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Castilla y León – Another year of triumph at the DWWA

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Wines from northwestern Spain swept the board with 461 awards

The landlocked region of Castilla y León in northwestern Spain is home to a diverse range of dramatic terroirs, producing an equally varied assortment of wines. Forming the northern half of the Meseta Central, and separated from Castilla la Mancha by the Sistema Central mountain range and Madrid itself, Castilla y León is geographically the country’s largest wine-producing region.

Outside the historic cities of Salamanca and Segovia, its arid plains are still home to decades-old bush vines, while the mountains that border the region host high-elevation vineyards. Historically, Tempranillo’s robust reds were Castilla y León’s most famous wines, but today the region produces impressive whites as well.

The expansive region is home to some of Spain’s most recognisable wines, with its best-known appellations becoming household names known for high-quality wines – as shown in this year’s edition of the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA), with a whopping total of 461 medal-winners.

Vinedo Castilllo de Penafiel

Quality and value

As well as its famed DOs, Castilla y León is also well known as a source of great-value lesser-known bottles, especially since the region is home to an extensive range of Vino de la Tierra wines. This classification offers an opportunity to experience the full breadth of winemakers’ creativity and innovation, using a wider array of grape varieties, and has led to standout wines based on Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Syrah/Shiraz, as well as niche local varieties such as Prieto Picudo.

These wines can come from all over Castilla y León, benefitting from the full range of the region’s varied terroirs. An impressive 33 awards, including 11 silver medals, went to Vino de la Tierra wines, including varietal Albillos, Prieto Picudos, Tempranillos and red blends including international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.

The standard bearers

Perhaps the region’s most famous DO, Ribera del Duero, has long been producing long-lived, intensely concentrated Tempranillos (locally known as Tinto Fino due to the smaller, more concentrated berries of the Ribera-specific phenotype). It should come as no surprise that the DO was a standout at DWWA 2023, garnering a total of 210 medals.

This included 99 silvers and an outstanding 15 golds – both of which represented improvements on the DO’s already stunning 2022 performance. Special mention, however, must go to the four producers that won platinum medals, reserved for wines scoring 97 points or more: Bodegas Bardos, Pago de los Capellanes, Bodega Los Astrales and Bodegas Balbás.

The region’s oldest DO, Rueda, located south of Valladolid, has built its reputation on fresh, aromatic wines using the indigenous Verdejo grape; a total of 94 Rueda wines were DWWA medal-winners this year.

Lying on both banks of the river Duero in the west of Castilla y León is Tierra del Vino de Zamora. Of the wines submitted by the DO, four were awarded medals, of which two were silver and one – for Viñas Del Cénit’s Cénit 2020, a blend of Malvasía, Albillo Real and Godello, scoring 95 points – was gold.

In contrast, powerful reds – based on a local strain of Tempranillo known as Tinta de Toro – are the speciality of Toro, a small DO nestled between Rueda and Tierra del Vino de Zamora. The DO also found favour with the DWWA judges, with 58 of its wines awarded medals, including 28 silvers. Gold medals were awarded to Viñaguareña’s ‘extremely accomplished, intense and complex’ Munia Especial 2020 and Bodegas Carodorum’s ‘supremely elegant… very concentrated and impossibly long’ Seleccion Especial 2018, both of which garnered 95 points.

Vinedos Bierzos

In the far northwest, bordering Galicia, the small DO of Bierzo benefits from stronger moderating Atlantic influences than the rest of Castilla y León, with a wetter, cooler climate and plains of clay and alluvial soils. The DO produces crisp whites with the indigenous Godello and light-bodied red and rosé Mencías. Some 35 medals were awarded to wines from the Bierzo DO, including 14 silver medals and a gold for Tenoira Gayoso’s La Padorniña Mencía 2020, which the DWWA judges awarded 95 points, calling it ‘truly remarkable’ and ‘little short of mesmerising.’

