Rest of Spain: Red
Some great-value wines on the Gold List together with a few top-end ones, too. With more controlled oak use, in future years this is a category that could really fly

On this evidence, the best thing that could happen to Spanish red wines is some form of oak embargo. Taster after taster of this large category was metaphorically spitting splinters after their flight of wines.

‘The oak’s been laid on with a JCB here,’ growled Team Leader Peter McCombie MW. And while this might, perhaps, suit the Spanish palate, it definitely held back the medal count here. All the more annoying because underneath the layers of wood, there was often some decent wine trying to get out.

‘I’m particularly depressed because I’m Spanish,’ sighed Ivan Vegas, of Hotel du Vin.

This lack of balance, with oak tannins simply stamping all over the fruit to leave an astringent finish, is one of the reasons why big-gun regions like Ribera del Duero didn’t
do better, with a fair few of the wines either halting at Silver or not medalling at all.

It also explains why there were a good number of really well-priced wines picking up high awards (four Golds and two Silvers around £7 or less). Put simply, at these prices it was more about the wine than the cooperage. ‘It would be really nice if the producers just took their foot off the pedal a bit,’ said Team Leader Natasha Hughes. For sure, the most popular wines in general were those that were trying a bit less hard.

The medals were scattered throughout the country, though the slightly cooler North-East probably fared best overall. ‘More complex wines for sommeliers and quite good value,’ as Team Leader Sarah Jane Evans MW put it – an assessment backed up by a string of Silvers from Costers del Segre and Priorat.

The likes of Campo de Borja and Navarra seemed stylistically undecided, caught between full-bodied, tannic, older-style wines and a sweeter, more modern expression, although Boutinot’s exceptional Bodegas Borsao did repeat its Gold/Silver, one/two of last year with its Selección Barrica and Tres Picos Garnacha.

Worth noting, too, that for all their reservations, this year’s tasters did find room on the list for a couple of genuinely expensive reds for the first time: the Demencia and the Abadia Retuerta. Is it patronising to say that this is a category on the verge of greatness? Not if we can cure the bodegueros of their oak addiction.

“[From the South of Spain], we were choosing wines with less extraction and less aggressive tannins. ” Luigi Buonanno, Etrusca Restaurants


Borsao Seleccion Barrica 2008, Campo de Borja, Spain
£5.44 @ Boutinot
SWA 2011 Gold List With typically Spanish aromas, this has savoury and mineral characters alongside dark cherry and soft, juicy raspberry fruit on a well-rounded palate. ‘Good finish and well balanced,’ said Pierre Hobeika. ‘Brooding style,’ added Sarah Jane Evans MW.

Hacienda Shiraz 2007, Castilla la Mancha, Spain
£5.72 @ Hallgarten Druitt
SWA 2011 Gold List Plenty of bang for your buck here, with a deep colour and complex mix of herbs, smoke, black treacle, intense, slightly baked plum fruit and ripe but sappy tannins. ‘Lots of structure and integrated tannins plus a wild berry after-taste’ said Alvaro Marcos Garcia. ‘Juicy tannins with lots of chocolate notes,’ said Kelvin McCabe.

Libido Garnacha 2009, Navarra, Spain
£6.03 @ Bibendum
SWA 2011 Gold List With its vanilla and redcurrant nose, its tarry, fresh, jammy mid-palate and its dry finish, this impressed the panel with its great varietal character. ‘Impressive nose, body, length and depth,’ said James Hocking. ‘Really food friendly and great value,’ enthused Mark Deamer.

Quinta el Refugio Crianza 2008, Toro, Spain
£6.95 @ Boutinot
SWA 2011 Gold List A good example of modern Tempranillo, with a complex mix of vanilla notes alongside dried red berries and slightly stewed fruit. Cooked, dark sweet fruit on the palate with well-integrated oak and round, velvety tannins. ‘A big wine for the money,’ said Michael Harrison. ‘Super-ripe fruit and lashings of oak. Very showy,’ said Robert Giorgione.

Demencia 2007, Bierzo, Spain
£34.99 @ The Winery UK
SWA 2011 Gold List Expensive oak to the fore with this modern-style wine. Eucalyptus and herbs add to the dark fruit nose. ‘It has a good, full-bodied structure, with a lot of extraction,’ said Alexandre Céret. ‘It’s a baby wine. It could be great in 10 years.’ ‘Great length and tannin,’ said Igor Sotric.

