Home Winners > Winners 2014 > SPAIN: North-West, including Albariño

Winner Details

Spain: North-West, including Albariño 

2014: Gold 4 Silver 8 Bronze 3 Commended 5
2013: Gold 0 Silver 1 Bronze 3 Commended N/A
Must-list status: 55%
Overall SWA performance 2014: A-

As Cubitt House Group’s Matthew Cocks put it, ‘if you’re going to list a white from Spain, Galicia is one of the first places you’re going to go.’ It’s tempting to go further and add that, on the basis of this year’s SWA, it’s probably the only place you’re going to go.

Annoyingly, for most of the previous seven years of SWA, Albariño has been very much whatever the Spanish equivalent of an eminence grise is; its influence everywhere, but not actually there in person.

So it was with great joy that this year our tasters got to see what all the fuss was about. Plenty came in, and most of them were good.
‘There is so much Albariño around that doesn’t taste like Albariño,’ said team leader Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘So I was really inspired that so many of these wines showed such good Albariño character. It was a good flight.’

The only real issue surrounding the grape was its price. With its patchwork of small vineyards, Galicia is not the cheapest place on the planet to make wine, and that can make the wines expensive – especially since there’s never any oak around to add the veneer of prestige. In pure quality terms, this was a flight that could have had more Golds, but practical considerations held our tasters back.

Most agreed that, for the less-engaged customers, Albariño has a £35 ceiling – which about half of the medal winners here would probably have breached. However, Vinoteca’s Gus Gluck felt that serious wine lovers wouldn’t have too much of a problem being convinced to move upmarket.

‘Albariño has been discovered,’ he said. ‘It’s known and understood, which makes it easier to sell higher-quality examples. And at this level the texture of some of these wines, and the complexity, makes them ideal for food pairing.’

While Albariño dominated this region, there were signs that Godello’s renaissance is firmly established as well, and also that the North-West is able to do not just light, crunchy reds, but tintos of serious ambition as well, such as the Pizarra Ribeira Sacra. All in all, a very strong year for the Gallegos!

FOOTNOTE: Includes wine from Galicia, Valdeorras & Bierzo.

From the Tasting Teams

Albariño sits somewhere between Viognier and Riesling, with really fresh acidity, stone fruit, medium bodied, but with the best showing minerally concentration and character. Many of the wines in this flight showed it at its best, with lovely peach and apricot notes and good minerality.’ Riccardo Giacomelli, Bocca di Lupo

‘There is a price ceiling on the list for Albariño; at £25 to £30 it sells itself, but if you go to £40 it would have to be very good and certainly a hand-sell.’ Mark Thornhill, The Rockingham Arms