Sunday, 19 July 2015

HV Wines: Cabidos 2008 Sauvignon "Cuvee Saint-Clement" sec, an insight in Southwest France

Southwest of France is a region of which 10 years ago we didn't hear that much about, but recently the moods have spoken differently and it is becoming a light again as it was so many centuries ago. It seems like that finally some has rediscovered the great potential this fairly unknown region has and what it can produce.
The southwest most famous siblings, Cahors and Jurancon, have added some other great names and gladly many know today, such as Madiran, Cotes de Gascogne, Pacherenc de Vic Bilh, Fronton, Irouleguy...

The region has stepped up as today on the global market one needs large shoulders and strong believes as the competition is fierce and without mercy. Today we have the luxury of choice and accessibility, price and variety. So the Southwest of France what about it..........

Appellation Southwest of France
The Southwest of France wine appellations sits between the Atlantic on the West, Spain and the Pyrenees mountains to the south and the Languedoc-Roussillon to the East. It is a lush green, hilly region, with much variety in climate, expression and character. It has more than two dozen wine appellations, it is also the birth place of some of the world's best known grape varieties.

It is thought that most likely around 125 BC the first vines were planted here by the Romans. The first ones is thought to be around the commune of Gaillac. Relics of earthenware wine vessels were found in Spain and Scotland shown that Gaillac was already exporting North and South from the border as early as the 2nd Century.

In the early middle-ages Catholic monasteries were popping up a bit everywhere, the monk took on the task of cultivating vines and producing wine, which with time found their way to the tables of Kings and courtship and of course to the altars of priests and Bishops. This part of France was not only a trade route it was also the way of St James, a medieval pilgrim route, tracking through the Pyrenees up to Santiago de Compostela.
From as early as the 10th Century pilgrims from across Europe used this route to reach the sacred site, of course with passing and coming they tasted and took with them wines from Gaillac, Cahors, Fronton Madiran and more.....

From the 13th Century wines from the Southwest enjoyed a strong reputation, King Henry III of England 1253, ordered 20 barrels of Gaillac for his Royal house. Easy transportation played a pivotal role, the rivers, Garonne, Tarn and Lot were crucial in making exports really fast and easy. As trade developed, strong red, sweet white wines were shipped downtown to the port of Bordeaux to destinations as England, Germany, Holland and other parts of Europe even Russia.

It didn't take long for Bordeaux to take advantage of its strategic position as the regions main port. Bordeaux winemakers who were producing at the time inferior wines, began blending the higher quality wine from their upstream neighbours with their own to improve their marketability. Bordeaux gave then its own wines priority and started to tax heavily the wines from Cahors and other Southwestern regions, so edging the neighbour out of competition. This lasted up from the 13th Century up to the French revolution ending in 1799.

So the Southwest wine trade went through a very hard struggle, as for many it disappeared into a pretty dark corner and even the French didn't really spent too much attention to a region in sleeping full of aspirations and brut crude talent, till the early 2000's actually when the boom in wine trade properly exploded and customers were more and more looking for the little hidden gems, regions that were new to the ear and palate, and so the Southwest sprung into action. Cahors as the front runner with Chateau Lagrezette a good example of the effort and investment spend to make the world realise that here as well they make great wines.

So geographically it is sitting between Bordeaux on the Atlantic side and the Languedoc-Roussillon on the mediterranean side. It is often described today as a place that is hidden or undiscovered. The Southwest of France is a green jewel of terraced vineyards, rolling hills and scenic mountain villages. Southwest largest city is Toulouse also known the Pink city, home of Airbus and Jazz.

The terroir inspires huge varieties of character and so diversity in wines, beautiful luscious, strong boned reds, whites inspire the green hills with colours of flowers, orchard trees, nourishing identity and the sweet wines from higher up influenced by the pyrenees and its elements. A huge diversity of complexity offers the wines from the Southwest. Creating and evolving every time, vintage on vintage. Today many have seen the potential this appellation offers and return to what was one day a region truly known for its great wines.

The appellations of the Southwest

Ariege IGP: Perched at the peaks of the Pyrenees, this unknown appellation is really on the rise.

Grapes: (white) Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, (red) Cabernet franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
Ariege red 75% of the production, Ariege white 10% of the production and Ariege rose 15% of the production
Aveyron IGP: This appellation sits Northeast of Toulouse, so here more the Mediterranean will play part creating wines with deeper, stronger bodies.

Grapes: (white) Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, (reds) Cabernet-Sauvignon, Duras, Fer Servadou, Merlot and Syrah.
 Aveyron red 80% of the production, Aveyron white 10% of the production, Aveyron rose 10% of the production.
Brulhois AOP: Brulhois is located between Toulouse and Bordeaux sitting mainly on the Garonne river bank. Here to robust and strong wines are key.

