Steve Daniel at Hallgarten & Novum is a wine buyer who always has his finger on the pulse, none more so than at the New Wave Spain tasting he held in London’s boho Shoreditch district. It was here that wine expert Harry Crowther discovered a range of exciting wines using revived old grape varieties, limited production and innovative winemaking. It’s a far cry from traditional Spanish winemaking and all the more exciting because of it.
Concrete egg fermentation, minimal intervention, old vines, indigenous yeasts, low sulphur – mix with unusual varieties and you have an exciting range.
Treixadura, Lado, Marmajuelo, Mencia. Not the first varieties that spring to mind when somebody mentions the words Spain and wine in the same sentence. Well, the crew at Hallgarten and Novum certainly has something to say about that!
Riojas, Riberas and Rias Baixas continue to be at the forefront of Spanish wine understanding and sales in the UK. But it’s so important to consider the quality on show as we cast the net further afield in search for new, exciting styles. Time to consider the latest additions to the HDN portfolio, the Spanish New Wave and the producers experimenting, and reviving old school varieties and challenging perceptions of Spanish wine.
Maybe it’s because it’s called a ‘New Wave’ tasting. Maybe it’s because the tasting was in Shoreditch. But the demographic in the room is worth considering. From long beards to tattoo sleeves and Doc Martins, there was a real eclectic mix in the room.
The Spanish croquettes were soft and fluffy in the middle. The chorizo was spicy and the paella was great. Top marks Brindisa Shorditch.
Now, the wines. (all prices are ex-VAT).
Mencia showing well
Perhaps one of the more recognised varietals from the cornucopia of wines on show.
According to Steve Daniel, Head Wine Buyer for Novum, Mencia “displays many of those qualities I find in Cabernet Franc, it’s leafy and many of the wines have great potential for ageing.”
Finca Os Cabatos, Mencia, Monterrei, 2016 (£9.52)
That bubblegum, blue youth on the nose. Attractive and moreish. Good acidity but a little lower than most Mencias I have tried. This is probably testament to the sub-region, Monterrei DO, making it a bit drier and warmer than rest of Galicia – an earthy tone to the wine that carries over to the palate faithfully.
Ronsel do Sil, ‘Vel’ Uveyra’, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, 2016 (£12.43)
A DO well known for Mencia production. As a grape that enjoys a high level of diurnal range, this sub-region’s steep terracing and long ripening season is ideal for cultivating this varietal. This wine has a drop of Garnacha adding body and a dark, broody nose. Well structured with a hedonistic touch of phenolic bitterness on the finish matched by slow building, but long-lasting acidity.
Xosé Lois Sebio, ‘Coios’, Mencia, Bierzo, 2015 (£18.94)
Stewed fruit and notes of liquorice on the nose. A medium to full bodied expression of Mencia and probably the boldest on tasting. A healthy set of ripe tannins work excellently with that lingering, persistent acidity that I keep finding in all of these wines. A riper and more robust expression of Mencia.
The wonderful whites of Xosé Lois Sebio
Ten points for labeling across the whole range. Xose Lois operates across Galicia’s DOs producing quality red and white wine.
“We have seen a great reaction to these wines. They are extreme, small production and made for the long term. Natural yeasts and use of oak is common in his wines,” says Steve Daniel.
Xosé Lois Sebio, ‘O Con’, Rias Baixas 2015 (£18.94)
100% Albarino. From 70 year old vines. Natural fermentation started in stainless steel and finished in oak. A reductive expression of Albarino. That same, positive reduction I often find in New World Riesling. Lots of complexity from top to bottom. Bitter acidity, good weight from the use of oak whilst not masking that lean, clean nature of the variety.
Xosé Lois Sebio, ‘Mais Ala’, Valdeorras 2015 (£21.18)
100% Godello. From the eastern edge of the Galician region. A delicate, floral nose. Much like the aforementioned Albarino, fermentation was completed in large oak barrels before 11 months ageing in older oak in varying sizes. Beautifully textured and gastronomic.
Xosé Lois Sebio, ‘Salvaxe’, Ribeiro, 2015 (£25.06)
A blend of at least six varieties and a wine that encapsulates New Wave Spain. Partial skin contact, low sulphur, low intervention and aged in partially new oak. A symphony of power and balance. Buttery notes line up alongside baking spice and white, floral aromas. This is a wine that is made and homogenised in the vineyard of old vine parcels of mixed varieties. A cracking wine!
A strong showing across Novum’s island producers. It was the wines of Bodegas Viñátigo, Tenerife that stole the show. “A third generation producer reviving very old varieties,” Daniel says. “Traditionally, Listan Negro and Blanco are commonplace in this part of the world but this producer is trying to do something a little different, through small production of high quality wines.”
Bodegas Viñátigo, Gual, Tenerife, 2016 (£18.20)
100% Gual (Bual). A stainless steel fermentation after the must is chilled down to just above 0°c to mitigate oxidation and allow the producer to operate without sulphur. Peachy, tropical notes on the nose. Lees ageing lends itself to a rich, round palate with bite.
Bodegas Viñátigo, Vijariego, Tenerife, 2016 (£18.20)
Barrel ferment. 100% Vijariego. Indigenous yeast fermentation. Rich notes of pear and bruised apple. Vanilla and baking spice faithful to a French oak fermentation and ageing. Medium bodied with a bitter finish and waxy, textured tannins.
Bodegas Viñátigo, Marmajuelo, Tenerife, 2017 (£18.87)
100% Marmajuelo. A high quality variety going through its revival stage. What a wine! Fermentation in stainless steel and concrete egg. This wine beautifully summarises the Gual and Vijariego into one, triumphant snapshot. Lean yet rich, intense and mineral with a long-lasting finish and acidity that comes in waves.
Wines available at Hallgarten and Novum.
Thanks to Brindisa Shoreditch for the tasty food!