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Spanish Cult Wine Release

Hi Everyone!

While there is always innovation and excitement all over the Wine Globe, there is – for whatever reason – an undeniable concentration of it happening right now in Spain. New producers in emerging regions are hitting consecutive home runs, and established, traditional houses are seeing renaissances in quality and interest. What follows is an admittedly curated cross-section of contemporary Spanish Wine, including several producers appearing in BC for the first time. We begin:

Rioja

Olivier Rivière. Everything about Olivier’s young career has been about fluidity: the juice, his adaptive methods that eschew dogma and just listen to the juice, and his zig-zag path through the wine world towards what it seems he was always meant to do. Born in Cognac and trained in Montagne-Saint-Émillon, he was pulled by his biodynamic skills to Domaine Leroy, where he naturally thrived under the neo-wiccan disciplines of Madame Bizou-Leroy. Olivier was about to invest in vineyards in Fitou when Telmo Rodriguez recruited him to turn his family’s vineyards Bio, a task he excelled in, and the predictable happened: he fell head over heels for Rioja, especially its supporting varieties - you’ll note that Tempranillo actually takes a back seat in many of his wines. In just over a decade, Olivier’s micro-oenology - it’s a worn cliché to call it “Burgundian” but it’s also accurate – has made him one of the world’s most sought-after producers, available for the first time in BC.

Olivier Rivière Pozo Alto 2019, Rioja. 75% Graciano, 20% Tempranillo and 5% Garnacha from 90-year-old vines in the village of Leza, at the foot of the Sierra de Cantabria. A fiesta of ripe red fruit and peppercorns, powerful and deep but not over-extracted, spending a year in old Foudres. The fruit is alive and humming, but not talking to the back end yet. After 3-4 years this will sing. 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points Tim Atkins, 18 bottles available, $216.98

Olivier Rivière Losares 2019, Rioja. Almost entirely foot-trodden Tempranillo, rounded off by a rogues gallery of local grapes (Garnacha, Graciano, Viura, Calagraño, Gesundheit). From a 95-year-old plot in the village of Navaridas, high up at 500m elevation. Olivier’s Burgundian ethics show up brilliantly here, with a classic frame supporting the cherry, white pepper and gravelly notes. 95 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $216.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière Ganko 2019, Rioja. Mostly Garnacha (Grenache) with a smidge of Mazuelo (Carignan) from the sandy village of Cárdenas at 600m elevation. Cranberry, sour cherry and black pepper over an elegant frame, brings the Rhône to mind, although the body is fuller. Tannins are prominent but silky and charming. 95 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $86.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière Vinos de Eusebio 2019. Rioja. 100% Tempranillo from Olivier’s sandstone and limestoniest sites near Laguardia and Navaridas in the Rioja Alavesa. Deep blackberry notes give faint warning of the wallop to follow, this is one of his most visceral bottlings. Slightly more time in oak than the others, giving a toasty vibe to the dark fruit and cherries. 94 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $99.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière “Gabaxo” Vino Tinto 2019, Rioja. Olivier’s only regional blend, sourcing from sites all over Rioja Alavesa, is also his most traditional, mixing Tempranillo with Garnacha like most normies do. Aged in concrete and barrel, there are soft cherry notes with blackberries and bacon, this is his most gulpable cuvée. “Gabaxo” is the derogative Spanish term for a “French Border Jumper”, a term Olivier wears proudly. 93 points James Suckling, 24 bottles available, $44.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière Mirando al Sur Blanco 2019, Rioja Blanco. A new animal, probably best described as Jura’s Spanish cousin that went to school in Chablis. Ancient Viura vines are the backbone of this white wine, blended with younger Macabeo and aged for 2 years in old Sherry casks. Smooth and waxy like white Tondonia, zippy like Burgundy, luxuriously layered like only white Rioja can be. Tangerine, dried green herbs, honeysuckle. 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Tim Atkins, 6 bottles available, $132.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière La Bastid Blanco 2019, Rioja Blanco. 70% Viura, 30% Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc), aged in concrete and old barrel. Citrus and apple with lilac and lanolin, a welcome minerality balances the big body. 93 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $49.98 +tax

Lopez de Heredia. Often cited as Olivier Rivière’s north star, this traditional house never fell out of favour so don’t call it a comeback, but demand has never been higher, and my allocations have never been lower. The oldest winery in Haro and one of the Original Three Rioja wineries, Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta’s house is still family-owned 150 years later, making statuesque wines like these:

Vina Tondonia Reserva 2011, Rioja. 2011 gave Tondonia muscles it doesn’t usually use, the extra heat teamed up with the 6-year American Barrique aging to broaden the shoulders of this single vineyard Tempranillo. Darkly fruited with currant and cherry highlights, spicy with earthen moods. People whose opinions I trust drink this early, but I’ve had old Tondonia and it’s to die for. Your choice. 95 points Tim Atkins, 95 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $82.98 +tax

Vina Tondonia Reserva 2001, Rioja. Held back at the winery, newly released (and rated). If Tondonia were the Beatles, this would be their Sgt Pepper, everything is aligned perfectly and the juices are flowing. The weight of an in-the-zone Saint-Estèphe but with more generosity on the nose, red fruits are supported by baking spices, and the American oak influence still shows through coconut and cigar box notes. I’d place this 2001 at the beginning of Act Two. 96+ points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $144.98 +tax

Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2011, Rioja Blanco. Have an infinite number of cashews and lemon peels given you a foot rub? Then you don’t know the joy of drinking white Tondonia. The year’s warmth means that things are further along, so there’s no probationary period before tucking into this, but the wine’s concentration certainly makes aging possible. The pulse of this old-oak-aged Viura has always been the interplay between Almond Brittle and Lemon Tea, fully on display here with vanilla, tangerine and camphor. 97 points Tim Atkins, 97 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $84.98 +tax

Vina Gravonia Blanco 2015, Rioja Blanco. Don Rafael used to make Sauternes-inspired botrytis wines here in the Zaconia vineyard (out of Viura), and I’m not sure if knowing that makes me smell honey in this dry white, but I for sure smell honey, albeit twisted with lemon pie, walnuts and spice. Big, viscous and round, with less citrus pith than other vintages. 93 points Robert Parker, 9 bottles available $63.98 +tax

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva “904” Selección Especial 2015, Rioja. Another member of Rioja’s Original Three rockets across our skies once more, with two important distinctions: this is the first “904” bottling since the 2011 vintage (the intermediate years weren’t good enough), and on the strength of 2015 this is the first 904 to be released as a Selección Especial in 120 years. Aged a year longer than previous vintages, this 90% Tempranillo is humming with purple fruit, singed potpourri, green herbs, unlit cigar and earth. Given the classically poised body and structure, I’ve always dubbed 904 the Spanish Brunello, but this 2015 is deeper in every way, maybe the Spanish Bolgheri is more apt? Didn’t realize how much I missed this until I tasted it again, omg. 97 points James Suckling, 97 points Guia Penin, 96 points Tim Atkins, 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Vinous, 24 bottles available, $155.98 +tax

Jumilla

Casa Castillo Pie Franco 2020, Jumilla. The King of Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre), I’m hard pressed to think of another example – from anywhere – that even comes close. José María Vicente’s grandfather planted these own-rooted vines in 1942, and although phylloxera is encroaching slowly into the vineyard, José can still make a handful of barrels of this bulletproof, gravity-commanding red wine. Everything is admittedly embryonic – I’m going to lay this down for 10 years at least – but we see emerging herbal notes with cassis, mint and violet. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Jumilla vineyards – almost lunar in their poverty – then you’ll recognize what an achievement it is to wrest this kind of elegance from that kind of Mad Max landscape. 100 points Robert Parker, 98 points Decanter, 12 bottles available, $220.98 +tax

Casa Castillo Las Gravas 2020, Jumilla. From an unsurprisingly rocky 40-year-old plot comes an absolutely stellar value, showing very much like elite Bandol at a fraction of the price. An aromatic trojan horse, Las Gravas plays coy on the open, with cherries and roses lurking underneath the mineral energy. One on palate, the fuse is lit, and the flavours and power snowball towards an explosive finish. Mostly Monastrell with a small portion of Garnacha, I recommend filling your trunk with this, the prices will not stay here. 98 points Robert Parker, 24 bottles available, $102.98 +tax

Castilla-La Mancha

Comando G “La Bruja de Rozas” 2021, Sierra de Gredos. As this ad-hoc upstart from the hills around Madrid has quickly gained the world’s respect and attention – effectively putting Gredos on the map - Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia have frustratingly reduced their production, focusing on quality (and other projects, see below) over quantity. Well, that’s just great. Just as Bruja de Rozas (the “Witch of the Roses”) has achieved its best ratings ever, I can only get one case. Treating Garnacha like Pinot Noir, this high-altitude red wine is a savoury soil-conduit, showing herbal and earthen vibes over a medium body with the power to read minds. 95 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax

Comando G “El Tamboril” 2018, Sierra de Gredos. The only white that Comando makes, built from Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris but drinking a lot like Corton. Aged in concrete after indigenous fermentation, there is generous tropical fruit braced by bright acidity, notable salinity and smoke. 98 points Robert Parker, 1 bottle available, $236.98 +tax

Viticola Mentridana “El Mentridano” 2021, Mentrida. First time in BC. A side project of Comando G’s Daniel Landi finds him teaming up with his childhood friend Curro Barreño (of Fedellos fame) to make energetic, elegant but quite crushable Garnacha from an 8ha plot between Madrid and Toledo. Aged for half a year in old French barrels, Mentridano shows bright raspberry and strawberry with sage and iron. Unapologetically delicious and welcoming, whilst staying true to its hilly home. This is dangerously close to becoming my house wine. Not yet rated, 24 bottles available, $47.98 +tax

Viticola Mentridana Cantos del Diablo 2020, Mentrida. Another stunning Garnacha from old vines sitting at 860m elevation, but with the added charm of two dozen James Bonds. Landi and Barreño make several passes through this steep vineyard, picking the perfect berries (not unlike the German Beerenauslese method), ending up with a perfumed, dense and floral dry red wine with insane aromatics. Also ending up with not that much wine, as only a few hundred bottles are made every year. 95 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax

Envinate Albahra 2020, Almansa. Ridiculous value. From a 30-year-old vineyard near the town of Albacete in Castilla-La Mancha’s southern extremity, sitting at 800m. 70% is Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and 30% is the nearly-extinct Moravia Agria grape, native to these hills. The Garnacha is foot-trodden and aged in concrete, the Moravia is bladder-pressed and aged in old Barriques. I get that this sounds like Moon Wine but I assure you that the only thing weird about this wine is where it’s from (and how it’s made and what it is and what it’s called). These two grape varieties make round, crushable wine that’s fresh, juicy and medium bodied, showing rose petals, plums, candied cherries and raspberries. The mineral palate becomes a classically crunchy finish. 94+ points Robert Parker, 24 bottles available, $40.98 +tax

Ossian Vides y Vinos 2018, Nieva, Segovia. From 150-year-old vines. The sandy soils of Nieva held phylloxera at bay, leaving ancient bush vine Verdejo plots around the village like Easter candy. Matured semi-oxidatively on its lees with lotsa batonnage, this is a balance of fresh vibes (citrus pith, jasmine) and riper qualities (peach, apricot, a viscous, silky palate). Unique but not bizarre, a welcome substitute for Rhône whites or Russian River Chardonnay. 94 points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax

Aragon

Bodegas Frontonio “Telescopico” Garnacha 2019, Valdejalón. Another killer value, from abandoned vineyards in the middle of nowhere. Fernando Mora, fresh off his Master of Wine diploma and broke because of it, couldn’t afford land in Spain’s more famous regions so he looked in Spain’s forgotten ones. Near the villages of Jarque, Epila and Morata, he found abandoned vineyards with sparsely planted bush-vines – and it was dirt cheap. Thus began Frontonio, and this “Telescopico” is Garnacha, Mazuela and a Garnacha mutation called Garnacha Peluda from 60-year-old vines, foot-trodden, whole cluster pressed, fermented with wild yeast and aged in old oak. Rustic methods, modern wine. Freshly direct and brimming with energy, we get rose petals and sage, blackberry and stone. A medium-full palate, perfectly integrated structure. 94 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $41.98 +tax

Galicia

Forjas del Salnes. A professional indoor soccer player (not only is that a thing, but it’s a BIG thing in Spain) and fifth generation of a long line of winemakers (and blacksmiths, incidentally), Rodrigo Mendez – known to most as “Rodri” – has spent his post-athletic career going backwards: returning to pre-industrial times in viticulture, winemaking and grape varieties in his home of Rias Baixas. We offer his wines for the first time in BC:

Forjas del Salnes Goliardo Caiño 2018, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (Red). The nearly-extinct red grape Caiño (known in Portugal as Borraçal but I doubt that helps) is a light-coloured, perfumed blast of energy with the pepper-iest nose I have ever encountered. Rodri sourced his Caiño from a sandy vineyard planted pie franco in 1862, and uses 100% whole cluster pressing before an indigenous ferment. Black pepper, bright red fruit, roses and jasmine notes lead into a medium body with its thumb in a light socket. Whoa, hey, there’s more pepper. Brilliant, expressive, unique. 95 points Robert Parker, 16 bottles available, $66.98 +tax

Forjas del Salnes Goliardo Espadeiro 2019, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (Red). Once the go-to red of Gallicia and northern Portugal, Espadeiro nearly vanished when growers switched to the more lucrative Albarino and Vinho Verde production in the post-war boom. Dark-skinned but medium-bodied, we get earthen vibes supporting blackberry and tarragon, a taut, chalky shape, finishing kinda like a young Volnay with lingering forest floor and flowers. Fascinating. 93 points Robert Parker, 16 bottles available, $66.98 +tax

Forjas del Salnes Goliardo Loureiro 2019, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (Red). This was a journey. As long as I’ve been doing this, Loureiro has been a white grape. Imagine my surprise when I unpacked this box to find a ruby red wine staring back at me, casually upending my universe. After some outsourced research by the local Somm community (big shout out to Sean Nelson and Josh Carlson for the intel), I learned that there is an ultra-rare, nearly extinct mutation of Loureiro called Loureiro Tinto that is indigenous to the tiny Salnes valley. It’s almost always blended but hey, here it is as a single varietal wine in my hands. Deep cherries and flowers with a slight red apple vibe, balsamic herbs, medium-bodied but quite structured. Breaks slightly weird on finish, where some inexplicable dried fruit vibes get beamed in from Saturn. Imagine a Mencia that dresses up like a Blaufränkisch when no one else is home. Only 3,000 bottles made. 12 bottles available, $66.98 +tax

Forjas del Salnes Leirana Genoveva 2020, Rias Baixas (White). Ethereal Albarino from 150-year-old pergola-trained vines, given a short skin maceration and aged on lees in old barrels with no batonnage. There is a lot of Wow here. Great citrus notes with saline minerality on the nose, but as with most Albarino it’s the texture that reveals genius. Every inch of this wine evokes the ocean. Concentrated and linear but fresh and intense. A trojan horse of hidden ka-pow. 97 points Robert Parker, 30 bottles available, $69.98 +tax

Rafael Palacios. While his older brother Alvaro is widely celebrated for putting Priorat back on the map, Rafael (“Rafa” for short) took a quieter but no less delicious path, falling in love with the Godello grape and the Gallic Valdeorras region, tucked between Ribera Sacra and Bierzo. Largely considered to be one of Spain’s leading white wine producers, Rafa farms steep, terraced vineyards overlooking the river Sil, and spins liquid gold from them. Available for the first time in BC:

Rafael Palacios “As Sortes” 2020, Val do Bibei, Valdeorras. Godello with a smidge of the local indigenous grape Treixadura, aged in 500L barrels on lees. Exuberantly decadent but somehow not generous, this is a full-bodied, viscous white that starts like an unopened tulip, we need some air to unlock the goodies. Once open, however, bonkers. Chalky minerality with Laser Lemons and green pears, slight almond vibe on the finish – a textural marvel. Picture a Grand Cru Chablis fattened by a hungry witch. Glorious. 95+ points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $104.98 +tax

Rafael Palacios Louro do Bolo 2021, Val do Bibei, Valdeorras. The weight of 1er Cru Chablis, the minerality of Champagne, the body of a torpedo. Rafa’s youngest Godello vines populate this vivacious white, showing riper tropical fruit amongst the citrus notes. White pepper, honey and apricot around the fringes. Not yet rated, 24 bottles available, $51.98 +tax

Guimaro. Pedro Rodriguez continues his love affair with the Mencia grape (pronounced “Mentheea” if you’re thexthy) as well as other indigenous varieties in the prized Amandi region of Ribera Sacra. Perched above the Sil, these slate-rich south-facing slopes – many of them ancient plots that Pedro and his family have been slowly acquiring – make elegantly powerful red wines that rival the best wines of the northern Rhone in shape and longevity.