Grapes: (red) Abouriou, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Fer Servadou, Malbec, Merlot, Tannat.
Brulhois red 60% of the production, Brulhois rose 40% of the production.

Cahors AOP: Birthplace of the Malbec grape (also named Cot) one of the pillars in the Southwest appellation, making stellar, beautifully constructed wines

Grapes: (red) Malbec, Merlot, Tannat.
Cahors Red 100% of the production

Comte de Tolosan IGP: This appellation covers the entire southwest and produces more wines in bulk and larger quantities.

Grapes: (white) Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gros Manseng, Colombard, Loin de l'Oeil, Mauzac, Muscadelle, Petit Manseng, Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, Ugni blanc, (red) Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Fer Servadou, Duras, Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, Negrette, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tannat.
Comte de Tolosan red, white, rose and sparkling wine not specified the exact percentage 

Coteaux de Quercy AOP: Situated in the limestone hill sides just below Cahors, Coteaux de Quercy produces mainly red wines with some rose.
As it lays in the middle of the Southwest appellations it is influenced both from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean . 

Grapes: (red) Cabernet franc, Gamay, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat.
Coteaux de Quercy red 100% of the production. 

Cotes de Gascogne IGP: A fairly large appellation in the Armagnac territory, for long the vines were more devoted to Armagnac but since recent interesting white wines have been emerging from this appellation and more attention has been placed towards wines from Cotes de Gascogne. The red varieties of course are following suit.

Grapes: (red) Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon. (White) Colombard, Ugni blanc, Gros manseng, Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay.
Cotes de Gascogne red 10% of the production, Cotes de Gascogne white 80% of the production Cotes de Gascogne rose 10% of the production. 

Cotes du Lot IGP: It is the appellation that most will not really know but the town of Cahors which is in the appellation most of you do know, where great and crafted red wines are made. Although the appellation du Lot is just an IGP  (geographically indicated protected), Cahors wines are an AOC appellation. Here in the Lot, the red wine is the dominant player, but the few white wines made here are regarded as amazing by many critics.

Grapes: (red) Cabernet franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Tannat, Malbec, Segalin, Syrah, Gamay. (white) Chenin blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Viognier, Semillon.
Cotes du Lot red 60% of the production, Cotes du Lot white 5% of the production, Cotes du Lot rose 35% of the production. There is also some sparkling but it is calculated in the rose and white percentage as the production is small and irregular. 

Cotes de Tarn IGP: The Tarn appellation is growing in popularity with an annual production of about 15 to 20 million bottles, there is reason to believe that something good is coming out of here. Red is the key player with about 60% of its production.

Grapes: (red) Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Gamay, Servadou, Syrah, Merlot, Duras. (white) Chardonnay, Sauvignn blanc, Muscadelle, Loin de L'Oeil, Mauzac.
Cotes de Tarn red 60% of the production, Cotes de Tarn white/rose 40% of the production.

Fronton AOP:  This region stretches between the city of Toulouse and Montauban, here we are in the land of rugby, almost 6000 acres of vines are in a shape of a ruby ball.

But wines here have been for long the wine of kings as they choose it as their wine of preference. Much character and identity.

Grapes: (red) Negrette, Syrah, Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc.
Fronton red 100% of the production.

Gaillac AOP: Still seen as the old crackling, rustic region of the south west, here wines are simple and affordable, but since short the new generation of winemakers who have inherit the vines from their fathers, bring together some well needed fresh air, with new ideas and techniques the wines from Gaillac are becoming more sophisticated and absolutely interesting, here they still use much of the regional grapes.

Grapes: (red) Duras, Braucol/ Fer Servadou, Gamay, Prunelard. (white) Loin de L'Oeil, Mauzac, Muscadelle, Ondenc.
Gaillac red 64% of the production, Gaillac white, sweet and sparkling 27% of the production, Gaillac rose 9% of the production.

Irouleguy AOP: This is the far western vineyard of France, very close to the Pyrenees in the Basque country. They were almost totally gone the vines from this appellation but since the 1950 much has been done to restore it back.

Today it is a region with wines full of character, vibrancy and aromatic.

Grapes: (red) Cabernet franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Tannat. (white) Gros manseng, Petit Courbu, Petit Manseng.
Fronton red 70% of the production, Fronton white 10% of the production, Fronton rose 20% of the production. 

Jurancon AOP:  The region situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and only white wines are produced, 2 styles, sweet and dry white wines. so here a variety of complexity and very aromatic wines are to be expected. 

Grapes: (white) Gros manseng, Petit manseng, Courbu 
Juranson white sweet 60% of the production, white dry 40% of the production.

Madiran AOP:  Madiran is intertwined with the other appellation Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, but Madiran does reds and Pacherenc does whites. Madiran wines have much muscle and are beasty so to speak, here you encounter some heavy weights of the wine world. 

