First published in Costa News Group, April 2010


Los Grandes Pagos de España

 Of all the many tastings I went to at Alimentaria, Barcelona, in March, the one that was most popular (beyond the point of saturation, in fact, as several would-be tasters had to miss out as all the seats were taken) was that organised by the Grandes Pagos de España Group. A special, professionally equipped, large tasting room had been reserved to accommodate the capacity gate expected and it was quickly filled with journalists, buyers and other cognoscenti – all of us anxious to learn more about this group and to taste their offerings.

 Grandes Pagos de España was started by a small group of dedicated winemakers and bodega owners committed to maintaining and even raising the standard of top winemaking in Spain. Their ideal was to protect, proclaim and publicise the best single-estate vineyards, where, they would argue, the best Spanish wines come from. After this tasting I’m not about to argue with them – all the wins were superior quality, some breathtakingly wonderful!

 Originally formed around single-estate vineyards in the Old and New Castille areas, the organisation now covers other wine producing zones in Spain where single-estate wines are made by winemakers who share the common goal.

 My only criticism of the tasting was that it was far too speedy, without giving tasters sufficient time to reflect and make more in-depth analyses of the super wines on show. The reason for this was the volume of wines to be tasted, 21 in total, and the limited time in which to do so.

 Nevertheless there was time enough to learn about some of the bodegas involved (though not enough time to take notes!) and to taste at least some of the wonderful flavours, sniff the floral, herb and fruit aromas that abounded and indeed feel the terroir from whence they came!

 They came in flights of wines from similar areas – there were only three whites on show though, a shame as there are more I believe, but reds do outnumber the whites, considerably it seems.

 Given the velocity of the presentation, never mind the flights, my notes are proportionally economical, however the overriding view that remains with me still is that the wines really were a step up in quality. Furthermore they certainly achieve their goal of being representative of their vineyards. Anyone who may be sceptical about the concept of ‘terroir’, i.e. a wine being the sum of its specific soils and microclimate, first and foremost, will have had his opinion turned around for sure. These wines speak of the earth and we must make sure we preserve them!

 My favourite white, for example was the elegant Selección Finca Montealto from Bodegas Fillaboa, DO Rias Baixas, and yes, you guessed it, made with 100% Albariño. Perhaps personification of perfect Albariño – outstanding!

 El Rocallís from Bodegas Can Rafols dels Caus was an excellent oddity – a white wine made from an Italian grape variety, Incrocio Manzoni, a Riesling/Pinot Blanc cross, and unique in Spain. It’s really quite yellow in colour with a melange of indeterminate fruit backed by creamy oak. Remarkable!

 I almost gasped when I tried the first red, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2004 vintage, it was so up-front fruity, big, dark and juicy with pronounced minerality – was this going to be indicative of the rest? Dehesa del Carrizal has had 18 months in French oak and is a super wine! The next was marginally better – Gran Calzadilla 2005, lovely and juicy and obviously made from Tempranillo and Cabernet at their optimum ripeness – gorgeous dark minty chocolate finish!

 Finca Terrerazo 2007 also has that minerality and bags of fruit with a great depth too. Mendoza’s Santa Rosa was excellent too. I loved Finca Sandoval, bottled only in magnums and made from Portugal’s Touriga Nacional variety with Syrah too, pleasantly confusing Burgundy notes on the nose and palate.

 Finca Valpiedra Reserva was a classic example of a wonderfully common element in all these wines, mineral notes to the fore and in this case wholly appropriate considering the ‘piedra’ in the name! Bodegas Viñas del Vero’s (DO Somanto) Secastilla, made mostly from Garnacha has waves of secondary flavours and aromas as it develops in the glass along with lovely twists and turns on the mid-palate. Salanques from Priorat’s Mas Doix bodga is a super wine, big and voluptuous, and yet with elegance and finesse too.

 Pago Garduña from Bodegas Abadia Retuerta is a splendid wine with forward fruit and a balancing acidity. Aalto PS 2006 from Ribera del Duero was in my top three, made by Vega Sicilia’s winemaker it has everything you need from a top quality wine. Finally my favourite of the tasting, and this remember is from an exceptionally good group, was Mauro VS 2005 from Bodegas Mauro. So many flavour levels going to a glorious depth and complexity and a perfume to marvel at – does Tempranillo get better than this?

Some of the 21 wines tasted at the excellent Grandes Pagos de España tasting!