In Case You Missed It – The Cork Talk Top Ten Spanish Wines of 2018!


Ok, I accept that there are other work related stresses worse than this, but, let me assure, choosing the Top Ten Spanish Wines tasted for Cork Talk from the start to the finish of 2018, is stressful!

It’s my own fault really. At its inception many years ago I decided to restrict it to just ten Spanish wines and, despite the yearly anxiety, I’m going to keep to that parameter! So, here are the best ten wines I’ve tasted for Cork Talk this year, beginning as always with number ten.

TEN – I’m delighted to include a sherry in this lear’s Top Ten! The Palo Cortado style, Dos Cortados, from the excellent Bodegas Lustau is rich and round, with refreshing acidity. Only two barrels of this twenty years old sherry made, making it rather difficult to get hold of! It’swarming, with almost a brandy note on the finish. 

NINE – Montesquius 2004 Gran Reserva Cava Brut Nature. (A late entry after the Verema Tasting in Alicante). I only tasted it last month, this Cava is sold only in Magnum, costing about 50€/btl – but, when you consider that a Magnum is two bottle’s worth of wine, and you taste it – you’ll see that this represents excellent value for money! Xarel.lo and Macabeo – therefore very Spanish! Full on the palate, mature nose with pears and stewed apples as well as typical panaderia bread and pastry notes too! (

EIGHTH EQUAL – Nimi Tossal 2015 Orange Wine, is fermented in barrel after a long maceration, it rested for a further 12 months in oak, with its lees contributing to the finished wine. Everything in this wine is in perfect balance – it’s dry and fresh, there’s a little butter blending with panaderia notes and a very slight saline touch on the finish.

And Pigar Orange Wine made with Tardana (aka Planta Nova) and a little Moscatel both of which were kept in contact with the skins for 25 days and fermented in tinajas, earthenware amphorae, where it was aged for four months. It has a certain nutty aroma, there’s a sense of it being a little like a spirit in its mouth-feel, flavour and smell, with faint touches of very dry cider (the English type, served cloudy – though the wine is clear) and perhaps bruised apples and pears. Bodegas y Viñedos Pigar.

SIX – Finca Calvestra 2017 Vino Blanco (another late entry, this time after the Grandes Pagos de España tasting, again in November!) Always thought of as grape variety lacking in character, Merseguera, indigenous to the Valencia region we are shown here how much it can actually give to the taster looking for something different! Eleven months on its lees in French oak barrels have given the wine another dimension. There’s a touch of dried apricot on the nose with understated creaminess and mango on the palate. Perfectly integrated oak.

FIVE –  The 2009 Selección de Añada (yep, that’s 9 years old!) is almost regal in its style. This wine is always given a minimum extra year developing in bottle after its 36 months on its lees, before release. It is a splendid white wine, at around 30€ it’s expensive – but so is a Rolls Royce! Custard fruit on the nose, supported by a creamy nuttiness, perhaps hazelnuts. On the palate it has body, presence, but not attitude – it is the personification of elegance.

FOUR – Muga Reserva Selección Especial 2014. We have a Magnum of this wine laid down – not sure if I can wait much longer! Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano in perfect harmony. Fermented in French oak with indigenous yeasts and aged for 28 months. Think top quality Rioja, think this wine! Red and dark berry fruit, roasted coffee, vanilla, caramel and a little herby spice too!

THREE – Finca Moncloa 2014 VdlT de Cádiz made with Cab Sauv, Syrah, Tintilla de Rota (indigenous to Jerez area) and Petit Verdot. Another of the Grandes Pagos de España (GPE) wines this is a revelation! From the area best known for its fortified wines comes a red wine of pure class. It’s had a year on French and American oak with a further 12 months in bottle before release. Limited production!

