Wine: Spain's rising stars

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I was on parents-in-law duty when the New Wave Spanish Wine Awards competition was held in June, so I was absolved from judging duty this year. At least I was able to get along to this month's tasting of the 109 wines chosen from the 700-plus entries. This is supposed to be a line-up of the best Spanish wines available in the UK off-trade, but despite the overall quality of some of the entries, I couldn't fathom how a wine not imported into the UK was awarded Best Value White. This isn't to detract from the overall worth of the competition, which shines a beacon on Spain's broad spectrum of wine styles.

For the third year, the best of the white wines were once again the bracing fresh Galician albariños from Rias Baixas that go so well with seafood. Best value under £10 went to the 2006 Vina del Alva Albariño, £8.99, Lewis & Cooper, Northallerton (01609 772 880), Eagles Wines, Clapham (020-7223 7209). Equally worthy was a 2006 Vionta Albariño, £8.99-£9.99, Spain Direct (0870 0101787), with its bitter lemony twist, an aromatic, grapefruity 2006 Terra Gauda O Rosal Albariño, £10.99, Les Caves de Pyrène, Guildford (01483 538820), Philglas and Swiggot, London SW11 (020-7924 4494), and a bone dry 2006 Pazo San Mauro Albariño Pazo, £10.99, Handford (020-7221 9614). Galicia didn't have it all its own way. Rueda shows that it can more than compete with value for money whites like the 2006 Analivia Sauvignon Blanc from Pagos del Rey, £5.99, Free Run Wines, Wilts (01672 540990) and the lemony 2006 Castillo de Nava Verdejo / Sauvignon Blanc, around £6.99, Spain Direct, Bretby Wine, Swadlincote (01283 225029). Rosés are improving too, with the juicy, cherryish 2006 Marques de Rojas Rosado, £5.99, Avery's (01275 811100), the pick of the bunch.

While the lion's share of reds is supplied by the heavy artillery of rioja, ribera and priorat, Spain is showing it can compete at the level of everyday, value-for-money reds. Examples included Bodegas Piqueras' cherryish, peppery young 2006 Marques de Rojas, £5.79, Avery's and a strawberryish 2006 Casa de la Ermita Joven, around £6.99, Bibendum Wine (020-7449 4100). Best value red was the juicily moreish, cherry-strawberry delight of Bodegas Aragonesas' 2006 Tesco Finest Old Vines Tempranillo, £5.99, with 2002 Baron de Ley Club Privado Reserva, £10.99, or £7.33 on three for two, Thresher, taking the best under £10 red award. In contrast, there were one or two that were seriously overpriced, with the worst offender being the 2002 Divo, £95, complete with its obese 1.2kg bottle.

The much-heralded 2001 riojas were by and large a disappointment, outshone, surprisingly, by some superb 2002s, not least the aromatic, juicy 2002 Vina Salceda, Reserva, £10.99, Berkmann. Rioja from the fine 2004 vintage also showed well, in particular the sumptuously strawberryish 2004 Conde de la Salceda, £23.50, Berkmann Wine Cellars (020-7609 4711). Elsewhere, I found the 2004 Finca L'Argatà, £13.25, Laymont & Shaw, Devon (01872 270545), to be a real Catalonian original with its vibrant cherry fruit and well-crafted oak. Also distinctively Spanish was the intense, pure, berry-fruit rich 2004 Olvena Cuatro Somontano, around £11.99, Topsham Wines, Exeter (01392 874501), Henderson Wine, Edinburgh (0131 447 8580). The best red over £10 was won by a characterful, smoky 2004 Finca Terrerazo, Bodegas Mustiguillo, £21.95, The Flying Corkscrew, Herts (01442 412311), Halifax Wine Company (01422 256333), Green & Blue Wines, Clapham / Lordship Lane (020-7498 9648 / 020-8693 9250), rich in dark cherry and bitter chocolate character. Let's hope next year we'll see more of these exciting new wines on our shelves.

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