A true heavyweight of the European wine scene, Spain has long been the go-to destination for bold reds and characterful whites made in a reassuringly classic style.
From Rioja to Albariño, Spain provides well-known names on wine lists around the world. Scratch the surface, however, and you’ll find varied and dynamic winemaking – both in classic regions and those that are less well-known.
Scroll down for tasting notes and scores for 18 top new Spanish wines
Spain’s current winemaking trends
Modern Spain’s cultural portfolio stretches from food and football to art and architecture; this is a culture where innovation and excitement rub shoulders with the traditional and time-honoured.
Wine, of course, plays its part here and there’s a new wave of Spanish winemakers whose wines are pushing the boundaries with tremendous results.
This transformation has manifested itself in a number of key trends. These include the use of lesser known – or less fashionable – grape varieties, experiments with international and indigenous grape blends, the use of old vines in single parcel wines or eschewing new oak.
This last one is important because many Spanish winemakers are keen to enunciate how and why they are using less new oak. Instead they focus on what alternatives – such as neutral oak, or increasingly, inert vessels such as concrete, steel and amphora – can bring to the wine.
Where are the movers and shakers?
In the case of one of Spain’s most famous exports Rioja – a wine traditionally characterised and identified by its oak flavour – many producers are now dialling down the oak character and allowing the fruit to shine.
In some cases no oak is used at all, giving the resulting wines an almost Beaujolais Cru-like character. See the MacRobert & Canals Rioja below.
It’s not just in Rioja where this shift is occurring. Take Txakoli from the Basque Country in northern Spain. Today while the majority of wines here are being made in a traditional style – showcasing the Hondarrabi Zuri grape in all its racy, mineral glory – a few producers are taking things in a different direction.
They’re choosing to draw out honey and tropical fruit characters in their wines, with interesting results.
On the path of rediscovery
These sideways moves by winemakers aiming for something different – and arguably something more modern – are fascinating to see and, of course, to taste.
While some are inspired by winemaking trends outside of Spain, it’s worth noting that in many cases winemakers are not discovering anything new.
Instead they are rediscovering the traditional grapes of the region, reviving old vines and old winemaking practices.
In fact, often it is the wine drinkers who are making new discoveries: unknown regions, unfamiliar grape varieties or styles of wine they haven’t tried before.
However these discoveries are made, Spain is an exciting place at the moment.
Best new Spanish wines to try:
Wines shown in order by style and score