Highlights of an exceedingly busy Viñateros tasting

27th February, 2017 by Darren Smith

The wines selected by Amaya Cervera to represent the evolution of artisanal wine production in Spain over the past 15 years

What a busy tasting. Busy but brilliant.

A joint-venture by Alliance Wine, Carte Blanche, Dynamic Vines, Fields Morris & Verdin, Indigo, Les Caves de Pyrene and New Generation McKinley, Viñateros promised to be an “antidote to the large, generic tastings” with which we are perhaps more familiar, showcasing more than 300 wines representing what Les Caves de Pyrene’s Doug Wregg described as “a Spanish wine revolution”.

We think it’s fair to say that it delivered on its promise – though with fewer spittoons than we would have liked.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in the ways in which [Spanish] wines are made,” Wregg said in the lead-up to the event. “Rather than a reliance on oak to age the wine, we see more youthful, exuberant, exciting, energetic natural wines, wines that are less confected, less heavy, less alcoholic.”

Viñateros would not have happened in quite the form it took without the so-called ‘Club Matador Manifesto’ event – a roundtable discussion organised by Telmo Rodriguez in November 2015 at Club Matador in Madrid.

This event sought to take a stand against what some Spanish producers see as the restrictiveness of regulations in many appellations of Spain and to promote the country’s terroir-focused producers. At the event around 150 wine professionals, including producers, journalists and wine merchants, signed a manifesto in defence of terroir.

And the regulatory boards appear to be taking notice – a premium Cava de Paraje category for single-vineyard wines was introduced in 2015, while Rioja is in the process of establishing a new tier of ‘Viñedos Singulares’, essentially a single-vineyard category, for the region.

Viñateros certainly succeeded in showcasing the diversity of Spain’s terroir-focused producers, albeit on a, at times, maddeningly cramped and spittoon-light sixth floor of the Switch House at Tate Modern.

Among the masterclasses, journalist and Spanish wine expert Amaya Cervera presented a compelling exploration of the evolution of the Spanish artisan wine scene over the past 15 years, charting the resurgence of white varieties, the re-establishment of Garnacha as a fine wine grape, and the revival of forgotten terroirs.

In addition, Sarah Jane Evans MW explored how Spanish DOs are adapting to an increasing demand for wines with a sense of place, while Norrel Robertson MW looked at what growers are doing to achieve freshness in Spain’s hot regions.

While db didn’t quite find the elbow room to taste all of the 300-plus wines on pour at Viñateros, we had a damn good go. In the pages that follow we present our highlights – wines which show the diverse talents of Spain’s thriving terroir-focused wine scene.

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