Finally, to the credit of not only Bierzo DO but Castilla y León as a whole, Las Tres Filas Mencía from Bodegas y Viñedos Merayo was awarded a Best in Show distinction in addition to a 97-point nod. The DWWA judges were struck by its ‘vivacious and urgent’ bouquet, ‘energy derived both from ripe acidity and fresh though smooth tannins’ and a stony finish ‘perhaps derived from the region’s slate soils’. These results are all the more impressive in the context of the severe challenges Castilla y León’s winemakers have had to overcome in recent years.

In a region that was already characterised by extremes, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires have threatened wine production and forced winemakers to find new solutions in the face of harsh and unpredictable weather events. The consistently high quality of Castilla y León’s wines across many appellations, both DOs and Vino de la Tierra, as highlighted by the DWWA 2023 results, is a testament to its winemakers’ commitment, ingenuity and resolve.

Castilla y León – 24 DWWA winners to seek out

559999 Bodegas Merayo Las Tres Filas 2018

Bodegas y Viñedos Merayo, Las Tres Filas Mencía, DO Bierzo, Spain
Best in Show
UK importer Alliance / US importer Votto Wines
From 80-year-old vines a stone’s throw over the provincial border into Castilla y León, Bodegas y Viñedos Merayo’s 2020 Bierzo scooped Best in Show. The DWWA judges praised its vivacious nose of ‘wild plums mingled with the woodland scents of leaf, copse and forest floor’ as well as its vibrant, well-fruited palate and ‘stony, bitter-edged finish’ evoking the region’s slate soils. Alc 14%
97 points

Rodriguez Sanzo Las Tierras Extinta 2016

Bodegas Rodriguez y Sanzo, Las Tierras Extinta Reserva, Reserva, DO Toro, Spain
UK £17.50 Oakley Wine Agencies / US $30 Matinicus
Bodegas Rodriguez y Sanzo produces this wine from 100% Tinta de Toro, from ungrafted vines in San Román de Hornija. The DWWA judges noted its ‘ripe red fruit, smoke, cured meat and black tea’ and firm tannic structure, and expect it to age well. Alc 15%
94 points

De Alberto Dorado Dulce

Hijos De Alberto Gutiérrez, De Alberto Dorado Dulce, DO Rueda, Spain
UK £85 Humble Grape / US $85 Cuddihy Wine Importers
Aged oxidatively in glass demijohns and then in oak casks for at least two years, this varietal Verdejo impressed the DWWA judges with its typicity, offering aromas of ‘bread dough, toast, hazelnuts and walnuts’ and a ‘rich, honeyed palate.’ Alc 17.5%
94 points

Bodegas Maires Ademan Valdearanda

Bodega y Viñedos Maires, Ademán Valdearanda, Crianza, DO Toro Spain
UK £19.49 Quaff Ltd
Made from 100% hand-picked Tempranillo grapes from the sand and gravel soils of Valdearanda in Toro, this wine is aged for 12 months in oak. It impressed against wines of the same price, with the DWWA judges noting its ‘lifted acidity and smoky tannins.’ Alc 14.5%
93 points

Lagar de Proventus Tresmano

Lagar De Proventus, Tr3smano, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
UK £60 Propeller / US $75 $ ABCK Corp.
Lagar de Proventus selects hand-harvested Tempranillo grapes from three sub-regions of Ribera del Duero, which are cold-macerated in stainless steel tanks before fermentation and aged in oak for 18 months. The DWWA judges called it ‘rich, powerful, intense and broad’ and praised its notes of ‘leather, tobacco and spice.’ Alc 15%
93 points

Bodegas Abadia La Arroyada, Reserva, DO Ribera del Duero Spain
UK £127.95 Ultracomida / Spanishwinesonline / US $39.99 Advintage Distributing
Bodegas Abadia La Arroyada, which dates back to the 19th century, makes wines entirely from grapes from its own vineyards in Ribera del Duero. The DWWA judges noted its ‘pure blue and black fruit aromas with herbs in the background’ and the ‘round, yet firm, tannins, and white chocolate on the finish’ from the 10 months it spends in oak barrels. Alc 14.5%
93 points