TWO WINE – San Román 2015, DO Toro, made with Tinta de Toro. (GPE). Tasting beautifully now, with lots of super dark forest fruits, plus it has the tannin and acidity for it to age for years. Elegance, combines with vivacious fruit and a perfect weight on the palate. It’s had two years in a selection of new and used French and American oak, giving the wine depth and complexity, with a long, long finish!

NUMERO UNO, THE TOP WINE OF 2018 – Santa Rosa 2007, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza! As the GPE tasting was at Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, Pepe generously gave us a vertical tasting of his flagship wine, Santa Rosa! It was a mighty difficult choice but I’ve gone for the 11 years old, yet sprightly as you like, 2007 vintage! Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz, incredibly fruit driven after such a time, with consummate elegance, perfect balance – divine wine! The best Cork Talk Spanish Wine of 2018!

The Wines of Northern Spain, by Sarah Jane Evans MW

So, here’s me thinking I know a bit about Spanish wine (and I do too), but my knowledge, expertise and experience over the last 21 years, practically pales into insignificance when compared with the latest book by my colleague and friend, Sara Jane Evans MW!

Put simply, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’ by Sarah Jane Evans MW must now be considered the definitive, go-to reference work for the wines of half of this dynamic wine producing country – with her next book, no doubt the same for the other half, the south! If you, or your partner/friends have an interest in Spanish wines, this has to be a perfect Christmas Present! (

Approximately twenty years ago I had in my hands a contract to write an introductory book on the Wines of Spain. It was quite an accolade and I was keen to write a first reference book after so many articles. However, it was an opportunity I had to turn down – the sheer scale of the undertaking had me almost shaking with trepidation!

Since then, considering all the publications for which I’ve written, it must now be well over a million words, almost always, in praise of Spanish wines – describing them, their provenance, their producers et al. So, I’m now in an even better position to understand how huge and difficult such a project would be!

Sarah Jane Evans MW, is also aware of how vast an enterprise, having decided to write it in two different parts, however she didn’t baulk at the task, she just got on with it!

Of course, as a Master of Wine (MW), who specialises in Spanish wines, Sarah Jane Evans would be by far the better option as a writer for such a reference book, and this clearly comes out when reading it. It seems there is nothing that has been left out, and it’s clear that she writes from great knowledge and experience. And that’s not surprising!

The author is an award-winning wine writer, journalist and speaker at conferences worldwide. She co-Chairs the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards; she qualified as an MW in 2006, and was presented with an award for the highest mark in the theory section of this exacting exam, and was subsequently appointed Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine!

With regard to her specialist subject, Spanish Wine, Sarah Jane Evans was made a member of the exceedingly prestigious Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino in 2010, with a number of similarly impressive appointments to various Denominaciónes de Origen throughout Spain. A Spanish wine expert, she certainly is!

And one would need to be, in order to write this comprehensive book in such depth. However, this is certainly not just a factual reference book destined to gather dust on the library shelf. Sarah Jane’s writing skills, allied to her knowledge and personal experience of Spanish wines make, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, interspersed as it is with entertaining anecdotes and producer profiles, a thoroughly good read!

The book, as the title would suggest, deals with the wine producing areas of Northern Spain, defined here in practical terms as: drawing ‘a line from the Pyrenees to Aragón and Navarra, turning west to Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León, and Galicia, also taking in Txakoli country, and Asturias’.

The early chapter, ‘Three Thousand Years of History’ gives a fascinating, historical perspective to these often ancient areas of production, and a useful backdrop to the areas and their wines as they are now. How interesting to know, for example, that the Phoenicians who were trading with Spain in about 1100 BC, bringing with them wine in amphorae, have left a legacy which has recently been revived here, where a number of bodegas are now using clay pots for fermentation and ageing wine!

The book also details early on the major grape varieties used in these areas of Northern Spain, some of which are familiar to readers, but some of which we know little, or nothing about. There are vine growers and winemakers in these areas who are engaged in an almost missionary quest to revive forgotten and almost extinct varieties, and the wines made from them are another reason why Sarah Jane declares, “Spain is the most exciting country in Europe for wine lovers, and one of the most exciting in the world.”