Grapes: (red) Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Tannat.
Madiran red 100% of the production.

Marcillac AOP: Here is an appellation that is likely the most unknown of the Southwest appellations and also the smallest only 420 acres using only one single grape. Rustic is what to expect here in the wines.

Grape: (red) Mansois/ Fer Servadou
Marcillac red 100% of the production

Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOP:  As said in Madiran appellation, Pacherenc and Madiran are truly connected and almost siblings.

Two styles of whites are made sweet wine and dry. It is also a little hidden gem as the wines take you really onto a journey. 

Grape: (white) Arrufiac, Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Petit Manseng. 
Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh white 100% of the production, it varies if there is more dry or sweet produce depending on the weather conditions.

Saint Mont AOP:  Squeezed between Cotes de Gascogne en Madiran sits Saint Mont as well an appellation not known to the wider public. Here they grow white and red grapes and wines that have pleasure and simplicity, very affordable and as with many wines from this region, full of identity. 

Grapes: (red) Tannat, Pinenc/ Fer Servadou, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon
Saint Mont red 50% of the production, Saint Mont white 20% of the production, Saint Mont Rose 30% of the production.

Tursan AOP: The appellation isn't that big 1,100 acres of vines, in red, white and rose. Here as well a whole new chapter is starting as this appellation wasn't making any noise or noticed for that matter. Today it strives and eject much energy and future. 

Grapes: (red) Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Fer Servadou, Tannat.
Tursan red 47% of the prodcution, Tursan white 16% of the prodcution, Tursan rose 37% of the production.

Cabidos 2008 Vins de Pays Atlantique Sauvignon Vin sec.

Grape:  Sauvignon blanc 100%

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: €13.00 $15.00 £9.80 

Visual: Warm straw yellow colour, perfect limpidity, ok brilliance, heavy legs, mature but feminine, beautiful presentation, inviting. 

Nose:  Cooked juicy white fruits, apples, melons (cantaloupe), oak, citrus, lime, little overripe lemon, bergamot, green tea, cabbage. 

Palate: Round, soft, heat, white fruits, good balance, medium long, fairly heavy. 

Conclusion: This wine has already 7 to 8 years of age and it was pleasantly fresh and from this region one would not always think it is possible. You do get the age in the wine as its complexity turns to much overripe and cooked fruits also its acidity is lacking so I think the best time to drink this wine was most certainly 3 years ago, but observing the way it ages gracefully I think that this is a good example how far the south west have come to prove that it can make great wines. This is a wine with a solid structure and good back bone,  with fish this wine will work greatly, even juicy chicken.

Score:  I rate this wine  17.9/20 79/100 (rated as a good wine)

Until next time please do drink responsible. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

HV Wines: Aries Mendoza Argentina 2014

Here do we have again another wine from the Magrez portfolio, this time as the title indicates from Argentina and the most famous wine region of the country "Mendoza".

Before elaborating the wine let us go back and explore Mendoza a little bit more. Many of you must have tasted a wine from Argentina and pretty much if you did it would have come from Mendoza, as it is the star region from the country.

Mendoza is as well a city as a region in Argentina, it is without a doubt the region to explore wine- tourism, which is helping to promote the region and its wines as a perfect ambassador for the country. There is so much on offer to combine your visit to Argentina. From wine, culture, culinair, extreme sports, health spa, nature or just relaxing. The board here has made sure that the memory of your stay combined with its wine is what will last as a memory and hopefully make you come back for more.

The region is graciously set at the foot of the Andes mountain range and so embracing you in a spectacular scenery very few can match. So when did it all started?.....

1551 was when the first vines (vitis vinifera) were planted, brought over by the Spanish colonizers. They spread quickly to all corners of the land and soon vines were popping up everywhere. Of course the Catholic priest were the main cultivators as they planted vines around their monasteries to ensure enough supply for their holy masses. Also do not forget that then at the time clean drinking water wasn't widely available, so grape juice fermented or not was a good alternative. In the 19th Century European immigrants introduced new vine growing techniques and grape varieties. Between 1850 and 1880 Argentina got to join the international economic networks.

Two factors made this possible: the expansion of the rail network, which contributed to the development of trade and communication between provinces, and the incorporation of Patagonia to the national territory after the conquest of the desert, which forced the indigenous peoples of the region to retreat. With the arrival of immigrants and the means to develop land into agriculture industry made Argentina suddenly become a global player. Although it will still take some time to find Argentinian wines on tables across the world, the vision and intention was there. The wine industry became a very important asset and attribute.

It was in Mendoza that they realized the potential of making and producing great wine, so here they set up the first school of agriculture in the country. It was a Frenchman Michel Aime Pouget that was appointed head of the school, he brought with him the know-how and techniques of fruit development of wine-growing.