Guimaro Finca Capeliños 2020, Ribera Sacra. Predominantly Mencia with Sousón, Brancellao, Merenzao and Caiño in a field blend, from a 0.6ha plot of 95-year-old vines. Partial whole-cluster pressing, aged a year in old Barriques. Brambly red fruit with herbs and spices, white pepper, and gravel. Impressive structure, only 1,000 bottles made. 97 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $108.98 +tax

Guimaro Finca Pombeiras 2020, Ribera Sacra. Mencia from a 0.45ha plot of 70-year-old vines – Pedro’s highest elevated vineyard. 100% whole-cluster press, wild ferment, only 800 bottles made. I’d shout louder about this, how you’d pay $500+ for a Burgundy this well-constructed, how we, as collectors, need to remove our blinders to regions and grapes that we can’t pronounce, but this is the only 6-pack that entered BC, so…. Never mind, blinders back on. 98+ points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $108.98 +tax

Envinate Lousas Viñas de Aldea 2021, Ribera Sacra. The crazy kids at Envinate remind me more and more of Queen: they’re all over the place both geographically and stylistically but the work is always stellar. This is 80% Mencia with Sousón and friends filling the gaps, sourced from several plots with an average age of 60. A fine minerality creates symmetry from nose to tail, with lively black pepper lacing the currant, red apple and blackberry flavours. Medium-full body, great persistence and shape. Not yet rated (last vintage was 93+ RP), 12 bottles available, $45.98 +tax

Ribera del Duero

Bodegas Arzuaga Gran Reserva 2016, Ribera del Duero. One of the best tables at this year’s Top Drop was Arzuaga, a small producer who got into wine kind of accidentally. Florentino Arzuaga bought land here because it was pretty, and eventually planted vines and made wine because he ran out of reasons not to. I’m glad he did because this Gran Reserva is a fantastic representation of Modern Ribera. Tempranillo from a nearly barren clay/limestone corner of the estate is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot before a long stay in new French Oak. Dark berries, licorice, tobacco and dusty soil, a bold, full footprint that retains freshness. Two 6-packs came into BC – only because of Top Drop – and I got one of them. 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax

Aalto 2020, Ribera del Duero. After 30 years making Vega Sicilia, Mariano Garcia started buying up old Tempranillo plots to make his own Aalto wines. The 2020 drinks like fan fiction, giving us everything we could want out of a Ribera, generously loaded with blackberries, chocolate, baked rocks and cinnamon before taking a fresh, juicy turn on palate. Still kinda tannic, I’d love to see this in 3 years. 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $116.98 +tax

Canarias

Envinate Palo Blanco 2021, Santiago del Teide, Tenerife. The Chablis of the Atlantic returns to us, wielding its Lightsaber Of Honest Truth. Listan Blanco is known on the Spanish mainland as Palomino, but centuries of environmental adaptation have effectively rendered it into its own distinct variety, if not genetically. Grown on the 600m Atlantic-facing cliffs of Tenerife, the 100-year-old vines are braided together to withstand whatever the ocean throws their way. Pressed in concrete with no malolactic fermentation, we get marked salinity under bright lemon, peach and lilac. This is a white wine with high acidity, it’s not for everyone and will soften over a few years in bottle, but OMG do I ever love this wine. Not yet rated (last vintage got 99 RP), 12 bottles available, $53.98 +tax

Envinate Taganan Margalagua 2021, Tenerife. Predominantly Listan Negro, with smaller percentages of Vijariego, Malvasia Negra, Boboso, and Negramoll. There’s a small parcel of the steep, ancient Taganan vineyard that’s rich in red basalt and sandy, iron-rich volcanic soil, partitioned and bottled separately here. Imagine a top Cru Beaujolais that spent years on a pirate ship and knows a lot more about the ways of the world and men than you do. Rustic red fruit and earth, citrus and umami, medium-bodied with soft, dusty tannins. Not yet rated (last vintage got 98 RP). 12 bottles available, $75.98 +tax

Non-Stop Classic Hits

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you.

Envinate Migan 2020, Tenerife, Canarias. 95+ points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $53.98 +tax

Vega Sicilia “Alion” 2018, Ribera del Duero. 96 points James Suckling, 95 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available, $135.99 +tax

Altos de Losada El Cepon 2019, Bierzo. 98 points Guia de Vino Semana Vitivinicola 12 bottles available, $83.98 +tax

Alvaro Palacios Descendientes de J. Palacios Villa de Corullon Bierzo 2018, Galicia. 96 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $68.98 +tax

Until next time, Feliz Bibiendo!!!

This amazing collection is available exclusively at our Vancouver Store. Call 604-416-1672 or email jcarrier@everythingwine.ca