man carries red wine grapes at spanish vineyard harvest
Handpicked by IWSC
Wine Handpicked by IWSC 19 October 2021

Award-winning Spanish red wine from outside Rioja

Rioja is famous for its intense reds, but Spain has plenty more to offer red-wine lovers. These 14 award-winning Spanish red wines from the IWSC 2021 all come from outside the region
Introduction and recommendations by
IWSC judges

For those seeking out the best Spanish red wines, some will begin and end their search with a bottle of Rioja. But Spain has so much more to offer red-wine lovers, whether it’s a noble, ageworthy example from nearby Ribera del Duero, a full-bodied beast from Priorat in Catalonia, or a fruit-driven red from Galicia, made with the excellent Mencía grape.

In fact, look across Spain and you’ll find an enviable selection of styles, from subtle, fruity reds all the way to big, tannic versions. Tempranillo, the main red grape grown in Rioja, is also used elsewhere in the country, but under various synonyms, including Cencibel, Tinta de Nava, Tinta Roriz, Aragones, and Tinta del País.

The latter is how it’s known in Ribera del Duero, home to one of the highest-performing Spanish reds in this year’s IWSC. Finca El Otero 2016 from Bodegas Áster was awarded 95/100pts and a Gold medal by the IWSC judges. The wine is made with 100% Tinta del País, and wowed with its ‘expressive’ aromas of raspberry and black cherry, along with hints of clove and cigar box. Ribera del Duero has long been championed by wine critics, including the great Robert Parker, who encouraged his droves of followers to look outside Rioja and sample wines from elsewhere.

Vineyard in Ribiera del sacra, spain
Ribeira Sacra in northwest Spain

One region definitely worth exploring is Jumilla in Spain’s south-east. It’s home to two cracking IWSC medal winners this year: Finca Bacara Time Waits For No One 6M 2020, made with 100% Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre), offering spicy aromas of  cardamom and anise, and Bodegas San Isidro Carta Roja Tierra Volcanica Organic Monastrell 2020, which drew the judges’ praise for its abundance of red fruit, along with notes of brioche and currants and generous ripe tannins.

The judges in question were led by Master of Wine Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, ably assisted by fellow MWs Jean Wareing, Alistair Cooper, David Round and Simon Field, along with Master Sommeliers Svetoslav Manolev, Matteo Montone and Isa Bal.

Spain has a host of treats for red-wine drinkers, and if you venture beyond Rioja, you’ll be impressed with the diversity on offer. We’re proud to present the pick of Spanish reds outside Rioja, as chosen by this year’s IWSC judges.

priorat vineyard with red grapes being harvested
Harvest in action in Priorat, northern Spain

HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE WINES?

We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.

HOW DO WE SCORE THESE WINES?

Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.

MORE FROM CLUB OENOLOGIQUE

Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.

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