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I liked Nicola Thornton within five seconds of chatting with her.
The wine industry can be tough. Selling wine in this climate is challenging with so many restaurants closed. Writing about wine can be even tougher thanks to shrinking budgets and limited paying outlets. It’s easy to find people that are beaten down. Meeting optimistic people feels like a breath of fresh air.
That’s exactly the type of person that Nicola is. She left the UK and fell in love with sunny Spain. After years of working in cooperatives and private wineries, she founded the Spanish Palate in 2016. Her team looks after several small producers and helps them market and export to over 40 countries worldwide.
From our first call to tasting the wines, I was impressed with her energy and enthusiasm. Her lineup of wines named “Spanish Palate Creations” is inspiring. They consist of two lines. The Botas de Barro (muddy boots) lineup are wines that see a little oak aging, while the Mi Tractor Azul (my blue tractor) wines are fresh and fruity. Nicola and her team designed the labels and market them as inexpensive wines that overdeliver in their price points.
These wines are produced by cooperatives in different regions of Spain that work with old vines. “The idea of the cooperative is perfect (to me), you get all of the small farmers pulling their resources together to defend a dignified way to live,” Nicola says. “It gives these guys power in numbers.”
I think all of the wines in the Spanish Palate Creations line are good to very good. These are the types of wines that will be fine house pours in restaurants around the world. Purchasing a bottle also helps bring communities together and supports the little guy.
Spanish Palate Creations
- Botas de Barro, Old Vine Garnacha Almansa 2017
The Botas de Barro, Old Vine Garnacha Almansa is my favorite wine in the Spanish Palate creations. This has a wonderful, complex nose with notes of strawberry, black raspberry, parched earth, meat, and pepper. There’s plenty of fruit here with a hint of complexity. There is meatiness and earthiness on the palate and the tannins are supple and ripe. It doesn’t have great length but it is very fun and pleasurable to drink. Score: 88+/100
- Botas de Barro, Toro 2018
The Botas de Barro, Toro is Tempranillo aged for 5 months in oak. This is a nice, slimmer Toro. There’s complexity here for such a young wine. Notes of cherry, raspberry, pepper, and earth. There’s a pleasant streak of tangy acidity on the mid-palate. Tannins are chewy but not overly drying. Very good, entry-level Toro. Score: 87/100
- Mi Tractor Azul, Garnacha Tintorera 2017
Mi Tractor Azul, Garnacha Tintorera is Alicante Bouchet unoaked. Very dark wine. There are notes of raspberry, violets, cherry, pepper, and stems. It’s full-bodied and generous on the palate with some bright acidity. The wine is fruity and big but there’s a slight green streak to it, which I like a lot. A delicious bistro red with some tannins. Score: 87/100
- Mi Tractor Azul, Toro 2018
The Mi Tractor Azul, Toro is made from 100% Tempranillo that doesn’t see oak. Shows decent complexity for an unoaked wine. Notes of black cherry, cassis, and pepper. Fruity and easy-going with low level of tannins. This is a young wine but the spike of flavor on the mid-palate is surprising. It’s not built to go the distance but another year in the bottle would do it wonders. Score: 87/100
- La Baldosa. Macabeo 2019
The La Baldosa, Macabeo is from the Manchuela DO. This is 100% Macabeo. It’s a nice crisp white wine with notes of pineapple, white flower, and flint. This grape is one of the components of Cava and you can definitely pick it up here. It’s crisp and fresh, not complex but very well done. This is a summer sipper for those who want something different than a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. Score: 87/100
Estate Grown Spanish Wines
The Spanish Palate also markets a number of small producers from all over Spain. All of the wines below are available in Spain for under 20 Euros, with the majority of them around 10. All of these offer fantastic value for money and are worth seeking out.
