I love Spanish wine. Those vibrant Albariño’s whites from Rias Baixas, white Riojas (oxidised style or fresh styles), Bierzo Godellos, Rueda Verdejo’s, and of course fresh Galician saline whites.
When it comes to reds however, it’s pretty hard to beat the bright magnificence of Rioja. Yes, Priorat has some special offerings but has generally fallen off the fine wine radar more recently as people start to look for fresher styles at lower alcohols.
First vintage of Mariano Garcia’s Mauro – the 1978
But there is another region that offers some serious wines…Ribera del Duero and its satellite areas of Tudelo del Duero and Toro, all situated alongside the Duero river that flows West to Oporto in Portugal.
I visited the region again last year to taste new vintages from Pingus, Aalto, Mauro, San Roman and Vina Sastre in La Horra, and tasted some phenomenal wines. I’m happy to declare a slight scepticism in the overall quality of many top reds from Ribera del Duero, which doesn’t have too many cheaper offerings either.
For me, there are still too many wines showing over-ripe jammy fruit characters, beefy bretty oak, and high alcohol rustic structures. But things are changing. There is a reason Vega Sicilia’s Alion, Valbuena and Unico are so expensive. They offer consistently very fine quality year on year, or don’t release at all. But there are other wines worth seeking out.
80 year old Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) vines in Toro
On my last trip, I picked up a few bottles of this phenomenal San Roman 2005 red. A winery owned by ex-Vega Sicilia winemaker Mariano Garcia and his two sons, where they have been on a mission to tame the rustic tannins of Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) in this region. They may just have done it with this superb 2005.
Archive vintage 2005 San Roman, Toro
Tasting Note: San Roman 2005, DO Toro, Spain – A massively lifted nose gives you much to think about. Layers of sweet caramelised cherry fruits, kirsch, black plum, liquorice, cassis and vanilla pod spice meld beautifully with subtle foresty bramble fruits. The palate is ultra plush showing just what optimally picked old vine Tempranillo can deliver. The 23 months of aging in French and America oak really works, adding soft, fleshy, vanilla spice complexity and creme brûlée hints together with ripe, smokey, graphite-laden black fruits. The oak is now beautifully integrated after 11 years and while there is a hint of alcohol heat on the finish, there is just so much acid freshness and vibrant crunchy black fruit that beckons you back for another sip. Distinguished and very impressive. Drink now to 2025+ (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Threatened old vine Tinta de Toro of 80-100 years old, being pulled up regularly