In 1873  Argentina had 2,023 hectares (5000 acres) of vines planted by 1893 it had expanded to 10,117 hectares (25,000 acres) and in 1900 it had reached 21,000 hectares (519,000 acres), making significant changes to the landscape and architecture.

Mendoza is by far the largest wine region in Argentina, it is responsible for about 70% of the national production. The grape we all associate with Argentina is of course Malbec.

The soil in Mendoza are andean in origin, and have been deposited for over thousand of years by the region's rivers. These rocky, sandy soils have little organic matter and are free draining. making them dry and low in fertility. The kind of soil that is perfect for viticulture, vines are forced to work hard for hydration and nutrients and by that will produce small concentrated berries. So you will have highly structured wines with strong tannins and often a minerality due to the soil structure.

  • Argentina is the 6th largest producer of wine globally of which 70% is produced in Mendoza. 
  • The most important grape varieties are: (red) Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah. (white) Torrontes, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. 
  • Other varietals grown includes, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chenin blanc, Viognier and Semillon.
  • Mendoza is divided in four distinctive areas: Lujan du Cuyo, Maipo, Uco valley and Eastern Mendoza.
  • The areas receive less then 10 inches of rain a year, which is very low but thanks to the rivers and the snow from the Andes there is plenty of water available. (an irrigation law was set into place to help but also control the growing methods)
  • Mendoza has 148,000 hectares of vines planted
  • The yield is about 1.1 billion kilograms (total in Argentina is about 1.5 billion kilograms) 
  • About 215 million litres of wine is exported annually. 

 Bernard Magrez Aries Casa Magrez,Mendoza Argenina 2014
Grape: Malbec 100% (named Cot in France, find its roots in Cahors), Malbec finds itself in 30 departments in France, the malbec grape came into the Gironde area (Bordeaux) in the 18th Century via Doctor M. de Lutkens.

Alcohol: 14%

Price: €7 $8 £5 (not retail price)

Visual: Velvety/ purple colour, (the darker and vibrant the colour is the younger the wine), good limpidity, fair brilliance, solid legs, masculine but young, one could say a healthy young man.

Nose: Candied sweets, little ethanol slightly hindering, black fruits, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, little aromatic (sage).

Palate: Dark red fruits, soft tannins, warm , little acidity, medium strength, fairly pleasant finish.

Conclusion: Another of the Magrez collection made with dignity and know-how. Although on the nose the smell of alcohol is not to be missed (which should be better controlled), overall for the price the wine is sold for in wholesale it holds value for money (retail should not be higher than €14 $15 £9 otherwise way overpriced). It will definitely go well with meats, it can also go on its own, this is a well made wine but somehow for Magrez's standard it should do better, he is afterall a man that certainly knows how to make great wines.

Score: 16.9/20 69/100 (rated as a fair wine)

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Monday, 6 July 2015

HV Wines: My top 20 Spanish wines


Spain we all know from Ibiza, party, summer holidays, sombreros, their cuisine, their beaches, the culture, football, design, Art and now more then ever before for their wines.

There has been such a surge in the last 15 years to have Spain's red, white,rose and sparkling to standards never seen before.  Long time now Spain makes great wines but the Spaniards did not really let them leave the country, in Spain's culture wines were there for them on the table with dinner and good company. Wine was and still is part of the daily culture associated with the elements of life. More and more now we are familiar with some of the marvels that comes out of Spain.

Here in the list are 20 of Spain greatest wines you should definitely try to discover if you haven't already.

First a couple of facts regarding Spain and its wines;

Data on Spain

Population: 46,507,760 (2014 statistics)
Surface area: 504,645 square kilometres
Surface area of Vineyards: 1,108.000 hectares

The predominant grape varieties

Red Grapes

1. Tempranillo (18.9%) also called Tinto fino in Ribera del Duero.
2. Garancha
3. Bobal
4. Monastrell
5. Cabernet-sauvignon
6. Syrah
7. Carinena (Carignan)
8. Merlot

White Grapes

1. Airen (26%)
2. Macabeo (also called Viura)
3. Albarino
4. Verdejo
5. Garancha Blanca
6. Chardonnay
7. Malvasia
8. Palomina (used for Cherry)
9. Parellada (main component for most sparkling wines)
10. Pedro-Ximenez (used for Cherry)


The warm climate of the Mediterranean is the pattern in the whole country. with the continental exception (warm day time, fresh night time, an average statistic). More moderate influences of the Atlantic Ocean (facing North are the islands of Tenerife, and La Palma in the Canary Islands, Galicia, Basque country). Atlantic Mediterranean  (Huelva, Bierzo, Navarre, Rioja Alta), Continental-Atlantic (Castilla Leon), Continental-Mediterranean (La Mancha, Extremadura, South Navarre, Rioja Baja and Aragon), and Mediterranean (Valencia, Alicante, and Catalonia). among many other micro-climates which give rise to many other wines.

