Spain has been responsible for some of the most adventurous winemaking in recent years, and yet a lot of the most exciting wines are still off the radar, both of the on-trade and the British public. Viñateros! was a tasting with a difference – a ‘line in the sand’ themed tasting that brought together 50 of Iberia’s most adventurous winemakers, making wines that delighted and surprised in equal measure. That was, if you could get anywhere near them…
Alliance Wine, Carte Blanche, Dynamic Vines, Fields Morris & Verdin, Indigo, Les Caves de Pyrene and New Generation McKinley were the seven importers who brought together the 50 winemakers for the landmark Vinateros! tasting.
As you left the Viñateros! tasting on Tuesday you could walk through Anywhen – Philippe Parreno’s installation in the Turbine Hall of London’s Tate Modern.
It is an immersive experience, involving sound, light and moving objects.
Like Anywhen, and in fact all of the Turbine’s confrontational installations have been to date, the Viñateros! event was there to challenge preconceptions, be site-specific and an immersive, collaborative event.
And, like all creative ‘lines in the sand’, Viñateros! had a manifesto. This dates back 15 months and is a signed declaration of intent by some 150 Spanish wine growers and merchants in defence of terroir and also a reaction to the restrictiveness of the Spanish appellation systems.
You can draw some parallels with California’s now-disbanded In Pursuit of Balance which, from a wine-making point of view, was also a kicking back against the ubiquitous heavy, high alcoholic, confected wines.
The 50 Spanish winemakers showing their wines at Viñateros! – represented by seven indie UK importers – are committed to making wines from healthy vineyards, indigenous varieties and unique terroirs.
At a masterclass that addressed how winemakers make fresh wines from warm climates, Daniel Gómez Jiménez-Landi of Comando G, whose Las Rozas 1er Cru was one of the highlights of the tasting, said “It is not our work that makes fresh wine. The place is the most important thing. The rainfall, nature, how deep the roots go, these are the things. Then after that, it’s our approach.”
Given that this was a tasting that had an iconoclastic core, the approaches of the winemakers varied immensely and were, refreshingly, clearly not from any viticultural rule book.
I can’t think of another tasting recently where phenolics and palate have been so varied and so unique.
There were some standout wines and winemakers on show (my pick are listed below) but you couldn’t taste them all, in fact even with sharp elbows, you couldn’t get round half of the winemakers in three hours such were the limitations of the Switch Room for a tasting of this size.
I appreciate that the Tate Modern had been picked as a complete contrast to the gentlemen’s club atmosphere of the Mayfair tastings, and also the sometimes impersonal, grand scale of the large generics tastings. I hear they are offering some keen rates too. But, when it’s four deep at tables, and it’s difficult to get to a spittoon, hear a masterclass, or chat to the winemaker then clearly some tweaks need to be done operationally.
Gripes aside, this was a tasting that had a great theme and (let’s not forget) was a privileged opportunity to sample some of the many discoveries that are coming out of Spain.
Viñateros! certainly lived up to its tagline ‘A Spanish Wine Revolution’. Who knows maybe next year they’ll be moving from the Switch Room to the Turbine.
Let’s hope the British public’s appreciation for these wines will facilitate such a move.
Some of the many highlights of Viñateros!
Manuel Raventós 2008,
Raventós i Blanc, Catalunya/ Conca del Riu Anoia
What better example of Spanish sparkling wine that has broken away from the Cava DO in order to set a high standard of production (the Raventós family, incidentally, dates back to 1497 as winemakers and is credited as making the first Cava in 1872). This is 70% Xarel.lo and Parellada and Macabeo 30%. Spending 72 months of the lees gives this a wonderful depth of expression. Delicious and mouth-watering.
Fields Morris & Verdin £52
Nanclares y Prieto, Galicia/ Rías Baixas
Difficult to be distinctive sometimes with Albariño in Rías Baixas but Alberto Nanclares does it in spades. His whole range was showing well, even the first (unlabelled) bottle of new chestnut barrel fermented wine he had brought along. Soverribas was my favourite. Fermented in a 10-year-old 2200l tina for eight months on the lees. Minimum sulphur and no clarification. Salinity, pronounced phenolics and layers and depth of flavour, the acidity a little tempered but still evident.
Las Rozas 1er Cru,
Comando G, Castilla y Léon/ Madrid/ Sierra de Gredos
Distinctive nose – beautiful red berry fruit, citrus, cinnamon, vegetation, blackcurrant Tunes (in a good way!). Nice crunchy fruit, sandpaper tanins, pure mineral in the mid-palate. Light red, elegant, quasi-Burgundian blend of 60-70 year old Garnacha from three granitic soil plots 900m up.
Les Caves de Pyrene, £20.60
Principa Mathematica 2015,
Alemany i Corrio, Catalunya/ Penedès
100% Xarel.lo grown on clay soil. Picked early and fermented in 700l barrels with no toasting, the malolactic handles the acidity leaving a refreshing 12% ABV wine (this from near Barcelona remember) with nice layers, complexity and really refreshing. Some interesting blends from this producer too.
Alliance Wine, £12.33
Remelluri Blanco 2013,
Remelluri, Rioja Alavesa/ Rioja
You might think this is a lot to pay for a ‘Heinz 57’ white, field blend of nine varietals, but you would be wrong. This is a standout wine that was my wine of the tasting. Precise, clear layers of flavours with perfect balance. There are notes of citrus, orange peel, wild herbs, touch of oak, with a nice stony, minerality. Absolutely stunning. This from a winery that is 550-850m altitude and has been operating since 1971 and has never used chemicals on its land. Reds were tremendous too.
Suertes del Marqués, Canary Islands/ Valle de la Orotava
Touch of oxidation, savoury nose, citrus on the palate, great minerality and acidity, nice texture given primarily by the volcanic soil. A medium bodied blend of six varietals with great presence. Lot of evolution within the glass. Very impressive.
Indigo Wine, £13.52
Oxidised Verdejo, (solera dating back 1948),
Pago de Villavendemia, Catilla y Leon/ Rueda
This producer’s range of whites was terrific but this oxidised Verdejo was off the scale. It was what I image liquidised walnut shell might taste like, incredible balance. Simply stunning. Sadly not commercially available. Given the right amount of interest, however …..