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Nathan Lane
Wine Correspondent
3:00 AM 5th March 2022
lifestyle

Our Wine Correspondent Visits Spain

Our wine correspondent spent half term in Spain sampling some of the country's fine wines. Here he reports back on the gems he found.

Vina Ardanza Reserva 2015

A half-term city break to Malaga and Cordoba in Spain presented the perfect opportunity to try the best Spain had to offer.

On a busy Saturday night in old town Malaga, it proved challenging to find a table for dinner, and after several attempts, a tiny restaurant down a side street was the only option.

While the food left a lot to be desired, the wine list proved to be a gem. A bottle of Vina Ardanza sat innocuously on the last page of the menu.

Vina Ardanza is a classic rioja and a perfect way to start a few days in Spain. It holds all the powerful blackberry fruit you would expect and a dense, almost chewy quality in the mouth. A big punch of vanilla and tobacco follows the fruit.

There is a lot of love and experience in this wine. The finely balanced tannins and complexity suggest a far more expensive wine. La Rioja Alta is a winery with a history that dates back to 1890 is still one of the most respected names in the industry today.

Made from 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha, it's a savoury and aromatic wine that pairs well with red meat but could easily be enjoyed on its own.

If you love Rioja, this is definitely one to seek out. It is excellent now and I’m sure it will cellar well.

Available online from around £28 a bottle.

Pago de Carraovejas

You don’t have to look very far in Spain to find good wine. At a tourist restaurant opposite the Roman ruins in Malaga, the Pago de Carraovejas proved an ideal accompaniment to a plate of Iberica ham.

The wine is from Ribera Del Duero, where 300 vineyards stretch 70 miles along the River Duero. The wines are often a pure expression of the Tempranillo grape, deep ruby reds, full of spice, and powerful fruit.

The Pago de Carraovejas had the expected explosion of blackberry and plum with a long finish of chocolate, smoke and spice. A silky smooth blend of 93% Tinto Fino, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot.

The Carraovejas estate can be found outside Peñafiel, a historic town famous for its medieval architecture and castle. Grapes are harvested by hand and transported in small vibrating stainless steel trailers to minimise damage.

Pago de Carraovejas is fermented in small stainless steel deposits and French oak vats before 12 months of ageing in French and American oak barrels. It rests for 12 months in the bottle before it is released onto the market.

It is a superbly balanced red wine and a real highlight of a week in Spain.

Available online from around £32 a bottle.

Aalto PS 2018

It would be easy never to leave the narrow cobbled streets of Cordoba. Approach the city by train, and it emerges from mile after mile of olive groves.

The city has a thriving food scene. Visitors can enjoy historic dishes like Rabo De Toro, a thick oxtail stew or flamenquines, a deep fried wonder of iberican pork and cheese. Modern cuisine is also available and the wonderous restaurant ReComiendo, where chef Periko Ortega delights in keeping his diners guessing.

Chef Ortega knows his wine. After seeing Vega Sicilia, the holy grail of Spanish wine, on the menu, he advised me to try the Aalto PS. The vineyard is owned by Mariano García who made his first harvest in 1968 at Vega Sicilia and became technical director of the company for 30 years.

In 1999, he founded with Javier Zaccagnini, Bodegas AALTO. He brings all that expertise and passion to this spectacular wine.

The Aalto PS brings big gob fulls of fruit but with a balance that almost seems impossible. It has a power that makes you pause with every sip and appreciate its complexity.

The intense dark fruit delivers blackberry and plum you would expect with layers of smoke, spice and minerality with elegance and complexity.

If you drink one Spanish wine this year, make it this one

Available online from around £80.