Spaniards live for pleasure: lazy afternoons by the seashore, big lunches with abundant wine and sherry, siestas and nightlife. I love that about Spain. If a Spaniard has one penny, he will spend it enjoying life. Wine is a big part of enjoying life in Spain, and the country has no lack of wineries. Planning a wine tasting tour of some of the country’s top regions is a challenging task, because there is simply so much to see and taste.
As a lover of tradition and history, I always want to see the places with the longest tradition first and taste the most traditional wines. This made me start in Rioja, a region with many historical links to Bordeaux, and thus, one of the most interesting on the peninsula.
The Rioja Wine Region
The story of how Rioja wines became great is peculiar. When Bordeaux vineyards were nearly destroyed by phylloxera in the late 19th century, French winemakers started growing grapes in Rioja along the Ebro river, thus kickstarting the tradition of the most widely-acclaimed Rioja wineries.
Rioja is a land of blends. Winemakers often mix grapes from different subregions to add complexity to their wines. The popularity of Rioja wines increased dramatically in the world when modern techniques were introduced in the 1990s, adding fruitiness and tannins to local blends.
If you want a taste of a tannin-rich wine bathed in cherry and cinnamon overtones, your first stop should be Artadi in the Rioja region. This winery boasts youthful, modern flavors with a traditional backbone. Its expansive Tempranillo roots were planted in 1945, and are still in use today. By far the best wine produced on this 240-acre vineyard is the aromatic Vina El Pison. With multiple wine critics scoring this reserve at 90 points or higher, you will not want to miss out on a tasting.
No tour of Rioja is complete without seeing La Rioja Alta, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. This winery is a pillar of Spanish traditions, and its Gran Reserva is the pinnacle of impeccable taste. The Gran Reserva is full-bodied and mature in nearly every vintage, but its 2001 reserve took these qualities to the next level. With earthy aromas, subtle spice, and hints of tea on every sip, the Gran Reserva is the best example of traditional Tempranillo-based Spanish wine.
Priorat has been on the lips of many wine critics over the past decade, mainly due to its two most buzzed-about wineries: Alvaro Palacios and Clos de l’Obac. The concentrated yields and excessive manual work required to make even a single bottle of wine in this Spanish wine region make these vintages highly collectable.
Alvaro Palacios’ wines are as expensive as they are flavorful. Its L’Ermita costs hundreds of dollars per bottle, yet it’s worth every penny. This is a rare wine, with shockingly few bottles extracted from its limited vines. The ancient vines on this tiny plot of land produce the finest-tasting vintages, even though as little as one bottle is produced from an entire bushvine in some cases. Priorat winemakers work their fingers to the bone to carve out a cult wine culture in this previously unheard-of region.
While L’Ermita is the titan of wines in this region, you will find incredibly subtle, complex flavors from fellow Priorat winemaker Clos de l’Obac. Its Dolç de L’Obac has an unmistakable mix of cherry and chocolate flavors, lending it a surprisingly sweet quality. End your full-day tour of this region with a rich, chocolate dessert and a glass of succulent Dolç de L’Obac.
Duero River Valley
Complete your wine tasting tour of Spain along the Duero River Valley’s Golden Mile. This luxurious patch of Tinta de Toro vineyards wraps around the Duero River, and is home to some of the finest wineries in the country.
Start your journey at Vega Sicilia, which easily makes the finest and most collectable wines in the world. Beyond its sterling reputation as a Denominación de Origen in Spain, this winery is home to the lesser-known Unico regional blend. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a vintage bottle of Unico, you’ll experience a dense, fruity flavor with a long spice finish. This blend is a must-have for any serious wine collector, as it is both beautifully complex in its old age, but retains a youthful vibrance not found in many other 30-year-old wines. When you buy this wine, you not only invest in one of the most unique flavors you will ever experience, but in a piece of traditional Spanish culture.
Cap off your trek along the Golden Mile at Dominio de Pingus, another icon of Spanish wine. The must-try varietal at this winery is its 2010 Pingus, which is a nearly impossible find. Only 6,000 bottles were produced in that vintage, making it a rarity that is well worth the effort to locate. The rare wine has strong blueberry notes, and is known for its long, mineral finish. This cult classic is an excellent addition to a strong, diverse wine portfolio.
Top Spanish Wineries for Collectors
Bodegas Vega Sicilia creates reds that are up to par with some of the best Bordeaux Premier Crus. The 1987 Vega Sicilia Unico, which is 80% Tempranillo, is one of the winery’s most superb creations. The Alvarez family specializes in delectable and collectible wines that are as delicious as they are rare finds. Visit this winery for vintage bottles that are nearly impossible to resist opening.
Pingus, the priciest and most coveted wine from Spain, is, ironically, produced by a Dane named Peter Sisseck. What makes this winery stand out from any other winemaker in Spain is Sisseck’s dedication to old vines, picky harvests, and old-style manual labor. These techniques pay off in rare wines that are any wine collector’s dream.
Artadi makes a Tempranillo wine that compares to the best Burgundy in the world. Its unique use of low cropped, old vines springing from high altitude plots gives its wine a rich flavor. You will know an Artadi wine with one taste, recognizing its vibrant overtones.
Alvaro Palacios studied winemaking in Bordeaux under Petrus guru Jean Pierre Moueix. Coming from a family of winery owners, he decided to start his own bodega in the region of Priorat. His goal was to create wines that lie somewhere between Pétrus and Grange in quality. He succeeded in his immensely successful L’Ermita, one of the best wine vintages in the world.
Contador achieved international acclaim when its 2004 Contador red received 100 points from The Wine Advocate. The brain behind this success is Benjamin Romeo, one of the most interesting winemakers in the Rioja region. His vineyards, complete with a hilltop church and a bell tower, make for a lovely wine tour. Romeo seldom fails to provide rich bombs of fruit in his wine, making his vintages a coveted treat among wine enthusiasts.
Clos Erasmus is a boutique winery that specializes in some of the rarest wines in the region. At only 140 cases per year, this winery is highly valuable for collectors. This scarcity, combined with high expert ratings, helped the 2004 Clos Erasmus receive a 100-point score.
Expand Your Spanish Wines Portfolio
A balance between established names and innovative young wineries makes a diverse portfolio of Spanish wines. The region is in the spotlight right now, but there are still many gems to discover, and tremendous potential for investing in exclusive wines from Priorat, Duero, and Rioja. Buy a few of these rare Spanish wines now, and you could make lasting profits in the future. Vinfolio offers a wide variety of top-rated wines from Spain, up for purchase both directly and through convenient auctions with low fees. Your portfolio needs a Pingus, a Vega Sicilia, or an Erasmus as much as your palate does. Discover some of the greatest wines in the world, and some of the richest, most original blends. After you secure your favorite bottles, you can store the wines professionally with Vinfolio, to ensure you can enjoy them for many decades to come.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. We carry excellent investment wines from the best vineyards in Spain. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.
At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most
treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of
passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a
Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.