Dominio de la Granadilla Verdejo

Dominio De La Granadilla, Verdejo Organico, DO Rueda, Spain
UK James Nicholson
The family-run Dominio De La Garandilla has 75 hectares of vineyards in Navas del Rey, in the Rueda appellation. The DWWA judges found ‘notes of lemon, pineapple and zippy acidity’ in this organic wine, with ‘good varietal character’. Alc 13.5%
92 points

Pardevalles Albarin Blanco

Pardevalles, Albarín Blanco, León, DO Tierra de León, Spain
UK £8.50 / US $16.50 VinoVi&Co/Casa Bruno/Wine Without Borders
The Pardevalles Estate, founded in 1949, has 38 hectares of vineyard at altitudes of 750-860m, making for sharp thermal contrasts. The DWWA judges noted its ‘gooseberry, lemon peel, lime and herbaceous aromatics’ and ‘lingering mineral finish’. Alc 13.5%
92 points

Bodegas Santa Eulalia Conde de Siruela Roble

Bodegas Santa Eulalia, Conde Siruela Roble, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
US $16 Alphapac Marketing
Bodegas Santa Eulalia produce this wine from 210 hectares of vines at La Horra in Ribera del Duero; it is aged for four months in oak and at least three months in bottle. The DWWA judges were struck by its ‘smoky red berry fruit and tomato leaf nose with mocha notes’, declaring that it ‘delivers well at the price point’. Alc 14.5%
91 points

Marques de Velilla MV Crianza

Bodega Marqués De Velilla, Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero Spain
Bodega Marqués De Velilla uses only Tempranillo grapes from three specific Ribera del Duero vineyards: La Picona, El Frescal and El Charcón de las Palomas. After 12 months in French oak and 12 months in bottle, it is ‘quite lean on the palate’ with ‘lovely freshness and elegance’ and ‘ripe, rounded tannins’, according to the DWWA judges. Alc 14.5%
91 points

Bogedas el Inicio Admiracion

Bodegas El Inicio, Admiración Selección Especial, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
Made only in exceptional vintages, this Ribera del Duero comes from some of the highest vineyards in the area, at over 850m above sea level. the DWWA judges found it to be ‘very dense and very rich with chalky tannins’, with ‘a really nice black tea note on the palate’. Alc 14.5%
90 points

Casto Pequeno 12m

Casto Pequeño, Tempranillo, VT Castilla y León, Spain
UK £11.95 Ultracomida / Spanishwinesonline US $14.99 Codipral LLC
Established for over 30 years in Valdera in León, Casto Pequeño’s Tempranillo impressed the DWWA judges with its ‘enticing combination of rich and rounded red and dark fruits alongside subtle oak’, structured by ‘well-managed tannins’. Alc 14.5%
90 points

Bodega Tres Pilares

Bodega Tres Pilares, Hermanos Fernandez, DO Rueda, Spain
From specially selected parcels of vineyards in Rueda, this 100% Verdejo struck the DWWA judges as having ‘white peach, apricot, kiwi and grapefruit’ aromas, as well as ‘lively acidity and a slow finish’. Alc 13%
90 points

Convento Oreja Crianza Negro

Convento Oreja, Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
US $34.99 Kysela Pere et Fils
On an ear-shaped bend in the Duero river, from which the winery takes its name, Antonio Vaquero owns six hectares of Tempranillo and manages a further 12. The DWWA judges noted its bouquet of ‘blackberry, cherry, juniper and black pepper’, and called it ‘a delicious and generous wine’. Alc 15%
90 points

Pago de Los Abuelos Saturno

Pago De Los Abuelos, Viñedo Saturno, DO Bierzo, Spain
UK £22 Farr Vintners / US $20-25 Cynthia Hurley French Wines
Pago De Los Abuelos produces this 100% Mencia from traditional bush vines on limestone soils at an elevation of 700m. The DWWA judges noted its ‘red and black cherry aromas with a hint of spicy oak and violets’ and ‘juicy, fresh palate with zippy raspberry acidity’. Alc 13%
90 points

