Spain & Portugal

Grape Types

Cabernet Sauvignon is responsible for many of the world's greatest wines and is, arguably, the grandest of all red wine varieties. This thick-skinned, late-ripening variety performs best in the warm, gravelly soils of the Médoc in Bordeaux, usually blended with lesser amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Cabernet Sauvignon is often packed full of cedar, herb and blackcurrant notes. Leaning towards musk, pencil lead and cigar-box in its home region of Bordeaux. Its deep-colour, assertive tannins and affinity with oak allow the wines to improve in bottle over many years if not decades. It is equally capable of producing affordable, everyday reds in regions like the south of France's Pays d'Oc, and countries like Bulgaria and Chile as it is of producing wines with real finesse and class. The best of which come from Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Tuscany and parts of Australia, particularly Margaret River. Latterly, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina are laying claim to some very good blends and varietals made from Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Spanish spelling of Grenache, used in Rioja with Tempranillo and on its own or blended in Priorat. Some of the finest wines from Spain can be found in Priorat, look out for well established producers such as Sara Perez at Mas Martinet or the superb Mas Doix and Vall Llach.
One of the world's most widely planted grapes, Grenache is a quintessentially Mediterranean red variety which does best as a low yielding bush vine. It produces warm spicy sloe fruit-dominated wines whose ultimate expression is in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the surrounding southern villages. Excellent results can also be found in the Roussillon, parts of the Languedoc, the Vales near Adelaide, and Spain where it is known as Garnacha.
The great red grape of the northern Rhône where it reaches its optimum levels in the violet-scented muscular wines of Hermitage and the graceful sappy Côte Rôties, which in the latter case is sometimes blended with Viognier. The wines of Cornas are renowned as producing Syrah-based wines very close in quality to Hermitage, while St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage also represent some good value examples. It is also a component of many southern Rhône reds, namely Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As Shiraz, it is Australia's most important red variety, found in various guises from ripe fruit-forward commercial wines to intense concentrated old vine cuvees such as Grange and those of Clarendon Hills. In the best instances Syrah/Shiraz produces deep, spicy, age-worthy wines.
Tempranillo is now a widely recognised varietal, largely due to the international fame of Rioja, for which it is a key varietal. Being thick-skinned and producing vibrant fruit driven wines with depth and longevity it is often regarded as Spain's answer to Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripening two weeks earlier than Garnacha, and having a short growing period, it is better suited to Rioja's higher and cooler Alta and Alevesa areas. Excellent examples from Rioja include St Vicente and Amancio from Eguren and the more traditional style wines of La Rioja Alta, namely Gran Reserva 904 and our own-label Rioja Reserva. As well as being planted throughout central Spain, the Toro region is increasingly recognised as producing world-class Tempranillo, the wines at Teso La Monja, namely Almirez, Alabaster and Victorino show signs of greatness! It is also known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero and Tinto Roriz in Portugal.
The local name for Tempranillo in Portugal. Grown across Portugal and used as a component in Port.
Touriga Nacional is best known as forming the back-bone to the very best Port. However, it is increasingly used for dry reds, not only in the Douro Valley but in regions such as Ribatejo. The single varietal Touriga Nacional, when blended with other indigenous or international varieties from Quinta do Alqueve, demonstrates how far Portugal has come in producing rich yet elegant wines with immediate appeal but longevity.
One of the great white Spanish varieties, Verdejo can be found in the old Castillian region of Rueda where it thrives on sand and limestone soils. As a single varietal often un-wooded but suited, too, to part-barrel fermentation, this produces one of Spain's truly great whites.