Best Spanish reds outside Rioja

Wine news

Mon 9 Nov 2020

Those who default to Rioja when choosing a Spanish red are missing out on a host of other options. Whether it’s intense, muscular reds from Ribera del Duero in the north, big-hearted fruit bombs from Utiel-Requena in the east, or earthy, cherry-accented wines made from the Mencía grape in Galicia in Spain’s north-west, the range on offer is huge.

Spain’s versatility is not surprising when you consider it’s the country with the most land under vine, and while the Tempranillo grape dominates, it’s not the whole story. Bobal, Spain’s second-most-popular black grape, plays the lead role in IWSC Silver winner Toro Loco Bobal-Merlot 2018 from BVC Bodegas, offering waves of refreshing blueberry and raspberry.

International varieties form part of the blend in arguably Spain’s most famous wine, Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero, and they’re starting to make their mark in other regions, too. Siós Nature Syrah 2019 from Bodegas Costers del Sió, and Giró del Gorner’s Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Reserva 2012, were both IWSC award-winners this year.

The doyen of wine critics, Robert Parker, encouraged drinkers to look beyond Rioja via his championing of Ribera del Duero (he dubbed Tinto Pesquera ‘the Spanish Pétrus’), as well as regions such as Toro and Priorat. The latter has enjoyed a remarkable rise to fame, coming from obscurity in the 1980s to the critically acclaimed region it is today, with its steep terraces laden with vines of Garnacha and Cariñena.

The following offers a showcase of the best Spanish reds outside Rioja from the IWSC’s 2020 tasting.

Pago Florentino 2016iwsc-top-sp-reds-1.png
Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro

Intensely perfumed and full in flavour; this wine has generous hints of sweet black fruit juice, interjected with vegetal and peppery notes. Perfectly integrated alcohol brings out boozy raisins and prune flavours, followed by tinges of coffee and spice. 13.5% n/a in UK

'27 2017iwsc-top-sp-reds-2.png
Bodegas Protos

Sweet plums and black tea on the nose meet a bright, wild fruit note on the palate. Densely concentrated yet superbly balanced, with a ripe and firm tannic structure. Impressively composed, this is a stunning wine. 14.5% RRP £27 from Millesima

Gran Reserva 2011iwsc-top-sp-reds-3.png
Mayor de Castilla

A seductive nose willing to entice with the titillating scent of morello cherry and peony. Opulent on the palate with thundering salvos of spiced timber and juicy plums. Divine. 14.5% n/a in UK

Pinea 2017iwsc-top-sp-reds-4.png
Bodegas Pinea del Duero

A little raisin character develops into a seductive strawberries and cream palate with a sublime integration of oak. Refined and voluptuous, this is a real crowd pleaser. 14.9% n/a in UK

Vaccayos 2015iwsc-top-sp-reds-5.png
Bodegas Vega Real

Beautifully pronounced nose showcasing the comforting aromas of toffee, tobacco and candied chestnuts. Round and elegant on the palate with plenty of plush black fruits and an exquisitely ripe finish. 15% n/a in UK

Toro Loco Bobal-Merlot 2018iwsc-top-sp-reds-6.png
BVC Bodegas

Floral and lifted nose of wild flowers, rosehips and red berries with hints of white pepper. Juicy and vivacious palate which packs a punch. Fascinating style. 13% enquire at Aldi

El Balcón Crianza 2016iwsc-top-sp-reds-7.png
Finca Albret

Genial on the nose with a slight pot pourri of dried black fruit and spice. Smooth, full-bodied mouthfeel with juicy black fruits and a lusciously well-defined finish. 14% n/a in UK

Magnitud Tempranillo 2018iwsc-top-sp-reds-8.png
Propiedad de Arinzano

An all or nothing wine of fat concentration and moderate acidity. Flavoursome plum, chocolate and ripe blackberry are predominate, giving up to spice and coffee notes on the warm, dry finish. 14.5% RRP £18 from The Drink Shop

