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04 July 2008

New Wave Spanish wine awards 2008

This thought-provoking tasting, held in London in July 2008, was designed as a showcase for the top 100+ Spanish wines deemed award-worthy, which had already been selected from a considerably more marathon taste-off judged by a team of UK trade and press hardened palates. Although there were some great wines here - see my pick below - I have to say I was disappointed. Part of the problem was the perennial difficulty of keeping white, rosé and sparkling wines pleasantly cool in a warm room without killing them off with ice. So some of these styles would probably show better well-chilled with food: e.g. Castillo de Perelada Cava Rosado Brut (usually very fruity, refreshing and quite classy; £8.99); Tesco's 2007 Finest Albariño from Rías Baixas in Galicia, in the northwest (zesty, juicy and elegant; £6.19); or the two Rueda whites from Bodegas Antaño.
As for the reds, I wasn't the only one who found lots of very oaky, over-extracted and unbalanced (too powerful) wines that left me wondering whether some Spanish winemakers have really moved forwards. Especially from the trendy regions of Ribera del Duero, Priorat and up-and-coming Vino de la Tierra areas such as Castilla y León. For example, Abadía Retuerta's 2005 Pago Garduna (impressive competition wine but undrinkable; but I did like their less expensive one, see below), the 2004 Durius Magister (wood and alcohol) or Marqués de Grinon's cult Eméritus 2004 (trying to be grown up but so immature). And a few of the Catalan reds didn't deliver what I'd hoped for. Actually, call me old-fashioned but the best, certainly most enjoyable, reds on tasting were good old charming Rioja (although some quite expensive): so I've done a separate paragraph for those. As for the multitude of different sherries, it's been said before by winey types what high quality and relatively good value you get; but sadly does anybody else drink these unique wines? Hardly 'new wave' though. Anyway, I loved some of them! As ever, the rant is now over and out and, for what it's worth, here's what made the earth move for me.

Key: Producer Wine Grape variety Region - "Awarded..." £UK retail price and agent 100 point scale.


Adegas d'Altamira
2007 Brandal
Rías Baixas (13%) - aromatic mix of grape juice and celery; a bit more weight on the palate than some of the others from this region (perhaps the slightly higher alcohol), giving it more length and presence with lively fresh acidity too. £8.99 Oakley Wine Agencies. 87-89
Pazo de Señorans
2003 Selección Añada Rías Baixas (12.5%) - complex greengage flavours enhanced by a very oily Riesling type profile, rounded and mature yet still with firm acidity underneath; it's good and certainly different but £40 a bottle?! Shipped by Vinites. 87-89
Marqués de Murrieta
2003 Capellanía Rioja (13.5%) - mature oxidised Fino sherry notes move on to nutty textured and very dry mouth-feel, intricate lingering flavours; drinking now, I like it but many won't! £14.50 Maisons Marques & Domaines. 89-91


Bodegas Victoria
2007 Pardina Cariñena (13.5%) - delicious strawberry and raspberry fruit, nice juicy v weighty mouth-feel then crisp dry finish; very attractive foodie rosé. £4.99 Anglo Peruvian Trading. 87
Bodegas Santo Cristo
2007 Viña Collado Campo de Borja - more 'serious' and biscuity in style, has a tad of dry tannin even v rich juicy fruit. £5.50 Burridges of Arlington St. 87


Abadía Retuerta
2005 Selección Especial Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León (14%) - lush blackberry and spice flavours layered with stonky, extracted tannins and rich fruit; but in the end it's balanced showing nice panache. £16.49 Liberty Wines. 89-91
Bodegas Fariña
1998 Gran Colegiata Reserva
Toro (13.5%) - mature savoury mint edged v berry fruit, at its best but has enough of that attractive savoury tobacco fruit and firm tannins to pull it off. £14.25 Bibendum Wines. 89
Jean León
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Penedés (13.5%) - nice savoury and leather tones with dried cassis fruit (and a tad of old wood?), still firmly structured v mature fruit and quite charming old-fashioned style. £13.95 Bibendum Wines. 87-89
2006 Monastrell Yecla (14%) - not a fancy wine but finally, after too many hard woody fiery reds, something with nice black cherry and olive fruit, aromatic v chunky with attractive fruity finish. £5.49 Averys. Value. 87
Bodegas San Marcos
2007 Pilgrimage Mazuelo Extremadura (14%) - wild rustic fruit with black cherry/berry and light leather edges, powerful palate yet nice compensating fruit. £6.99 Guy Anderson Wines. 87
Bodegas Ochoa
2005 Graciano/Garnacha Navarra (13%) - chocolate oak up front, this has nice depth of smoky fruit, firm mouth-feel but it's more generous. "Best red under £10." £8.99 Pol Roger UK. 87-89
Bodegas Julian Chivite
2002 Colección 125 Reserva Navarra (13.5%) - also oaky but there's definitely something going on here, with its compelling herbal smoky tones; pretty rich v solid palate with power, fair class and balance. £20+ Berkmann Wine Cellars. 90


