Spain is one of the favourite wine-producing countries among Decanter readers. Sarah Jane Evans MW and Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW explain how to build the perfect Spanish cellar, including wines to buy for all budgets, their top tips, vintage guides and further reading on the subject.

Picture credit: Thomas Skovsende

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Spanish cellar: Insider tips

Picture credit: Thomas Skovsende

Insider tip #1

Try lesser wines from the most prestigious estates – they often provide unbeatable value. That’s why the £300 cellar selection here includes wines from producers that also appear in the £800 cellar selection.

Insider tip #2

Ignore the ‘official’ vintage ratings, provided by the appellations, as they are useless. During this century, not a single vintage in any region has been less than ‘Good’!

Insider tip #3

Spain’s dry climate is ideal for organic and biodynamic viticulture. Many top wineries do not indicate that they are organic on the labels, but you should find it on the winery website.

Insider tip #4

Spanish wine is good value for money, but avoid anything sold as a bargain. Heavily discounted wines tend to be mediocre.

Spanish cellar: Regions and vintages

Rioja

2012

Vines could not recover from the preceding stressing vintage; yields were quite low. The best wines can be even more concentrated than 2011. Ageing capacity is difficult to gauge at the moment.

2011

Even hotter than 2009, but without any rain to relieve the drought. Many wines needed heavy corrections. The best are probably among the densest Rioja wines ever.

2010

A warm and dry vintage, but less so than 2009. Excessive water stress was counterbalanced with timely rains. Balanced in general, some wines are outstanding. Ageworthy.

2009

A very warm and healthy vintage, with heavy rain at the end of the season resulting in a large harvest. The best producers released good-quality wines.

Ribera del Duero

2012

Another hot and dry year, but thanks to rains in July and September old vines produced elegant yet concentrated wines, with slightly less alcohol than in 2011.

2011

Officially rated ‘Excellent’, but this needs to be confirmed as the wines mature. A very hot year, with much heat stress.

2010

The dream vintage. Perfect, when phenolic maturity was in harmony with alcoholic maturity. Great ageing capacity for the best wines.

2009

Much hyped at release, it’s a warmer vintage than 2010, with lower acidities, so many wines are out of balance. The best are great, but many will pass their peak soon.

Priorat

2012

Dry weather and modest yields – a Garnacha year of great quality. The best wines will probably be more refined than 2011.

2011

A vintage of very long drought. Expect powerful, very concentrated wines.

2010

Wines are suppler than usual, and international varieties fared better than native grapes. Nice for mid-term consumption.

2009

Abundant harvest with many fresh and balanced wines. Not for long ageing.

Spanish cellar: Further reading

Picture credit: Thomas Skovsende

 

The most up-to-date information is online: foodswinesfromspain.com is a comprehensive, official site, with lots of data, while winesfromspainuk.com has news of events in the UK, plus maps and information. Specialist importers and retailers often have useful material on their websites.

The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain, by Jesús Barquín, Luis Gutiérrez and Victor de La Serna (2011). The most up-to-date book on Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Bierzo, Galicia and the Basque Country. Excellent, thorough descriptions and accurate analysis. Inevitably there have been changes since the book was written, but this remains a very useful guide with profiles – and superb portrait photos – of the leading producers.

The Vinologue series: Priorat (2014), Montsant (2014) and Empordà (2012) by Miquel Hudin and Elia Varela Serra. Useful pocket guides for visitors to the wineries and the regions.

  1. 1. Spanish cellar: Insider tips
  2. 2. Spanish cellar: Regions and vintages
  3. 3. Spanish cellar: Further reading
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