The Costa News Top Ten Wines of 2016


Always a difficult article, this, the more so as time goes on and the quality of Spanish wine continues to increase.




Always a difficult article, this, the more so as time goes on and the quality of Spanish wine continues to increase. I’m not sure how many Spanish wines I taste each year as research for Cork Talk, but it’s a large number for sure. So, choosing just 10 out of hundreds is difficult, to say the least.

I’m always ambivalent about this article. On the one hand it’s really enjoyable to relive some of those aromas and flavours, as well as occasions – because the why, when and where is also a part of wine appreciation, when I pore though my archived articles. However, I also agonize about those wines that I’ve had to discard, although they too were excellent, as I’m only allowed to choose ten!

It’s tough, but here goes! As with all the beauty pageants (for these wines can surely be called beautiful), tradition states that I do this in reverse order – so in tenth position in the Costa News Top Ten Spanish Wines of the Year is:

  1. Bodegas Atlan and Artisan 8 Vents is made on the island of Mallorca and it really does speak of the 8 salt laden winds that this Balearic island stoically faces through the year. On the nose there are notes of harbour ropes freshly drenched by invigorating cool waves blending so well with the dark blackberry and blackcurrant fruit that soars to the surface of the wine in the glass, as well as a whiff of deck-sealing tar! It’s made with Merlot and Cabernet, which readers will know well, of course, but also in the blend is the Spanish island speciality Manto Negro and the little known Callet.


  1. Clos Cor Ví Versat is an eclectic blend of Riesling, Viognier, Verdil and Moscatel which works like a dream, it is a really lovely nuanced dry white wine. There’s a minerality which must come from the plot in which the Riesling is grown; a superb apricot/peach fruitiness from Viognier; some body and citrus from the often shy Verdil; and a slightly exotic aroma emanating from the old Moscatel vines which really have made their home in this part of Spain.


  1. Bodegas Hispano Suizas Impromtu Rosé is the best rosado I’ve tasted this year and, believe me, I’ve tasted a lot of rosado wine in 2016! Indeed, this choice was one of the most difficult. As I’ve said many times, Spain should be considered the Rosé wine capital of the world – there is such quality and diversity! Impromtu is made with Pinot Noir and fermented in oak – it’s a really super rosé, which is the n ame chosen (not rosado), as there is a definite French spin on this wine!


  1. Bodegas Enrique Mendoza Estrecho is a wonderful example of monovarietal Monastrell! A torch bearer for DOP Alicante this exemplary wine is made from 100% Monastrell 70+ years old vines, with 15 months in french oak following fermentation. Wholly approachable now, and developing even as I write. Dark plum fruit, perhaps damsons, a faint glimpse of dark chocolate liqueur on the finish. Gloriously fruity with a good length.


  1. Clos Cor Ví Riesling is the best Spanish Riesling I’ve tasted. Made, almost unbelievably on the high plateau around the village of Moixent, in the Valencia Community! Riesling’s natural home is Alsace and Germany where, claro, the weather is rather different from Valencia! Quite how the Clos Cor Ví winemaker achieves this in the Moixent area, is his/her very successful secret. Minerality, a touch of lime, subtlety and yet graceful power!


  1. Bodegas Hispano Suizas Bassus Dessert Wine is, I think the highest placed dessert wine ever in the Costa News Top Ten, and deservedly so – it’s a beauty! Provencal rosé in colour, Bassus is made with the two black grape varieties, Bobal and Pinot Noir whose skins are left with the juice for only a short time. The former is indigenous to the Valencia area, and of course Pinot Noir is the basis of the great wines of Burgundy. So, one might ask, how do they grow such good Pinot in Utiel-Requena?


  1. Bodega Lavia Lavia+ Paso Malo 2012 was one of the Gold Medal winning wines that I enjoyed when judging the annual DO Bullas Wine Competition, back in March. A single vineyard organic wine made from 100% old vine Monastrell. Fermented, and subsequently aged for 18 months, in 500 litre French oak barrels. You’ll find wild herbs, some earthiness and lots of rich fruit, clearly harvested at the optimum time. The finish is subtle and lengthy, forcing you to reach again for the bottle!


