North East Spain

North East Spain


aís Vasco is the Spanish Basque country and home to three tiny DOs with barely 125 ha between them. All are close to the coast between Bilbao and San Sebastien. Getariako Txakolina is the furthest east, Bizkaiko Txakolina stretches around Bilbao, while directly to its south is Arabako Txakolina. The best are dry, quite steely whites based on Hondarribi Zuri.

The north-western sector of the Rioja DO stretches into País Vasco and includes some of the best of the region’s sites in the Rioja Alavesa. The Rioja wine zone spreads out of the administrative region of Rioja, its borders stretching into Navarra to its north-east and Castilla y León to the west. The wine area is split into three sub-regions: Alavesa, Alta and Baja. Tempranillo performs well in the limestone soils of the Alavesa, which is moderated by cooling breezes, as is the Alta. The latter, though, has more clay in the soil, particularly suitable for Garnacha, which dominates the plantings in the hotter Baja sub-region. Graciano is also planted and makes an important impact on many blends as well as providing the odd striking varietal example. Most wines are a blend of the regions and, while generally the fruit of the Alavesa is the finest, there are outposts of quality in all three.

Whites are dominated by Viura with some Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia but few are of the quality of the reds. Of equal importance is the approach of the bodegas. The area has some very substantial producers but quality remains variable. The original ageing classifications of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva are still in place but varietal labels are becoming far more commonplace and many fine new wave premium wines are being produced, which are generally vinified using French rather than American oak, many with the malolactic fermentation in barrel. Some, it has to be said, are very pricey as well.

Navarra shares the native Tempranillo, Garnacha and Viura with Rioja but also has considerable plantings of the international varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. Some impressive wines are produced but one often feels price is a key in the producer’s approach and there should be more excitement than there is. To the east and stretching far towards the south of Navarra are the arid plains of Aragón. Bulk wine is generally the order of the day but there are four DOs worth considering: in Campo de Borja and Somontano some very good reds and the occasional Chardonnay and indeed Gewürztraminer stand out. Good, earthy and characterful reds are also produced in Calatayud and Cariñena. Significant old bush-vine Garnacha is a very important resource in both DO’s.

Rioja vineyards looking down towards Castillo de Sajazarra

Running south from the Pyrenees and along the Mediterranean coast on the Costa Brava is Cataluña, home to a number of diverse wine regions and with its own vast DO which is a source of some top reds in particular. Right up close to the French border a few fines, traditional reds are made in the Empordà DO as well as some late-harvest wines similar to those found in France’s Roussillon region. Some good red and white is produced from the Costers del Segre DO and a vast array of indigenous and international grapes are planted. To the immediate east are the vineyards of Conca de Barberá, cooled by altitude and a source of some good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but most of the fruit is sold on. Just inland from the coast and southwest of Barcelona are the vineyards of Penedès, established in a global sense by the considerable efforts of Miguel Torres. Some fine reds and whites are produced, again from a mix of local and international varieties but much of the output is relatively pedestrian. Interestingly the odd low-volume, garage-style red is appearing too.

Similar styles are also being produced in the small DO of Pla de Bages, just to the north. Penedès is also the centre of the vast Cava DO. These sparkling wines are made by the traditional method from a combination of local Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Some very well-crafted vintage and non-vintage bottlings are produced but overall the quality tends to be sound at best. Many operations are very substantial and automation in the cellars is common. Cava at the lower levels can often display a marked rubbery character.

Immediately to the west of Penedès are the vineyards of Tarragona, which has two superior subregions, Montsant DO, which surrounds the small, very high-quality region of Priorat which, like Rioja is a DO Ca. Tarragona is planted to a range of varieties and fortified wines are still produced here. It is the reds, though, that excel and none more so than the superb old-vine plantings of Garnacha and Cariñena. The best can easily rival top-quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The reds in Priorat are the wines with the greatest potential. They include a fascinatingly variable blend comprising Garnacha, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir. The vineyards are ideally planted in sparse, finely drained, stony soils and the climate is warm but not excessively so. The red wines of Terra Alta, to the south and inland of Montsant are also worth considering.

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A to Z of producers by appellation

Bizkaiko Txakolina
Doniene Gorrondona
Bodegas Ateca
Lobban Wines
Bodegas y Viñedos del Jalón
Bodega Niño Jesús
Bodegas San Alejandro
Campo de Borja
Bodegas Alto Moncayo
Bodegas Borsao
Pagos del Moncayo
Can Grau Vell
Clos d’Agon
Conca de Barberá
Escoda Sanahuja
Costers del Segre
Castell d’Encus
Castell del Remei
Cérvoles Celler
Clos Pons
Tomas Cusine
Vinya l’Hereu de Sero
Mas Blanch i Jove
Castillo Perelada
Espelt Viticultors
Celler Marti Fabra
Masia Serra
Terra Remota
Tocat de L’Ala
Vinya Ivo
Vinyes dels Aspres
Getariako Txakolina
Talai Berri
Pazos del Rei
Bodegas Acustic
Joan d’Anguera
Cellers Can Blau
Celler de Capçanes
Coca i Fito
Vinyes Domènech
Celler Dosterras
Vinyes d’En Gabriel
La Cova dels Vin
Celler Laurona
Mas de L’Abundancia
Portal del Montsant
Terra Personas
Venus La Universal
Aroa Bodegas
Castillo de Monjardín
Gran Feudo
La Calandria
Domaines Lupier
Pago de Cirsus
Pago de Larrainzar
Viña Zorzal
Bodega Otazu
Albet i Noya
Alemany I Corrio
Can Rafols dels Caus
Jean León
Agusti Torelló Mata
Parés Baltá
Pla de Bages
Marco Abella
Burgos Porta
Cellers Capafons-Ossó
Cartoixa de Montsalvat
Cims de Porrera
Clos Figueras
Clos I Terasses
Clos Mogador
Costers del Siurana
Domini de La Cartoixa
Celler de L’Encastell
Ferrer Bobet
Cellers Fuentes
Genium Celler
Bodegas Magrez Espagne
Vinyes de Manyetes
Mas Alta
Mas Doix
Mas d’En Gil
Mas Igneus
Mas La Mola
Mas Martinet
Mas Perinet
Merum Priorati
Alvaro Palacios
Parmi Priorat
Partida Bellvisos
Pasanau Germans
Celler del Pont
Portal del Priorat
Cellers Ripoll Sans
Rotllán Í Torra
Celler Joan Sangenis
Joan Simo
Saó del Coster
Terra de Verema
Terres de Vidalba
Terroir Al Limit
Trio Infernal
Celler Vall Llach
Vinya del Vuit
Bodegas Luis Alegre
Finca Allende
Bodegas Altanza
Bodegas Bhilar
Castillo de Sajazarra
Bodegas Escudero
Bodegas Exopto
Fernández de Piérola
Hacienda Grimón
Bodegas Lan
López de Heredia
Luis Cañas
Marqués de La Concordia
Marqués de Murrieta
Marqués de Riscal
Marqués de Vargas
Bodega Abel Mendoza Monge
Bodegas Montecillo
Finca Nueva
Bodegas Ostatu
Viñedos de Paganos
Paisajes Y Viñedos
Palacios Remondo
Remírez de Ganuza
La Rioja Alta
Telmo Rodríguez
Benjamin Romeo
Senorio de San Vicente
Sierra Cantabria
Hacienda Susar
Torre de Oña
Bodegas Vinsacro
Viñas del Vero
Vinyes del Terrer
Terra Alta
Celler Viños Pinol
VdT de Queiles




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