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Spain: North-West, including Albariño 

A dreadful performance from a region that should be doing great things, with too many uninspiring wines and way too much over-optimistic pricing

Given that Spain generally is pretty hot at the moment, and that the north-west is its go-to area for restaurant-friendly white wines, you’d expect this to be a fantastic part of the Sommelier Wine Awards. Sadly, this year – after a good performance in 2012 – north-west Spain was about as stimulating as a One Direction lyrics sheet.

In fact, the only medal above Bronze went to a red – the well-priced Pajaro Rojo from Bierzo.

Key culprit – as in the past – was Albariño, which failed to deliver on pretty much every level. Stylistically, it was nowhere near what our tasters were looking for (too gloopy and not enough purity and minerality) and the pricing was, frankly, criminal for an unaged white wine.

‘It’s a good wine, but it should be £4 cheaper,’ was a common refrain in the Albariño flight, and it kept a lot of wines out of the medals simply because they weren’t worth what was being asked, compared to what was available from elsewhere within Spain, let alone the rest of the world.

‘I reckon you have to pay around £10 ex VAT now for a benchmark Albariño,’ sighed Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson. ‘It really isn’t a £5 wine any more.’

Last year, this part of Spain saw Albariño’s poor performance bailed out by the likes of Godello and (red) Mencia, but beyond a couple of Godello Bronzes (one for the A Coroa, which managed a Gold last year, and combined tropical fruit, minerality and texture) there was little of merit here.

Too much simple, over-sweet wine, not enough mid-palate punch, and ridiculous prices. If you had to put together a blueprint for failure on a mass scale, this would be it…

‘The whites we liked had good aromatics and a stony character that would make them a good match for shellfish. They reflected their maritime climate.’
Gustavo Medina, The Tate Group

‘I was expecting to be more excited by the whites.’
Sarah Jane Evans MW, team leader