Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Cosecha 1978

86 points

Rioja, Spain. 13%

Fascinating wine. Still going strong at 33 years old. It’s unsurprisingly an old fashioned very oaked style, almost retsina like. American oak with plenty of varnishy acidity on the finish. With warmer roasted nuts upfront.

Fascinating but not profound. Greater mid palate fruit depth is needed to make this wine exciting.

And the oak influence seems to prevent the development of wonderful complex mature fruit characters seen in old bottles of Bordeaux or Shiraz.

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Chateau Beaumont 2005

86 points

Haut-Medoc. 13.5%

This Southern Medoc (between Margaux and Pauillac) tastes in 2005 more like it comes from Southern France. Perhaps it is the mood I’m in, or perhaps this is what a number of non-classed growths of 2005 have become. Certainly the ripeness us extra-ordinary – these are wines of sunshine.

Pesquera Tinto 2005

88 points

Ribera Del Duero. 14%

Ripe Tempranillo, hot climate but with nice touch of acid on the finish. Prior vintages were more savoury bitter and interesting. Perhaps this needs a little longer to open up.

Reminds me of a Southern French wine.

Gran Fontal vendimia seleccionada 2004

85 points

Castilla, Spain. 13.5%

Dark shiny modern wine. Stylistically like some Australian Shiraz with dark cherry fruit and a touch of American oak, short sharp tannic acid finish. Lacks character to lift it into the really fine class, but would be a popular wine above the normal commercial crowd. I can see why Australia sees Spain as a serious competitor and a rising one.

Cosme Palacio y Hermanos reserva privada Rioja 2001

88+ points

Rioja, Spain. 13.5%

I found this a little hard to assess.  It’s still young and rather closed.  It’s not traditional with dollaps of American oak, nor does it apear to be going for the modern extracted style (promoted by some US wine writers).  It’s a serious wine, but a little hard for me to get my head/tastebuds around at present.  If I were at home, assessing it in familiar surrounding, proper glasses etc it might be easier.

Spanish wine tasting

All in all a pretty enjoyable bunch of wines. More successful than last year’s Italian tasting.

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LZ 2006

Rioja. 84 points 14%

The first wine of the night was a young Tempranillo (young vines too). A nice modern interpretation, with clear, clean fruit. Simple, straighforward. Good to see this sort of thing on Australian shelves, perfectly appropriate introduction to Spain. Good cafe wine. Trendy, quite cool label.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2001

91 points 13.5%

Wine of the evening for most people. Marques de Riscal is a very reliable producer and 2001 was an excellent vintage. This was fairly oaky, in a classic Rioja style, with some deep flavours. Plenty of stuffing without high alcohol or extract. Should last a good while (drink over the next 10 years).

Dominio de Tares ‘Baltos’ 2004

81 points 13%

A chance to try the local Mencia grape from the ‘hot’ new area Bierzo. Nice colour, interesting aromas, but pretty disappointing to drink. Commercial style without much concentration, no depth, just a bit of plain sweetish fruit. Glasses were poured out, and the bottle was never finished.

d”Arenberg ‘The Sticks and Stones’ 2002

86 points 14.5%

McLaren vale

A Tempranillo, Grenache, Souzau blend. Very noticeably Australian with greater body, alcohol and sweetness. Surprisingy undeveloped for its 6 years. There are some interesting flavours, but I find this too ‘in your face’, it’s not food friendly, it’s for impressing on the first taste/glass, after that drinking it gets a bit exhausting. That said, it’s a well made wine, a would make a nice change from shiraz – it deserves its position on retail shelves – though I’m not so sure about whether it deserved to be awarded so many wine show medals.

The Souzau is a Spanish and Portugeuse grape that was added for colour stability, acid, and resistance to oxidation. I wonder if this is part of the wine’s slow aging.

see previous review

Condado de Haza 2002

88 points 13.5%

A great effort in a difficult year. From one of the masters of Riberia del Duero (Alejandro Fernandez) this 100% Tempranillo is attractive and juicy with some smoky aromas and savoury flavours. It’s a much more open knit style than in previous, riper vintages. This is a well judged style for the vintage. Food friendly, not heavy, not too intellectually demanding.

Finca la Planeta ‘Pasanau’ 2001 and Orlando ‘St Hugo’ Cabernet 2000

88 points 14% and 13%

A Cabernet from Priorat paired with what I thought might be similar, a Coonawarra Cabernet. Of course these wines tasted different, but I was pleased how comparable they were. Both seemed out of place in this tasting though, in that they were so obviously (pungent even) Cabernet, with real cassis berry flavours. More masculine, structured wines. The St Hugo has more extraneous minty aromas and flavours (eucaplypt ?). It would be more intellectually interesting to see these wines in a Cabernet tasting.

Valminor Albarino 2006

84 points

This white wine from Rias Baixas is a pleasant aromatic white. Nicely made, though not as aromatic as some Albarino.

