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The rising fortunes of Spanish fine wine

Daniel Eros Carnio, the founder and director of Oenofuture, looks at the rising fortunes of Spanish fine wine.

Spain is home to a treasure trove of remarkable producers like Vega Sicilia, Dominio de Pingus, and Alvaro Palacios, yet for some reason the country’s finest wines have remained in the shadow of their headline-grabbing rivals from the likes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Barolo.

There are signs, though, that a breakthrough is on the horizon as blue chip Spanish wines gain traction with private collectors and on the fine dining scene. While top Spanish wines have typically been restricted to Spanish restaurants and token inclusion on wine lists at non-Spanish restaurants, restaurant wine buyers and sommeliers are increasingly choosing to list Spanish wines thanks to what The Wine Show‘s Joe Fattorini describes as a “cultural shift”.

The compelling pricing attached to many of Spain’s top wines has also helped to raise their profile amongst collectors and fine wine enthusiasts

The rising profile of Spanish cuisine from simple tapas dishes right through to multi-Michelin starred chefs like Carme Ruscalleda and Ferran Adrià in recent years is one driver of this change. Joe Fattorini cites the listing of Vega Sicilia’s Valbuena by glass for three months at The Arts Club as proof that institutions and fine dining establishments which haven’t traditionally given much list space to Spanish wines are now embracing the country’s blue chip producers as the equals of their more famous French and Italian cousins.

This shift is backed up by the plethora of top Spanish restaurants with terrific wine lists. Ametsa with Arzak Instruction which showcases Basque cuisine in the heart of Belgravia at COMO The Halkin proposes top wines from Vega Sicilia and Muga to discerning diners along with under-the-radar surprises. The wine list features a section named “Recommendations from Ametsa” which suggests its clientele sample the “Las Lamas 2005 from Bierzo” instead of the Pomerol they might normally order.

The compelling pricing attached to many of Spain’s top wines has also helped to raise their profile amongst collectors and fine wine enthusiasts. Iconic wines like Teso La Monja and Pingus typically hit the £500-£1000 per bottle bracket on the secondary market, yet there are a wealth of lesser-known alternatives which can be snapped up for a fraction of these prices.

Excellent options for those considering investing in Spanish wine include the sensational wines of Bodegas Artadi which is located in the northern region of Rioja but chose to leave the appellation in 2015. This bold decision has proven a blessing for this legendary producer, enabling Artadi to highlight their remarkable single vineyard wines free from the rigid regulations of the region’s governing body.

Spanish wine is becoming increasingly popular on the fine dining circuit

Artadi’s iconic wine is the Viña El Pisón which is carefully crafted from the 2 hectare El Pisón vineyard planted in 1945. Frequently lauded by wine critics as a supreme example of Spanish fine wine, the 2013 Viña El Pisón received an outstanding score of 97 points by Luiz Gutierrez in The Wine Advocate.

Another worthy investment option is Artadi’s sublime Grandes Anadas which is just produced during the very best vintages with grapes sourced from the estate’s top vineyards. This is an intense, incredibly complex wine that needs plenty of cellaring to reach its full potential and its rarity means that investors should expect a good return when they finally do decide to sell.

Although blue chip Spanish wines may not yet share fully in the fame enjoyed by the top producers of Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Italy’s Tuscany and Piedmont regions, the country’s growing appeal for investors and collectors is undeniable. In addition to the growing popularity of top Spanish wines on the fine dining circuit, the reasonable pricing makes these wines a very attractive proposition either as additions to a personal collection or part of an alternative investment strategy.