Spanish flyers: how Spain rose to the top | Wine
Tapa Roja Monastrell, Yecla, Spain 2019 (£ 7, Mark & Spencer) Of the three major European producers, France and Italy generally produce the most wine each year. 2021 was a different story, however. According to figures released earlier this month by the international wine research organization OIV, a year of extreme weather events, including unusual frosts and record summer temperatures, has seen wine production drop by dramatically across the continent. The weather gods have been particularly hostile to France, where production has fallen by nearly a third compared to the previous vintage. This means that Spain, which itself experienced a significant but lesser drop of 14%, and which is still far behind Italy, is currently the second largest wine producer in Europe. A similar movement is underway if we move from quantity to quality: over the past decade, Spanish wine has become so much more exciting and diverse. It is now a real challenger on both the scores of France and Italy, while providing some of the most economical red wines on the continent, such as this spicy plum number from the DO of the southeast of the Spain, Yecla.
Baldovar 923 Cañada Paris Blanco, Valencia, Spain 2018 (£ 19.95, stroudwine.com) One of the most exciting recent developments in Spanish wine is how producers from regions once considered less important and isolated have adopted various neglected and often very obscure local varietals. This is a big change from what happened in the years just before and after the millennium, when great “international” grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and syrah, or the great spanish hitter, tempranillo , dominated the new plantations of vineyards. Baldovar 923 Cañada Paris Blanco is an absolute archetype of the new wave Spanish white: it comes from a grape variety exclusive to southeastern Spain, and rarely found on labels, and which most guides still scoff as easy. to grow, but not very interesting to drink. Grown at high altitudes (around 1000m) above sea level, using organic methods, and made by a dedicated winemaker, low production, using sensitive techniques and low intervention, it produces something very beautiful indeed: all the waves gently flowing with stony minerals, fleshy white fruits and a hint of lemony citrus.
La Petite Agnes, Priorat, Spain 2019 (£ 14.99, Waitrose) Despite all the progress made by New Wave winemakers in remote vineyards, often at very high altitudes, from Valencia to the Gredos mountains around Madrid, via Ribeira Sacra in the northwestern province of Galicia, there are still has a lot of fun discovering Spain plus established names and more famous grape varieties. Certainly, two regions that played an important role in the first wave of post-Franco Spanish wine creativity in the 1980s and 1990s, Priorat and Ribera del Duero, seem to be having a productive second wind at the moment, as producers learn to tame the once popular, but now rather old-fashioned excesses (alcohol, oak and deadly force) that threatened to overwhelm their red wines. There is a nice balance for example in the introduction of Waitrose to the rocky Catalan region of Priorat, with a feeling of freshness emphasizing the dense fruit of brambles in this mixture of garnacha and samso (aka carignan). On the high plateau of the Ribera del Duero de Castilla y Leon, meanwhile, the dark and crisp blackberry juice of the tempranillo in Quinta Milu Roble 2020 (£ 16.50, thesourcingtable.com) is an unadulterated joy to drink.
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