Despite the lunacy of this never-ending 2020 from hell and the cancellation of a slate of events I was to attend, I did manage to taste a lot of wines from various regions around Spain, especially in Catalunya where I’m based. Being the year that it’s been, I only managed to taste around 800 Catalan wines that were released this year. That’s about 20% lower than normal, but it’s still allowed for a critical mass in order to come up with my “Top 10 wines” like I’ve done now at the end of every year.
I fully admit that I’ve always found these lists to be a bit presumptuous as it’s simply not physically possible to taste every wine there is, but as shown with by Best Catalan wines of 2019 and the previous, Best Catalan wine of 2018, you take a stab at creating a balanced list that’s a little bit of a whole lot. And focusing on a small chunk of the wine world like Catalunya, makes everything a lot more doable.
Unlike previous lists, I’m not focusing on a single, absolute, best-ever bottle, but just on a smattering of wines I tasted this year that I highly recommend to seek out for various reasons. The list below is numeric and not in order of preference, as I honestly can’t think of any wine in here that people would dislike, unless of course they just don’t like wine in which case, I can’t help you there.
So, without further ado, I give you the Best Catalan Wines of 2020. (After the list, subscribers can see the corresponding scores, full tasting notes, prices, and additionally, which wines I’ve certified as “Quality for Price” which make up half the list!)
- Recaredo – Enoteca Reserva Particular 2004
This was one of those wines that once I tasted, I immediately knew it would make these list as it blew my mind. It’s a stellar example of what Recaredo does and it’s simply one of the best sparkling wines I’ve ever had, from anywhere. There’s little sense to ramble on about it here as I wrote an ode to it a few weeks ago already.
- Mas Martinet – Els Escurçons 2017
Honestly, I could probably put this wine in the list every single year as, while the approach to the winemaking is constantly being experimented with, the result is always the same: a damned fine Grenache-based wine expressing the best Priorat has to offer. The 2017 has something even a bit more special to it as, while a hot vintage, it appeared to do wonderful things to this high-altitude vineyard and has produced one of its best ever wines.
- Vins el Cep – OT Blanc 2019
When I was tasting through various wines from Penedès for the Xarel·lo Report I published earlier this year, this bottle from Vins el Cep stood out. It’s not the highest scoring of the lot, but its unbeatable price immediately caught my eye, and it’s even organic as an added bonus. If you want to taste a pure example of Xarel·lo with nothing getting in the way, this is your baby.
- Oller del Mas – Càndia 2018
This should have been part of my recent DO Pla de Bages Report but I tasted it un-blind at the winery, with the winemaker which runs completely contrary to how I conduct the large Tasting Reports. So, I’m featuring it here as it’s not only one of the best wines from DO Pla de Bages at the moment, but it shows just how good the wines can be when they focus on local grapes–in this case: Sumoll, Grenache, and Carignan (with a bit of Syrah in the blend). While it sees a rather small level of production, I feel that it’s priced quite well and it deserves a lot more attention.
- Mas Alta – Cirerets 2017
There is an art to crafting the mid-range wine of a winery portfolio. It needs to be both well-priced and excellent to make it attractive, which is a difficult act to balance. But Cirerets more than achieves this feat, and that’s why it’s a wine that I keep coming back to. Not only it’s smashing good but if someone asks, “What’s Priorat?” this is is the bottle to open. Priorat has a number of wines such as this one with the Vall Llach’s Idus, Sangenís i Vaqué’s Coranya, or Mas Doix’s Salanques being others to recommend, but I wanted to feature the Cirerets because I feel it often gets overlooked amidst the many excellent wines of Mas Alta as well as Priorat at large, and is one of the very few wines from Priorat that I always keep stocked in my personal cellar.
- Bàrbara Forés – El Templari 2019
Well, this is an exciting wine. Not only it’s from one of my favorite producers in DO Terra Alta, but it’s also made entirely from Morenillo grapes, a rather obscure native variety that was recently officially allowed to be used in the DO. It’s a grape I hope gets more attention in the future as I’ve had a number of wines from Morenillo in recent years and nothing has let me down. This is a pretty stellar example and if you enjoy it, I recommend you also try the Pét-Nat sparkling they’re making from the same grape within their “En Moviment” line of natural wines.
- Arché Pagès – Cartesius Rosat 2019
For some time, what many have considered to be the “best” rosé in Catalunya was the Pla dels Àngels from Scala Dei of which I’m also a big fan and again, their 2019 vintage doesn’t disappoint at all. But this rosé from Arché Pagès up in DO Empordà knocked my socks off when I tasted it for my extensive Empordà Report earlier this year. Delicious, fresh, and expressing everything excellent about Empordà’s unique character, I can’t recommend enough to try this rosé even now in winter (rosé should be enjoyed year-round), or wait until the 2020 comes out in the spring.
- Acústic Celler – Auditori 2016
Sometimes I feel like Albert Jané has been doing such a consistently good job with his DO Montsant winery in Marçà, that people often take him for granted. But as shown during my latest DO Montsant Tasting, he’s producing great wines year in, year out and the Auditori is another testament to just how good Grenache can be in the DO Montsant areas of the Priorat county.
- Mas d’en Blei – Clos Martina 2015
Most of the time, when talking about Garnatxa Blanca from Catalunya, we’d be talking about Terra Alta where it really thrives. But for what few whites exist within DOQ Priorat, it will for the base there as well. The llicorella soils can often make it a bit weighty, but as shown by this Clos Martina, it doesn’t have to be. This is delicate, nuanced, and a surprise in how super fresh and lively it is, as it’s from the 2015 vintage which was pretty hot otherwise.
- Toto Marqués – Prades 950 2016
Here’s a real outlier in this wine from the village of Prades just above the Priorat county. Technically it would be DO Tarragona, but given the high altitude of the vineyard around the Prades mountain range, it really has nothing to do with this generally coastal DO. You can read a good deal more about it in the article I wrote about it after being quite impressed by it.
- BONUS TRACK! Roig Parals – l’Eròtic 2017
I can’t resist closing out this list on a sweet note by adding one of my surprise “finds” of the year, which was also my top-scoring wine in the Empordà Report: a new, atypical dessert wine from Roig Parals. Normally, these are based upon Grenache but here’s a rare instance of a sweet wine made from Carinyena instead. Luscious, sumptuous, and well, “erotic”, it’s a fine addition to the top-notch dessert wine scene that comprises Empordà.
And there we have it. Is this everything that’s amazing in Catalunya? Lord no! There are of course countless excellent wines not included here. But if you want to explore further and see all the wines I’ve tasted along with their corresponding scores, please have a look at the much, much lengthier Tasting Reports or my articles on Catalan wines.
Cheers and pleasant drinking to all!