For centuries, Spain has been in the shadow of its world-renowned winemaking neighbor, France. However, the land of Don Quixote is the third-largest wine producer in the world, with over one million acres dedicated to vineyards, more than any other wine-producing country on the planet.
While I have been enjoying great Spanish wines for many years during my travels, I have only recently become more interested in collecting Spanish wines. The terroir of various Spanish wine regions makes for some superb reds, with its old vines, interesting indigenous grapes (Tempranillo, Grenache, Monastrell, Mencia, and Tinto del Toro), and favorable climate.
Naturally, everyone has heard of Alvaro Palacios L´Ermita 2010, Pingus 2012, Ribera del Duero, and El Pisón Rioja 2004, to name only a few of the top Spanish wines, but in my recent tours of several wine regions in the country, I discovered that Spain has much more to offer than a couple of 100-point reds.
Spanish Wines Conquer New Markets
A recent surge in demand for Spanish wines in the UK and the US has been attributed to the increasing popularity of tapas. In fact, Spanish Rioja is a wine that has shown steadily increasing sales, even in times of general market decline. Today, one in every 20 bottles of wine sold in the UK comes from Spain’s Rioja wine region. In tune with the trend, a Danish connoisseur recently said, referring to Denmark’s imported wines market: “Spain is the new Italy.”
As middle class Americans and Europeans alike acquire a taste for Spanish wines, high-end restaurants and collectors follow suit, stocking their cellars with Spain’s most original reds. The question today is, what do Italy and France have that Spain doesn’t? In view of Spain’s long winemaking tradition, its rich variety of terroirs, and its superb single-grape and blended reds, the answer may be: very little. Consistent 100-point scores awarded by Robert Parker, James Suckling, and other top experts have fuelled demand for top tier Tempranillo, Grenache, Rioja, and other proprietary blends.
Spain’s Premier Varietals:
When it comes to collecting wines from Spain, Tempranillo is the premier grape variety. I can still recall the first time I had Tempranillo in a charming little coastal town called Moncofa in the Comunitat Valenciana. This was during my first trip to Spain in 1997.
Before that moment, I had only tasted Tempranillo as a silent varietal hidden inside the popular Rioja blend. While I have a long list of favorite Riojas, Tempranillo conquered my heart on the spot. In terms of grape varieties, I have only fallen in love like that a few other times in my life: the first time I tried Tannat, the first time I tasted Bordeaux on a spring afternoon in Cannes, and my first ever Brunello.
If you are just getting started with your Tempranillo collection and want to start at the top, I recommend the 2010 Pingus for its near-perfect scores across the board. Wine critics adore this wine, and it’s easy to see why. Its rarity, coupled with its toasty aromas, make it a sommelier’s wine. It has deep, blue fruit notes ranging from blueberry to blackberry. Perhaps what makes this wine so appealing to potential collectors is that it only gets more beautiful with age, and it still has a great deal of cellaring left in it. This vintage is for wine collectors who are in it for the long haul.
A staple in any serious Spanish wine collector’s cellar is the Artadi El Pison. When you invest in the 2011 El Pison vintage, you have a Tempranillo wine that nearly tastes Burgundy-like. In this sense, this vintage is both an unusual Spanish wine, as well as one that only gets finer with age. Make no mistake, this wine is the ideal Spanish investment piece. We think that there will be upside potential for patient collectors.
Finally, a Spanish-inspired collection would not be complete without a 2008 Benjamin Romeo Contador. The Rioja region of Spain is best known for its longstanding wineries, and Romeo’s vintages are quickly becoming some of the most sought after by collectors. This is a wine to chew on, with dense, sap-like flavors combining cherry, blackberry, and bittersweet chocolate. Invest in this wine if you are ready to let these flavors steep in your cellar for a few more years.
While Tempranillo is the star, Grenache is the most widely-planted grape in Spain. A typical Grenache offers an explosion of berry flavors combined with hints of citrus, anise, and tobacco with medium tannins. My Spanish grandma used to put a bit of “vino Garnacha” in pastries and cakes when I was growing up. Since those days, Grenache has come a long way.
Wines like the superb Alvaro Palacios L´Ermita have very little to do with the sweet wines my grandma used to add an extra punch to her baking. This is a masterpiece of potent fruit and full-bodied flavor. Some wine connoisseurs are thrown-off by L’Ermita’s price tag. It’s true that this is not a cheap wine. Yet this quality actually makes it the ideal investment piece for serious and seasoned wine collectors. This wine is difficult to produce, with only a handful of delicate grapes making it into bottles. Its limited number of bottles raises its price tag, but its rarity instantly raises the worth of a wine collection.
If you are not ready yet to invest that heavily in Spanish Grenache, start with Alto Moncayo 2009 from the region of Aragon, which received a perfect score from Wine Advocate. This wine doesn’t skimp on flavor, and ages shockingly well. Whether you drink it early in its life, or wait a few years, you are in for a wine rich in espresso, blackberry, and licorice overtones.
Complete your basic Grenache collection with Catalonia’s Espectacle del Montsant 2012, which has a WA score of 99. The 2012 vintage stands out from other Espectacle del Montsant vintages in its unique flavor combinations. By far one of the most delicious vintages this winery has produced, the 2012 is a heady wine filled with red berries, a spicy finish, and aromatic flowers.
Collectible Spanish Wines to Enhance Your Portfolio
It seems that the Spanish wines hype is here to stay. It is true you can still buy a decent Spanish wine for a handful of dollars, but the world’s biggest wine exporter has proved that it has much more to offer. The secondary market for Spanish wines has become increasingly dynamic and exciting in recent years, as boutique wineries create unique, exclusive wines that are anything but mass-produced.
Top Spanish wineries from prime regions like Priorat or Ribera del Duero boast small productions based mainly on exquisite manual work. When a great vintage and a seasoned winemaking guru are also in place, prices can soar quickly. Spain is an emerging region, and as such, it requires collectors to keep track of what their favorite wineries are putting out before the wine is resting in the barrels.
With a bottle of Pingus averaging about $900, Descendientes de J. Palacios, La Faraona and Alvaro Palacios L´Ermita at around $700, and some spectacular historic sales — notably a collection of Vega Sicilia Magnums from 1960 to 1995, which sold for $102,000 in 2009 — Spanish wines have become coveted collectors’ items in their own right.
You can keep up-to-date with new arrivals, auctions, and expert scores for the top Spanish wines by logging on to Vinfolio. Additionally, you can use the VinCellar app to keep track of your Spanish wine collection, pricing trends, wine region information, and drink dates.
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.