Spain is ideal country for wine growing, but part of the reason for this is that Spain is less densely planted than many other wine producing countries. Rias Baixas, located on Span's northwest coast, is the region that produces Spain's most famous white wine: Albarino. Good Albarino is crisp and lemony with a streak of minerality. It is an ideal foil for seafood of all types. Bierzo, just east of Ribeira is home to the Mencia grape. Mencia has gained significantly in quality and reputation in the last decade with the help of some new winemakers and modern winemaking technology. In Castilla y Leon, wine lovers find Tempranillo featured in the red wine regions of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Rioja as well as some quality whites in Rueda. Further east still, we find Grenache featured in Navarra, Carinena, Calatyud and many of the coastal regions of Catalunya. The middle of Spain is mostly Grenache country and we find that eastern regions near the coast often feature blends. Monastrell finds great success in Jumilla, Bulas and other regions here. Finally, in the south we find Jerez, home of one of the most famous fortified wines in the world, sherry.
Ribera del Duero is located in North Central Spain on the Duero river. It features Tempranillo, often referred to as Tinto Fino or Tinto de Pais here. There are varied soils in Ribera that can challenge viticulturalists, and it is not rare to find even top producers with long-term contracts with growers from other regions. Even so, Ribera arguably produces some of the finest Tempranillo based wines in Spain, many of which are capable of aging for decades.
Northeast of Ribera del Duero on the river Ebro lies Rioja. Rioja is divided into three subregions: Rioja Alta in the west, Rioja Alavesa (the part of Rioja in the Alava region) and Rioja Baja in the hotter, eastern section. Rioja began to gain a reputation with Bordeaux growers after Bordeaux was ravaged by phylloxera in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, Bordeaux producers spurred change in Rioja by introducing the idea of aging wines in small oak barrels. The wines that resulted were superior than the fruity, homespun wines available before. For many years Rioja was aged in American oak barrels and much Rioja still is, though new schools are aging wine in French barrels instead. Though the result has been less ‘traditional' Rioja, the wines are often higher in quality.
Priorat is a tiny Spanish wine region that has garnered high acclaim in the last twenty years or so. Even today, the vineyards of Priorat are planted mostly with Carinena (Carignan), but that is changing. The top Priorat are usually blends with a backbone of old vine Grenache blended with international varietals like Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot.
"91 Rating IWC 89 Rating Wine Advocate Casa Castillo's 2011 Monastrell comes from incredibly low yields. It reveals abundant flavor along with a spice box, dense blueberry and blackberry fruit intermixed with a hint of spring flowers. It sports a medium body to full body and a supple texture. What an amazing value."
"Reveals a deep ruby color in addition to copious quantities of blackberry fruit, a straightforward personality, good body and ripeness, and no hard edges."
"Aromatic and complex on the nose, slightly pungent, with notes of PX. Medium golden in color with hints of red amber. Very harmonious on the palate, with an agreeable touch of sweetness at the first moment, giving way to a nutty complexity and a long clean finish."
"91 Points- Wine Advocate. 100% Godello. Fragrant minerals, fennel, and white fruits lead to a creamy textured, richly fruity palate. Impeccably balanced and very lengthy, it is an outstanding value that will provide pleasure for another 3-4 years."
"Bright lemon yellow with green highlights. Tropical aromas and hints of vanilla lead to intense fruit flavors, with fresh acidity to balance the wine, both persistent and full of character. Expressive, bright varietal, with fleshy fruit and some subtle and elegant notes of smoke from the oak aging."
"Despite its amber color, this wine shows the herbal and slightly bitter flavors of fino, along with notes of nuts and graham crackers more typical of amontillado. It's clean and fresh, in a restrained, almost austere style. Drink now. 67 cases made. 86 pts. - WS"
"Sweet and concentrated, yet this has a freshness, from the grapey note to the bright structure. Fig, caramel and chocolate round out the flavors, ending with a moderate length. Drink now."
"A wonderful blend of Garnacha, Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot. Roasted aromas of berry and black plum. The baked, black fruit flavors grab you, adding an undertone of chocolate and mocha. Jammy and deep on the finish with earthy, chocolaty notes."
"Medium dry, full-bodied sherry from California. Aged for a mellow, nutty flavor. Good served as an aperitif"
"Pale yellow colour with green lights. Bright and clear. An intense, fresh nose with notes of cut hay and fruits. On the palate the wine is rounded, soft and viscous. Again there are flavours of white-fleshed fruits, fennel with dried fruit notes which come from the ageing on its lees."