Sometimes called Pájaro Rojo because of its distinctive red bird label, this entry-point Mencía from Losada’s winemaker Amancio Fernández Gómez is a wonderful example of a distinctive Spanish grape. Produced from old vines on clay soils – not the slate that’s more common in Bierzo – this is plush, lightly oaked and comparatively ripe, with softer tannins and lower acidity than many of its competitors, but showing the variety’s classic red berry fruit and herbal undertone. Appealingly refreshing for a wine with 14.5% alcohol.
La Rioja Alta is one of the most traditional wineries in Haro’s Barrio de la Estación, famous for producing wines that are good to drink on release, but also age beautifully in bottle. This new Gran Reserva, made from Tempranillo with 6% Graciano for added backbone, is very much a reflection of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2014 vintage. La Rioja Alta didn’t make its top two Gran Reservas – 904 and 890 – in 2014, so all of its best grapes were used for Viña Arana. Fine and elegant, with vibrant acidity, notes of coconut and cinnamon from the American oak and a core of savoury, refreshing tobacco leaf and red berry flavours framed by fine, caressing tannins. Old-fashioned Rioja at its glorious best.
I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a few of Elías López Monetero’s wines from Argentina, but until this week I was unfamiliar with the magic he’s working in La Mancha, the world’s most extensive wine region, known for bulk plonk rather than wines like this. Production of this amphora-fermented and aged Albillo Real (with a splash of Albillo Mayor) is small at 9,000 bottles, but it’s an intriguing, low-intervention white with some bottle age. Low in alcohol, but not in flavour, it has notes of quince, almonds and fresh pastry with a salty dry finish and the complexity and focus to age further.
Made from old vines grown at 750 metres in the village of La Seca, this is a brilliant value Verdejo from Bodegas Naia, which tastes every bit as good it looks. Combining unoaked and lightly wooded components, both of them aged on their lees for four months, it has a winning combination of pear and citrus fruit framed by subtle oak spice and a taut, chalky, mineral-edged tang.
GR-10 is named after a hiking trail that connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and runs through the Sierra de Gredos. It’s the entry-point red from 4 Monos (their whole range is worth buying) and is a pale, tangy, refreshing cuvée of Garnacha with 10% Cariñena and 5% Syrah. Mostly aged in foudres, with a touch of new, 500-litre oak, it’s a wonderfully refreshing, high-altitude red from vineyards in Cadalso de los Vidrios, San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Cenicientos showing bramble, red cherry and raspberry flavours and refreshing granitic grip.
Whether I’m on holiday in Spain or at home in London, this is my favourite summer white. Come to think of it, I drink it pretty much all year round. As crisp and refreshing as an early morning swim in the Atlantic, it’s the quintessential seafood tipple, with tangy, citrus and lime flavours, a hint of stone fruit and a zesty, spritzy finish. A delicious unoaked white that tingles your palate.
White Grenache might not be everyone’s idea of a summer white wine, but this Catalan example is remarkably refreshing, demonstrating the variety’s ability to maintain acidity in a hot Mediterranean climate. Lees-aged with some skin contact and the addition of 5% Macabeu (Macabeo in Spanish), this is stony, waxy and intense with a combination of coastal-influenced salinity and undertones of pear and lime.