2020, a year of opportunities for Spanish wine
Javier Luengo (@JavierGuiaPenin)
2019 has come to an end, and with it we leave behind very good moments and experiences around wine. It has been a very important year for us, it was the first year the Guide scored six wines with 99 points. Six almost perfect wines that remind us, not only of the virtues of each of them, but also how unreachable this score is for producers, even being true masters of viticulture and oenology. These six magnificent are: Reliquia Amontillado, Les Manyes 2016, La Nieta 2016, Sorte O Soro 2016, Chivite Colección 125 2005 and Celler Batlle Gran Reserva 2005 Brut, each in its own style, show us that there is no single recipe for excellence and that there are many paths and interpretations, some as yet unexplored, that lead us to achieve the maximum expression.
However, it would be unfair to stop at the very best for, many of these wines, due to their high prices and limited production, will never reach the common man´s table. There is a wide range of exceptional wines at simple prices, meaning consumers may get a piece of our wine culture investing little money. This cannot, honestly, be said about other producing countries.
As usual, the Spanish do not value enough what they have at their disposal if they see in it the stamp of Spain. It is curious how when we travel, we are enraptured by the wines of other countries and see in them a singularity and a delicacy that we do not want to appreciate in our own. Spanish wine is at its best, and 2019 has shown this through the ratings of the wines that have passed through our glass. This year there has been a proliferation of small, unique, personal wine projects focused on the land and its transformation by hand. These are wines that will reach few consumers, rarities, but that are important because they show new lines of work and levels of excellence. These wines are a delight for the most gourmand consumers, who don't mind spending more money if the wine is worth it and, undoubtedly, many of them are worth it.
However, natural wines boom seems to be shifting to “not everything is worth it”. Before it was enough to bottle a "natural" wine, meaning one that was not very interventionist, with all its defects. Now the trend is to work harder so that flaws do not appear. This is not an easy task; it requires constant attention from the oenologist and extreme care in the winemaking process. However, this is the only way to achieve great wines, as we were able to see this year in the blind tastings of natural wines and with one of the nominees for revelation wine such as the white Majuelo Los Picones 2016 by Isaac Cantalapriedra. The level of radicalism and disdain for conventional wines has dropped, but that critical look at wine is still present in some faces, even though we are aware that there are faults, not plausible in some natural wines. Luckily, sanity has made its way in this 2019 and the most accurate and complete view sees the coexistence of both interpretations of wine as an interesting aspect, since it feeds the spectrum of wines that reach our table even more. The role of prescribers in this sense, is neither easy nor grateful, since we have to throw light on these elaborations and set some organoleptic limits, something that is not usually appreciated by producers who make uncontrolled and defective wines.
Industrial Wines Vs Artisan Wines
Little by little, the coexistence between these two "wine sectors", the industrial and the artisan, is settling down and improving. Both remain on their side of the road without getting in each other's way, taking advantage of each other, as they should. The big ones, widening the spectrum of consumers, introduce people to the exciting world of wine, so that, over time, these consumers may be attracted to more selective and playful consumption. But not everything is so happy and positive, it remains to be seen that producers providing most value to a certain denominación de origen have given greater decision-making power and influence within the Boards of bigger Denominaciones de Origen. We will ask for this as a wish for this 2020!
It is remarkable how the cult of the vineyard and ecology is making its way. Although there are still many to be added, the truth is that more and more people are involved in sustainable cultivation. To give you an example, in 2012 the Guide recorded nearly 700 organic wines, while in our last edition of the Peñín Guide 2020 there were over 1,500, and more importantly, the coming years will be even more generous in this regard.
Internationalisation of Spanish wine
Another important aspect of this 2019, has been the greater interest of the wineries to open a gap in international markets. Few wineries focus solely on the domestic market, and even more so if we consider the huge amount of wine produced in our country. Even the humblest houses have dedicated their efforts to be present in third countries, something frankly positive for the global nature of Spanish wine.
Although the level of introduction of our wines is still low, this growing participation in wine fairs around the world opens up the possibility that Spanish wine will win in its competitiveness in other markets, gaining visibility and adding value to Spanish wine as a whole. It would be useless to focus on other countries if the quality level of our wines were not so high. However, it is something that the international press has already begun to realise. At Peñín we have become fully involved with this growing interest in asserting ourselves outside our borders and we have been working for years to transfer the diversity and quality of Spanish wine to countries such as Germany, China, United States, Japan, Mexico, Russia and Singapore. In this 2020, we will once again bring the excellence of our wines to many of these countries with a frenetic calendar.
We are saddened to see a new year go by, but the challenges that remain to be faced in the new year fill us once again with energy to face what is to come, which will surely not be little.