I can’t see this grape variety stealing much share (from much more racy) Sauvignon Blanc which seems to have become the great alternative (or competitor) to Chardonnay. It has nothing like the depth of flavour of Riesling nor (Loire) Chenin Blanc.
But it is an attractive grape variety, one that Spain should be pleased with having.

Remelluri Rioja 2001

90 points

Rioja, Spain. 13.5%

My previous experiences with this wine (5-10 years ago) were a number of corked bottles. But this was perfect. Rich, plummy even – Robert Parker compared it to a Pomerol and it’s a fair comparison. Sophisticated yet fairly powerful. A modern Rioja, but not extracted. Nor is it over oaked, I think it may even be French oak.

Emilio Moro 2001

88+ points

Ribera Del Duero, Spain. 13.5%

I’d never heard of this brand before. But it is another rich but fine wine from Ribera Del Duero. I wish I had paid it a bit more attention (cosumed in a hotel room, after a busy day, with less than ideal glasses).

Lorinon Gran Reserva 1998

83 points

Rioja, Spain. 13%

Bit of a harsh point rating for a gran reserva, but that’s because it should have more concentration than this. Pleasant but weak – a product of the vintage which perhaps really should not have, in this case, been declared for Gran Reserva wines.

Torres Mas La Plana cabernet sauvignon 2001

90+ points

Penedes, Spain. 14%

Best vintage in a while, for Spain, and for Mas La Plana. At first my nose was hit with varietal cabernet but then as the wine opened up there are warm (tad burnt) earthy woody aromas (not leathery aged). Lovely wine, approachable now with many years ahead of it. Ripe, indeed a bit burnt but with acceptable freshness and acidity to be a very good food wine. In style it reminds me of bordeaux 2003 which many people have called “more New World” and yet they clearly are not New World wines – well this Spanish cabernet may be the closest thing to them.

Expensive wine but good value as it is only now appearing on retail shelves at 6 years old. I will buy another bottle to try against other similar vintage wines from around the world, it really is a benchmark for Spain. Tasted against Pasanau Finca La Planeta 2001 another top notch Spanish cabernet the Torres is a much finer, better, more elegant wine and less baked.

Dominio De Tares “Cepas Viejas” 2001 (review)

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88+ points

Bierzo, Spain. 13%

It’s not everyday that I get to try a wine I’ve never tried before, from a region I’ve never tried before, and a grape variety I’ve never tired before – indeed I’d never even heard of this region or grape variety before. Wow ! Gives one hope that the wine world is still a long way from turning into lake of chardonnay.

Bierzo is in the North West of Spain, “a widening of the Sil River ringed by snowcapped peaks”, rather high altitude. There was supposed to be a rather large lake here once, but drained by the Romans to access mineral riches (ie gold).

Mencia is the local grape, and is the basis of this wine. Introduced by the Romans, and perhaps the precursor to Cabernet Franc (not that that thought gives much insight into what the wine tastes like). This is made from vines 60+ years old.

It’s still a dark fresh colour, reflecting the fine vintage in Spain. Distinctly Spanish styled (charred) American oak aromas, not vanillin old style Rioja but savoury Ribera Del Duero style. The palate is foreign, it’s slightly off-putting to try a totally unfamiiar grape variety, a little bit of one’s (evolutionary) brain says “perhaps something’s wrong”. It’s rich, brambly, savoury with a stamp of acid on the finish. Rather good, concentrated and elegant. Drinking with food now but possibly better in a couple of years time.

Condado de Haza 2001 (review)

89 points

Ribera Del Duero, Spain. 13.5%

The 2001 vintage stands out after a fairly long run of average/good vintages in Spain. Unfortunately we didn’t see a lot of this vintage in Australia (I guess we were classed as less knowledgeable about Spainish wine so they sent us other vintages while looking after their more traditional markets – I bought this in Zurich Switzerland).

Smokey dense tempranillo, the house style. With substantial whack of alcohol and acid. Drinkable now but I suspect that this will cruise on for some years. Pretty good for a wine that has a pretty overt, yet savoury, style. For some years I’ve thought this is an interesting wine. I like it, its dense ripe and approachable, a bit rough rather than pure and fine, a personal interpretation of Tempranillo by Alejandro Fernandez designed to be drinking within a few years – perfect restaurant wine. BUT only if you like savoury wines, it’s a confronting wine for many.

Lorinon Tinto Crianza Bodegas Breton 2002 (review)

78 points (maybe higher in a year or two)

Rioja, Spain. 13.5%

The 2001 was one of the most enjoyable everyday drinks I had last year. But this bottle reflects the much more difficult vintage in Spain. It has darkish colour, and acceptable weight, but the flavours and acid are simple and harsh. I would recommend leaving it for a year or two if you have already bought it. Otherwise I can’t really recommend buying it.