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Wines of the week: 8 bottles of Spanish wine that aren't rioja

We think we know Spanish wine. But we don't really. Terry Kirby shines a light on the lesser known regions of the country

Spain, for those who know it only as a source of rioja, cava and sangria, is a place of extraordinary variety in wine: from the mineral but salty whites of Galicia in the north west to the incredible wines in the Sherry Triangle towns of the south.

Much of this was in evidence at the recent Spanish government backed WinesfromSpain tasting at London’s high rise Sky Garden venue in the City. The glamour of the design and sheer magnificence of the bird’s eye views across London – the Thames a shimmering steel grey in the winter light – was well matched by the wines themselves, which contrastingly brought to mind sun-drenched vineyards and ancient cities, such is the power of wine to transport the mind.

We will return later, naturally, to the more celebrated regions, such as the behemoth that is Rioja or the showpiece of Priorat, here is just a small fraction of some of the less familiar wines on show to the press and the trade. Starting with the Rias Baixis region of coastal inlets in the north-west – green, wet and not really a typical wine landscape – it produces wines such as the gorgeous Albarino Martin Codex 2016 (£13.49 or £11.99 if bought as part of a mixed six bottle purchase; Majestic.co.uk) a cross between viognier and chardonnay, floral and fragrant, but crisp and dry on the palate, it’s ideal with shellfish or crustacea.

Galicia is not normally associated with red wines, but a stunning example is the Xose Lois Sebio Superheroe Ribereiro 2015 (£23.44 corkingwines.co.uk) made from a blend of many local grapes such as ferrol and souson (no, not familiar to me either) it is complex, intense, savoury yet fresh and balanced.

Moving south east to the rocky inland province of Zaragoza, in the Calatayud area the Garnacha grape thrives on poor stony soils to produce dark, rustic wines, of which the Cubist Old Vine Garnacha (£9.99 Waitrosecellar.com) is a great example of the kind of mid-priced, robust unpretentious wines that are derived from this grape in many parts of Spain; slightly violet tinged, ideal with grilled or barbecued meats. Still in the north of Spain, in the Navarra region bordering Rioja, the Graciano grape, frequently blended with tempranillo but possessed of its own distinct qualities, displays its invidual qualities in the plummy, aromatic but still full bodied Vina Zorzal Graciano 2015 (£7.95 Winesociety.com).

Most of central Spain is about red wines but the despite being hemmed in red winemaking areas, the Rueda region along the Duero River north of Madrid is celebrated for the highly aromatic, green herb and fennel tinged, dry whites made mostly from the verdejo grape; try the Protos Verdejo 2016 (£11.99 oxfordwine.co.uk). A great match with all fish and vegetable dishes.

Of course, Spain is as well known for its islands such as the Balearics and the Canaries where good, interesting wines are produced and often drunk there when we are on holiday, but very little of which actually makes it back to the UK. Two on show included the organic 12 Volts Mallorca 2016, ( £25.00 Robersonwine.com £26.00 Highburyvintners.co.uk) a fascinating blend of the local grape callet-fogoneu with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah: complex, rich but with a vibrant, fresh underpinning, packed with dark berry fruit flavours and a whiff of green herbs; try it with tumbet, the Mallorquin vegetable casserole. Utterly different was the Envinate Benje 2016 (£24.00 Vincognito.co.uk) made mostly from ancient vines of the local grape Listan Prieto (another new one...) grown at altitude on volcanic soils on Tenerife in the Canaries it is fragrant and succulent, with bright fruits and herbal tinges and is reminiscent of pais, the revitalised Chilean grape.

Back on the mainland and to the sherry town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, where very dry, often saline tinged wines are produced from the Palomino Fino grape. The Gonzalez Byass Palma range are specially aged sherries, drawn from certain casks and delivering real complex intensity of nutty, savoury, yeasty flavour deriving from the layer of “flor” or yeast why lies on top of the wine. Try the eight-year-old Tio Pepe Fino Dos Palmas NV (50cl £16.99 Thegeneralwine.co.uk; £17.99 Laithwaites.co.uk) bottled unfiltered this is a distinctive wine to be drunk as an aperitif, with salty nibbles or light tapas, such as serrano ham and manchego cheese. And a splendid emblem of the stunning individuality and diversity of Spanish wines.

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