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Spanish tasting: 10 high-end wines from Spain

An impressive set of wines, with a few real stars here. I’d single out the CVNE Riojas as representing very good value for money when you consider that they are now mature wines drinking at or near their peak. Prices are La Vigneronne’s, who put on the tasting.

Torres Fransola 2000, Penedès, Spain
90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Parellada, 50% of which is barrel fermented in new American oak. The striking nose is intense and fresh, with grassy, gooseberry fruit and a rounded, spicy edge. The palate is concentrated and rich-textured, with a crisp, high-acid grassy character and some herby, spicy complexity. Quite rounded. It works brilliantly: the lean, savoury fruit combines well with the integrated oak. Excellent (£12.95)

Torres Mas Borrás 1996, Penedès
This is a varietal Pinot Noir. It’s a mid-red colour with a touch of bricking on the rim. Lovely complex cherry/herby nose with a touch of savoury spice and some sweet strawberry and caramel notes. The palate is nicely balanced with cherry fruit, spice and leathery elements. Dry, savoury finish. An interesting wine. Very good/excellent  (£15.50)

Torres Mas La Plana 1997 Penedès
This varietal Cabernet Sauvignon spends 18 months in French oak. Sweet cassis and oak combine nicely on the attractive nose. Quite firm spicy palate displays creamy blackcurrant fruit and some tannic structure. There’s a subtle, leafy, herbaceous edge. Still quite firm and some oak is evident. Nice stuff but not that interesting. Very good+ (£22.95)

1997 Alión, Ribera del Duero
Owned by Vega Sicilia, Alión is a separate estate making Tempranillo-based wines in a slightly different style to its illustrious parent. And this is a superb wine from a year that's supposed not to have been very successful in 1997. Quite deep coloured, there's a compelling mineral edge to the deeply fruited, almost meaty nose. It has a superb, richly liquoricey palate with a great density of berry fruit combining well with the oak. There's a savoury, meaty, earthy edge and it's quite tight knit and brooding. Excellent (£19.95)

CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva Rioja 1991
I recently tasted through the whole CVNE range and was very impressed by the overall quality. This one comes from the Rioja Alavesa (CVNE's Alavesa wines come in Burgundy shaped bottles; their Alta wines come in Bordeaux shaped bottles) and represents brilliant value for a top-notch wine with several years bottle age. Soft, mature, evolved nose of leather, tea, herbs and cinnamon. Lovely rich, spicy palate is still very much alive. Rich and complex, this is evolving really nicely, with some a nice texture and firm tannins. Finishes dry. Very good/excellent (£21.00)

CVNE Viña Real Gran Reserva Rioja 1994
Mid-coloured, fading just a touch at the rim. Rich, slightly sweet complex nose with notes of caramel, herbs and a touch of leather. Lovely savoury, spicy palate shows great complexity and is multilayered. Balance is the key here, and it’s evolving nicely. Very good/excellent (£21.00)

CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja 1994
This is from Rioja Alta, and comes in a Bordeaux-style bottle. Quite a deep rep/purple colour with only a slight fading at the rim. Quite focused, tight nose with some spicy herby notes. The palate shows a good density of herby, spicy fruit with a dusty, leathery edge. Quite tannic now, this has the potential to improve with time in bottle. Very good+ (£21.95)

Contino Reserva Rioja 1982
Contino is a single-estate Rioja, linked with CVNE by part shared ownership but autonomously run. Mid-coloured with a touch of fading at the rim. Lovely rich exotic nose of sweet herbs and spices, with a touch of tar and smoke. The palate shows great balance: it’s quite exotic and rich with a lovely leathery edge to the sweet fruit that is still there. Drink now. Excellent (£35.00)

Castillo Perelada Glan Claustro 1998, Empordà Costa Brava
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Carignan and 15% Grenache, given the full new French oak treatment. This is a deep-coloured, extracted wine. Rich, slightly exotic nose with dense berry fruit and new oak evident. Super-concentrated palate displays spicy oak, exotic fruit and firm tannins. Avoids being too sweet, but still quite oaky. Finishes dry. Very good/excellent (not available for sale)

Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi 1997, Priorat
Very deep red/purple. The nose shows dark fruit, complex spices and oak influence. The palate is really interesting: it is dense, tannic and spicy but there’s some lovely minerality and herby complexity. The minerality is particularly striking and the oak isn’t at all dominant on the palate. Dry tannins dominate the finish, and it seems quite alcoholic. Very good/excellent (£45.00)

Tasted at La Vigneronne, March 2002

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