One of the best things about the recent Barcelona Wine Week (BWW) that I attended recently, was the opportunity to visit the stands of many of the less famous wine producing areas of Spain. Often quite small, in comparison to the more well known Denominaciónes de Origen (DOs), and generally with a rather more limited production, their wines aren’t easily found. A shame – because they can often be home to some hidden gems!

I’ve been to many of the large/huge wine fairs here in Spain, and in time gone by, in the UK as well. You have to have a plan. It’s definitely best, in my view, to have an idea as to what you’d like to see – and taste. If not, the sheer scale of these events can be just too overawing! Part of my plan for the two half days and one full day in an unseasonably warm and sunny Barcelona was to taste wines that I hadn’t tasted before, from areas of which I had no experience, using grape varieties which were new to me.

DO Cangas ticked all those boxes, as well as some of the taste and aroma boxes that I was hoping to open! Although this beautiful part of Asturias has a long history of wine making for domestic use, the main drink from the surrounding area is, of course, Sidra – Cider, and wonderful stuff it is too.

However, certain forward thinkers realised that there was also a market for quality wines, made on a small, but commercial scale. DO Cangas was formerly inaugurated as recently as 2014 (though it had been working since 2000) has only 50 hectares of land under vine and just eight bodegas! It’s the smallest DO I’ve come across, but my experience suggests it packs a pleasant punch above its weight!

Permitted varieties for white wines are Albarín, Albillo and Moscatel – so nothing new there (provided you are a regular Cork Talk readers!). The reds though, well that’s a different matter – ever heard of Verdejo Negro, Albarin Negro and Carrasquín? Me neither, but these varieties, along with the better known Mencía, are the approved red wine grapes. I couldn’t wait to get started!

There were only two white wines represented on the day I visited. The first, from Bodegas Vitheras is made from all three of the above and was a hit for me! There was a clear apple skin aroma, not the perhaps overly acidic Granny Smith, but something a little softer. Really enticing and it followed through slightly onto the palate too. Medium to short finish, a really pleasant aperitif drink, that I’d definitely buy again.

Cien Montañas, from Bodegas Vidas was made with 100% Albarín, dabbling with a little oak resting on its lees. There was a slight nose of sulphur initially, though some exotic fruit – peach, arrived in the nick of time, along with a blanched almond quality too. I preferred the fist wine, and it started me wondering about oak in Cangas. Is it needed?

The 3rd wine, Valdemonje, was a Carrasquín 2016 monovarietal, indigenous to Cangas, that has had 12 months in French oak and made by Bodegas Monstasterio de Corias. Pale in colour, like a Garnacha or Pinot Noir, and pleasant – but I couldn’t help wondering what it would have tasted like without the oak,

The next red wine, from the same bodega is called Finca Loa Frailes Robles and has had 5 months in French oak. It’s a 2018 and the colour was still quite purple, attractive. Some acidity, dark forest fruit and a little black chocolate on the finish, with tannin a little too pushy.

The next wine wasn’t oaked and it was here that I thought again about the need, or not, to have oak aging in Cangas. Aroma de Ibias is made with Carrasquín, Albarín Negro and Verdejo Negro (I know that you are wondering – but I’m told it’s no relation!), by Señorio de Idias. It’s 14%, quite dark in the glass, which gave a clue as to this wines richness. Blackcurrant chocolate liqueur, invitingly fruity.

Bodegas Chicote makes Penderuyos, which means very steep in the local dialect, and refers to the vertiginous slopes of the vineyard! It’s made with the three above, but with the addition of Mencía. Again there’s no oak and it, too, is on the high alcohol side at 14.5 abv. It’s also rich and dark coloured. I really liked its dark chocolate, damson and blackcurrant fruit and its presence on the palate.

So – is oak not really required in Cangas? Well, I can’t say, as the next wine, Selección Especial, my final Cangas – for now – was from the same bodega, using the same varieties, but it’s had 14 months on French oak, and did I enjoy it! In truth the oak was perhaps a little overstated, but the rich fruit can handle it well. It’s a big wine, meaty itself, so a good partner to game, casseroles, steaks, venison et al.

I’ll definitely re-visit DO Cangas wines!

NB next Valley FM programme is on Tuesday 3rd March – celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and Las Fallas, and will include an interview with British winemaker, Andrew Halliwell! Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

Varieties – Albarín and Prieto Picudo

. . . devotees (as if!) of Cork Talk will also know that I’m a great believer in the indigenous grape varieties of this country, my home for the last 23 years.


