The very best of Spain's wine

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Top 100 lists are everywhere at the moment: rich lists, pop charts, Channel 4 countdowns, the FTSE - you name it, there's a ton for it. Now it's wine's turn. Producers like the recognition, retailers the sales and consumers are handed a useful tool to help sort the wheat from the chaff. Or at least what the judging panel at the time decided on the basis of the wines entered because, let's face it, no such competition can be definitive. That shouldn't detract from the fact that Wines from Spain agreed to submit nearly 700 wines in September (with under £3.99 wines excluded) to the scrutiny of a panel of 12 wine judges. Our job was to come up with a top 100.

The diversity of Spain's whites came as a pleasant surprise. Galicia's albariño is Spain's most consistently classy dry white and the Galician white section showed well, notably with the trophy-winning 2004 Bodegas Valdamor Albariño, £10.25 bottle / case ( www.spanishwinesonline.co.uk) and the consistently refreshing 2004 Lagar de Cervera, around £9.99-£10.75, Philglas & Swiggot (020-7924 4494), Laymont & Shaw (01872 270545). In addition to a brilliant value 2004 Altozano Verdejo, £4.99, two for £8 from Wednesday, Somerfield, there was a wonderfully fragrant 2004 Enate Gewürztraminer Somontano, around £8.99-£9.95, Avery's (08451 283797), Steep Hill Wines (01522 544737), a characterful Basque dry white, 2004 Txomin Etxaniz Gétariako Txaklina, £9.99, Moreno Wines (020-7286 0678), and a gorgeously luscious, complex sweetie from Navarra, the 2002 Julian Chivite Coleccion 125 Vendimia Tardia Moscatel, around £15.40, half-bottle, Peake Wines (01329 822733).

Not unexpectedly, rioja featured strongly with nearly a quarter of the top 100 winners. The trophy here went to the 2001 Bodegas Riojanas Gran Albiña Rioja, £18.99-£19.99, Noble Rot (01527 575606), Luckins (01371 872839), a seamless, classic style that thoroughly deserved its gong. It was not outclassed by the 2001 Roda 1 Reserve, £29.99, Oddbins, a great modern, stylish rioja, and there were excellent performances from Bodegas Luis Cañas, Riojanas, Medievo, Marques de Cáceres and Viña Herminia.

It was surprising that the world-class region of Ribera del Duero supplied only six winners, even more so that Priorat and the much-vaunted Toro managed only three each. Spain's emerging red wine regions, notably Jumilla, Calatayud and Campo de Borja, showed some excellent value wines. From Jumilla in particular, there was the 2004 Juan Gil Monastrel, £4.99-£5.99, DeFine Food & Wine (01606 882101), Corks of Cotham (0117-973 1620), Noel Young (01223 844744), the vibrant, strawberryish 2004 Casa de la Ermita Joven, £6.50, Noel Young, and the excellent 2004 Casa Castillo Vendimia, around £5.95, Roberson Wine Merchant (020-7371 2121).

The fortified wines of Sherry and Montilla came second only to rioja with 17 winners. They included well-known names like Hidalgo's La Gitana, Tio Pepe from Gonzalez Byass and good old Harveys Pale Cream. Given its uniqueness and quality in-depth, it's a shame that a style still often perceived as old-fashioned is having to fight so hard to receive its just desserts. The trophy winner was the fabulously nutty, evolved dry Domecq Amontillado 51-1a VORS, 30 Years Sherry, £45, Steep Hill Wines, while one of the most surprising top 100 winners was the excellent Perez Barquero Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez, Montilla, 50cl, £6.49, Waitrose. E

Anthony Rose is Glenfiddich Wine Writer of the Year

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