Production (2015)

36.6 Million Hectolitres


4000 (which is not wine growers)

Spains Wine regions
(from North to South)

1. Rias Baixas
2. Ribeiro
3. Navarre
4. Rioja
5. Alella
6. Penedes
7. Tarragona
8. Priorat
9. Terra Alta
10. Ribera del Duero
11. Rueda
12. Valencia
13. La Mancha
14. Valdepenas
15. Alicante
16. Almansa
17. Yecla
18. Jumilla
19. Montilla-Moriles
20. Malaga
21. Jerez


Vino di Mesa, Table wine
Vinos de la Tierra, Similar to vins de pays (now Vin de Terroir) in France
Vino de Calidad Producido en region Diterminada (a superior quality wine)
Denominacion de Origen (the mainstream wines have a D.O like in Italy, original nomination)
Denominacion de Origen Calificada (This is close to the highest standard you can get)
Vino de Pago (This is designated to individual single estates with an international reputation only 15 estates with this status)

Spanish Labelling Laws

Crianza: red wines aged for at least 2 years with 6 months on oak. The rose's and white be aged for at least 1 year and 6 month in oak
Reserva: red wines aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year on oak. For the whites and the rose's must be aged for at least 2 years and 6 months in oak.
Gran Reserva: wines appearing in the reserva status age for at least 5 years with 18 months in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. For the whites and Rose's at least 4 years ageing of which 6 months in oak.

The top 20 Spanish wines

1.  Dominio de Pingus, Ribera del Duero. The El Bulli of wines.

Peter Sisseck a Danish Oenologist, established Dominio de Pingus in 1995. From the start he shot bullseye straight away and even Parker said that this was one of the best wines he ever tasted. So over the next decade Pingus becomes the reference in the ultimate Spanish wine, not always to the likings of the Spanish themselves. Today he makes three style of wines, Pingus, Flor de Pingus and Psi (a much more affordable wine)

Flor de Pingus 2011 (red) 18/20 90/100 €86 £64 $98
Colour: very deep Cherry red. Nose: ripe fruit, spicy, scrubland, sweet spices, creamy oak. Palate: flavourful, ripe fruit, spicy, round tannins.
Pingus 2011 (red) 19.5/100 97/100 €816 £591 $910
Colour: Cherry, garnet rim Nose: fruit expression, ripe fruit, sweet spices, cocoa bean, earthy notes Palate: flavourful, fruity, ripe fruit, full, round tannins.

Size of the vineyard: 5 hectares
Owner: Peter Sisseck
Bottles Produced: around 6,000

2. Bodegas Vega-Sicilia, Ribera del DueroThe Rolls Royce of Spanish wines.

The foundations of Vega Sicilia can be found back as far as 1859. Don Eloy Lecanta Y Chaves was given an estate by his wealthy father, the official dates for Vega Sicilia are 1864, when Don came back from his travels in Bordeaux with vine cuttings from, Cabernet-Sauvingon, Malbec, Merlot, Carmenere even a little bit of Pinot Noir, but today the Pinot and Carmenere are not planted any more. There is of course Tempranillo which is cultivated in goblet fashion (a vine style of growing) while the other grapes varieties are guyot (vine style of growing). Today this winery has global inspiration and admiration.

Bodega Vega-Sicilia Unico 2004 (red) 19.5/20 97/100 €253 £183 $282
Colour: very deep cherry. Nose: elegant, spicy, fine reductive notes, wet leather, aged wood nuances, fruit liquor notes. Palate: spicy, fine tannins, elegant, long.

There are as well Valbuena and Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial which is a blend of several vintages.

Size of the vineyard: 250 hectares
Owner: The Alvarez family
Bottles produced: Total production is about 266,000

3. Artadi, RiojaThe Picasso of Rioja.
The master in Rioja and truly so, this is not just a wine, Founded not so long ago 1985, by a group of wine makers village men and women, with a profound determination to produce pure terroir and the best Rioja. They are eminent to preserve the terroir and its traditions, preventing the disrespectful agriculture management. Here they exerce and practise viticulture biodynamically, all respect and care to land, age terroir.

Artadi El Carretil 2010. 19.50/20 98/100 €105 $117 £75.00
Colour: Cherry, purple rim.  Nose: Fruit expression, red berry notes, dry stone, creamy oak, sweet spices. Palate: Flavourful, powerful, complex, spicy.

Artadi El Pison 2011. 19.50/20 97/100 €214 $237 £152
Colour: Very deep cherry. Nose: Powerful, characterful, ripe fruit, red berry notes, sweet spices. Palate: Strength, full of flavour, fine bitter notes, good acidity, round tannins.

There are 7 more talented wines in the family which are all as greatly crafted as this El Carretil.

