The Wines From Spain awards 2012 - tasting the winners

by Neil Morris - 01 October 2012

Editor Neil Morris takes on the difficult challenge of sampling the 110 best wines in Spain....

Last week I tasted the 110 wines that made it on to the final list of the 2012 Wines from Spain awards. It has to be said that the judges did a great job (and its harder than you might think) in tasting over 900 wines and presenting a definitive showcase of the very best that Spain has to offer. The wines also demonstrated amazing value; starting from as little as £4.99 and the majority below £15, the value to quality ratio in Spain is probably the best in the world right now.

The best of show wines were technically wonderful and well-balanced as expected but despite their brilliance it was some of the less sophisticated but more interesting and challenging wines that caught my attention. For me, Spanish wine is all about character; I don't compare them to French, Italian or New World wines because that ignores the nuances and variations in climate, soil, methodology and culture that separates these wines, and the benchmarks should be suitably varied. I want my Spanish wine to be undeniably...well, 'Spanish'.

Reds

The first red to grab my attention was the Bodegas Abanico 'Manium 2008' made from 100% Mencia from the Bierzo D.O. First impressions count and the deeply concentrated colour was instantly inviting and followed up nicely by the aromas of wood, spice, smoke and forest fruits. The wine was slightly sweet but smooth with a lingering finish.

The Bodegas Borsao 'Borsao Seleccion Tinto 2011' from the Campo de Borja D.O was bold, vibrant and deep in colour with dark fruit on the nose. There were lots of berry flavours with a good smack of black pepper.

As I moved along the table I came to a small section of wines that took me on a wonderful journey down the less trodden path of Spanish wine. First up was the Bodegas Atalaya 'Laya 2010' from the Almansa D.O which impresses with its lovely dark purple colour and aromas of dark cherry and liquorice spice. The sweet fruit favours are bold but beautifully balanced and lead into wonderful spice and mocha flavors with subtle tannins. Full of flavour and easy to drink, I was really impressed with this one at only £7.99.

The Cellar el Masroig 'Castell de Les Pinyeres 2008' from Montsant D.O. was another fine example of easy-drinking elegance. Strong fruit aromas with earthy hints of smoke and spice on the nose. Sweet and silky fruit flavours balanced by lovely acidity and a long, lingering finish. Great stuff.

The wonderfully biodynamic Ponce 'Pie Franco 2010' from D.O Manchuela is made from 100% ungrafted Bobal vines. This unadulterated approach fully showcases the properties of the grape, in this case, the berry sweetness and herby notes of the Bobal. There are big blasts of fruit accompanied by hints of rosemary, sage and moss on the nose and the flavour is fresh and mineral with a savoury texture and a hint of oak. High quality hand-crafted wine with very limited production.

Next up was '12 volts 2010', the latest biodynamic wine from 4 Kilos, a couple of independent producers from Mallorca who are rapidly making a name for themselves. It is a blend of Callet-Fogneau, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot and is classified as a Vino de la Tierra (VdlT) Mallorca. The wine is elegant and full-bodied with lots of luscious red fruit on the nose and a wonderfully spicy flavour. It is crisp and mouth-watering on the palate with a satisfying finish of soft oak. A great example of well-crafted organic garage wine gaining mass-market appeal. Exciting.

A mention should go to the delicious 'Morlanda Crianza 2007' from Priorat DOCa, with its lovely tones of black forest fruits and chocolate.

Of the sublime selection of wines from Ribera del Duero, I was particularly impressed by the complexity of the 'Pago de Los Capellanes 2008' with its captivating fruit aromas and hints of vanilla, aniseed and spice. This is a rich and exotic wine with great balance and a finish to die for.

As expected there was a wonderful selection of Riojas on show but it was the 'Tuerce Botas 2009' that caught my attention. Bold and expressive, this 100% Graciano wine has the lot; flowery and fruity with hints of toast on the nose, contrasted by indulgent flavours of dark fruit, chocolate and violet. Stunning.

Other honourable Rioja mentions go to the 'Amaren Reserva 2005' from Bodegas Luis Cañas and the 'Viña Ardanza Rioja Reserva Especial 2001' from La Rioja Alta.

Cavas

Of the handful of Cavas that made it on to the list I was impressed by the wonderfully sophisticated flavours of the 'Castillo Perelada Reserva'. Hints of lemon and subtle fruit with a very grown-up taste and a real bargain at £9.99.

Whites

Although the selection was fairly small, Spain once again proved that it should be taken seriously when it comes to White wines; the quality was very high and once again the Wines from Spain awards judges got it spot on with their shortlist.

Personally, I was impressed by the Finca Constancia 'Parcela 52 2011', a VdlT from Castilla with wonderful aromas of summer and tropical fruit flavours. Very well structured with plenty of character.

The Parxet 'Marqués de Alella 2011' from D.O Alella also had lots of personality with its big fruity attitude and crisp freshness. Balanced and beautifully constructed, it really captures the essence of the Pansa Blanca variety.

Rosados

There were a mere handful of Rosados but the 'Gran Vega 2011' from Campo de Borja seemed like great value with a price tag of just £4.99 and the 'Macia Batle 2011' from the Binissalem-Mallorca D.O, with its fresh hits of intense peach and strawberry fruit, had the confident attributes of a perfectly-balanced summer wine.

Fortified wines

The stand out fortified wine for me was the 'Waitrose Solera Jerezana Rich Cream'; an own label wine of exceptional quality and value at only £8.99. This faultless wine - which also wowed the judges who awarded it the Wines from Spain awards 'best own label' - would prove a worthy match for even the richest of puddings.

The full list of winners

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