Bodega Gotica Trascampanas Alta

Bodega Gótica, Trascampanas Verdejo, DO Rueda, Spain
UK £14.85 Milestone Wines Ltd
Bodega Gótica have been making wine in Rueda for generations, and harvest the grapes for this 100% Verdejo at night to boost their aromatic qualities. Accordingly, the DWWA judges found a complex ‘citrus, pineapple, balsamic, herbal and floral nose before a fresh and fruity palate’. Alc 13%
90 points

Bodegas Belote Timba 2020

Bodegas Belote, Timba, DO Tierra de León Spain
From 16-year-old vines on clay-loam soil at 900m above sea level, this 100% Prieto Picudo impressed the DWWA judges with its ‘bags of charm’, offering ‘lifted red cherry, strawberry notes and a moderate and clean finish’. Alc 13.5%
90 points

Cepas Discolo Alta Resolucion

Cuatromil Cepas, Díscolo Tinta de Toro, DO Toro, Spain
UK £27
From 45-year-old vines on sandy stone soils, this Toro from Cuatro Mil Cepas struck the DWWA judges as ‘very ripe’ with ‘lovely flavours of plum, blueberry, blackberry, fresh coffee and toast’. Alc 14.75%
90 points

Vina Sastre Crianza 2020

Viña Sastre, Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
US De Maison Selections, IN
Fermented exclusively with native yeasts, this 100% Tempranillo from 20-65-year-old vines is fermented on the lees in stainless steel, then aged in oak for 14 months and in bottle for 10 months. The DWWA judges noted its ‘beautiful aromas of gorgeous dark fruits, cherry, plus a touch of sweet balsamic’, and called its palate ‘really floral and vivid’. Alc 14%
90 points

Bodegas Veganzones 912 Roble 2022

Bodegas Veganzones, 912 De Altitud, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
UK £12 / US $ 15 MC Elite Wines
Bodegas Veganzones ages this 100% Tempranillo for 9 months in American oak; the DWWA judges noted its ‘liquorice, blueberry, black pepper and blackberry bouquet’ and ‘lingering finish’. Alc 14.5%
90 points

Abadia San Quirce Crianza

Bodegas Abadía San Quirce, Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero Spain
UK £20 Origen Spain
Bodegas Abadía San Quirce hand-harvest the grapes from 35-year-old vines on limestone-clay soils in Gumiel de Izán and age the wine for 12 months in French oak. The DWWA judges pronounced it ‘very dense, firm and coiled in the mouth’ with ‘ripe red cherry and vanilla scents’. Alc 14.5%
90 points

Bodegas Raiz De Guzman Crianza Alta Resolucion

Bodegas Raiz De Guzman, Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
US $40 RM Distributors
Bodegas Raiz de Guzman age this 100% Tempranillo for nine months in oak, making for ‘smoky, earthy aromas with hints of blackberry and spice’, according to the DWWA judges, who also noted its ‘layers of black fruit, cream and spice’. Alc 14.5%
90 points

Bodega Pinna Fidelis Crianza

Bodega Pinna Fidelis, Crianza, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
UK £17.95 Boutinot Ltd / US $24.95 Dodds Wine Imports
Founded in 2001 in Peñafiel, the Pinna Fidelis winery has 200 hectares of vineyards in the Ribera del Duero; from 30-year-old vines on limestone soils, this wine impressed the DWWA judges with its ‘attractive red fruit nose’ and ‘supple, juicy palate of red berries and spicy oak’. Alc 14%
90 points

Abadia la Arroyada Crianza

Abadía La Arroyada, Crianza DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
UK £15.95 Ultracomida / Spanishwinesonline  /  US $23.99 Advintage Distributing
Abadía La Arroyada owns its own vineyards in Terradillos de Esgueva, with an average age of 11 years. The DWWA judges noted its ‘lifted red fruit, liquorice and vanilla nose’, ‘fine, ripe tannins’ and ‘excellent persistence’. Alc 14.5%
90 points

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