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Off the beaten track Spain



For me one of the most exciting countries when it comes to wine is Spain. Perhaps this won’t surprise anyone as I am a Spaniard myself, but after plenty of traveling through French and Italian wine regions there is something about Spain that still remains unique. Something undiscovered and somehow raw.

For me this sense of uniqueness is based largely on the fact that many wine regions of Spain are still developing at a commercial level. Many regions have only recently achieve DO status, but also many are just being recovered after years or decades of abandonment. Take for example Ribera Sacra, a mountainous region of Galicia around the the river Sil and its steep terraces. Wine has been made in the Ribera Sacra for more than 2000 years. Some of the terraces dating back to the Roman occupation. When talking to local winemakers like Pedro Guimaro, there are stories of their older relatives walking miles with baskets of grapes to be sold in the markets of towns in the flat valleys. Grapes were cultivated for their fruit of for the local wine consumption. Bottling lines are a relative modern thing around those mountains!

Because of this lack of commercial development, land in these type of regions remains largely affordable to young winemakers. After the economic crisis many ambitious youngsters had the opportunity to purchase plots of very old vines. In some areas, even with pre-phylloxera vines. Now regions like Ribera Sacra, Bierzo, Gredos Mountains, Canary Islands or Navarra are seeing the appearance of modern, balanced and attractive wines that have sprouted after the days of Robert Parker’s big wine trend. Spain is now a hotbed of great value, interesting and unique wines.

Lucky for us The Society stocks some of these wines from fantastic winemakers. The other night I had one of my favourites, Viña Zorzal 2014 Malayeto. A garnacha with a seductive nose and power, at the same time elegant and approachable. As I enjoyed the wine with some homemade pizzas I thought it would be good to start a topic on these regions of Spain. How familiar are other members with some of these places? Has anyone tried these wines or is Rioja still your go to Spanish wine? Is there any wines from these regions that has stood out for you? Any recommendations?

Here is my current favourite from Navarra:

And a little gem from the Gredos mountains:

In the past The Society has also had, Guimaro Mencia from Ribera Sacra and 7 Fuentes from Suertes del Marquez in Tenerife (Can we have this one back please???)

Hello! :) Introduce yourself

I had this from Ribera Sacra last year and have to say I was impressed. Such an elegant wine Nd you actually get the honts of mint flavour that is typical of mencia.

Not sure if this was a one off or this is going to be stocked by TWS.

Not sure if Valdeorras counts, but godello is also a grape to look out for. Enjoyed this one:

I see the 2016 is in stock…


Recently allocated the Malayeto Garnacha as part of my Vintage Cellar plan and looking forward to trying it.

Had half of my previous allocation of these which is beautiful stuff, again from Navarra


I didn’t get a chance of trying the Finca Millara! Valdeorras certainly counts for me as a region off the beaten track type… And Gaba do Xil is perhaps a rather interesting wine. The vineyards are located just over the hill from Ribera Sacra, at much higher altitude than most of the Valdeorras vines which are in flatter and easier to tend slopes. So the weather and soil conditions are very similar to the Ribera Sacra. Telmo Rodriguez is also without a doubt a champion of recuperating lost vineyards and ancient winemaking techniques. I really admire his tenacity and efforts to bring the best of these lost wine regions.

And I had in fact just received the Gaba do Xil 2016! A wine that in previous vintages I have always found powerful and elegant. A bit like a Northern Rhone white maybe?

Check out this gallery in Telmo’s website. The vineyards are gorgeous: http://www.telmorodriguez.com/en/sites/valdeorras


I would love to age some bottles of Malayeto for a while. I just got this:

I love how these guys are putting so much effort into single vineyard wines. Spain needs more of it!

I tastes some wines of Domain Lupier in a recent tasting but I found them a little over-extracted for my taste, they were also recent vintages so maybe they needed time. But perhaps I just need to taste them again! Do you decant them Adrian?


Love the fact that we have a discussion on Spain - feel on safer ground compared to the Rhone (personally)

Spain has a lot to offer in addition to Rioja (rather than instead IMHO). I’m glad you’ve mentioned some of my new favourite grapes - Mencia and Godello

One of the fun interesting discoveries for me has actually been the innovation that is coming from ‘lesser’ regions. We recently explored the wines of Valencia and Celler del Roure who age wines in ancient Tinajas - simultaneously traditional and thoroughly modern


I have recently returned from northern Spain specifically the Basque country and spent some time , naturally, sniffing out some decent bodegas in Rioja Alavesa, the visit to Bodegas de La Marquessa was the most informative, the owner speaking through his daughter ? spoke of the need to change to single vineyard status and area status, despite being a traditional style producer.
There is definitely a growing movement there for this as the cheap Grand Reservas that may well have spent the requisite time in cask and bottle could not possibly be made for that price if good practice and fruit were used and it devalues the real thing.
Worth a visit that one and it was the best Rioja tasted and purchased on the trip, the Valserrano Finca Monteviejo is superb yet a lot cheaper than many of the big names, they also produced a white Rioja, and we all know how bad they were that is very very good and also returned with us.