  1. Bodegas Rompesedas Finca Las Parvas from DO Toro – It’s enjoyed 22 months in French oak following its fermentation in new French 500 litre barrels. The barrel fermentation here seems to have benefited the texture of the wine as well as adding an extra level of flavour and complexity. There’s a noticeable earthy minerality with almost ephemeral whiffs of bay leaf and thyme. More blackberry than black cherry it’s juicy fruity, mellow but with attitude and has a long finish!
  2. Bodegas Castaño Casa Cisca – at about 35€/bottle, Casa Cisca sells out every year, with many cases going to the USA. It’s not flattery at all to say that this wine is one of my favourite Spanish red wines – excellent quality! From the oldest vineyards, over 60 yrs of age, only the best small bunches are selected for this iconic wine. It’s aged in oak for 16 months but, judicially, so as to enhance the depth, the richness, the fragrance, the complexity and the flavour, without at all diminishing the glorious fruit. The epitome of top quality Monastrell wines!



  1. Bodegas Atlan and Artisan Epistem No. 2 – sorry, this is an expensive wine, but it’s wonderful and rightly takes the crown for this year, as the best Spanish Wine I’ve tasted! It received 93 Parker Points though I’d place it at least as 95! I tasted this wine completely blind, in terms of varieties and price and was knocked out by its quality. My guess that I was drinking a wine at around the 50€ a bottle mark was woefully out – this wine retails at 95€! It’s a structured, distinctive and complex wine, made with Garnacha Tintorera and Syrah whose organic vineyards are located at 700m above sea level, resting on limestone slabs where there is very little nutrient for the roots, which have to dig deep between the rocks for succor.


There is minerality along with perfect fruit, damson and blackberry, with a little black cherry too. A disturbed forest floor of fallen leaves complements the fruit-driven long finish as the taster savours the hedonistic pleasure that really fine wine brings! Ok, its price tag makes it a special occasion wine for most of us, but, what an occasion. NB the Epistem No.5, priced at just 85€, sold out! The No.2 will as well, I’m sure!


Try any of these wines and you are sure to have a Merry Christmas!


NB Next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8 & online Sunday 18th December, the last of the year, when it will be Christmas Party Wine/Dine Time! From 18:00 – 20:00 (Spanish Time)!

Christmas Day Wines – There’s Still Time!

And of course, my annual Christmas Day wine recommendations is one of the articles that I enjoy most. It puts me in the mood for Christmas a few weeks before it happens, plus it always makes me think of readers enjoying their Christmas Day Lunch/Dinner, heightened, perhaps by their enjoying one of the wines I’ve recommended!



I always enjoy writing Cork Talk. Imparting (hopefully?) some of my passion for Spanish wine, as well as (maybe?) informing, and (perhaps?) to an extent, entertaining, is a weekly uplifting experience for me. So, thank you readers, whether you collect your Costa News from the local ‘Prensa’ on one of the four Costas (Blanca, Del Sol, Levante and Almeria), or if you read online in whichever country you may be (hola Doug, in Canada – for example!).


And of course, my annual Christmas Day wine recommendations is one of the articles that I enjoy most. It puts me in the mood for Christmas a few weeks before it happens, plus it always makes me think of readers enjoying their Christmas Day Lunch/Dinner, heightened, perhaps by their enjoying one of the wines I’ve recommended! So on with the show!


Celebration is the name of the game on Christmas Day, so one thinks immediately of Sparkling Wine. Cava is going to fit the bill perfectly – however, for such a day, and to accompany all manner of amuse-bouches, it has to be Cava, and some! I’m talking Premium Cava, of course. It would be particularly thrilling for me to be able to recommend one of the new Cava de Paraje Calificada cavas, but at the time of writing, none are yet available.


Premium Cava, ADN Brut Nature Gran Reserva from Canals & Munné is priced, on their online shop, at an incredible 12·50€! It’s a real steal, so much so that I’d recommend you have a look and see if there’s a deal where, for example, there’s no transport cost if you buy a dozen! It’s had 45 months on its lees gathering depth of flavour and complexity, making it idea with food, and yet it retains that essential joie de vivre fizz!


For white wine – well nowadays in Spain there is such a wide and exciting choice of aromas, flavours, varieties and areas of production that you simply cannot go wrong! Now, my guess is that there won’t be many of my fellow UK based wine writers contemplating a white wine from DO Valencia as a recommendation for Christmas –  but that’s probably because they haven’t, yet, had the opportunity to taste the wonderfully fragranced and flavoured Versat from Clos Cor Ví.


