Domus Pensi – Terra Alta, Spain

Somehow both fresh and leathery on the nose.  Ripe red and black fruits on the front end, flowing quickly into tannin-laden leather notes and a faint hint of violets.  This is a young one, but a beauty.  All those powerful notes, but still somehow manages to hold a medium body, feeling fresh and clean in the mouth.  It went equally well with heavy Italian sausage as it did with lighter Portuguese seafood paté.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Domus Pensi 2013
  • Winery: Altavins Viticultors SL
  • Region: Terra Alta
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 45% Cabernet, 30% Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot
  • Price: ~$25
  • Where to Buy: Total Wine

La Suerte de Arrayan 2011 – Méntrida, Spain

Fresher than expected on the nose:  notes of grass, strawberries, and wood.  Front palate of red fruit, blueberries, and faint vanilla notes.  Chewy and rich with tobacco, cocoa, and more vanilla rounding into a wall of warm tannins red fruit.  A soft, berry-laden finish that melts away quickly.  Lovely.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: La Suerte de Arrayan 2011
  • Winery: La Verdosa, S.L.
  • Region: Méntrida
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Garnacha
  • Price: 25
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors

12 Volts 2013 – Mallorca, Spain

I admit to expecting something different when I popped this one open.  Bright red fruit on the nose, gave way to elegant, silky vanilla flavors and bright sour cherries.  This was definitely a lighter wine than I had expected, but the bright (notice the theme) and luscious notes on both the palate and the nose made for a lovely little wine.  I picked this beauty up in San Sebastian or Barcelona some time in 2015, but it appears that T. Edward New York is bringing it in to the U.S.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: 12 Volts 2013
  • Winery: Apol-lonia Viticultors S.A.T.
  • Region: Mallorca
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: 50% Callet; 30% Syrah; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Merlot
  • Price: 30 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Edward New York

Barbazul – Cadiz, Spain

I actually exclaimed at the first mouthful of this one.  Out loud.  Balsamic, cherries, and florals on the nose.  This deep, rich babe of a wine attacks the front palate with just the right balance of dark and red fruits, vanilla, and tobacco flavors.  It tastes rich and dark from the instant it touches your tongue.  Rich mineral, tobacco, and dried prune flavors blend with grassy and floral notes, as tannins come in with a spicy punch, leading to a mineraly dried-fruit finish.  It’s very likely that I’ll be upgrading this one to Stunning upon another tasting, but for now I’m going conservative with an impressive rating.  Did I mention it’s rich?

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Barbazul
  • Winery: Huerta de Albalá
  • Region: Cadiz V.T.
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Tintilla de Rota, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Price: 15 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Zona d’Ombra, Barcelona, Spain

Sueños 2009 Reserva – Sierras de Malaga, Spain

Raisiny, cherry, slate and herbs on the nose.  Thyme.  Dark fruits and dusty raisins on the front palate.  The tannins are chewy, again, raisin-like.  This must be from the hot Southern Spanish sun.  The word BLACK springs to mind and sticks in the brain, and it’s not just from the label.  But with an odd lightness in the center, almost like the airiness of melon.  Long, spicy finish, with strawberries, cream, cocoa, and vanilla.  So much fun.  I picked this on up in Malaga at El Club del Vino on Bernardo’s suggestion.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Sueños 2009 Reserva
  • Winery: Cezar Viñedos y Bodega SL
  • Region: Sierras de Malaga
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Petit Verdot
  • Price: 17 Euros
  • Where to Buy: El Club del Vino

Altosiós 2011 – Costers del Segre, Spain

This one takes a while to open up – it needs to breath a bit.  But once it has, a complex bouquet of roses, cocoa, slate, and faint tobacco notes gets things started.  The opening attack has more acid than expected, with somewhat lemony notes and red fruit.  Not exactly what you would expect from the bouquet, or color of the juice.  The red fruit gives over to an echo of luscious pear and grass, before chewy tannins come in to help deliver raisiny cocoa and hot stone notes (yes, that’s a thing, thank you very much).  This wine was a blind faith purchase from Javi at Vinalium.  There will be more such purchases in the future.  It was gorgeous with fuet and piquillos, and opened up in exactly the way Javi described that it would.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Altosíos
  • Winery: Bodegas Costers del Sió
  • Region: Costers del Segre
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Syrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha
  • Price: 17 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Vinalium, Barcelona

