First Published in Costa News Group, December 2012

THE COSTA NEWS TOP TEN

CORK TALK’S TEN BEST SPANISH WINES OF 2012

Since its inception ten years ago, following a reader’s suggestion, the Costa News’ Top Ten Spanish Wines of the Year has grown considerably in stature. A growth commensurate, I believe, with a similarly dramatic increase in the quality of wines made here in Spain over the same period.

I’m not suggesting that wine making bodega owners the length and breadth of the Iberian peninsular are sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting the following list of winners, but as is always the case, I know there is considerable interest in which bodegas have earned a coveted place on the podium.

As is always the case, there are several wines that could have made the list, had they been given just one more mark, or with some wines, just half a mark! But the Top Ten has to be just that, Ten only!

No. 1 The Costa News’ Top Wine of 2012 is: Doix 2008 from Bodegas Mas Doix, DO Priorat: Perhaps considered their flagship wine, Doix 2008 is made from low yielding venerable old Garnacha, Cariñena and Merlot vines, the oldest of which can count 105 harvests! French oak has made the wine wonderfully supple, tasty with depth of flavour and complexity.

No.2 = Sharing second place is another wine from the vineyards of North Eastern Spain, which underlines just how good wines from Cataluña can be. The honour here goes to: Dos Dedos Del Frentes, Bodegas El Escocés Volante, DO Calatayud. This unfiltered red wine is a fascinating blend of Syrah which grows so well here in Spain and the wonderful white wine grape variety, Viognier. Unusual bedfellows here in Europe but quite common in New Zealand. The Viognier makes such a significant contribution to the perfume of the wine as well as adding a lightness to the spicy, black pepper and olive, rich dark berried flavour of Syrah. Integrated oak adds to the party and makes for a super-flavoured red wine.

No. 2 = From the same stable, El Escocés Volante, and impossible to separate from the above, El Puño Garnacha displays the subtlety of French Grenache, judicially oaked, with juicy Spanish sunshine-inspired deep and dark fruit this wine is a fine Garnacha example. Herby mineral notes and a long finish, it’s as elegant as a fine French maiden but with machismo strength of flavour.

No. 2 =Blanc d’Enguera, Bodegas Enguera, DO Valencia is the final wine to share second spot. Readers will notice two interesting points about this wine, firstly it’s white and secondly it’s from DO Valencia, the first time that a Valencia wine has figured so highly on the Costa News Top Ten – and a white at that! Following clarification and gentle filtration the wine undergoes a short ageing in lightly toasted French barricas which results in integrated oak with a lovely fragrance. On the nose there are hints of grapefruit and Seville orange peel, with further citrus notes and a fleeting memory of apricot too! The local Verdil variety (70%) is joined by Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay a certain percentage of which has been fermented in oak.

No. 5  Quinta Sardonia, Bodegas Terres Gauda, VdlT Castilla y León. QS is made with Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) and Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; Syrah (only 5% but surely impacting significantly on the overall juiciness of the finished product); Petit Verdot; Cabernet Franc (interesting this because, if Mencía shares any characteristics with another variety, it’s Cab. Franc); and finally Malbec! Its colour is a glorious dense and dark cherry, picota, red. On the nose there is an alluring intensity with cassis and mountain herbs to the fore. On the palate you’ll find ripe plums, a touch of black pepper with a hint of black olives too. Sixteen months in French oak have added depth of flavour and complexity.

No. 6  Cullerot, Celler del Roure, DO Valencia. Yes, another white and again from Valencia. This beguiling, aromatic dry white wine has a fragrance similar, in its subtle style, to a perfume. It’s made from an eclectic blend of Macabeo, Verdil, Malvasia, Chardonnay and PX (normally found in Jerez). Fresh in the mouth, there is also a hidden depth of flavour, with a Chardonnay finish wrapped around blanched almonds and citrus flavours with floral notes too!

No. 7  Absis 2005, Bodegas Parés Baltá, DO Penedés. Cataluña again, and this time a red wine from a bodega perhaps more famous for its Cava. Tempranillo with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a wonderfully dark coloured wine, sultry in the glass, with aromas of black cherries and blackcurrant jam (with a whiff of same but with a tiny splash of whisky or brandy in it too!). Complexity, richness, depth, minerality and elegance in equal measure!

No. 8  Finca Caraballas Verdejo 2011, DO Rueda. I’m delighted to include a wine from an area so well liked by readers, DO Rueda. Finca Caraballas’ organic methods include the use of only natural yeasts indigenous to the vineyards. There’s no spraying either, no artificial fertilisation, no chemicals – nothing, just nature. The young 100% Verdejo has a certain singularity, that distinguishes it from others made from the same grape. The wine’s perfume is wonderful, inviting. It has an abundance of deep, fresh, fruit with similarities to subtle gooseberry but with herbs, even basil too. It has vegetal notes, green pepper perhaps and the whole assembly is full and rich with clean acidity and a super-long finish.

No. 9  Blanca Cusiné, Bodegas Parés Baltá, DO Cava. Perhaps the flagship of this bodega is the Micro-cuvée range, wines and cavas made from low yielding old vines grown in vineyards that boast beneficial micro-climates and terroirs. From this range comes Blanca Cusiné 2008 Cava whose Champagne-esque blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the Pinot having been fermented in 400 litre French Oak barrels) is expressive on the nose, a touch toasty, and deeply flavoured on the palate with a long finish. It’s had 35 months in bottle following it’s second fermentation and as such is a similar style to a Cava Gran Reserva.

No. 10  Señorio de Nevada Club de Barrica Syrah Selección 2008. A late entry, received early December and selected for the pure pleasure of simply drinking it! It’s the best Syrah I’ve tasted in Spain, thus far. Big ripe fruit flavours of dark cherry, blackberry and damson plus mountain herbs and with some black pepper spice too. A conversation stopper with a long finish from the Sierra Nevada above Granada, in fact some of the highest vineyards in Spain. The consequent dramatic drop in temperature from day to night adds a crucial acidic lick to the wine and enhances aromas too.

Watch out for wine tastings and bodega visits, plus special wine offers through Heat Gold FM 91·1 FM and www.heatgold.fm Listen Live throughout 2013! colin@colinharknessonwine.com and www.colinharknessonwine.com

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