To understand Spanish wine it’s necessary to understand two things. One is that near everyone in the country, North to South, East to West drinks it. By the mid 1980s it had more land under vines than any other country in the world yet in production terms it only ranked fourth, trailing behind France, Italy and what was then The Soviet Union. So, lowish yields then, which in itself is no bad thing. The second is that the viticultural tradition goes back a long way – to the Phoenicians and Greeks of the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
The region most familiar to us is Rioja and for this we have to thank, if that’s the word, the phylloxera bug that devastated French vineyards in the 1860s. As Bordeaux became infested, so winemakers moved south and re-established themselves in Rioja, introducing their winemaking methods and, in particular, maturation in oak barrels.
The great heyday of Rioja came in the 1970s when French wines became expensive and drinkers, particularly in UK and USA sought an alternative with some class for less money. Then as Rioja itself got expensive and as over-production led, with some honourable exceptions, to a lowering of standards, other regions of Spain came to prominence.
Today names such as La Mancha, Valdepenas, Penedes and Navarra are common on wine labels. They have recently been joined by the like of Priorato, Ribiero del Duero, Rias Baixas and others, offering excellent wines for reasonable money and even the odd superstar.
I LIKED THIS
The label’s pretty austere. Just a small golden key and the words Cabernet Finca Antigua 2001 surrounded by “white space”.
On the reverse, you are told that the wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from La Mancha and that it matured in stainless tanks before getting treated to 6 months in new American oak. Where’s the aromas of mint and blackcurrant, where’s the fresh’n’fruity I hear you say. Well, don’t worry the lack of verbose crap on the label is no barrier to enjoyment because, quite the reverse, this wine speaks for itself. One of the best reds I’ve had for ages, it’s abundantly joyful, with background tannins evident but not destructive. Morello cherry and plum flavours, a midweight polished mouthfeel and a stayer’s finish make for a decent drop indeed and I’d venture to suggest it will get better if you can keep your hands off it for a year or two.
Cabernet Finca Antigua 2001. Brechin Watchorn, Claudios and other good independents, real value at e11.49