Vinalium, Barcelona, Spain

Go here.  Wine shops are not all created equal, nor are they equally endowed with knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and patient owners that are happy to have an actual exchange about wine, rather than rush to sell you on whatever bottle they are getting margin on at the moment.  I knew I’d found a kindred spirit when we stumbled upon the subject of the prevailing wine rating system – Javi and I shared our mutual disdain for the commercial, silly 100-point system and how certain wine illuminati manage to warp the market with high-ranking reviews of often pedestrian offerings.

Yet I digress.  At Vinalium you will find a focused selection of wines from all regions of Spain, including some commercial favorites, all at friendly prices.  However, it’s in the sections devoted to regional offerings and smaller producers where you’ll find some exciting stuff.  From Cava to Penedés, Empordá to Montsant, Javi and Karen, his American partner and wife (whom I did not get to meet) have your number.  To top it off, they run a thriving online store that will deliver cheaply and quickly in Barcelona, as well as abroad.

So what are you waiting for – go!

Vinalium, Carrer de Casanova 33, 08011, Barcelona, Spain

Almodí – Terra Alta, Spain

The rich, tough bouquet of leather, dried cherries, and slate are just a hint of what is coming.  Soft acid, leather, almonds, dark fruits, and mineral form a solid, grounded opening.  Rich, soft tannins join the deep, swirling cocoa and cherry notes leading toward a long spicy finish.  I didn’t know what to expect here, but I’m very happy that I went for it.  This wine was a revelation with a plate of cured hams and sausages.  At 8 Euros, this wine is so cheap I’m almost embarrassed to call it impressive!

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Almodí
  • Winery: Altavins
  • Region: Terra Alta
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Garnatxa
  • Price: 8 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Zona d’Ombra, Barcelona

Cantaperdius – Tarragona, Spain

Ripe red fruits, strawberries, red plums, and, oddly, a hint of charcoal and leather on the nose.  Fascinating combination.  A fresh, acidic opening with more red fruit and grass.  This is a medium bodied beauty great for when you really want a red, but it’s hot and, therefore, everyone is trying to tell you to order white wine.  The finish is quick, spicy, and a bit leathery with a cherry aftertaste.  Light, fun, and summery, kinda like Tarragona itself.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Cantaperdius
  • Winery: Moises Virgili Rovira
  • Region: Tarragona
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Sumoll, Ull de Llebre
  • Price: 8 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Zona d’Ombra, Barcelona

Perelada Finca Espolla 2011 – Empordá, Spain

The moment you open this beauty, the heady balsamic notes come rolling off the glass, letting you know that you have indeed popped a bottle of Empordá wine.  Blackberries and balsamic do a dance with lower notes of vanilla and chocolate on the nose.  This one hits the front palate hard with black fruits, tarry leather, and floral-laced hit of acid.  Having first experience their wines at a wine festival on the Costa Brava (gracias, PGJ), I actually expected to be bowled over by the tannins.  Not so here.  As the dark fruits give way to cherries, vanilla, and cocoa flavors, balanced tannins come in to help the long, lightly peppery finish, hold its notes.  This one really surprised me in that I expected it to be good, but not a cherry-pepper vanilla cocoa bomb of Catalan love!  I had this with assorted fuet, aged roncal, piquillos, and cherries – and the peppery notes just kept giving.

  • Rating: Stunning
  • Name: Perelada, Finca Espolla 2011
  • Winery: Cavas de Castillo Perelada
  • Region: Empordá
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa
  • Price: 15 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Barcelona wine shops