Hacienda De ArínzanoTempranillo 2016iwsc-top-sp-reds-9.png
Propiedad de Arínzano

An "iron fist in a velvet glove" style, showing elegant damson and complimentary oak, over a core of chocolate and savoury nuances. Not a dominating wine, but mellow and balanced. 14.5% RRP £18 from The Drink Shop

Gran Reserva 2011iwsc-top-sp-reds-10.png
Viña Arnaiz

Youthful for its age with the scent of ripe fruit and vanilla toffee. Frolicsome mouthfeel with the ritzy flavours of cedar, chocolate and vanilla. Enjoys a delightfully long finish. 14.5% n/a in UK

Almodi Roure 2019iwsc-top-sp-reds-11.png

Enticing chocolate, pepper, and lavish liquorice interweave with a saline, and intensely fruity palate. Dark and brooding, with smooth, soft tannins, he's like Heathcliff in a glass. 14.5% n/a in UK

Arzuaga Crianza 2017iwsc-top-sp-reds-12.png
Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro

An elegant example, jam-packed with blackberries, vanilla and cocoa flavours. Fresh acidity and ripe concentration contributes to a lingering finish of berry fruit and meat juices. 14.3% RRP £16.70 from Gourmet Hunters

Siós Nature Syrah 2019 Bodegas Costers del Sió 91-2-medal.jpg

Polished with ripe blue and red fruit on the nose followed by a full-bodied palate of fragrant violets integrated with spicy tobacco and pepper. 14.5% RRP £10 enquire at Wine Buyers

17 by Pinea 2017iwsc-top-sp-reds-14.png
Bodegas Pinea del Duero

A muscular style, with ladlefuls of chocolate, dark fruit and raisin notes. Harmonious tannins, depth of concentration and oaky nature mean this will age gracefully. 14.8% RRP £50 from Wine Buyers

1423 Reserva 2015iwsc-top-sp-reds-15.png
Bodegas Principe de Viana

Elegant aromas of black cherry, chocolate and cedar. The palate is caressed by pleasantly ripe flavours of plum, dried fruit and soft oak. Fresh acidity with a handsomely genteel finish. 14% n/a in UK

Viña Magna 2017iwsc-top-sp-reds-16.png
Dominio Basconcillos

A generous wine, overflowing in smooth plummy fruits. The sweetness is balanced by underlying vegetal and tobacco notes, which, with the zingy acidity, leaves a fresh feel to the wine. 14.5% n/a in UK

Viña Magna Reserva 2015iwsc-top-sp-reds-17.png
Dominio Basconcillos

Immensely pleasant with the classic redolance of cigar boxes and cedar. Sturdy in its structure with an amiable acidity. Opulent flavours of black fruit, coffee and sweet toffee linger warmingly. 15% RRP £39 enquire at Tanners Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Reserva 2012iwsc-top-sp-reds-18.png
Giró del Gorner

Luxurious aromas of cigar boxes, sweet plums and abundant hedgerows. Velvety in the mouth with a seductive fruit and herbaceous complexity. Gorgeously mature, classically sophisticated and drinking beautifully. 14.5% n/a in UK

Apasionado 2019iwsc-top-sp-reds-19.png
Pata Negra

Deeply seductive with lots of black fruit, blackberry jam and raspberries. Refreshed by acidity on the palate. 14.5% n/a in UK

Reserva 2015iwsc-top-sp-reds-20.png
Viña Arnaiz

Full of swagger with an enviable amount of luscious fruit and spicy oak. Full-bodied with a lovely texture and opulent flavours of ripe blackberries and chocolate plums. Extremely solid. 14% n/a in UK

Señorio de los Llanos Gran Reserva 2012iwsc-top-sp-reds-21.png

A lovely concentrated wine, balancing its mature flavours of prune and tobacco with fresh nutmeg and vanilla. Structured, dry tannins compliment the smooth nature. 13% n/a in UK

View more Spanish red recommedations from IWSC:

The undervalued red Rioja

21 best red Riojas