Discovering Great Wines and Terrific Values From Spain
The beautiful country of Spain is one of the world’s best regions to find great value wines. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest is that Spanish wines are still relatively unfamiliar to us in America. Sure, you may have had a Ribera del Duero or Rioja or an Albarino, but that’s about as far as most people get. Spanish wine industry people will admit that they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of marketing to the American market. Also, they are fighting against an out of date and false perception that Spanish wines are of mediocre quality.
In recent years the Spanish wine industry has begun to emerge as a serious contender with it’s more well known counterparts in Europe, Australia and California. This is in large part due to the tireless efforts of Jorge Ordóñez, widely known as a pioneer in bringing high quality Spanish wines to the States. Jorge grew up in Spain working in the family wine business. He moved to the US and in 1987 and started Fine Estates From Spain. He recognized the vast international potential of Spain’s old vines and dry-farmed vineyards, but, seeing the trends toward modernity in other countries, he also recognized that Spanish winemaking itself needed revitalization. Some traditional methods needed updating, yields needed to be lowered, cleanliness promoted and shipping methods meticulously controlled.
Ordòñez’s aim was to preserve the wines’ heritage and Spanish character while coaxing them into line with the late 20th-century palate. In addition, Ordòñez took the bold step of challenging the American palate by being the first to introduce exotic wines like Albarino, Txakoli and Godello to a market that knew little more than sangria. You can learn more about the Jorge Ordoñez story and their wines here. Jorge Ordòñez Selections.
If you are lucky enough to have spent some time in Spain as I have, you know what a magical place it is. It is ancient and modern at the same time. The food, the wine, the beautiful architecture and art are all world class, but it’s the warm exuberant spirit of the people that really stands out. That transfers directly to the beautiful wines they make.
OK, now lets get to the wines! Victor Ordòñez, Jorge’s son who has joined in his father’s mission of bringing great Spanish wines to the world, sent me the following wines so I can share my impressions with you:
2015 Tarima Monastrell (Mourvédre) – $8.00
From Jumilla on the Mediterranean coast of south-eastern Spain, this medium to full bodied Monastell is lively, bright and clean with lots of fresh tart fruit that opens up to a slight meatiness. There is a lovely floral aromatics and a licorice note on the nose and palate. All of that for $8.00. This is a screaming deal! Also, if you care about ratings, Robert Parker gave the 2015 Tarima a 91.
2015 Rio Madre Rioja Graciano – $10.00
You may have enjoyed a Rioja before, but chances are you haven’t had one made with 100% Graciano. Generally they are made with Tempranillo. Jorge Ordoñez was able to extract great aromatics and flavor out of this little known grape that is seldom found outside of Rioja. This wine is a big mouthful of ripe berry and cherry fruit with white and black pepper and rose petals and medium tannins that soften with time in the glass. Vinous awarded a score of 90 here.
2014 Breca Old Vines Garnacha (Grenache) – $16.00
Calatayud is a DO wine region in the southwest of the Aragon in northern Spain which is believed to be the birthplace of Grenache. Brecca is made from vines dating as far back as 1925 from hillside vineyards that sit at 3000 feet above sea level. The wine shows juicy blackberry fruit, a smokey earthiness and a hint of cured meat. It has just the right amount of oak and good tannic structure to hold it all together. Vinous rated the Breca at 90 points.
2015 Avancia Godello – $32.00
100% single vineyard Godello Here’s your chance to be surprised and delighted by a little known grape that packs so much lip smacking fruit flavor, complexity and acidity into one beautiful bottle. I have to admit that I am more of a white wine fan and this gave me my favorite qualities of the world’s best whites: the richness of the northern Rhone, the crispness of the Loire valley and the balance of sweet fruit and acid of a good dry German Riesling. The Avancia Godello is made in Valdeorres in north western Spain from old vines and displays ripe tropical fruits with some savory herbs and subtle white flowers. This is all wrangled together with mouth watering acidity. The Wine Spectator just gave this wine a 91 rating which will be published in April.
2014 Vatan Tinta de Toro
Here is a serious wine from Toro, a wine region in north-western Spain, known for its powerful red wines made from Tempranillo, or Tinta de Toro as it’s known in this region. I have tasted a lot of Tempranillos over the years, but I don’t remember any delivering so much concentration, complexity and balance as the Vatan. I tasted this wine young, but it has the structure to age for quite some time. Instead of giving my notes, read what Wine Spectator said when they rated it 93.
“Big, ripe and expressive, this modern-style red delivers bold cassis and cranberry flavors, with dark chocolate, sanguine and cinnamon accents. The firm tannins and orange peel acidity are a bit angular now, but should resolve in time. Best from 2018 through 2028. 500 cases made”.
I certainly agree with the above, but would add that continued to taste the Vatan over the next two days after being opened and it lost very little of its freshness. This is undoubtedly the best Tinta de Toro I’ve had and this one is built to last.
All the above wines are generous with fruit and aromatics, but are wonderfully balanced. They are all priced ridiculously low for the quality and complexity. They all show off the warmth and spirt of Spain’s old world heritage, but also speak to the Jorge Ordòñez commitment to modernization and quality.
And one more note. My old friend Gareth Debenham, who introduced me to Victor, designs the beautiful labels for Jorge Ordòñez. Check out more of his work here. GoBig Branding Wine Labels.