Bodegas Palacio
2005 Cosme Palacio (13.5%) - quite oaky and extracted although there's some attractive smoky ripe fruit lurking underneath, tight long finish. £8.49 Antonio Barceló. 89+?
2005 Palacio Crianza (13%) - drinking well now, has nice resin v rustic v vibrant fruit; oily texture yet solid rounded tannins. £6.99 Antonio Barceló. 89
2004 Cosme Palacio Reserva (13.5%) - again oaky and extracted but its pure concentration and depth of fruit win you over; very tight and fresh finish with some underlying class. £12.99 Antonio Barceló. 89-91
2005 Viña del Olivo (mostly Tempranillo + Graciano 14%) - seductive oak coating but this is rich and concentrated, elegant too despite its punch on the finish; that oak dominates at the moment but this is classy and has plenty of life ahead of it. £45 Hatch Mansfield. 90-92
2001 Viña del Olivo (mostly Tempranillo + Graciano 14%) - complex meaty and 'cheesy', very tasty palate showing class and elegance, maturing v still tight and focused. £45 Hatch Mansfield. 92-94
2001 Real de Asúa (14%) - lovely smoky maturing fruit with very light cedar texture; lush v tightly focused mouth-feel, fine acidity and poise too. Yum. £45 Hatch Mansfield. 92-94
Bodegas Luis Cañas
2005 Hiru 3 Racimos
(14.5%) - impressive extracted style although it shows good fruit v very firm dry tannins; a bit of a monster but it's still better balanced than certain wines from certain regions. £60! Alliance Wine. 89
2002 Reserva Especial Amaren (Tempranillo 14%) - cheesy v vanilla oaky v fruity, powerhouse extracted palate, vibrant fruit v grippy tannins; the latter a bit much but overall this has style. "Best red of the show." £25 Laithwaite's. 90-92
Bodegas Viña Herminia
2004 Crianza
(14%) - quite tight and fine with cedar grained texture, revealing nice savoury fruit underneath. £8.49 Michael Hall Wines. 88-90
Bodega Ysios
2004 Reserva (13.5%) - lots of coco and choc oak but this has real class, concentration and power all together; very taut framework of fresh tannins and acidity, needs 5+ years to develop. "Joint best red over £10," so at £14.99 (Pernod Ricard UK has stockist info) better value than some of the dearer ones. 94
Bodegas Roda
2004 Roda I Reserva (14.5%) - attractive and intricate nose with 'cheesy' meaty notes; this is serious stuff with powerful solid mouth-feel v superb depth and class, savoury v liquorice finish; the alcohol is just a bit out of kilter but a great wine (I'd have graded it 95 otherwise). £35 Mentzendorff. 92-94
2004 Roda Reserva (14%) - again has that old-fashioned complex meaty cheesy nose; concentrated and refined palate, finishing firm yet elegant and well balanced. £24 Mentzendorff. 93-95


Bodegas Valdivia
La Rubia Manzanilla - pretty classic style showing fresh toasted almonds; very dry with nice refreshing yeasty tang. £7.50 50cl Laymont & Shaw. 87-89
Sacramonte Oloroso (20%) - Madeira-like intricate, weird and wonderful nose; intense roasted walnuts, super tangy and long although a bit 'hotter' than Lustau's (below). £15. 93
Tesco Finest Manzanilla Pasada - an aged Manzanilla style, very crisp v oily and nutty with nice bite v weight; different. £6.99. 87-89
La Gitana Jerez Cortado Wellington VOS (17.5%) - 'lighter' alcohol, again nice walnut v almond v yeasty v caramel; dry intense long finish. £20 Mentzendorff. 90+
Manzanilla Olorosa - attractive traditional dry Amontillado style with plenty of Brazil nut flavour; good bite and complex long finish. £11.49 37.5cl Laithwaites. 89-91
Waitrose Solera Jerezana Puerto Fino (16.5%) - roasted almonds mingle with an enticingly odd 'cheesy' complexity, a bit wacky; very dry v oily and nutty texture/flavour, delicious actually. "Best own label sherry." £7.49 = value. 90-92
Dry Oloroso (20%) - wow, what incredible flavours; powerful yeasty tangy characters v toasted hazelnuts and caramel; very long developing finish. £17 Laithwaites. 95
Beltran Domecq at Harveys
Fine Old Amontillado VORS (19%) - voluptuous haunting nose, rich and nutty v very dry and alive; lovely style, class and length. "Joint best dry Sherry." £20 Beam Global. 95
Palo Cortado VORS (19%) - caramelised hazel/walnut with fresher almond notes too; tight and tangy palate, once again classy and long v dry and intense. £20. 90+
Royal Esmeralda VOS Dry Amontillado (20%) - richer and more 'caramelised' than above, delicious tangy yeasty flavours set against walnut and Brazil 'sweetness'. £11 Stevens Garnier. 92-94
Fernando de Castilla
Antique Oloroso (20%) - more vanilla and caramel than some of the others; tight, tangy and complex though with enticing roasted nut flavours; also a bit 'hot' but it's very nice. £20 Boutinot. 90

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