With each passing year, the Wines from Spain Awards throw up more variety and better quality across the board. Chosen from nearly 1,000 wines, the top awards demonstrate that while rioja is still a vital part of what Spain does well, there is so much more to the country’s wine today in style, in quality and in value. Spain in many ways is Europe’s greatest hope for a challenge to the New World dominance of the past two decades.
Twenty years ago, Spanish white wines got little attention, but Galicia and Rueda have created a sea-change in the appetisingly clean-cut, dry styles. Galicia got the ball rolling with its crisp, seafood-friendly albariño whites, so it was no coincidence that the award for the best white over £10 this month went jointly to two delicious Galician examples.
Not surprisingly, one award went to the 2012 Pazo de Señorans, The Society’s Exhibition Albariño, £12.95, The Wine
Society, a crystalline beauty of crisp saline purity. The other, made from the godello grape and utterly different in style, was the 2012, Louro, Rafael Palacios, £16.95, Noel Young (01223 566744), Bottle Apostle (020-8985 1549), Harvey Nichols, a superbly rich, intense dry Valdeorras white framed by subtle oak in white burgundy mould.
The rioja award went to a newcomer, a vanilla oak-matured 2007 Gómez Cruzado, £17.99, Laithwaites (08451947711), while Best Red over £10 was for the 2011 Elios, Costers del Priorat, £11.75 (vi-vino.co.uk), a rich, ripe blackberry-filled Catalonian blend of garnacha, cariñena and syrah.
True class doesn’t come cheap but was on ample display in the Best Premium Red and Best of Show. Made from the tempranillo grape, the 2009 Cillar de Silos, around £35, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 2802440), Oddbins, is a seamless Ribera del Duero whose elegant damsonfreshness belies the concentration of berry fruit and delicate oak smokiness.
There’s Spanish gold in its sweet and fortified wines, in particular the range of ever-improving sherries made in styles ranging from the saltily bonedry to the rich and sweet. The Best Value Dry Fortified was the Lustau Palo Cortado, £9.75, Waitrose, rich yet dry, toffee caramel-scented and nutty flavoured, while Best Dry Fortified went to the caramel-rich Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso, £22.99, Philglas & Swigott (020-7924 4494), Hennings (01798 872485).
Best Sweet wine was a welcome surprise because at only 13 per cent alcohol, the 2012 Bodegas Jorge Ordoñez No 2 Victoria, £13.49, Harvey Nichols, Highbury Vintners (020-7226 1347), Victor Hugo Wines (01534 764044), is an exotic nectar of wonderfully fragrant and intense bunch-of-grapes richness from Malaga, with a piercing freshness.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
2010 Morrisons Signature Saint-Véran, Vignerons des Terres Secrètes
This ripe chardonnay spends a short time on its lees, which brings a delicate nutty character and adds creaminess of texture. £8.99, Morrisons
2013 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling
There’s a lively energy and zest to this new vintage Clare Valley riesling whose fragrant lemon and lime notes are followed by a dry, citrus zing. £13.99, buy 2 = £9.99, Majestic
2011 Sabináres, Blanco de Garda, Arlanza
Made from a blend of albillo and viura grapes, this dry white from DO Arlanza in northern Spain is richly concentrated with stonefruit flavours. £25, Laithwaites (0845 1947711)