Marie's Article: The New Elegant Spain

July 30th, 2012

I have never been a great fan of Spanish wines. Most have been too heavy, flabby and jammy for my taste, but I must say that things are changing. Guess I need to seriously reconsider my opinion of Spanish wines. I have been tasting many extraordinarily good wines in the last half year, wines very different from the style that always made me chose something more “northern” with my dinner, if possible.

It seems that a new wave of winemakers are starting to demonstrate that it is indeed possible to produce crisp, vibrant wines down here. The first two wines that opened my eyes to this change were Ekam and Taleia, both from Castell d’Encus – remarkably light, fresh and elegant wines with a dancing acidity that almost reminds me of Germany!  That is a pretty big thing coming from a German Riesling aficionado like me… Ekam is a Riesling and Taleia is a Sauvignon Blanc with some Semillon. Both wines are made by Torres’ long-serving technical director Raül Bobet in extremely cool vineyards in the sub-Pyrenees at 800-1,000 meters altitude. Both wines offer an elegance formerly unknown to me here in this part of Europe.

The tendency to move higher and higher up in the mountains is a direct consequence of global warming. Raül Bobet is not the only one to understand this. One of the next Spanish wines to take my breath away was Lalama, made at the Dominio Do Bibei estate in Ribeira Sacra, supervised by the gifted Priorat wine duo Sara Perez and René Barbier. It has high altitude vineyards on steep terraces planted with mainly Mencia, a variety that I am soon going to announce as my up-and-coming favorite variety! Its velvet character, vibrant fresh fruit and classic firm tannins are simply amazing, and I cannot wait to try the other wines from this great estate! I heard they make two whites. Should surely be interesting!

I then came across a bottle of Viña San Román from Bodegas Maurodos lately, one of the projects by the former Vega Sicilia winemaker Mariano Garcia. It’s based in the region of Toro, or to be more precise, in the locality called Pedrosa del Rey. The fact that in Spanish “pedrosa” means stony and “rey” king gives you an idea of how the vineyards look. Again situated at a high altitude, it was planted some 35 years ago with 100% Tinta de Toro. This is a wine that offers an incredible balance between concentration and finesse. Dense pure black fruit with chewy tannins backed up by an impressive minerality and silky texture. More concentrated than the other wines mentioned here, but still with that incredible drinkability to it that I always used to miss in Spanish wines.

It seems like I no longer have to travel north to find wines that I like. Decision made; I will start tasting and drinking Spanish wines again!

Marie von Ahm is a Dane living in Barcelona and the founder of VonAhm Ltd, a wine consultancy.


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