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SPANISH RENAISSANCE: FRESH AND LOCAL WINES NUDGE ‘SOPHISTICATION’ ASIDE. James Suckling. Friday, October 15, 2021

Altos de Losada La Bienquerida 2018 are great choices for your shopping cart.


Inicio | Spanish renaissance: fresh and local wines nudge ‘sophistication’ aside. james suckling. friday, october 15, 2021

18 de de 2021


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There’s no denying that the main calling card for Spanish wines is their affordability, although more sophisticated elements of the winemaking process itself, such as oak maturation, blending and oxidation, are seeping into the country’s overall wine personality profile and in some cases gaining an upper hand over more intrinsic factors like varietal character and provenance.

But over the last five to 10 years, we have also seen Spanish winemakers craft more balanced, fresh and terroir-transparent wines, with less of a focus on so-called sophistication in the process and more attention paid to local grape varieties. And after tasting nearly 1,500 Spanish wines this year, we see a renaissance happening in the country, with more wineries aiming to fine-tune their style and make more drinkable wines, showing plenty of nuance and less manipulated extraction or obvious new oak cosmetics.

Overall, it’s a better way of bringing authenticity to consumers’ dinner tables, giving them (and us) a chance to appreciate more aesthetically provocative wines. Winemakers are no longer simply producing coconutty, transparently flattering wines and expecting success. In fact, regions like Galicia are going in the opposite direction, breaking out of the hidebound winemaking mode and taking aim at a higher aesthetic: zingy freshness and drinkability.

Using grapes like mencia, albariño, and godello, northwest Atlantic-influenced regions like Galicia are spearheading the Spanish take on oceanic freshness, with pioneering winemakers like the Palacio family, Telmo Rodriguez, Raul Perez and Paul Hobbs, who has partnered with Galician winemaker Antonio Lopez, taking Spain’s dynamic wine scene to the next level.

The old-vine mencia, from the rugged vineyards of Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, and Valdeorras, is Spain’s tribute to Beaujolais sensibility, with a bit more depth. These are usually crunchy, medium-bodied wines with bright acidity and savory tannins, exuding authentic, fresh, flinty red and blue fruit and a cool herbal note reminiscent of a pure and well-made Loire cabernet franc. The use of indigenous yeast and some whole clusters also capture the fresh and authentic side of mencia, adding a wild yet ethereal, tangy and racy character.

The Palacios consistently make great mencias that we rate very highly. But if you are looking for value from mencia and some field blends, then the Envínate Ribeira Sacra Lousas Viñas de aldea Vinos Atlánticos 2019 and the Losada Vinos de Finca Mencía Bierzo Altos de Losada La Bienquerida 2018 are great choices for your shopping cart. The massive success of these revived old mencia vineyards, on their elevated, steep slopes, prove that all the hard work of both Bierzo’s cooperatives and winemakers has paid off.


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