Much more than wine, the giants of the Peñín Guide 2021

22 July 2020

Still dripping from our glasses is the wine that we were able to evaluate last week in our most illustrious ceremony, the Peñín Guide's Re-Tasting of the best wines of the year. They were three exciting intense days, full of emotion, comparative tastings, internal debates and moments of silence. For those who do not yet know, the Re-Tasting involves reliving and comparing all those wines that have reached a minimum score of 94 (with the exception of fortified and sweet wines), added to others that obtained 93 points in their growing areas and we thought could improve.

This is an exercise that allows us to calibrate more accurately the value of each wine, comparing it to others of similar score, allowing us to improve or downgrade its score weighing it against wines of a higher or lower level once more, until that reference remains by its own merit in the score that suits it best, not being able to fight in equity with wines of a higher score.

This exercise always starts in absolute silence. You can feel the tension, the nerves, because over the course of three days all sorts of moments follow one another. The euphoria of seeing a wine go up a point when it seems too comfortable in its initial score, and the disappointment of seeing that this same wine cannot stand the comparison with higher quality wines later on. Throughout these three intense tasting sessions sighs are heard, and the tasters can be seen looking for other wines on the tables to deliver their final judgement. Sometimes they are happy to find it, other times you hear a joke as a sign of frustration when they see that it does not make it. Other times you can see the smile on the tasters' faces, unable to hide the emotion that a great wine brings.

Recata Guía Peñín 2021

In these sessions there are wines that ascend, albeit very few. They start at the 95 point table and end up being one of the great wines of the year, earning their points fairly, having fought off all the great representatives of each tier of scores on their way to the top.

Today we are happy to announce that the Peñín Guide has finally chosen its Podium wines for its 2021 edition, although we are still working on the last details to officially close the new edition. This year there have been 261 wines with a score between 95 and 99 points.

Six Giants enter the Peñín Guide 2021 with strength, six wines with 99 points

For the second year running, six wines enter the winemaking history of a producing country like Spain. Six wines that are much more than just a wine, they represent much more as we’ll read below.

This historic winery in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, now run by the fifth generation embodied in Jaume and Xavier Gramona, is already used to these heights. It is the fourth wine that obtains 99 points in its history. Gramona was the first winery to achieve this idyllic rating with a sparkling wine when it was still part of the Cava appellation, a true milestone. It was 2016 when all this was happening and since then they have not stopped taking giant steps towards excellence in the world of bubbles. This Enoteca 2004 is not the result of chance. The Enoteca line from this cellar is the most evident gamble on the concept of old age around a sparkling wine. Today it is already a historic brand in two ways, for its long history and for its commitment to bottling a piece of history through specific vintages that carry a unique typology and style. Anyone who wants to approach this wine will find an oxidative sparkling wine, elegant as few others, with a fine and scintillating bubble, rich flavours of bakery, nuts and cocoa, through an elegant but long, complex, creamy mouth. A wine that borders on perfection and that is a legacy and a demonstration of the way to follow for other producers in the area.

Bodegas Yuste is one of those wineries that has always been there, responsible for all kinds of wines in the Marco de Jerez. This company is committed to the democratisation of wine in the Marco, to bring sherry to everybody interested through different wines and formats. They don’t hesitate to make simpler and more accessible wines together with more complex and exclusive wines, knowing that there are many types of consumers in the wine sector. This Conde de Aldama "Bota NO" Amontillado is the culmination of the most exclusive of wines, being the oldest wine that the winery keeps, coming from the soleras that the Conde De Aldama began with the purchase of Aguilar y Cia in 1740. A single cask, under order of a maximum of 20 bottles per year, at a price accessible to very few, 1,200 euros per bottle.

Beyond the literature that has been created around the term "Bota NO" (Cask NO), its creator Gabriel Raya recognises that it is simply a cask where the NO was written with chalk, with the intention that nobody would touch it under any circumstances. Now we understand why. Its tasting was overwhelming, with an extreme concentration that carries an infinite number of nuances. It is a complex and complicated wine, but it shows the magnitude that many fortified wines can have in Jerez.

