“The New Spain” – Rioja, Albarino,Verdejo and the usual suspects, but not as we know them

27 Oct

“The new Spain” seems to be what everyone is talking about in the wine world.  It was certainly what the chaps from Bibendum were talking about when they invited aficionadoes to taste no less than 15 unexpected vintages at the Boundary restaurant in Shoreditch this week.

What “new” means in Spanish wine varies from familiar names that have come to taste different from traditional expectations to new names which have started supplanting them altogether.   The Wanderers started discovering “new” Spanish wines on a trip to Bilbao for Food And Travel magazine a couple of years ago.   We heard  much talk then of a new style of wine-making in Rioja – though that seemed to be the last thing anyone was drinking, given the prominence at the time of Ribera del Duero on wine lists.

At the Boundary we had a taste of some of that, and also of the Albarino we first tasted in its native Galicia, where we feasted on spectacular seafood and some of the best beef in the world.  The fresh, crisp Albarino we enjoyed with a lunch of barnacles and razor clams by the sea was a far cry from the sumptously fragrant and raisiny versiion from the Bodegos Castro Martin poured at the Boundary, though it came from Rias Baixas, the scene of our seafood feast.

Other wines we sampled which ran contrary to type were a Verdejo from Agricola Castellana, fruity, herbal and powerful, and a splendidly fresh and elegant white Rioja from Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco.    Vivanco’s red Rioja Riserva was gorgeous, too, but the star of the pre-dinner tastings was the Garnacha from Bodegas Bernabeleva near Madrid – intense, toasty and full of red fruit.     It even beat the Ribera which was the last of 15 wines we tasted with our beef cheeks(dinner consisted of old-style Spanish fare, oddly, considering Spain is at the cutting edge of gastronomy, and “the new Spain” was the theme of the evening).   The Bodegas Tabula 2006 Rivera was not to be sneezed at, full of lovely minerals and notes of cinnamon, chocolate, toffee and liquorice.

Talking of the new Spain, there was no sighting of Don Ferranti at the Boundary, in spite of it winning 83 prizes at the China Wine Awards last month.    Welshman Gwyn Jones, who grows Garnacha, Carinena, Tempranillio, Shiraz and Macabeo in an obscure south-east corner of Catalonia, won a double gold  and “best wine of Spain” award for his Don Ferranti Red 2009 from Terra Alta.  The Wanderers are looking forward to tasting it this weekend, along with the 2010 white, which took silver.

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