Made from an eclectic blend of Riesling, Viognier, Verdil and Moscatel which works like a dream, it is really lovely nuanced dry white wine. There’s a minerality which must come from the the plot in which the Riesling is grown, a superb apricot/peach fruitiness, some body and citrus from the often shy Verdil and a slightly exotic aroma emanating from the old Moscatel vines which really have made their home in this part of Spain. Not so easy to find, but you must!

I admit that Rosé isn’t probably the first style that leaps to mind when considering wines for Christmas Day. Yet many of us will have a fish course involved, where perhaps we’d like a change from a white, particularly if the fish chosen has a rosé colour too. Enter the salmon, and enter too, Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro’s Rosae!


Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, DOP Ribera del Duero, will be know to many readers – for their rich red wines, and if you’re lucky, their luxury hotel and spa! However, with such good black grapes from old vines, in well situated vineyards, which enjoy their own micro-climates, it’s not a quantum leap to realise that they may also make top rosado wines too!


And they do! Rosae is in a rather sexy bottle, and the wine enhances that theme. It’s delicate and yet is full for a rosado. It’s elegant, and yet has power as well. You’ll find raspberries in abundance, with a faint reference to some bigger, black fruit.


Red wine next, of course – but what with? Turkey, trimmings et al; Chicken; Goose; Duck; Beef ? Who knows, so we have to think of a catch-all wine when recommending just one. Now this is a rather difficult task here in Spain, which has been known for its excellent red wines for centuries. There is such an abundance of top reds that we can choose to pair with the main course of the Christmas feast!


I have thought long and hard about this – believe me, and it has been a very difficult choice. Indeed I could have gone for half a dozen different reds and been just as pleased with my choice. However, bearing in mind that the wine has to complement any of the above possibilities for main course, as well as thinking of the cost of the wine – we are most of us on a budget, even if it is Christmas – I’m pleased with my choice.


Condado de Haza is one of those lovely wines from the excellent DO Ribera del Duero area of production, that has not gone crazy, price-wise, and as such is a really good buy – for top drinking, and for special occasions.


Made by Alejandro Fernandez, of legendery Pesquera fame, it’s had a total of eighteen months in oak and has clearly benefited from its time in wood adding some soft vanilla and cedar notes to the overall dark forest fruit and black cherry flavour, as well as extra depth and complexity. It’s supple and generous on the palate – it won’t disappoint!


I didn’t recommend a Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry last year for fear of becoming too predictable – I’m not sure that this delicious and luscious style of Sherry can be beaten at this time of year. Take the cork out of the bottle and just pass it under your nose – the tantalizing aroma speaks immediately of Christmas!


Pour a sherry sized glass of Lustau San Emilio PX and it will instantly transport you to a warm kitchen where your Gran is making mince pies, cutting the Christmas Cake and just about to brandy the Christmas Pudding! It’s amazing, and such a fitting final drink for a magnificent Christmas Day feast! And, if you’re too full to eat the dessert, simply pour some of the PX over some vanilla ice cream – fabulous!


Happy Christmas to you all!


NB The Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91·8 and online has three slots in December: Sundays 4th, 11th and 18th. All programmes are from 18:00 – 20:00 hrs. Please get involved and text your wine questions/suggestions to me on (00 34) 629 388 159 during the programmes and I’ll play you a request too!


Contact Colin:  Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook  Colin Harkness & you can find my Vlogs

On Youtube  Colin Harkness On Wine

Wine Related Christmas Presents – Some Suggestions!

Many of us love wine and all that’s associated with it, so here are some recommendations for you to buy as stocking fillers and/or full-on Christmas presents . .



Come November, the wine writer becomes rather busy! I’m not complaining, of course, just preparing you with this wine ripple before the wine-al wave hits the shore.


I’m often asked about any wine related presents I might recommend for the lady who wants to surprise the man, and indeed, vice versa for the man who is keen to please his lady. Many of us love wine and all that’s associated with it, so here are some recommendations for you to buy as stocking fillers and/or full-on presents!


Let’s start with the paperwork. You might like to think about buying a year’s subscription to a Spanish Wine Magazine – I have two for you; plus a subscription to Europe’s leading Champagne and Sparkling Wine Magazine.


Firstly, I’m always delighted when my PlanetAVino magazine arrives. Founder, Señor Proensa, is a respected wine journalist, and all writers really know what they are talking about. It’s articulate, well researched and informative. .


There is also perhaps the doyen of Spanish wine writers, Victor de la Serna’s online wine ‘magazine’ El Mundo Vino. Again, excellent and informed reading. Victor is always my first port of call when I have a question about Spanish wine. The beauty here is that it’s free! ( .


