Ask anyone to name Spain's top wines and the names will flow off the tongue.
Vega Sicilia, CVNE, La Rioja Alta, Muga, Vi?a Tondonia... most people will rattle off the usual suspects and they would be – for the most part – dead wrong.
Spain's reputation among consumers is built on the great value Spanish wine offers and on the back of a few styles; rich, deep reds, lighter, simple holiday whites, the uncomplicated pleasure that is Cava and the most uniquely Spanish wine of them all – Sherry. And this is backed up by our search figures. Check the list of the most searched-for Spanish wines on our database and you'll see all the big names and familiar regions.
However, when it comes to the critics' choice, it's a different matter entirely. Yes, you'll see wines from Rioja and Ribeira del Duero, but what you'll mostly see is a region that has become a genuine success story in the Spanish wine world – Priorat.
The tiny corner of Catalonia is a genuine star, as you'll see when you look at the list below. Grapes have been grown there since the 12th Century, when it was ruled by the prior of the Scala Dei monastery, which is where the name comes from. However, it was only in the 1980s that it moved away from producing bulk wine and producers there were rewarded in 2000, when it was raised to DOCa status, the highest level of classification in Spain. Only Rioja shares that status.
Quality has remained the focus there ever since and producers have certainly been rewarded with big scores from the world's wine critics.
Again, let's talk about how we arrive at our scores. Wine-Searcher collates scores from a wide range of critics, from influential single palates like Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson to publications like Wine Spectator, all adjusted for the 100-point scale. To generate a wine's aggregate score, Wine-Searcher uses a Bayesian methodology to calculate a weighted average, since not all critics are equal. This score is calculated for specific vintages of a wine, as well as across all vintages.The World's Best Spanish Wines on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Score||Ave Price|
|Dominio de Pingus Pingus, Ribera del Duero||96||$983|
|Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita Velles Vinyes, Priorat DOCa||96||$956|
|Bodega Lanzaga Las Beatas, Rioja DOCa||95||$276|
|Artadi Vina El Pison, Alava||95||$298|
|Descendientes de J. Palacios La Faraona, Bierzo||95||$1011|
|Bodegas Contador Benjamin Romeo Contador, Rioja DOCa||95||$302|
|Clos i Terrasses Clos Erasmus, Priorat DOCa||95||$259|
|Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Convento Seleccion, Montilla-Moriles||95||$265|
|Terroir Al Limit Les Manyes, Priorat DOCa||95||$207|
|Celler Mas Doix 1902 Carignan, Priorat DOCa||95||$264|
As mentioned above, Priorat absolutely dominates the list, comprising half the entries. It speaks volumes that Rioja – with a substantially longer history of quality wine production – only manages to get two wines on the list. Beyond this Duera's Pingus, the rest of the list is almost a tour of less-trumpeted Spanish wine regions – it's a rare person who would have suggested that Montilla-Moriles would have featured on this list.
Going back to the value proposition, for a moment, the prices of the wines on this list might seem steep in some cases, but they are remarkably stable, with none of the volatility of Burgundy or Bordeaux. Instead of sharp rises and precipitous plummets, the wines are slowly but steadily increasing their average price, giving stability to anyone collecting for investment purposes.
So despite the superficially high prices, there is still value in Spain; even though it might come from some unlikely sources.