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  • Elizabeth Bowman

Wines from Spain Annual Tasting 2024, The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh

Updated: May 24

Boca Manga

 ¡‘Vamos a tomar un vermut!’

‘Let’s go and have a vermut’ is the way a Madrileño will suggest a drink out with pals to get together.  Regardless of whether any actual vermut, a classic popular aperitif, is taken - any of Spain’s vast array of classic and new-wave wines may be enjoyed on the occasion.  

This fallback expression for fun is a godsend natural slogan for sales, which Jesus Llamazares, UK-based director of Los Origenes distributor & retailer of Boca Manga vermut - now also beloved of Michelin-starred chefs as a culinary ingredient, amongst other deli lines - enjoys explaining to me at the Wines from Spain annual tasting organised by Rose Murray Brown at the Balmoral Hotel.

This year’s visit focuses - as it must - on Alternative Varietals, with future climate sustainability at the top of everyone’s agenda.  There’s more than the usual quota of ‘Off The Beaten Track’ wines & producers to investigate.  

Monastel - no relation to Monastrell!

Rose Murray Brown presents her fascinating masterclass demonstrating the breadth of work that has already been undertaken and is ongoing towards this goal.  She introduces a selection of grapes with a longer ripening season crucial to survival through alternating extended drought, flash flooding and the full gamut of winegrower headaches.

In terms of varietals to watch, we can expect more wines utilising both ancient & newly (re)discovered grapes such as:

Whites - Forcada, Caiño Blanco, Albarin Blanco, Beba, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanco, Merseguera;

Reds - Moneu, Trepat, Caiño Tinto, Prieto Picudo, Manto Negro, Rome, Sumoll, Carrasquin & Sousón.  

Other authentic rarities such as Albillo Real, which will crop better in areas free of early frost risk, make for truly enjoyable alternatives when rediscovered & such varietals will increase in plantings where appropriate.

Keys include (a) long growing cycle, drought resistance, heat tolerance, late ripening & frost resistance, for which both Tardana and Garnacha Blanca are known suitable varietals in active use, as well as (b) the ability to retain acidity in heat that both Rufete & Mando are known for (I’d previously only known of Mando in Mallorcan wines).  Internally I’m cheering that Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc in the south of France) is in there since its varietals are personal favourites.  

When combined with standout producers who’ve put in the spadework (including traditional farming methods) over the last thirty years, such as Juan Carlos Sancha, founder of the Minority Native Varieties Recovery Project in 1988, amongst others, the results are a beacon of hope for future development and interest in beautiful wines from Spain.

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