As the reader reads on he/she will find region, area and producer profiles (including climates, microclimates, soil types and altitudes), detailing wine making methods, varieties used and even some of the wines themselves. It’s a good read from cover to cover, and can then be used over and over again to dip into for reference purposes when readers are thinking of looking for new wine tastes and aromas and/or exploring the regions first hand.     

Clearly, there is quality wine in the areas detailed in ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, some of which readers will have tasted, however there are areas here that are less well known, whose wines are not so readily available on the Costas of Spain. We are therefore given an insight into what else there is to taste, which fits perfectly with Sarah Jane’s stated intention that readers should discover and taste these wines for themselves!

From Oct. 2016 – background to Costa News Group article 19/01/18



Being as closely involved in the Spanish wine scene as I am, I receive a number of both, solicited, and unsolicited news-feeds, almost on a daily basis. This week I received two, from wholly different sources, which made me smile, whilst underlining a basic tenet of the Iberian wine industry.


More than once over the last, perhaps ten years, I’ve referred to certain bodegas whose wines have come on in leaps and bounds, attributing this to the happy (though, perhaps at times, prickly!) combination of generations of tradition and experience being successfully allied to modern and innovative ways. It’s a foolish young winemaker who dismisses all he’s (she’s) been taught by fathers and grandfathers because of what they’ve learned at college, as well as what they seen and practised on their various internships.


And, of course, it would be quite wrong for the older generations to scoff at ‘newfangled’ ideas. An alliance is surely the way forward and I’ve often tasted the successful results of such generational harmony.


The large concern, Matarromera, has this year used drones as an integral part of their harvesting planning! Whilst there are dreadfully sinister roles for drones, in the main (I hope) they can be a tremendous boost in many walks of life. One being agriculture.


Extra to their use of vineyard based sensors and satellite imaging this high tech, high quality, wine company has gone even more state-of-the-art. Drones have been deployed before and during the harvest. These amazing machines have been programmed (don’t ask me how) to detect where vines are stressed, where grapes are diseased and when optimum ripeness has been achieved. That’s, vineyard by vineyard, and indeed each part of each vineyard (as ripening will occur at different rates, depending on aspect to the sun, wind etc.). We are talking precision farming here.


Now contrast this, almost science fiction scenario, to another, bible-esque story, this time on one of Spain’s Canary Islands, Tenerife. I was delighted to see a photo of this year’s Tenerife harvest where camels were being deployed! Meandering at a tranquil pace between rows of vines were a number of camels, each with raffia style baskets strapped aside their humps being steadily laden with picked bunches of grapes!


Charming, yes, but also very practical. If winemakers want to eschew modern technology (well, not that modern, I’m talking tractors here!) and take a very organic,  bordering on biodynamic, stance, a camel needs less water than a horse, can negotiate  some terrains (e.g. volcanic sands) far better and can still provide very useful manure!


Drones and camels – each the antithesis of the other, and each working towards the same goal. I love it!


Also, I was interested to read my distinguished colleague, Andrew Jefford’s article in Decanter Magazine recently on his, encouraging, view of the new cava designation, Cava de Paraje Calificado (you heard it here first, several months ago, actually!). He quotes, as did I, Señor Per Bonet, President of the Consejo Regulador, DO Cava, saying that such cavas (not yet available) are to be considered the very top of the quality pyramid.


In fact, Mr Jefford, goes further. It is now understood that this category of cava now stands shoulder to shoulder with wines from DOCa Rioja and DOQ Priorat as a third area of production which has reached the absolute top in terms of quality. I’m delighted with this – I’ve been in on the story since I was invited to lunch with Señor Bonet in August  2014 and I’m so pleased to see that all their efforts have finally achieved their objective.

