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Pagos del Rey unveils fifth edition of La Única

Described as the Spanish equivalent of a Super Tuscan, Pagos del Rey’s La Única V pairs a blend of the Tempranillo-based wines of Northern Spain with art.

The first edition of the La Única took place in 2012, seeking to celebrate art and the Tempranillo-based wines of Pagos del Rey’s wineries in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro.

Describing the project, Richard Cochrane, managing director of Felix Solis UK, draw a parallel between it and a group of wines considered among the most prestigious in the world today: “The most apparent equivalence would be the Super Tuscans – producers realised they couldn’t do certain things due to rigorous appellation rules, but they wanted to experiment.”

Félix Solís Ramos, commercial director of Félix Solís Avantis, the owner of Pagos del Rey, shared that this year the decision was taken to have each taster submit their feedback digitally in order to expedite the decision process and facilitate organisation.

An initial selection of nine wines (three Rioja, four Ribera del Duero, two Toro) was whittled down to six and then, eventually, four.

Perhaps surprisingly, despite the wines being tasted and finalised blind, the final blend included a roughly equal proportion from each region: 35% Rioja, 35% Ribera del Duero (25% being one, 10% being another), and 30% from Toro.

Overall, the average amount of time the wines had spent in oak was 346 days, and the final wine had a total polyphenol index (IPT) of 80. Cochrane shared that, prior to being bottled and released later this year, the blended wine was being allowed “to knit”.

Describing the qualities Tempranillo from each region brings to the blend, Cochrane called Ribera del Duero “the pinstriped suit, as opposed to its more laidback Rioja cousin”, and dubbed Toro, a region probably much less familiar to UK consumers, as “the wild child” that “needs to be managed quite carefully.”

Beyond what’s within the bottle, the artistic aspect of La Única is hugely important.

For previous editions, Berlin-based Argentine artist Mariano Rinaldi has painstakingly painted each label one by one. As some 15,000 75cl bottles will be produced (and 300 Double Magnums) of La Única V, the decision was taken to have Rinaldi create 150 separate screen painting designs that will be used as the label for 100 bottles each.

Explaining the decision to not opt for a unique, hand-painted design for each label this time, Solís Ramos said: “The idea is to make each piece of art more complex.” He also shared that the original paintings could possibly be displayed at the Pagos del Rey de Toro Museum.

“La Única is reaching either the on-trade, or specialised off-trade,” Solís Ramos shared. Among those who will stock the wine when it comes out later this year will be top Majestic Wine stores. As well as the UK, Germany is also a key market for the wine.

Spanish wine is often overlooked in London restaurants, though there are figures, such as Camino Group founder Richard Bigg, who recently relaunched his King’s Cross Sherry spot Bar Pepito as Bar Rioja, trying to change that. The on-trade focus for La Única certainly does suggest that this is very much a gastronomically-inclined wine.

The pairing potential of La Única became apparent at a dinner Cochrane attended during this year’s London Wine Fair. Served with everything from cod to lamb, Cochrane and his fellow diners found that the wine complemented an unexpected range of dishes.

“What’s exciting is it allows more bandwidth for pairings,” suggested Cochrane.

Given that it blends the wines of three of northern Spain’s most prestigious wine regions, La Única could well be seen as something that flies the flag for the country as a whole. Solís Ramos said that it is also a celebration of “the Tempranillo grape itself”, and added: “By tasting a sip of La Única, you can travel to Spain.”

“There is still such a bright future for Spain in the UK,” Cochrane stated. “What Spain has demonstrated is unbelievable quality and value.”

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