Then there are the guides. By far the most comprehensive is the Guía Peñín (the Peñin Guide) whose tasting panel tastes around 20,000 wines each year for inclusion in the guide. Originally in Spanish only, it has proved so popular that it is now printed in English and in German and it also has an online version. . You’ll find that it is well organized with interesting sections extra to the huge list of wines and their marks out of 100. Considered by many to be the ‘bible’ of Spanish wines.


Don’t forget our friend Señor Andres Proensa though – the Proensa Guide is for me indispensable. Los Mejores Vinos de España is always on my office desk – it’s smaller than the above, restricting itself to just those which the panel considers the top 500 wines in Spain. . It is also online.


I recently enjoyed reading Monty Waldin’s ‘Chateau Monty’ – it’s an interesting story, anyway, and became a UK Channel Four series, so I’d recommend it for that reason alone. However, it greatly added to my knowledge of Biodynamic Winemaking – which could be described as Organic vine growing/wine making, and some! Fascinating – available on Amazon.


Finally for fizz lovers – it’s hard to beat the glossy magazine Glass of Bubbly. Cava is always included of course (and it’s not just me who writes about it!), but you’ll also find other Spanish Sparkling Wines, as well as, of course, Champagne and, well essentially every country in the world that makes sparklers. . Also available online.


Now what about wine accessories? I have two possibilities for you. Lazenne, specialises in wine travel accessories; and Avina in wine tools.


The former specialises in protective, airline approved luggage to keep your wine bottles safe in the hold of the aircraft. It’s simple but effective – airport security won’t bother you and when you arrive your bottles will be in one piece, ready for you to enjoy them as you did when tasting before you bought, in any of the world’s  wineries! There are a number of different fashionable designs to cater for varying numbers of bottles, including sparkling wine bottles.

lazenne-red-12-btls makes beautiful corkscrews which really will be ideal presents. Their designs are as sensational as the wines whose bottles they open, effortlessly and with style. There’s also, the Pink Swan, which makes a contribution to Breast Cancer Research for every one sold! You’ll find bottle stoppers, and more, with still more products being developed. The presentation and packaging is excellent too!


Now, wine tourism. Twenty years ago there were very few bodegas which catered for group visits in Spain. When I visited an impressive bodega I remember asking if they might be able to cope with a further visit, this time with ‘some friends’! Having got the green light I’d then tell them that we would be between 30 – 50 people. Wine tourism had started!


It now has a Spanish name, Enoturismo – and from the humble beginnings where I was occasionally aghast to see that the wines to be tasted were being served in plastic cups, it is now very sophisticated. Many wineries have their own boutique accommodation, Casa Rural style, which is of course perfect as there are no drink-driving restrictions.


However, where on earth to start regarding recommendations? There are now so many. So, I’ll mention a few of the more local ones, and then I’ll leave it to readers to ask Mr. Google, according to the areas that you and your partner may wish to visit. Wine related presents are great – both of you enjoy the benefits!


Not really boutique, as it’s a rather grander affair, is the Hacienda Señorio de Nevada ( I took a group there a couple of years ago – it is excellent, with a super dining room and of course the medal winning wines emanating from the vineyards that surround the hotel are served! There’s a tour available which is very good, and it’s in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about a 10 minute drive from the centre of Granada!


Hacienda del Carche ( has a beautifully restored self-catering boutique ‘Rural Home’ perfectly positioned between the bodega and it’s sister bodega, Casa de la Ermita ( ) on a quiet country road just out of Jumilla. Visits to both bodegas can be arranged, of course. If looking for peace and quite in quite luxurious surroundings this could be for you!


We’ve stayed in the small boutique Rural Hotel of Bodegas Pago de Tharsys ( Utiel-Requena. There’s a lovely lake within the grounds with ducks too – plus their cavas are excellent, with very good still wines as well. It’s also a good base from which to explore other top bodegas nearby.


So, several suggestions for wine related Christmas presents – and I hope you enjoy any that you choose!


NB The Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme has three slots in December on Total FM 91·8: Sundays, 4th December; 11th December; and 18th December. I’ll be tasting wines and food with my guests and chatting about all things wine and gourmet. All programmes are from 18:00 – 20:00 hrs (Spain Time) – and there are prizes to be won too; and don’t forget I’ll be playing some top music. Please join me and get involved by texting (00 34) 629 388 159 during the programmes with any questions you may have for me or my guests!