España : On The Rise!
by Simone Popov
I adore Spanish wines. During my last few visits to the land of tapas, sunshine, mountains, and Valencia oranges, I was amazed by the culture surrounding wine (and vermouth) drinking. Spanish wines are about the joys of drinking, eating, and enjoying life with friends and family. During a visit to a winery in Priorat, a winemaker who -in my opinion- makes very serious, complex, and robust single-site varietal Grenaches said, "There is nothing better than drinking wine in good company," and I happen to agree wholeheartedly with this outlook.
Maybe this joyous attitude towards wine is why Spain isn't as highly rated as our favorites of France and Italy, but there is a bit more of a historical precedent.
Though people in Spain were making wine as far back as 3,000 years ago, due to multiple devastating wars, a long period of an isolationist dictatorship, and an EU vine-pull scheme that prioritized quantity over quality, Spain hasn't developed the same kind of acclaim as France or Italy.
This reputation, however, masks an opportunity for a few daring, "loco" Spanish vignerons to produce wines of exceptional quality from some of Europe's oldest vines and most extreme terroirs.
At Thatcher's, we recognize this spirit of daring, exploration, and viticultural revival by inviting Ex-Occidente, our first Spanish direct import from the "far-west of Catalunya," to our family of producers. Yet Bernat's wines aren't the only ones on our shelves, and I want to highlight some flag-bearers of Spanish winemaking who are elevating the Spanish industry with every harvest.
Comando G / Daniel Gomez-Jimenez Landi, Sierra de Gredos (Madrid)
Just an hour from the capital city of Madrid, in the foothills of the rugged Sierra de Gredos mountain range, two friends and vignerons are reimagining what it means to produce Spanish Garnacha. Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia, both from respected winemaking families, combined forces and began seeking out vineyards in the remote, barely accessible sites of the Gredos mountain range. The outcome: Grenaches with beautiful fruit concentration, rich texture, and balance of alcohol and acidity. At their best, these wines can evoke comparisons with the best Grenaches of Southern Rhone (dare I say, Rayas?) and bring out the perfect combination of fruit, spice, savory, earthy, and mineral quality for incredible depth.
2021 Comando G, Vinos de Madrid, La Bruja De Rozas: The base-level offering is a perfect introduction to the style of Comando G. The elegance may slightly remind of Pinot Noir, but the bright red raspberry and strawberry fruit, savory, almost rock-like texture is distinctly Grenache—a softer, plusher example from this producer.
Enric Soler (Penedes)
Enric, a former award-winning Sommelier in Catalunya, has now spent 15 vintages re-invigorating and re-inventing the image of Xarel-lo in Penedes. This indigenous Catalan grape has recently become more prevalent in quality wines, such as extended-lees-aged Cavas, and turning heads as still white wines. In my view, Xarel-lo is reminiscent of an earthier Chardonnay and, in Enric's hands, can be easily mistaken in a blind for a precise and mineral Puligny.
2019 Enric Soler, Penedes, Espenyalluchs Xarello: Laser-focused and bright, combining creaminess and fresh citrus, riper fruit, and some nutty, earthy tones. The wine hits your mid-palate like a lightning bolt and lingers for a persistent finish even after the acid fades.
Envinate, Tenerife/Galicia/The Levant
Tasting Envinate for the first time interested me in the islands, one of the most unique viticultural sites in Spain and possibly the world (unless you consider Bolivian vines climbing up trees...look it up!). Four vignerons and friends from winemaking school took on a multi-regional mission to elevate and express the terroir of Tenerife (Canary Islands), Galicia, and Almansa. Each expression is pure and nuanced and represents one of the ideal examples of the region.
Envinate's Palo Blanco vineyard overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (photo credit: Jose Pastor Selections)
Doniene Gorrondona, Txakoli, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Pais Vasco
Txakoli is joy in a bottle. The wine is often reminiscent of a riper Muscadet, grown on the soils looking out on the bay of Biscay on the Northern Spanish coast. And though some expressions of the wine can be pretty uninspiring (like some Muscadet), Itziar Insausti's Gorrondona is far from it, yet nonetheless joyous and can be appreciated both out of a glass and a Porron.