- Hacienda Albae, Viognier 2019
The Hacienda Albae, Viognier stays on the lees in steel for four months. Notes of dandelion, sweet yellow peach, honey, and clay. The floral and yellow stone fruit notes are what really stand out. This is a solid, full-bodied Viognier. Don’t expect an ultra-crisp white wine but do expect something with some significant body. It is very similar to the wines of the Southern Rhône. For a wine that retails around 8 Euros in Spain, this is a steal. Score: 89/100
- Hacienda Albae, Chardonnay Barrica 2017
This Chardonnay Barrica from Hacienda Albae is fermented and aged in oak for six months. It’s deeper in color thanks to 24 months on the skins. There are unmistakeable Chardonnay notes here such as melon, sweet peach, and a touch of toast. The wood is laid down remarkably well, it’s negligible on the nose and pleasant on the mouth. Sweet and long yellow fruit finish. There’s a lot to like here. Score: 89/100
- Loess, ‘Inspiration’ Ribera del Duero 2018
Many mid-range Spanish reds tend to be too oaky for my palate. The Loess, ‘Inspiration’ Ribera del Duero is not one of those wines. This is 100% Tempranillo aged in oak for nine months. This is made from estate-grown fruit. The oak isn’t overbearing here and this is a pleasure to drink. Notes of dark cherry, mocha, and tobacco come together on a full-bodied frame. There’s intense, ripe fruit here but the wine is burdened by oak, which I love. Chewy tannins. This gets an uptick in score thanks to its affordability (11-15 Euros in Spain). Score: 90+/100
- Loess, ‘Collection’ Ribera del Duero 2015
For those that like bigger, oakier reds, the Loess ‘Collection’ Ribera del Duero is for you. This is 100% Tempranillo aged in oak for 24-30 months. This is a big, dark red with notes of cherry, baking spice, tobacco, and bacon fat. It enters the mouth with a ton of dark fruit. It’s a structured red. There is a spicy finish along with plenty of acidity. The woody tannins are a bit strong but with a big piece of meat, they shouldn’t be a problem. Score: 90/100
- Coral Duero, Los Lastros 2017
The Coral Duero, Los Lastros is simply fun to drink. It’s a single-vineyard Toro aged for 8 months in oak. Notes of bright cherry, earth, and tobacco. The interplay between fruit and oak here is fantastic. It’s more of a medium-bodied Toro, there’s enough fruit here to overpower the oak. Ripe tannins and a luxurious finish. Score: 90+/100
- Coral Duero, Rompesedas 2017
The Coral Duero, Rompesedas is higher up on this producer’s portfolio. It is a single-vineyard Toro aged for 18 months in oak. The specs suggested that this could be too oaky but that’s not the truth. There are oaky aromas but they are far from distracting. Notes of black cherry, crushed rose petal, and earth also emerge from the glass. This is rich and looks to be more age-worthy of the four wines. There’s a lot of structure from the barrel but this should fade with time. This might be the best wine out of the four but to drink, I prefer the Los Lastros. Score: 90/100
- Casa do Sol, ’10 Meses Sobre Lías’ Albariño 2016
The Casa do Sol, ’10 Meses Sobre Lías’ Albariño is brilliant. It is barrel-fermented and aged on the lees for 10 months. It’s a beauty and shows bottle development. Notes of caramel, dried peach, dried pineapple, yogurt, lemon, and flint. It’s very complex on the nose and in the mouth. Full-bodied with a gritty texture and a long finish. Spine-tingling acidity that is typical of the grape. It’s in a great place now so drink it up. Score: 91+/100
- Casa do Sol, ‘Braiña de Casa do Sol’ Albariño 2018
The ‘Braiña de Casa do Sol’ Albariño is the entry-level wine from this estate is beautiful. It’s an electric, high-acid white. There are notes of kefir lime, lemon, and seawater. It has a sandy texture on the palate with a long finish guided by citrusy acidity. The perfect wine for shellfish. Score: 89/100
- Válgame Dios, Toro Crianza 2017
The Válgame Dios, Toro Crianza is the only wine in this small producer’s lineup. This is 100% Tempranillo aged in French oak for 12 months. It’s a full-bodied, rich Toro. There are notes of black cherry, pepper, earth, and mocha from the wood. The wine has generous fruit and acidity with a subtle graphite note. The tannins are tough but not excessively drying. There’s a rustic charm to this wine but in a good way. Score: 89/100
- El Regajal, Selección Especial 2018
El Regajal has created a fun red wine with their Selección Especial. It is a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Verdot aged in oak for 12 months. This is a big step up from their Las Retamas and doesn’t show the oaky flavors. Notes of red cherry, cassis, thyme, and pepper. Very complex and elegant nose. Full of fruit and flavors on the palate. Chewy tannins. The grape combination would be hard to guess if this was tasted blind but that doesn’t matter. It’s a delicious red that should develop nicely over the next few years in the bottle. Score: 90+/100
- Bigardo, Vino Tinto Experimental 2018
The Bigardo, Vino Tinto Experimental is a minimal intervention red made from Toro de Tinto (Tempranillo) aged in oak for about six months. Lots of soil, earth, cardamon, black cherry, and fall leaves flavors emerge from the glass. In the glass, it doesn’t act like a normal red from Toro. It’s medium-bodied and more earthy than fruity with bracing acidity and a low level of tannins. Fans of natural reds are going to find a lot to like here. Score: 90/100
- Leyenda del Paramo, ‘El Aprendiz’ Albarín Blanco 2018
The Leyenda del Paramo, ‘El Aprendiz’ is made from rare grape Albarín Blanco. It has bright notes of pineapple, almond, white peach, and clay. It is a fresh white but far from boring. The flavors come on strong and hit you with a blast of white and citrus fruits. The slight, bitter finish on the backend adds to the complexity. High, It’s got the aromas and punch of a Southern Rhône white with Riesling-like, citrusy acidity. Score: 89/100
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Thanks to the Spanish Palate for providing tasting samples. Please note that the opinions expressed are our own and have not been paid for in any way. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.