Hi @Juan. Yes, I do decant a lot of my reds, and from memory did so with the lupier.

I’ve not been as reliable as I could’ve been keeping clear notes re a lot of wines I’ve tried, other than recording definite likes/dislikes, and then relying on memory.

I have 3 of the Lupier left though so will try remember to report back here in more detail when I next open one.


I’m glad you mention Valencia Robert! I lived there years ago but I have also visited the region I more recent times. I was in the south of the region a couple of years ago on a cycling holiday and as I rode around the countryside I was astonished at how many abandoned vineyards there are! Some of them full of very old vines. I think the recuperation of these areas is one of the most exciting things happening in Spanish wine at the moment.

I have now added the Setze Gallet to my wish list! Thanks for the shout!


Indeed @cerberus ! Rioja is going through its own vineyard revolution. Here is a good article from Tim Atkin on the subject:

I’m a great fan of Telmo Rodriguez’s work in the area. His Lanzaga wines are astonishing! And they do defy the traditional Reserva system by placing the importance on the terroir first. This is not new in Rioja as many traditional producers like Lopez de Heredia have done this for generations. But it is only recently that the Consejo and consumers are being challenged on their views.


There have been some interesting articles in The Drinks Business trade magazine that I get given now and again on the Rioja subject, I cannot link to it but a flavour of the articles I quote here just one passage.

" Over the past few years, estates such as Vina Pomal, Marques de Murrieta and Ramon Bilbao have focussed their efforts and money into exploring and harnessing terroir. The increased activity around new plantings, the prevalence of precision agriculture-vineyard mapping, forensic grape selection - more restrained maceration programmes, shorter barrel ageing, the use of cleaner barrels ( this is even before we touch on the proliferation of wines outside the regional triumvirate of crianza, reserva and gran reserva) demonstrate what a profound change this is.
This is not a case of rebels diverging from the norm. It suggests a much more fundamental change in the way Rioja views itself and it’s future)
and much more of the same, this is from an article of 2016, since then things have moved apace and the Consejo have recently “embraced” the new thinking, interesting times in Rioja.


Time to re-connect with this thread. Has anyone tried this?

It seems to have some great reviews on the press but I must say, I was not that impressed with it. The fruit seemed too jammy and it lacked the freshness and depth I was expecting from a wine of Ribera Sacra. Maybe I need to re-order?


I tried it and agree with you, seemed pretty ordinary, and after your verdict I wont re order to find out if it was a one off bottle.
Not sure if this is typical of the new wonder grape ?


I am certainly keen to expand my knowledge of Spanish wine. Some grapes have become real favourites. Mencia, Bobal and Granacha are my favourite reds. As for whites - a bit obvious, perhaps - but I love a young, zippy Albariño. Also, on a recent trip to a friend’s wedding in a small town called Chinchon, we fell in love with Verdejo. Beginning to also appreciate Godello and Rioja Blanca. Strangely (or not) I somehow always end up enjoying Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero or Toro more than those from Rioja. I find them a bit more ‘rustic’ but muscular and moreish. Finally - Sherry! Oh, how I love it! Amontillado especially :+1::grinning:


Fortunately for us this wine doesn’t represent the best that Mencia and Ribera Sacra can offer. TWS used to stock a much better wine from Guimaro which despite being his entry level wine it showed the potential of the grape and the region.

The best Mencias from the Riber Sacra have an almost Cote-Rottie quality to them, mineral, and peppery, with structured but also balance. And they can age well!


If you have enjoyed Godello so far I would suggest Telmo Rodriguez’s Gaba da Xil. Although classified as a Valdeorras wine, the vines are just over the hill from Ribera Sacra and they enjoy the same continental weather and altitude. Great elegant wine for those that like whites with mineral notes and energy:

And if you are enjoying Spanish Garnacha wines, Viña Zorzal single vineyard wines are a must try!


Thanks for tips! I will add both wines to my wish list, for sure :smile: Inside knowledge always a bonus!


Thanks for that , it is what I thought at the time as all descriptions of the grape did not apply to this bottle.
And your comment on Zorzal grenache is spot on, they also do some more upmarket versions that TWS do not stock.
I was puzzled at first by the name, Zorzal is also a very good Argentinian producer but as far as I can see there is no connection ?


For what I can see the Argentinian Zorzal is owned by Canadian capital and the Michelin brothers (or so they say on their website). So I would imagine that there is no relation to the Spanish producer as this is a much smaller, family owned winery.

I have a bottle of their Graciano Cuatro del Cuatro which I can’t wait to try!


Opened another bottle of Lupier Garnacha this evening…