Ideal Iberians: Spain and Portugal

  • Christian Navarro

At present, the iberian Peninsula is producing arguably the best wines in Europe. The wine industries in Spain and Portugal have undergone significant transformations in recent decades. In both countries, traditional winemakers and the more avant-garde new school of oenologists seem to have struck a harmonious balance in which each group borrows techniques and practices from the other to raise the overall quality of the wines to undreamed-of heights.

Fonseca 2007 Vintage Port Portugal
Family owned since 1822, Fonseca continues to be admired by collectors as one of the finest port houses. Head winemaker David Guimaraens, the great-great-great-grandson of founder Manoel Pedro Guimaraens, upholds his family’s tradition of excellence with this vintage port, which brims with aromas of blackberry jam, white pepper, and licorice. ($100)

Lopez de Heredia Viña 1968 Tondonia Rioja, Spain
This 125-year-old family winery is located in the Rioja Alta’s capital city, Haro. The Tondonia Rioja is aged for six to eight years in oak and consists of 75 percent Tempranillo, 15 percent Grenache, and 10 percent Manzuela—the classic rioja blend. The owners maintain a very deep cellar and frequently release old wines, such as this 1968 vintage, which showcases delicate flavors of sandalwood, wild game, dried cherry, and rosemary. ($350)

Numanthia Termanthia 2007 Toro, Spain
Named for the inhabitants of Numancia, who defeated the Romans in the first century B.C., Bodega Numanthia Termes in Toro produces this 100 percent Tempranillo (Tinto de Toro) from vineyards located on the south bank of the Duero River. Its spectacular bouquet of spicy new oak and blackberry pie mingles with flavors
of tar and violet. ($200)

Pingus 2007 Ribera del Duero, Spain
Founded in Ribera del Duero by Peter Sisseck in 1995, Pingus produces this wine in frustratingly minuscule quantities. Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest wines in the world, this Tempranillo is made from vines that range from 60 to 70 years old. The exotic flavor profile progresses from black currant and vanilla to white smoke and graphite. ($650)

Quinta do Noval 1997 Vintage Port Nacional, Portugal
António José da Silva bought this estate in 1894 and painstakingly replanted the vineyards—an effort that paid off handsomely with the 1931 vintage, which many consider to be the century’s finest port. This spectacular wine is saturated with essences of bitter chocolate, fresh black pepper, licorice, and blackberry liqueur. ($500)

Vega Sicilia 1998 Unico Ribera del Duero, Spain
The star of Ribera del Duero, Vega Sicilia has been in the possession of the Alvarez family since 1982. Most connoisseurs regard this as Spain’s greatest winery and Unico—which is aged for a minimum of 10 years and can last half a century—as the finest wine it produces. The 1998 vintage combines pronounced notes of currant, licorice, leather, and black truffle. ($380)

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