Size of the vineyard: about 83 hectares of vines.
Owners:  Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle
Bottles produced:  200.000 -300.000

4. Alvear, Montilla-Moriles. The craftsmen.
The Alvear family has its roots in Trasmiera in the mountains of Burgos. The first planted themselves in Najera (in Rioja) but a couple years later they moved down to the province of Cordoba in Andalucia. A family with steep long tradition and pretty much the makers of Pedro-Ximenes fortified wine. Pure splendour, theatrical, poetic and history.

Alvear PX 1830 PX Riserva. 19.50/20 98/100 €132.50 $147 £93.60
Colour: Dark mahogany, Nose: Elegant, dried fruit, cocoa bean, sweet spices, aromatic coffee. Palate: Spirituous, creamy, long, elegant, round, fine solera notes.

Size of the vineyard: 300 hectares
Owners: The Alvear family
Bottles produced: 5.000.000

5. Vinedos Sierra Cantabria, Rioja. The Monserrat Caballe of wines.
A five generation story, since 1870 from father to son traditions and respect of terroir and soil as well adapting to the new technologies, the Eguren family are a dedicated and driven family. In Rioja they are considered almost royalty as their wines express a pure and true identity, reflecting the image of Rioja and their wines have won many competitions all over the world.

Finca El Bosque 2010. 19.50/20 97/100 €88 $98 £63
Colour: Cherry, garnet rim. Nose: Spicy, creamy oak, toasty, complex, powerfull, ripe fruit. Palate: Powerful, flavourful, toasty, round tannins.

Size of the vineyard: 100 hectares . ( for this wine mentioned 1.480 hectares)
Owners: Eguren Family
Bottles produced: for this wine about 18.000 bottles.

6. Bodegas Hermanos Sastre, Ribera del Duero. The Massimo Dutti of wines.

Five decades ago the Sastre family launched their adventure with huge passion and precision. Of course starting in small steps he made his first wine in the caves of La Horta. With the profit he bought more land to finally in the nineties fulfilling his dream of his own winery. Although tragic has hit the family, the drive to keep the families dream alive and with honours never left this family.

Vina Sastre Pesus 2010. 19.50/20 97/100 €245 $273 £175
Colour: Very deep cherry. Nose: Creamy oak, sweet spices, ripe fruit, toasty, earthy notes. Palate: Flavourful, fruity, powerful, ripe fruit, round tannins.

Size of the vineyard: 45 hectares
Owners: Sastre family.
Bottles produced: 1500 bottles for the wine mentioned above. (but the whole production is thought to be around 120.000)

7. Alvaro Palacios, Priorat. The Hermes of Spain.
Image result for alvaro palacios priorat l'ermita
One of the nine children from the Palacios Remondo family. He studied in Bordeaux with the Moueix and Ch. Petrus. In 1980, he could return to his parents domain but he was drawn to an ancient vineyard in Priorat. Here he set his goal as he knew that the terroir here could challenge any top wine in Europe. Today he is one of the most talented wine makers, Spain has known. Also he was awarded Decanter personality of 2015.

L'Ermita 2011. 19.50/20 97/100 €819 $913 £589 
Colour: Deep Cherry. Nose:  Elegant, ripe fruit, red berry, notes, spicy, mineral, earthy notes. Palate: Flavourful, fruity, fresh, spicy

Size of the vineyard: 25 hectares for all wines
Owner: Alvaro Palacios
Bottles produced:  overall production 195.000

8. Dominio de Atauta, Ribera del Duero. Tradition as an institution.
This winery is part of the Avantselecta group, who holds 8 wineries in Spain all of very high standard. Dominio de Atauta is in most eyes the jewel in their portfolio and rightfully so. Here they work tradition with modernization in perfect harmony, respect towards soil and vine, following a culture of preventive and constructive wine making. 

Dominio de Atauta 2009. 19.5/20 97/100 €24 $27 £17
Colour:  Deep cherry. Nose: Ripe fruits, spicy, toasty, earthy notes. Palate: Powerful, good acidity, fine bitter notes, round tannins. 

Size of the vineyard: 15 hectares 
Owners: Avanteselecta
Bottles produced: approximately 90.000 bottles

9. Bodega Contador, Rioja. The modern Rioja. 
Image result for bodega contador rioja
Not even 2 decades old and already amongst the top wineries in Spain. Benjamin Romeo wine maker and vine-grower had this vision and desire to create a modern style Rioja where the traditional aspects of centuries old wine making are connected to the today style palate conjuncted with modern technology. A Bodega not to be missed.

Condator 2011. 19.50/20 96/100 €207 $231 £148
Colour: Chery, garnet rim. Nose: Spicy, creamy oak, fruit expression, ripe fruit, sweet spices. Palate: Powerful, flavourful, toasty, round tannins.

