The Best New Releases from Spain, Part 2

Part two of our annual Spain coverage includes some of my top red wine values of the year, as well as a number of lively albariño and verdejo-based wines that are among the most food-friendly whites in the world. Most of Spain’s white wine action now occurs in the north-central Rueda region (for verdejo and occasionally sauvignon blanc) and especially in Galicia, in Spain’s northwest. The cool coastal region of Rías Baixas is where the best wines from albariño are made, while Valdeorras, whose best whites are based on godello, lies just a bit further inland. Few of these white wines see any oak; they emphasize bright citrus fruit and tangy minerality, which makes them extremely drinkable either on their own or at the table. While a handful of the most sought-after limited-production bottlings can occasionally flirt with a $50 price point, the overwhelming majority of them run around $20, full retail. Many are often discounted down to around $15. Compared to wines of similar style and quality from the Loire Valley, or from most of the New World, these wines represent outstanding value.

As for reds, this year’s tastings again confirmed my long-held belief that no country in the world can compare to Spain in terms of bang for the buck. While southern France, Chile and parts of South Australia are often reliable sources for fruit-driven, immediately approachable reds as well, none of them can compete with Spain for the sheer number of high-quality bottlings selling for $12 or less. In fact, you don’t even need to spend more than $8 to get a seriously tasty bottle of Spanish red these days. There are literally dozens of such wines in this report (and many more in Issue 152) and I can’t urge readers strongly enough to try at least a few of them as you start to choose bottles for the holiday season. It’s always a challenge to find wines that are priced to serve to a crowd but that can also satisfy picky winos. For my money, no other country can touch Spain for reds in this category.

Farther up the price ladder, recent vintages in Spain have been difficult weather-wise, but 2009 is shaping up to be a year of uniformly high quality for the blue-chip Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat regions. The top ’09s are still at least a year or two away from release so collectors should be looking to grab whatever 2005s are still in the market, as well as late releases from ’05 and ’04, which means mostly reservas and gran reservas. For near-term drinking there are a number of fine 2006, 2007 and 2008 upper-tier Spanish reds on the shelves but these are emphatically not vintages one can buy blindly. Of course, the up side is that even at the high end the vast majority of wines from ’06, ’07 and ’08 will be drinkable long before their 2005 and 2004 siblings.