You would have thought that having already visited various wine regions of Spain on buying trips more than a dozen times over the last 25 years there would be very little that could surprise one. My latest jaunt, at the end of April, flew in the face of this idea whilst invigorating my love for Spanish wine.
Starting in the Ribera del Duero, located on Spain’s northern plateau, our intrepid party visited the Legaris winery. This winery grows all its grapes in small bunches and tends them by hand. This, combined with their judicious use of barrels, means that the wines have great concentration and are a brilliant match to barbecued meats. Next stop Rioja.
Rioja, in north-central Spain, is easily the most famous Spanish wine region and takes its name from the Rio (river) Oja. Bodegas Bilbaínas is one of the oldest estates in the D.O. and was one of the 10 original wineries to register as a bottler in the early 20th century. As land wasn’t as scarce at the time of its founding all of its vineyards surround the winery, so they have excellent control during each vintage.
Costers del Segre, to the north-west of Barcelona, was next on the agenda with a visit to the incredible Raimat vineyards. It’s hard to believe that 100 years ago the area was desert and it wasn’t until the Spanish government built a canal system that the area was turned over to vines. Raimat was the first winery to be established here and today produces around 85% of the D.O.’s wines in one of Europe’s largest vineyards. Their fantastically valued wines, made under the head winemaker Mark Nairn, have that typical Spanish wine depth and richness but also lovely elegance and length.
It’s been at least 25 years since I last visited Priorat and it has changed so much. Last time I visited there were four wineries; now there are in excess of 90! Going to Scala Dei was like visiting an old friend as I’d visited it on a previous trip. It’s the oldest winery in Priorat, dating back to the 12th century, and has a very limited production due to its low-yielding hand-harvested Garnatxa vines. The wines are stunning and I’ve picked out the Scala Dei Garnatxa as a brilliant example of modern Priorat winemaking. We also stock the flagship Scala Dei Cartoixa which gives a fantastic expression of the more traditional Priorat style.
Last up was Peñedes and a visit to Codorníu and their delicious Cavas. Cava, although much derided, is made in the Traditional Method (see Steph’s piece on p14) and offers great depth and structure without breaking the bank. The Ecologica is a great summer fizz and is a real crowd-pleaser.
Well, that was the trip finished; time to board the early flight home and read up on my notes. What was a sprint between five of Spain’s best regions became the perfect opportunity to rekindle a love-affair with Spanish wines. I hope you enjoy the selection – it was tricky keeping it to six.