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How Spain is Finding Elegance by Breaking from Tradition

25 October

Turning away from the bold, full-bodied wines that have been their hallmark, Spanishwinemakers are now adopting a “freshness first” mantra for the future.

The world of Spanish wines has never been more sound, as the country’s offeringscontinue to improve and excel. Regions like Ribera delDuero, Rioja, Bierzo and Priorat stand out in recent tastings of more than 250 winesfrom all across Spain.

Other parts of the country like the Levante (southeast Spain), Málaga, the CanaryIslands and Galicia in the northwest also showed their might and potential.
One of the most important trends happening now is the movement away from highlyextracted, full-bodied red wines. Winemakers throughout Spain are shifting towardfresher, lighter, more elegant reds, even in areas long known for power over precision.

For example, in the Priorat region in Catalonia, numerous wines from 2013–15 showedmore elegance and snap than ever before. Rioja has also shown elegance, while in allcorners of Spain, the mantra of “freshness first” is taking over.

Wines affected by weather in 2013 (abnormally cool) and 2014 (rot issues from frequentrains) are showing far better than originally thought. The 2013 wines are racy and agile,while the 2014s are cleaner and fresher than expected.

It’s important to note that the 2016 Albariños from Rías Baixas in Galicia are mostlyexcellent. Other whites that stood out are the Moscatel-based dry and sweet wines fromsoutherly Málaga as well as numerous Cavas, Spain’s premier sparkling wines. All in all, now is the right time to enjoy Spain’s vinous bounty.

Recommended Wines
Terroir Al Límit 2014 Dits Del Terra Carignan (Priorat); $90, 95 points. ThisCarignan welcomes you with fresh berry aromas that are like jam, accented by spice notes. Secondary aromas of coffee and toast lead to a full, saturated palate with a vise grip. Deep, savory flavors of roasted plum are spicy on a complex finish that blends power and elegance to the end. Drink from 2018–2030. Editor’s Choice.

Dominio de Tares 2012 Bembibre Mencía (Bierzo); $45, 93 points. Grapyblackberry and cassis aromas come with charred oak and pastry-like richness. In the mouth, this notoriously ripe Mencía is loaded with tannins. Spicy blackberry flavors can handle the classy oak this wine has seen, while flavors of tobacco, lemon and spice drape over a full-fruited finish. Drink through the 2020s.
Suertes del Marqués 2015 Los Pasitos Babosa Negro (Valle de la Orotava);$45, 92 points. Have you ever tried varietal Baboso Negro from the island of Tenerife?Give it a shot and you’ll likely be impressed, as I was. Cherry and plum aromas are in thered zone, while this wine feels crisp and fresh, with edge. Salty raspberry and plumflavors end with racy snap. This is a versatile and elegant food wine; drink through2020. Editor’s Choice.

Comando-G 2014 El Tamboril Navatalgordo White (Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León); $75, 90 points. While this high-elevation (4,035 feet) whiteGarnacha is mostly neutral smelling, it offers stony notes that are direct, minerally and clean. On the palate, it is tightly wound and showing vital malic acid. Salty but fresh  persimmon and quince flavors are lasting on the finish. For a 2014, this is in fine shape; drink now.

Huguet de Can Feixes 2016 Blanc Selecció White (Penedès); $15, 90points. Apple, melon and apricot aromas are pure and come with zero interference from natural funk or oak. A blend of mostly Parellada with Macabeo and other white grapes, it hails from the highest vineyards in the Penedès. Flavors of melon, lime and wet stones reflect gravelly soils, and it’s steady on a long finish. Best Buy.

Valmiñor 2016 Edición Especial 10 Años Albariño (Rías Baixas); $14, 90points. Dry aromas of pithy citrus fruits come with a hint of fresh-cut grass. This feels steely and pure, with flavors of citrus fruits, nectarine and green apple. A racy finishoffers tropical fruit flavors and a spot of bitterness. Best Buy.

Alta Alella 2015 Mirgin Reserva Brut Nature Sparkling (Cava); $22, 90points. Light, fresh and direct describes the white-fruit aromas this brut nature is exuding. In the mouth, this is just round enough but mostly linear in plane. Flavors of dry lime, apple and fresh-baked white bread finish mild yet agile. This is affordable brutnature taken to a high level. Editor’s Choice.

Maria Casanovas NV GLAÇ Brut Nature Sparkling (Cava); $30, 90points. Dusty, bready apple aromas are direct and not too yeasty. This feels tight andrefined, with citric acidity. Lightly briny apple and citrus flavors finish steady and fresh,but also smooth. For brut nature, this gets things right.

Telmo Rodríguez 2010 Molino Real Mountain Wine Moscatel (Málaga);$60, 91 points. On the nose, this wine is both woody and a touch oxidized, with cloveand ginger notes. In the mouth, you can feel the resiny weight of French oak. Forceful spice, clove and woody flavors are dominant, but with such a long finish and goodstructure this old-vines Moscatel is singing. Drink through 2023.