Size of the vineyard: over 2 hectares
Owners: Benjamin Romeo
Bottles produced: 5.700

10. Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo.  The precious jewel.

This is Spain's most secretive wine, although it is known world wide and at a price. But Alvaro Palacios started in 1998 with his nephew Ricardo Perez this adventure. Bierzo was not so well known producing high quality wines, but that was just the intention of these two gentlemen. Producing great wines from old vineyards and boy have they just hit the bar ten times higher. It reminds me of Ridley Scott's film "A God Year" with Russell Crow, where he inherited a vineyard where in a corner of the vineyard a sumptuous mysterious wine was produced named "Le Coin Perdu" (the lost corner). 

La Faraona 2011. 19.50/20 97/100 €207 $231 £148
Colour: Bright cherry. Nose: Expressive, complex, elegant, fruit expression, spicy, scrubland. Palate: Full, vatietal, elegant, round, fine tannins. 

Size of the vineyard: 10.90 hectares
Owners: Alvaro Palacios and Ricardo Perez.
Bottles produced: not communicated

11. Rafael Palacios, Valdeorras. The pinnacle of white wine.
Youngest brother of the family of nine Palacios, he started as an oenologist at the family winery working perfecting especially the white wines. Soon he got the drive to look for a parcel of land where her could work his craft and knowledge and in 2004 he bought 12 hectares and started his adventure. Today his white wines are considered to be amongst the best in Spain. 

Sorte O Soro 2011. 19.50/20 97/100 €105 $117 £75
Colour: Bright yellow. Nose: Powerful, sweet spices, creamy oak, dried herbs, balsamic herbs, fruits expression. Palate: Rich, flavourful, fresh, good acidity, mineral. 

Size of the vineyard:  21 hectares
Owner: Rafael Palacios
Bottles produced: Not communicated 

12. J. Chivite Family estate, Navarra. History in a bottle.
Eleven generations stand here proud between land and vine. This estate has grown into a global enterprise where quality stands as a rule and ambition as part of their DNA. Through the centuries this estate has followed trends and innovations, all along protecting the land and the vines. A house belonging to the absolute top of the Spanish wines.

Chivite coleccion 125 2004. 19.50/20 97/100 €73 $81 $52
Colour: Bright straw. Nose: Fruit expression, candied fruit, citrus fruit, spicy, creamy oak. Palate: Varietal,full, mineral, ripe fruit, good acidity. 

Size of the vineyard: 577 hectares of vines.
Owners: Chivite family
Bottles produced: Not communicated 

13. Finca Allende, Rioja. The philosophical wine of Spain.
Image result for finca allende rioja
Michel Angel de Gregorio, master and founder of Finca Allende always said that Rioja is the land of a thousand wines. He originally comes  from la Mancha but when he decided to that his own wine, it was the town of Briones in Rioja Alta that did it for him. Today he stands as one of the pioneers of Spanish wine and with a philosophy purely focus on land, respect and nature. His jewel in the family is Aurus, a magnificent red wine pure stallion and finesse. 

Aurus 2010. 19/20 95/100 €145 $161 £103
Colour: Cherry, garnet rim. Nose: Ripe fruit, fruit liqueur notes, powerful, dry stone, earthy notes, characterful, toasty, dark chocolate. Palate: Powerful, flavourful, concentrated, long, balanced, round tannins.

Size of the vineyard: 56 hectares
Owner: Michael Angel de Gregorio
Bottles Producing: 300.000 bottles

14. Bodega Numanthia. Toro. Resistance and tenacity

Here there is a sophistication, art craft at play, with the respect of the land and nature situated in the center of Spain in the Toro appellation, Numanthia has grown towards a pillar of great and outstanding quality. Steeped in a long history, the people of Numanthia were resilient, strong and of great determination, the believe to rather die then give up  against the Romans set a note of how much strength and character lives and breeds these lands. Now of course in the hands of the group LVMH since 1998, it can only go from strength to strength, even though I am a bit weary of those massive groups, LVMH does select carefully who to get on its books. 

Numanthia 2010. 19/20 95/100 €44 $48 £31
Colour: Cherry, garnet rim. Nose: Sweet spices, toasty,ripe fruit, fruit expression, earthy notes. Palate: Powerful, good acidity, full, god structure, long. 

Size of the vineyard: 80 hectares
Owner: Group LVMH
Bottles producing:  not communicated

15. Artuke Bodegas Y Vinedos, Rioja. The rebel with a cause.
Image result for artuke bodegas y vinedos rioja
In 1991 the Blanco family decided to step up to the challenge, their rustic modern but refined approach towards wine making was something of a new wave in Rioja. Going biodynamic was a true challenge but the right one, the total respect for land and terroir was absolutely vital. A winery steeped in tradition but looking constantly towards the future, holding the land to the core of their wines, creating truly something different, a good rebel with a cause. 

