If we had to pick the wines from one country that you need to try this year then it would have to be Spain. No other country right now is quite hitting the excitement level of the imported wines currently coming out of Spain. The Rioja and Sparking Cavas have never been better but where Spain is really hitting it out of the park is in a whole bunch of lesser known regions with exceptional quality and wines with super character, and often from lesser known grape varieties making Spanish wine something truly special, with a range far and above most of the other imported wine producing nations.
Spain has a long wine history but it’s recent history was really kickstarted in the late 19th century when many Bordeaux wine merchants moved to Spain due to the phylloxera epidemic that had wiped out their own vineyards. The French taught the Spnish a thing or two and managed to turn Rioja into a global winemaking powerhouse. Today Rioja is still the leading premium wine region in Spain made famous by its long American oak aged Reserva and Gran Reserva reds and whites. Jerez is also famous for its Sherry, although for a shrinking market.
The leading grape variety in Spain, and Rioja, is Tempranillo. These medium weight but generous red wines show strawberry and tobacco fruits generally with supple tannins but can age well for decades. Other international grapes common in Spain are Garnacha (Grenache), Carinena (Carignan) and Monastrell (Mourvedre) and all are marked by the power which comes from generally warm to hot vineyard regions combined with Spanish rusticity.
It is though some other local varieties that are making the world really sit up and take notice. From Galicia in North Western Spain comes the rustic red Mencia as well as the white Albarino and Godello. Lesser known regions worth hunting down from Spain are Rias Baixas, Priorato, Bierzo and Valdeorras.