Abadia Retuerta Pago Negralada 2006, Sardon del Duero, Spain
£45.17 @ Liberty Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List Despite its price, this wine won through thanks to its sheer class. Dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans and a great minerality on the finish. ‘Earthy, mineral, chalky nose with dates and black fruit,’ said Roberto della Pietra. ‘Very seductive and elegant.’


Castell del Remei Gotim Bru 2008, Costers del Segre, Spain
£6.24 @ Boutinot
Fresh and vibrant in style, minerals mix with red fruits on the nose, while the palate has jammy, cooked fruit flavours, medium weight and well-balanced acidity.

Raimat Tempranillo 2007, Costers del Segre, Spain
£7.11 @ Codorniu
Floral and vanilla on the nose with redcurrant aromas, there is a bold red cherry palate with brisk, bright acids. ‘Yummy spice and acidity,’ said Mark Deamer. ‘Again, great bang for your buck.’

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2008, Campo de Borja, Spain
£10.04 @ Boutinot
Sweet vanilla on the nose joins a bright, fresh, modern style of red with balance and complexity. ‘The fruits are jammy with an undertow of vanilla and a chalky, grainy finish,’ said Sarah Jane Evans MW.

Tomas Cusine Vilosell 2008, Costers del Segre, Spain
£10.06 @ Bibendum
Cherries all the way, with juicy aromas, savoury fruit and a well-balanced, mineral-infused palate with a long finish.

Humilitat Priorat 2008, Catalonia, Spain
£12.16 @ Enotria
Light, smoky aromas develop into bright black cherry freshness,’ said Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘With ripe fruit, a chalky finish, this is easy drinking.’ There’s good grip and spice, and the smokiness continues onto the finish.

The Gauntlet Monastrell 2008, La Bascula, Yecla, Spain
£12.41 @ Moreno Wines
Floral and smoky on the nose, this is a dark, inky, leathery wine with good extraction, a fine balance and well-integrated acidity. ‘Great vibrancy and minerality,’ said Roberto della Pietra.

Macia Batle Reserva Privada 2007, Binissalem Mallorca, Spain
£16.04 @ Boutinot
Red berries, cherry, liquorice and leather, we’re in savoury territory here. ‘The wine has a lot of complexity, with pronounced tannins,’ said Alvaro Marcos Garcia. ‘Integrated oak and some secondary, earthy fruit – complex,’ added Natasha Hughes.

Tabula 2006, Ribera del Duero, Spain
£18.47 @ Bibendum
Deep purple in colour, this has plenty of black plums on its ripe, warm nose and juicy palate. Rich and big, with quite obvious oak, this needs food to show its best. ‘Little black cherries, ripe tannins and a smooth finish,’ said Roberto della Pietra.

Valsotillo Reserva 2004, Ribera del Duero, Spain
£21.34 @ Boutinot
A serious wine with good fruit on the palate. The oak tannins dominate at the moment but its potential was recognised. Alexandre Céret reckoned it needed up to five years to be at its best.


Senorio de Sarria Vinedo No 7 Graciano 2008, Navarra, Spain
£6.44 @ Boutinot
After a pungent blast of brambles and nettles, the sweet bramble fruit follows onto the palate, lifted by citrus flavours. Pierre Hobeika was succinct: ‘Good!’

Finca Antigua Garnacha 2008, La Mancha, Spain
£6.48 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Ripe, dark cherries and plums to the fore, alongside savoury, meaty notes and a dash of oak. Rich with grippy tannins and fresh acids. ‘Well balanced,’ said Gergely Szabo.

Finca Santa Sabina 2007, Calatayud, Spain
£11.15 @ Enotria
Herbaceous and floral, this is quite perfumed, with ripe fruit and good complexity. ‘Quite long and nicely balanced, if a bit drying,’ said Natasha Hughes.

Torres Perpetual 2007, Priorat, Spain
£14.69 @ John E Fells & Sons
Ripe, supple cherries, this has a brisk, juicy freshness with plenty of dark fruits, spices, mocha and dark chocolate.

Tomas Cusine Geol 2007, Costers del Segre, Spain
£15 @ Bibendum
Vanilla and strawberry in character, this is mid-weight in structure with young, chalky tannins and a mineral finish. ‘With its opulence, power and good length, this is well made,’ said James Hocking.

Torres Mas La Plana 2007, Penedes, Spain
£20 @ John E Fells & Sons
A powerful wine with plum fruit aromas, dark cherries, a grainy texture of smoke, cedar and spice, and a long savoury finish. ‘This has great aromatics and a beautiful length,’ said James Hocking.

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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