For three years the family winery Pazo Señorans has flirted with achieving the best white wine of the year, always with its wine Pazo Señorans Selección de Añada (Vintage Selection). First in its 2007 vintage (Peñín Guide 2015 - 98 points), then with its 2008 (Peñín Guide 2017 - 98 points) and finally with its 2009 (Peñín Guide 2018 - 98 points). And it has done so today with a wine that represented a breakthrough not only in the Rías Baixas area, but in all the Spanish production environment. His Selección de Añada is a commitment to the ageing of Galician whites, a wine capable of withstanding the test of time and gaining expression along the way.

Today, the winery from Pontevedra has finally made it with its superb 2011 vintage, which shows off the soil, the environment, and of course the human hand through a style which is now its own by right. This Pazo de Señorans has been an unmitigated success for the tasting team, a wine that reminds us of the granitic soils of its vineyards, where we can appreciate touches of bay leaves, lees and flinty notes as in other great whites of the world.

This wine from Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro in its 2007 vintage was the Revelation Wine of the Peñín Guide 2020. A revealing wine both for its grape variety, and for its approach and style. Furthermore, it makes history by becoming the first white wine from Ribera del Duero to reach 99 points, as it is the first year in which the region's white wines can be labelled with the appellation's seal since it was approved by its regulatory council at the end of last year.

Thus, we can find ourselves at a turning point within one of the Spanish growing areas best known internationally for its red wines. As Ignacio Arzuaga acknowledges, this Arzuaga Albillo did not start in 2007, several harvests prior to 2007 went down the drain until they decided to bottle this jewel. If the 2007 vintage represented the concept of white wines aged to the oxidative limit, closer to a sherry or a Jura but with a touch of maturity, this 2008 vintage once again shows the style that gave it its greatness. A fresh vintage with a crisp acidity together with all the unique nuances that this wine contains. A demonstration of strength and forcefulness in a grape that until now had not given much to talk about, the albillo mayor.

Almost seamlessly, we have moved from one winery like Arzuaga to another like Dominio del Águila, under the same appellation and, looking into the vintages, we find also the same winemaker. Jorge Monzón was behind both Arzuaga Albillo 2008 during his years as the winery’s winemaker, and this Peñas Aladas which is his family project together with his wife Isabel Rodero. It's difficult to get to a region like Ribera del Duero and in just over 10 years become a legend. This is what has happened to this winemaker, who has not only been able to create great wines but has also developed his own identity around his wines, something which makes you taste them and say to yourself, "this is Dominio del Águila".

Peñas Aladas is an exceptional wine, intense, structured, and with a touch of limestone that gives it a tense palate. In this vintage we find an interesting herbal nuance more marked than in previous vintages. The mouth is long and is without a doubt one of the wines that made us smile the most during the tasting session for reds.

Dominio do Bibei is a winery that has done nothing but surprise us at a tasting level since its creation in 2000. With the utmost discretion, the Domínguez family, owners of one of the largest textile companies in Spain, has developed an impeccable work, firstly around white wines and later also with reds. This Dominio do Bibei 2017 is the maximum representation of the Atlantic style red: elegant, mineral and fresh. And all this despite coming from the warm 2017 vintage that had droughts and frosts. Paula Fernández Trabanco, the winery’s winemaker, explained to us the care and respect with which they look after their grapes and they work at the winery. This has been done with the aim of showing the terroir of their wines, and they have done just that. This is a herbal wine, with lean red fruit, crisp minerality, and a long finish. A long-lasting wine that faithfully represents the concept of Galician Atlantic wine, with little colour, but a lot of flavour. In order to bottle such a wine, no element liable to mask its place of origin such as stems has been included, with the aim of reflecting its granite and slate soils, and the character of the brancellao grape as best as possible. To be among the big players of the Peñín Guide 2019 is the recognition of the excellence and potential of red wines in Galician lands, something that has already been demonstrated by a good handful of producers in the area.

These are the six superwines of this 2021 edition of the Peñín Guide, the oddest of all the guides we have produced. Many wines have arrived with great strength and splendour to our tasting table, others have gone unnoticed, but all, certainly all of them make up a most accurate picture of what is made in a wine country like Spain at this given time. Don't miss the new edition of the Peñín Guide 2021, now available online through this link or in book format, available in bookstores from October.

    Written by Redacción