In line with a tasting we're hosting at our Mackie Mayor venue in Manchester we thought it would be a good idea to take a little trip around some of the lesser known regions of Spain. We all know and love Rioja, but there's a whole other world out there of fantastic Spanish wine to explore.
In this post, we'll be looking at a few grape varieties you may not have heard of or which are - in our opinion- under appreciated in the wider world of wine. If you're interested in joining us for the tasting at Mackie Mayor, you can find out more information and buy tickets here.
Bodega Agerre,Txakoli - Basque Country
San Sebastian is widely seen as the gastronomic capital of Spain, with 19 Michelin stars amongst its restaurants and an incredible culinary university. It isn't then surprising that the region is also home to some amazing wineries.
Txakoli is one of the region's top white wines. Made from the grape Hondarribi Zuri, this is a lower alcohol white with a slight spritz not dissimilar to a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Full of crunchy green apples and zesty lemon citrus, this is a match made in heaven for seafood dishes, be it the deep fried Pintxos you find in the casual bars or even premium sushi. It's traditionally poured into the glass from shoulder height and often from a vessel known as a Porron, which looks a little like a Genie might pop out of it at any moment. This technique really brings out the natural spritz in the wine and also adds a little theatre to the table, which is always welcome.
Adegas Guimaro Blanco 2020 - Ribera Sacra
Ribera Sacra is on the rise and has been for some time.
I remember reading an article in Noble Rot a few years back about wines which resemble fine red Burgundy and almost instantly going on the hunt to try some. The Mencia from these steep, inhospitable terraced vineyards can be truly remarkable and the white blends - made up from all sorts of grape varieties planted together - can be fantastically complex. The reds are lighter, fresher and arguably more vibrant than other parts of Spain and the whites offer delicate floral aromas and light, peachy fruit.
Godello is one of Galicia's top white grape varieties, sitting just behind Albarino in its popularity but more often used in blends with a myriad of other varieties. Here there's Treixadura, Albarino, Loureiro blanco and Torrontes - all grown in amongst each other and the red vines on the small family estate owned and farmed organically by the Rodriguez family. All the fermentation is done in stainless steel to retain the fresh fruit quality of the grapes and natural acidity. We're talking lots of fresh orange blossom, green apple and lemon citrus with a savoury, almond nuttiness and clean, fresh finish. This pairs beautifully with goat's cheese. If you were wanting to drink this at a dinner party, then mini goat's cheese tarts served with this white would be a great way to start the evening.
PITA, Verdejo - Rueda
Rueda and Verdejo are a match made in heaven, and whilst for a period of time it was mainly seen as table wine, there are now a number of producers who make exceptional wines here.
Last year we held a month long celebration of all things Rueda here at Reserve. We brought in a number of wines from the region, made in a variety of different styles using numerous techniques including oak ageing, malolactic fermentation and stainless steel.
PITA is a project from a young Bordeaux trained winemaker Emilio and his belief in the Verdejo vines he tends. This is one of the wines from the campaign that we've had to keep in our range as the quality for the price point is outstanding. He also produces a barrel fermented, lees aged Verdejo at the premium level which is unbelievable if you fancy a real treat and enjoy a richer, textured style of white.
Here though we have a stainless steel fermented white, with around 4 months of lees ageing just to soften the acidity slightly and give a little more rounded texture to the wine. Opulent passionfruit and grapefruit leap out of the glass, well balanced with a long, refreshing finish.
Adria, Mencia - Bierzo
I briefly mentioned Mencia above when talking about Ribera Sacra and Bierzo is another wonderful region for this red grape. It's certainly a great option for anyone who enjoys Pinot Noir and Cru Beaujolais.
Located in the north west of the Castilla y Leon region, just on the border of Galicia, Mencia covers around two thirds of the vineyards here. The region also makes wonderful white blends and the Godello grape shines here too.
The wines produced range from easy drinking, young and approachable to £100+ fine wines which need time in the cellar to really come into their own. This Adria Mencia is a great introduction in my eyes to the region and the grape. Produced from vines averaging around 50 years old on the steep terraced slopes overlooking the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrims trail, there's a real focus on traditional, sustainable farming in the winery. The wine is full of vibrant red berries, juicy plums, pomegranate and savoury liquorice and charcuterie character. It's a great wine to bring out if you're hosting or attending a tapas evening and works especially well with Empanadas, the mini Spanish pastries which can be prepared with a variety of different fillings. Our favourite has to be black beans, coriander and garlic. Banging.
Marco Abella, Loidana - Priorat
Priorat is up there with my favourite Spanish wine regions, famed for its glistening red schist soils which gather up all the heat of the daytime sun and keep the vineyards warm through the evening. It's a haven for Garnacha and Carinena (Carignan in France) and the wines here tend to be big and bold.
Marco Abella have been producing wines here since the 15th century, farming seven plots across seven different hills in the region. They've always been proactive in sustainable farming, using organic practices and prioritising the health of the soils and the vines in their vineyards to get the best possible fruit to produce wine from. They only use indigenous yeasts for fermentation and age their wines in French oak barrels in their own cellars, a whopping seven meters below the ground.
The Loidana is a fantastic gateway into the wines of the region, enjoyable in its youth, whereas some of their single vineyard and higher level wines need a number of years to start showing their full potential. Packed with red cherries, raspberries and strawberries but backed up by cedar and a gentle spice, it's definitely on the fresher side of Priorat. Pairing wise, I'd lean towards a chicken dish with a parsley and garlic rub, roasted in a baking tray with some chorizo and potatoes. A nice Spanish twist on a Sunday roast.
Paco Mulero, Monastrell 2018- Jumilla
Jumilla is hot - very hot. Located down in the south eastern side of Spain, just in land from Murcia, it's famed for it's big, meaty, almost chewy red wines. To withstand all that heat, the grapes need to be late ripening and have thick skins. One grape which thrives here is Monastrell (Mourvedre in France). Whereas in France it's often used in blends with Grenache and Syrah, here it flies solo, full bodied and complex from low yielding vines.
Paco Mulero age the wine for around 6 months in new French barrels which gives a lick of spicy oak. There's also lots of ripe blackberries and plums with leathery, chocolate coated tannins. The finish is long and well balanced with fresh acidity helping to offset the concentrated flavours.
For me this wine has to go with red meat. If you can get your hands on a featherblade of beef, this is the wine for it. Braise the meat for a few hours in the oven with onions, garlic, herbs and some red wine. The rich, tender meat will simply melt in your mouth and work wonders to soften the tannins in the wine. Truly next level.