Notes from Spain

A Recent Trip to Spain Offers Plenty of Chances to Assess the Impressive 2009s and the Young 2010s

March 13, 2011

One hates to generalize about vintages in a country as large as Spain, but 2009 seemed to yield great wines across most of Spain's classic wine regions. Much like the 2009 Bordeaux, Spain's 2009s are astonishingly concentrated yet, unlike some recent drought vintages, they have the necessary structure and balance for long-term aging.

It's the kind of gift vintage in which almost every serious producer has turned out outstanding wines. Peter Sisseck, for instance, has dubbed 2009 My 1982 Bordeaux.

Given the entirely justified acclaim for the 2009s, it will be very interesting to see if the market will recognize just how spectacular the succeeding 2010 vintage is. The wines are a real contrast in style. Where 2009 was a virtually perfect growing year, 2010 started with cool, rainy weather before segueing directly into hot, very dry conditions. A little rain in September was followed by a long final maturation period under nearly ideal conditions.

While 2010 will not be as uniformly great as 2009, the top winesespecially in the northern swath from Bierzo to Prioratmay prove to be even more compelling. The wines are nearly as concentrated as the 2009s and have similar measurements on most analytic tests. Yet the 2010s have an effortlessness to them that is truly engaging. They seem light on their feet and have dazzling aromatic development at this young stage. This last character is something that young warmclimate wines often lackat least until the wines have been in bottle for a couple of years. I found myself preferring the 2010s at a number of addresses.

Of course, there's a long road for the 2010s until they are bottled. At this stage, there's no doubting that 2009 has produced a blockbuster vintage in much of Spain, but 2010 may surprise everyone in the end. It seems to me that this may be 1989 vs 1990 Bordeaux in reverse. The 1989s are a touch less packed than the 1990s, but one can find many 1989s that are surpassing their brawnier 1990 siblings at this stage.

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