(You can read my June article here ttp://


Finally, a couple of news snippets which I’m sure will also interest readers. Two major players in Spanish wine have recently made interesting acquisitions which reflect both a  proactive view and a positive, bullish confidence to the national and international wine  market. Marqués de Riscal has recently bought the bodega building (though not, yet, the surrounding vines nor the brands) of Bodegas PradoRey in Rueda, having already done similarly with their Ribera del Duero bodega building. They need the extra space.


Also, the ever forward-thinking and in many ways a true flagship of the Spanish wine industry, Bodegas Torres, has just announced the construction of another bodega, in the Costers del Segre area, not that far from the Montserrat monastery where wine was first made by the thirsty monks in the 15th Century. I have no doubt that this is all part of their combating climate change strategy, where they are slowly developing high altitude vineyards.


Last, but not least, in this week’s newsy Cork Talk. Whilst, there is as yet only one Spanish Master of Wine, Señor Pedro Ballesteros, the gentleman in question is helping no less than ten aspirants to join him in this prestigious club, by tutoring them in the many skills they will need to equip them to take the extremely difficult exams. Our best to them all!

First Published n Costa News Group SL




It’s halfway through March as I write about what will, I’m sure, happen in a few weeks time. If only I was able to predict lottery numbers with the same certainty that I now forecast that Bodegas Aroa will come away with prizes and medals from the forthcoming Organic Wine Fair in nearby Pamplona!

 In truth it’s not too difficult to make such a confident prophecy, having tasted the wines of this thoroughly modern looking winery whose roots are firmly entrenched in historic, traditional soil-friendly methods. And this is definitely not because of a paucity of quality organic wines in Spain!

 My trusty laptop has recorded several Cork Talk articles I’ve written about the rise and rise of ecological wine over the years. This pleasing progress continues unabated and Bodegas Aroa is clearly in the vanguard of developments in this field, literally!

 The following wines are good wines, not just good organic wines. They are designed to reflect that which is contained in the grapes used and in the soils in which the plants’ roots search for nourishment. Furthermore their viticulture is intended to benefit the soil and indeed the whole local eco-system, of which the land is of course an integral part.

 We are talking here of the philosophy of sustainable viticulture. This is by no means a new innovative theory. It’s an understanding taught from generation to generation by those who have worked the land for hundreds of years, but which has sadly, tragically even, been pushed into the background during the greed-inspired 20th Century.

 Mutiko is their youngest red wine. Made from 70% Tempranillo and 30% Merlot, it has a surprising rich, roundness considering its youth. There are dark damson fruits on the nose and palate, plus a faint whiff of mountain herbs and subtle mineral notes, with a touch of damp earth too. A very good relatively full, joven wine.

 Jauna 2006 has Cabernet as the majority shareholder with Tempranillo and Merlot also on the Board. It’s inky-black with mature tannin, black cherry, blackcurrant and the bodega’s characteristic autumn leaves, minty mineral notes with abundant rich fruit. There’s a dark chocolate finish and a good length. This wine has three to five years to shed its still youthful, fruit-inspired vibrancy and mature in depth and flavour.

 Larossa is their very pretty rosado wine which comes in elegant 50cl bottles. It’s unusual to note minerality on a rosado wine but that’s the first whiff, before rich, almost syrupy raspberry and strawberry, take its place.

 This sweeter sensation is carried onto the palate where the 1·9 grams of residual sugar and high alcohol level make for a wine that is going to delight those with a sweeter tooth!

 Gorena 2004, 70% Cabernet 30% Tempranillo, has a hunger-inspiring smoked-bacon nose as the cork is pulled with blackcurrant cassis coming through strongly along with typical earthy mineral notes. There is a slight medicinal flavour with integrated oak and a touch of tannin making it a wine that is best enjoyed with food.

 Deierri 2006 is vermillion coloured with a full fruity nose with mineral and meaty notes, following its 4-6 months in American oak. It has a good mouthfeel with mature tannin, some fresh acidity and a good finish.

 I feel some awards coming on!