very enjoyable and informative evening, despite being rather thin on the ground due to holidays etc., and Sarah presented us with a flight of good-value Spanish wines chosen to show the range of styles that are available from this country, which incidentally has the largest area under vines of any country in the world, and whose production is only surpassed by Italy (if you are interested in these statistics, have a look at http://www.bkwine.com/features/winemaking-viticulture/worlds-grape-growing-vineyard-acreage/)

Codoniu Brut Cava NV, Penedes, Catalonia Waitrose (£10).  Made by the traditional method of secondary fermentation in bottle from the local Parellada, Macabeo and Xarello grapes, this is a lovely light alternative to a summer champagne at a fraction of the price. A nice yeasty touch on the nose, from spending 9 months on the lees, with plenty of fresh citrus and minerality on the palate, not long but a touch less acidic than a NV champagne.  At 11.5%, one might get away with imbibing as much as one fancies!

Tuna Club Verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Rueda (Waitrose £8)  With just a hint of Sauvignon Blanc on the nose, I found this rather bland on the palate. Hints of fresh melon and soft citrus and good length but not as crisp as billed; pleasant but unremarkable.

Vina Taboexa Albarino 2016, Rias Baixas, Galicia (Waitrose £8.29; Costco)  A rather trendy grape and this is a good-value example; ripe apple fruit on the nose, quite full on the palate with good mouthfill early on but not at all long on the palate. In the unoaked style and very quaffable, a good crowd pleaser, not for keeping.

Valderroa Menca 2015, Galicia (Waitrose £12) Very light and refreshing, almost like a Spanish take on Beaujolais Villages, summer berry fruit on the rather short palate, I didn’t get the suggested liquorice notes, but there was a touch of ripe plum about his wine on the night, it would have shown better if slightly chilled.

Beronia Reserva Rioja 2012 (Waitrose £14, Majestic £17) I’m a great fan of Beronia wines and they are super value for money. This is the middle-of-the-road Reserva style, with the expected cloves, allspice and oaky vanilla on the nose and deep red fruit and a touch of coconut on the plate. Blend of Tempranillo and Graciano grapes, yummy.

Scala dei Prior 2014, Priorat, Catalonia (Waitrose £20, elsewhere ca. £24). A blend of mostly Garnacha with Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah; the grapes are left to ferment with the natural vineyard yeasts in small open tanks and the wine aged in a mixture of American and French oak barrels. On the nose, dark red fruit, not so much spicy but clear notes of violets. On the palate, lovely smooth but grippy tannins, could age well for a few years yet, a real iron fist in a velvet glove. Colin said that it was even better the day after opening!

Finca Villacreces 2004 Ribeira del Douro (n/a UK, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 vintages available from several specialist suppliers, ca. £35, contact me if interested).  From my cellar, a Tempranillo (86%)/Cabernet Sauvignon (14%) blend with some bottle age, been in the cellar since 2009 with its companions. Lovely brownish rim showing its maturity, with classic inky/graphite notes and spicy fruit on the nose, maybe a touch of chocolate, rich and dark with an balanced but intense palate, great length and caressing tannins keeping the whole thing in balance has certainly repaid the patience shown and now close to its peak but will go another ten years, I suspect a really fine way to finish and splendid value (under £20 when purchased).

Notes by John Harris