The re­sults

This voy­age of dis­cov­ery across Spain’s lesser known north­ern ter­ri­to­ries re­vealed an ar­ray of lighter wine styles and in­trigu­ing flavours, as Chris­telle Guib­ert re­ports

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A TAST­inG of a rel­a­tively new re­gion for qual­ity red wines was al­ways go­ing to make a fas­ci­nat­ing read, and our ex­perts found it both an eye-opener and a learn­ing curve. Green Spain along its north At­lantic coast cov­ers a va­ri­ety of cli­mates and, as ex­pected, our judges found in­cred­i­ble di­ver­sity. Pe­dro Balles­teros Tor­res MW ad­mit­ted: ‘They are not es­tab­lished wines yet, and as a re­sult we have learned a lot about the dif­fer­ent styles and var­i­ous grape va­ri­eties. i would rec­om­mend them to wine lovers who have a thirst for ad­ven­ture.’

Chris­tine Parkin­son was struck by how clearly ap­par­ent the At­lantic in­flu­ence was in the wines: ‘So many of them had a real del­i­cacy, per­fume and a crisp acid­ity with a fresh­ness and much lower al­co­hol level than we are used to.’ Adding some con­text, Sarah Jane Evans MW re­marked: ‘The im­age of Span­ish reds is of the big, pow­er­ful styles from the likes of Rib­era del Duero or Pri­o­rat, and per­haps there’s not the pride or be­lief in lighter styles, be­ing so dif­fer­ent to the rest of Spain. But i think that’s due for a re-eval­u­a­tion.’

from the eight dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­nacións rep­re­sented here, Ribeiro stood out as the best for its beau­ti­ful flo­ral characters com­bined with high and fresh acid­ity and a saline mouth­feel. Across the dif­fer­ent styles and va­ri­eties, Parkin­son praised the notes of vi­o­let, rose petal or rose­hip that kept pop­ping up. Balles­teros Tor­res felt grape va­ri­eties played an im­por­tant part: ‘While Mencía is an iden­tity for Valde­or­ras, Ribeira Sacra and Mon­ter­rei, there is very lit­tle in­ter­est in it in Ribeiro or Rías Baixas, where it gives wines that are poorly de­fined or even vul­gar.’ for Evans, Rías Baixas was very mixed: ‘Half of it was very good, but the rest wasn’t.’ Parkin­son agreed: ‘i ex­pected a lot from Mencía, but it was gen­er­ally among the more dis­ap­point­ing wines of the tast­ing, apart from Valde­or­ras, where there was a bit

more weight, more body and per­haps a bit less At­lantic in­flu­ence.’ it’s the other va­ri­eties – Al­barello, Bran­cel­lao, fer­rol, Pe­dral and Sousón – un­known to most, in­clud­ing our ex­pert panel, that im­pressed our judges. The panel felt that these are wines made for lo­cal con­sump­tion and to en­joy on a sunny day with lo­cal food.

Evans raised a good point: ‘Lots of pro­duc­ers are es­sen­tially small busi­nesses, and some are in re­gions where the whites are more im­por­tant than the reds – no­tably Rías Baixas – so they are go­ing to have to find a way to bring them­selves to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.’

Slightly chill­ing many of these red wines could be a good op­tion, Parkin­son sug­gested: ‘This is some­thing that per­haps not enough peo­ple have di­alled into, and here we have a whole range of wines that will drink just beau­ti­fully if they are served from the fridge.’

The panel did find the wine­mak­ing to be of a very high stan­dard, Evans and Parkin­son not­ing a lot of ap­peal­ing un­oaked wines, or ju­di­ciously used oak. But Balles­teros Tor­res was in slight dis­agree­ment: ‘for some of the non-Mencía wines, the nice fruit and lively bal­ance were af­fected by a clumsy use of oak bar­rels or leav­ing hard tan­nins and un­nec­es­sary aro­mas.’

The panel con­cluded that those de­li­cious fruity and crisp reds could be a great al­ter­na­tive to Beau­jo­lais, Dol­cetto or even Loire Caber­net franc on restau­rant wine lists. The out­stand­ing Ribeira Sacra wine from the Meren­zao grape was even com­pared to a re­fined red from the fash­ion­able french re­gion of Jura.

‘I would rec­om­mend these reds to wine lovers with a thirst for ad­ven­ture’ Pe­dro Balles­teros Tor­res MW

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