An Irish First
BEST OF SPAIN WINE CHALLENGE IRELAND 2018
by Lynne Coyle Master of Wine, O'Briens Wine Director
On a cold very wet Dublin day towards the end of November 2018, the very first Best of Spain Wine Challenge, Ireland took place. Wineries had entered over 160 wines to showcase aspects of quality, diversity and uniqueness of Spain’s vineyards.
As the Director of Judges, during two intensive days of judging, I was joined by some of Irelands top wine experts including Barbara Boyle MW, Jane Boyce MW and top Irish wine journalists; Matthew Nugent (The Sun), John Wilson (Irish Times), Liam Campbell (The Taste.ie), Aoife Cariggy (Irish Food Writers' Guild), Gabriela Guedez (The Taste.ie), Jules Mahon (The taste.ie), Maureen O'Hara (The Daily Star) and Raymond Blake (Food & Wine). Judges also included top sommeliers Philip Dunne (The Westbury Dublin), Ian Brosnan (Ely Wine Bars), Pierre Faure (Ashford Castle) and Lisa O'Docherty (5 Star K Club).
This pioneering initiative was led by Spanish Wine Tasters Association and the Dublin competition rules were designed in line with the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) standard where all wines were tasted completely blind and rigorously scored by the expert tasting teams.
Further competitions are planned in the future with plans to increase the number of wines submitted and to offer some additional events around the competition. Some of my favorite Gold Medal winning wines can be found here:
Oaked Albariño is a rarity but it is a grape that takes well to some wood ageing. Bodegas Granbazán use top quality Limousin oak for this delicious textured wine- the characteristic greengage and citrus fruits are still evident, married with a subtle toasty complexity and rich mouthfeel from the wood. An excellent take on this most trendy of wine grapes.
Galician white wines are proving to be some of the best quality in the world and they were well represented at the Spain Wine Challenge. Godello is not as well known as Albariño but can make wines every bit as good as its near-neighbour. This wine comes from Monterrei, a small region in the interior of Galicia on the Portuguese border. It shows the typical texture, richness and tropical fruit flavour profile of this grape. A wonderfully food-friendly wine that offers incredible value for money.
As expected Rioja was very well represent at the competition and these three were particularly impressive.
The Marques de la Concordia is classic Rioja revisited. A fruit-driven style with an unmistakably traditional vanilla and savoury character. 100% Tempranillo and aged in French & American Barrels for 24 months, it displays deep red berried fruit, well integrated oak and a touch of spice all wrapped up in velvety tannins. It cries for grilled lamb chops or chorizo and pork belly casserole.
Bodegas Riojanas are one of the top traditional wineries in Rioja. The grapes for this wine come from the premium sub-region of Cenicero before spending up to 30 months ageing in oak barrels. Waves of bramble fruit and plum are supported by the coconut, spice and toast from the American oak. Delicious to drink know with almost 9 years ageing, but has the potential to be cellared further and allow it develop a savoury tobacco and leather profile.
Sierra Cantabria is a family-run estate, now in its fifth generation of the Eguren family. They blend tradition with modern winemaking techniques to produce wines of real character. The Colección Privada is a modern style of Rioja- plenty of vibrant cherry and plum fruits. The oak ageing is a combination of American and French barrels to bring the best influence of both. The wine boasts a powerful palate with complex, succulent, rich toasty notes of oak and black fruit before a coffee and dark chocolate finish.
The judges were delighted to host this important wine competition in Ireland and hope that this first event will lead to further opportunities for the hosting of further Spanish showcase competitions in the future.