Firstly, the area – Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León is a huge wine making area, North, North West and North East of Madrid – yes, it’s that large! In years gone by VdlT wines were considered the poor relations of DO wines, Denominación de Origen. Largely, in those days, they deserved the description – the wannabe DOs.

Then new wave thinkers came along, believing in the raw ingredients – the indigenous grape varieties, often not found elsewhere, and in the climate, soils, the terroir of certain locations within those geographical areas. Regular Cork Talk readers will know that I’ve often mentioned wines from VdlT areas of Spain, praising them and championing the fact that these areas are nowadays producing wines every bit as good as those from DOs, and often, better!

So, that’s my first point – if you don’t see DO, but you do see VdlT on the back label, don’t be put off at all!

Next, again devotees (as if!) of Cork Talk will also know that I’m a great believer in the indigenous grape varieties of this country, my home for the last 23 years. I first learned of Monastrell living in the South East of Spain, adding to my knowledge of course of Spain’s most famous variety, Tempranillo from Rioja, as well, of course, as its synonyms. Albariño was new to me until I can to Spain, and Verdejo was new to everybody, apart from those living in Rueda, until about fifteen years ago! And so on.

Perhaps you also remember my writing about Bobal when it certainly wasn’t fashionable to do so, and Godello, plus several other varieties, which at the time were not at all so well known? I’m not blowing my trumpet here, suggesting that it’s me who’s made these varieties better known and more available. I’m simply letting you know that I’m on the case – I love hearing about, and then, of course, tasting Spanish grape varieties that have yet to achieve fame.

Undiscovered varieties, sometimes almost extinct whose continued existence can be attributed to just a few devoted believers. Occasionally even just one person, whose passion, perhaps for his great grandfather’s remote vineyard leads him to continue his ancestors’ work, honing their bequeathed winemaking ideas, adding new technology and advanced international learning.

I’ve recently come across the white wine variety Albarín (not to be confused, as it often is, with Albariño); and the red wine variety Prieto Picudo. (Youtube and I’ve enjoyed white, rosado and red wines made with these varieties, by a relativey new producers (10 year anniversary in 2020) in VdlT Castilla y León, Leyenda del Páramo.

Albarín makes a fragrant, fruit filled wine, and El Aprendiz, has to be one of the best examples. There’s a refreshing citrus note on the nose, along with a suggestion of ripe banana, with the citrus notes of grapefruit and lemon continuing onto the palate with a little soft apple in there too. Herby notes follow with perhaps a little nuttiness too, blanched almonds. We paired it with Perch in a puff pastry parcel, and I can see it being just right also with other fish and seafood. Another plus here – it’s a lovely dry white for just drinking with friends, it’s happy with food, but it doesn’t need it!

El Aprendiz Rosado is made with Prieto Picudo. Its delicate strawberry aroma and flavour draws a veil over a quite meaty rosé wine, a pink wine with presence! Fish is a good pairing and I like to use similar colours, so I’d try this with trout or salmon. Plus, of course, a Valencian Paella, seafood and mixed with rabbit and/or chicken, will be nicely covered with this wine.

El Aprendiz Tinto is made with 100% Prieto Picudo. The variety has a natural acidity, making it fresh in the mouth. There aren’t many hectares (btw a hectare is about the size of a rugby pitch!) of this variety, it’s therefore necessarily a limited production. This wine has had 3 months in oak, and was my second favourite of the reds. Some forest fruits and a little earthy undergrowth, fresh and lively. A lovely BBQ wine and for lighter meat dishes.

My favourite wine was El Médico 2014, with its cool, inviting label! Again 100% Prieto Picudo, this wine is aromatic with soft red fruit initially morphing into darker brambly berries. It’s had 9 months in oak, for me, apparently the optimum time, as the Músico, their final wine in this portfolio (there are others – watch this space!), with longer in barrel, was losing its fruit (though this may be because it was a little older?), with the oak being central to its aromas.

El Médico, was just right – balanced, elegant, with good fruit on the palate, some depth of flavour and a little complexity. A good wine for turkey, venison, lamb and pork dishes – simply roasted, casseroled or served with a sauce as its pleasant acidity will cut through the sauce and freshen the palate!

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