Best Spanish wines of 2021

by  |  08-12-2021

For the first time I’m doing a Best Spanish Wines list which is accompanying my yearly Best Catalan Wines list.

Why are they separate? Some may assume it’s some kind of political statement but the fact is, due to being based in Catalunya with three of the top wine regions literally at my doorstep, the amount of wines I taste from Catalunya vs. the amount of wines I taste from the rest of Spain is very out of balance. Thus by taking Catalunya out of the mix and picking a short list from all these fantastic wines across the Iberian Peninsula, it gets somewhat “easier” to make a selection.

In general, 2021 saw me traveling and tasting a great deal more. These wines were largely culled from my reports on Bierzo, DO Somontano, and DO Calatayud as well as small tastings of various wines from other regions. There are a large number of wines from Rioja here as well given my recent extensive trip and you will notice these emerging in short order under new reports on the site. For the moment however, these represent a little taste of what’s to come.

Spain is a country that’s always one of the Top Three producers of wines in the world so it’s a fool’s errand to think you can taste all of them. There’s a publication in Spain dedicated only to Spanish wines and even with a large team traveling constantly, they can’t taste everything each year. Honestly, I think you could spend the year dedicated to tasting the wines of Rioja alone and wouldn’t be able to cover all of it!

All this preamble is to say that this is in no way some definitive list of the end-all, be-all wines in Spain. It’s a list of wines I’ve tried over the last year and have thought notable either as they rocked the points bracket or more importantly because they represent something special to their specific region and worthwhile seeking. Ultimately I’ve arrived to 14 individual wines which are presented in no particular order and range in price from 6.50€ to 55€.

As with the Catalan list, this selection is free for public viewing but the detailed scores, reviews, and price/quality mentions are for paid subscribers.

I do hope you enjoy it and let me know your thoughts below!

  • El Escocés Volante – Manda Huevos Tinto 2019
    Norrel Robertson is doing fine work over in Calatayud. I tasted this wine while working on the DO Calatayud report, but since most of Norrel’s wines are outside the DO I wrote about them in a separate article. Mostly Garnacha, this wine shows what’s possible in the region and also how Norrel’s project is evolving. The white version is also quite sharp.
  • Sierra de Toloño – Raposo 2019
    I’m a fan of what Sandra Bravo is doing in Rioja Alavesa and you can read more about this in her profile earlier this year. This village-classified wine is exceedingly expressive and worthy of attention for encapsulating the cooler territory of the village so well. It’s also at what I believe to be a reasonable price for the level of quality. And the label is great, too!
  • Gran Bierzo – Rosado 2019
    In looking back, I was by far and away the highest scorer for this wine amongst my fellow wine critics and I’m sticking to that. There’s really something original to this wine that made it stand out in the Bierzo report as a very different take on Mencía that I adore. I’m not sure if they’ll continue releasing it but for the price and originality, it’s hard to beat.
  • Bodegas Sers – Singular Moristel 2018
    This was part of the DO Somontano report and shows the potential of the local red variety, Moristel (not to be confused with Monastrell). Really great fruit definition here and one of the leaders in reinvigorating this nearly-lost variety.
  • César Márquez – El Repolao 2018
    There’s not really much that César is doing in Bierzo that I don’t like but this was really the top of the tops, showing the excellence possible with the variety, Mencía. How he makes these and still manages the family winery is beyond me.
  • Bhilar – Phinca Lali 2017
    Part of the newer wave of producers in Rioja, this wine shines in terms of being old-vine Tempranillo from a single plot. It balances classic Rioja with a more modern approach in making a wine that’s both structured, fresh, and exceedingly lively. While not a budget option, it is very indicative of the important direction high-quality producers are taking in the region.
  • Villota – Selección Blanco 2019
    This is a marked departure from the previous two vintages of the wine although it’s a direction I love. This family has a lovely estate that’s producing some great wines and this white shows that Rioja is much more than ‘just’ reds. Please read their profile to learn a bit more.
  • Sonsierra – El Rincón de los Galos 2017
    Representing a new direction, this is one of three single vineyard (or Viñedos Singulares) from Rioja that will be part of a forthcoming report. All of their single vineyard line is very worthy of notice but this wine stood out to me as showing its roots in Rioja, but expressing itself in a way that goes way above and beyond the standard cross-regional blends.
  • Verónica Ortega – ROC 2017
    I’ve been tasting Verónica’s wines since her very first vintages and despite originally being from Andalucía, she’s really been doing excellent work in Bierzo, making her own signature mark on Mencía as well as with the white varieties of the area. ROC has been and continues to be simply excellent in terms of the region and was a star in the Bierzo reds report.
  • Banzao – Blanco – San Pedro de Olleros 2018
    Probably not a winery that many will have heard of which is all the more reason to mention it. Silvia Marrao Barreiro’s project is relatively new in terms of the wine world and she’s staked out a little corner in the very north of the Bierzo region to make some unique wines. This white from Godello is a really pleasing blend of parcels that encapsulates her approach.
  • MacRobert & Canals – Laventura Garnacha 2019
    I had a chance to sit down with Riojan transplant, Bryan MacRobert who is originally from South Africa and taste through the various wines he’s making. Everything is quite top-notch but I chose this Garnacha for the list over some of the single vineyard wines as it’s quite affordable and has decent production levels meaning you can probably find it. Also, it’s delicious.
  • Frontonio – Telescópico 2018
    Fernando Mora and his partners in the winery have rightfully earned the buzz behind them as in a few short years, they’ve built up a high-quality line of wines outside any of the DOs in Aragón. I’ve had the Telescópico Carignan in the past and have to say that this current Telescópico is really a testament to how much they’ve evolved. (It’s also worth checking out La Loma & Los Santos which is a great white.)
  • Palacios Remondo – Finca la Montesa 2018
    While part of a future report on the Garnachas of DOC Rioja, this is a gleaming example of what’s possible in Rioja Oriental (Baja) when someone accustomed to the variety in DOQ Priorat arrives and changes everything up. Not only is it an excellent wine but the price is hard to beat and do keep an eye out for the 2020 vintage when it arrives.
  • Peciña – Señorío de P. Peciña Gran Reserva 2011
    This is top-down classic Rioja and a Gran Reserva at that which I was introduced to sometime back. Tempranillo dominant, well-integrated oak, and at a ridiculously low price with adequate production to find it most anywhere, it was hard not to include this because if you want Rioja, then you want this and I can’t see how anyone would be disappointed by this wine.
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