Spain has more area under vine cultivation than any other country in the world, according to Wines From Spain. While much of Spain's wine production remains in-country, Spain exports wines to many other nations, including the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. Russia and Italy are importing more Spanish wines than ever before.
With so many acres under vine, Spain's wines are difficult to characterize or stereotype. Cavas, Spain's sparkling wines, continue to grow in popularity, and white wines from the cooler Spanish wine regions are recognized for their quality and value. Spain's best-known wines, however, are its reds, not only from Rioja, the country's flagship wine region, but from Priorat, Ribera del Duero and several other regions.
Let's take a closer look at some of the top red wines from Spain.
Vega-Sicilia Único is often labeled "Spain's most expensive wine," and, over time, that description has held true. This Ribera del Duero wine is aged at least 10 years before it is released, depending on the opinions of Pablo Álvarez, the winery's General Director, his oenologists and staff. Vega-Sicilia Único is made from grapes grown on older vines, and there is a waiting list of eager customers waiting to buy each year's release. Vega-Sicilia's proud history of quality wine production dates back to 1915; today, Vega-Sicilia Único's best vintages command top-dollar prices. Expect to pay $300 to $400 for a bottle of the 1999 release, and up to $3,300 for a bottle of the 1986 Artist Label Vega-Sicilia Único.
Alvaro Palacios' L'Ermita, one of the "new wines" of Spain, began its life in 1993 in Spain's Priorat wine region. In that year, Alvaro Palacios acquired the vineyard he named after a tiny chapel on the property, L'Ermita. Critics have showered accolades on Priorat's wines since the region's beginnings, in 1991, but L'Ermita is truly something special. Made from garnacha and cariñena wine grapes, L'Ermita commands top prices. Here, quality is everything. You'll pay $550 to $950 for a bottle of 2005 L'Ermita, and $295 to $595 for a bottle of the 1995 release.
Dominio de Pingus
Peter Sisseck's dedication to Ribera del Duero's old vines and modern winemaking practices have converged in Pingus, a single-vineyard, old-vine wine. Sisseck makes fewer than 500 cases of Pingus in any given year. A bottle of the 2005 vintage sells for $350 to $800.
Vega de Toro Termanthia
Vega de Toro Termanthia is a single-vineyard wine made from grapes that are crushed by foot in traditional style. Expect to pay at least $400 for a bottle of the 2004 vintage and $300 for a bottle of the 2005. Vega del Toro's Numanthia wines are also well-regarded.
Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Pesquera Janus Gran Reserva
Pesquera Janus Gran Reserva from Bodegas Alejandro Fernández (Ribera del Duero) is only made in exceptional years. This wine is made from two sources, wine made in accordance with traditional Spanish practices and wine made in the modern style. The two types of wine are blended and the resulting product is aged in American oak. The Pesquera Reserva "2000 Millenium," bottled in magnums only, is even more rare. Expect to pay $155 to $172 per bottle for the 2003 vintage and $260 and up for a magnum of the 1996 "2000 Millenium" release.
Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Reserva Especial
Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta first began exporting wines in 1852. By 1878, the Ygay Estate was part of the holdings of Luciano de Murrieta, later Marqués de Murrieta. Luciano continued to extend his holdings and create high-quality wines. Today the winery is managed by V. Dalmau Cébrian-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, and his sister, Cristina. The Peñin Guide to Spanish Wine 2010 named Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay 2001 the "best Gran Reserva from Spain." Heady praise, indeed. Expect to pay $220 and up for a bottle of the 2006 Rioja Castillo Ygay Reserva Especial.
Torres Mas La Plana (Formerly Torres Gran Coronas Black Label)
Miguel Torres is one of Spain's most influential winemakers, and his efforts in Penedès illustrate the depths of his talents. Torres Mas La Plana, which used to be called Torres Gran Coronas Black Label, remains one of the best-known single-estate wines in Spain. Made from cabernet sauvignon grapes, Mas La Plana's claims to fame began when it was chosen over a group of prestigious European wines for the top prize in the 1979 Paris Wine Olympiad. You'll pay $130 and up for a bottle of the 1978 vintage, less for later bottlings.
Bodegas Mauro' s flagship wine, Bodegas Mauro Terreus, comes from the Castilla y Leon region. Just 8,500 bottles are produced in any given year, which means would-be buyers will find it difficult to locate Terreus wines. If you are fortunate, you may find 2005 Terreus for sale at $155 to $180 per bottle.
Bodegas RODA de Cirsion
Bodegas RODA de Cirsion is a modern-style Rioja made from grapes grown on old vines. This winery, which places heavy emphasis on wines grown from local clonal selections, only bottles Cirsion wines in top-quality years. Expect to pay $145 to $250 for a bottle of 2005 Bodegas RODA de Cirsion.