Artuke K4 2011. 19/20 95/100 €32 $36 £23 
Colour: Bright cherry. Nose: Ripe fruit, sweet spices, creamy oak, expressive, red berry notes. Palate: flavourful, fruity, toasty, round tannins. 

Size of the vineyard:  22 hectares
Owners: Miguel Blanco
Bottles produced:  not communicated

16. Caves Gramona, Cava. The purest of  bubbles.

Going back to 1816 when the Battle family were wine growers and makers, in 1881 they had set up the foundation of the Battle cellar and became one of the biggest negociants in Penedes. The Gramona family tavern owners and wine experts, both families had only one child and so they married in 1913, one had the land and other the cellar to produce and soon the Gramona came to life. They had five children and so the future generations for the business. They produce wines and Cavas but it is for the Cavas this house is known for world wide.

Gramona Cellar Batlle 2001 Gran Reserva. 19/20 95/100 €56 $62 £40
Colour: Old gold amber rim. Nose: Macerated fruit, patisserie, sweet spices, roasted almonds, dry nuts. Palate: Elegant, balanced, fine bead, long creamy.

Size of the vineyard: 150 hectares
Owners: Gramona family
Bottles producing: 600.000 bottles

17. Josep M Raventos I Blanc, Penedes. The way of life.

Here is one of the finest houses in Catalonia and one of the first to make sparkling wine. Although that is their up-most strongest asset, they do make some wonderful wines as well. Here in 1888 Manuel Raventos Domenech made his first sparkling wine. In 1872 they helped creating CAVA as a brand and dreamed of making a sparking wine rivalling the likes of Champagne. The Raventos estate has vines growing since 1497,this stretches back 20 generations, a true dynasty in the winemaking world. 

Raventos I Blanc Gran Reserva personal M.R.N 2000. 19/20 95/100 €37 $41 £26
Colour: Bright golden. Nose: Fine lees, fragrant herbs, complex. Palate: Powerful, flavourful, good acidity, fine bead, fine bitter notes. 

Size of the vineyard: 90 hectares 
Owners: Raventos family
Bottles producing: 200.000 bottles  

18. Pazo de Barrantes, Rias Baixas. Beauty from within.

This is Galicia prime estate and this estate stands tall since 1511. Here all the attention is on the Albarino grape which is the star grape in Rias Baixas. Part of the group of Marquis de Murietta, this estate has not been influenced by the money moguls to produce more as it happens often in these situations but to keep and respect the traditions and ancient methods combined with the modern technology. 

La comtesse 2010. 19/20 95/100 €42 $47 £30 
Colour: Bright Yellow. Nose: Powerful, ripe fruit, sweet spices, fragrant herbs. Palate: Rich, flavourful, fresh, good acidity, roasted-coffee aftertaste. 

Size of the vineyard:  12 hectares
Owners: Marquis de Murietta estate and wines
Bottles producing: 100.000 bottles 

19. Bodegas Y Vinedos Alion, Ribera del Duero. The Bentley of Spain.
Image result for bodegas y vinedos alion
This estate was formed in 1986 and is the little brother of Vega Sicilia. A little bit like Trotanoy in Pomerol who is the little brother of Petrus. Here they work with state of the art innovation and unlike the big brother just down the road which is steeped in tradition, Alion is the modern image of great Spanish style and class. Founded by Alvarez family, this estate has in a couple decades time risen to the pinnacle of Spanish wines.   

Alion 2010. 19/20 95/100 €65 $72 £46
Colour: Very deep cherry. Nose: Spicy, ripe fruit, sweet spices, earthy notes. Palate:  Fruity, fine bitter notes, good acidity, round tannins. 

Size of the vineyard: 85 hectares
Owners: Alvarez family 
Bottles producing: about 320.000 bottles 

20. Clos Modagor, Priorat. The stallion of Spain.

Here the story comes from a woman from France and a man from Spain, Isabelle and Rene, they had vines in France and in Catalonia. The family had all the males almost named Rene so the Rene I talk about here is Rene IV. With much passion and adoration for the land and culture, Clos Mogador has risen as one of many critics favourite wine. The history runs back many hundred of years as the ancestors were already mingled in producing and making wine. So somewhere down the line something fantastic will rise. 

Clos Mogador 2010. 19/20 95/100 €71 $78 £50 
Colour: Cherry, garnet rim. Nose: Spicy, creamy oak, toasty, complex, earthy notes. Palate: Powerful, flavourful, toasty, round tannins. 

Size of the vineyard: 20 hectares.
Bottles producing: 25.000 bottles.

This took me a long time to set up as I found it extremely important that the selection was as accurate as possible and to my believes these are the 20 best estates Spain has to offer. Of course there are a few more that i could ad on the list but I have to draw a line. I am sure the list is open for debate so till next time, please do drink responsibly.