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Friday, 13 November 2020

Whites from NW Spain with Tim Atkin MW

Notes from a Masterclass tasting with Tim Atkin MW of Three Wine Men interviewing three Spanish winemakers

Covering the northern half of the central Spanish plain known as the ‘meseta’, Castilla y León is among the most diverse wine regions of the country, encompassing 9 DOs, the most famous of which are red-wine areas - Ribera del Duero and Toro.

However, this area also produces some 40% of Spain's white wine, notably in Rueda, due to altitude and diurnal variation giving a longer, cooler growing season.

Climate is varied here, with influences from both the Mediterranean (warm and dry) and the Atlantic (cool and wet). An "Atlantic" year is not a good one for local winemakers. The grape varieties grown are a mixture of Spanish classics, international varieties and a some vary rare grapes.

The three wines, some of Tim's highest rated, included a unique white Rioja, a high-altitude Rufete Blanco and a Rueda from vines over 100 years old; each one was introduced by the winemaker and all three showed excellent winemaking from superb fruit with a deft elegance and poised precision.

Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios 2019 (£10, 93 Atkin Points, Bibendum)

The winery dates back to 1935 and is a co-operative with over 300 members. The vines are 80 - 100 years old. The wine is 50% barrel-fermented and 50% SS with 5 months on the lees. Made from varietal Verdejo, an ancient grape native to this part of Spain. 

White peach and orchard fruit with pink grapefruit and wild herbs; concentrated, savoury and fresh. Very pure and poised.

Very Good.

A versatile food wine, match with roast pork and meaty white fish.

Hacienda El Ternero Barrel Fermented White 2017 (£16.95, 90 Atkin Points, Ellis Of Richmond)

High-altitude grapes from a cool site, hand-picked and barrel-fermented in new French oak with 6 months on the lees. The wine is a Rioja, even though the winery is located in Burgos

Bruised apple fruit and a sherry-esque tang with citrus, white stone fruits and oaky-leesy savouriness; fresh acidity and a long, savoury finish.

Very Good.

Match with pork dishes or mushrooms and cream with pasta.

Cámbrico Rufete Blanco Granito 2017 (£29, 94 Atkin Points, Berkmann Wine Cellars)

Based in a high-altitude natural park with granite soils that give structure; the Rufete Blanco grape is extremely rare, almost unique to this winery. With thick skins and pips, it produces a textured, almost tannic wine with the concentration of 100 year-old vines. The grapes are picked early for freshness and alcohol is only 12.5%. Fermentation is in SS for freshness with lees aging for savouriness.

Textured, focused and saline-mineral with leesiness; white peach and conference pear fruit with linear acidity; textured, substantial and fresh.

Very Good.

Match with lighter game, such as partridge, salmon or scallops. 

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