I was invited to join an “E-Wine Men” virtual tasting event with Three Wine Men’s Tim Atkin MW on 13 October 2020 to taste his top six wines from Castilla y Léon in Spain. He was joined by some of the winemakers of the six wines as well and, given that the event was billed as celebrating the “undiscovered”, I was immediately keen to find out more.

Castilla y Léon is a sizeable wine region in the northern half of central Spain and includes some recognisable DOs such as Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Bierzo. A mix of Spanish familiars, like Garnacha, Tempranillo and Verdejo can be found alongside buzzword grapes like Godello and Mencia. Of course, there’s also all the usual international varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, but you also get real rarities. The ones Tim singles out for exploring are Albarín Blanco, Albillo Mayor, Estaladiña, Mandón and Rufete Blanco.

Ribero del Duero vines in the wine region of Castilla y Leon, Spain
Vineyard in the Ribero del Duero, Spain

More than anything, its Castilla y Léon’s landscape that provides its most striking quality. Mountain ranges and valleys, the Duero River that winds through it, and gorgeous historic cities make it a visually stunning setting, but also an area of outstanding diversity.

It’s a region new to me, but there’s few better ways to say hello than to get stuck in and taste some wine.

Castilla y Léon Verdejo white wines, selected by Tim Atkin MW

Javier Sanz Verdejo Malcorta 2019 is a rare clone of Verdejo and it is a real discovery for me. Aromas of soft chew candies, banana, apple, white flower and nectarine show youth but lots of potential. The palate’s zippy with some skin astringency adding texture before a tide of lemons, herbaceous nettle notes, apple skins and sweet nectarine follow. Soft and easy to like, just needs a time to settle. ★★★

Sociedad Coop. Valdechimoza, Cissus Crianza Oxidativa Verdejo 2015 is inspired by a traditional way of making white wine from the Viura grape in an oxidative style. This one uses Verdejo. I have to admit, I’ve never had something from Castilla y Léon as sherry-like as this before. It’s a gem. Pale gold with deeply nutty but fresh aromas (onion skins, mango). Smooth on the palate. Yeastiness is delicate, more lightly salty kernel character over a mirage of citrus. Right on the nail for fans of Fino sherry. ★★☆

…and the red wines

Arlanza Sdad. Coop. Provincial Dominio de Manciles Crianza 2017 is a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mencia (a violet-blue, thick-skinned grape variety genetically identical to Portugal’s Jaen grape). This comes from what Tim describes as the “up and coming” DO of Arlanza. Ripe on the nose with fleshy strawberries and plum jam aromas over oaky vanilla hues. Tart and tight with juicy berries, a hint of mulberry, leather and bramble. Crunchy redcurrants add freshness to the finish. ★☆☆

Vinedos Sampedro Y Alonso S.L. Xardin de Xampedro 2018 is coming from the Bierzo region of Spain and is made from 100% Mencia. It has a nose of liquorice and eucalyptus; very floral with berries underneath. It’s both smooth and refreshing to drink with cedarwood, licks of tobacco and restrained fruit. Definitely an interesting wine, just not sure if it sings. ★☆☆

Carmen Rodriguez Mendez Carodorum Seleccion Especial Reserva 2015 is made from vines aged 80-100 years old. It is a rich red from the Toro area. I liked this wine probably best of the reds Tim selected. Very bright purple, it has a deepness to it that foreshadows the blackcurrant and bramble nose. Lightly wooded with vanilla spice, too. It’s ultra-smooth and sprinkled with pepper over fleshy cherries an marzipan to finish. ★★★

Bodegas Virtus S.L. Alma de Virtus 2014 is the final red I tasted, from Ribera del Duero, a region I’m a little more familiar with. Tim describes 2014 as a cold year, so it’s impressive this wine is punching in at 15.0% abv. Nevertheless, it’s got some lovely balance. Dark garnet with aromas of violets, biscuits, cooked black plums and freshly-picked blackberries. It’s smooth overall but has delicious grippy tannins and a note of cigar box striking up underneath. It leaves behind dried strawberries and plum pie on the finish. ★★☆

Note to self: Try more wines from Castilla y Léon

It was lovely to be invited to Tim’s event and hear some of the voices behind the wines he showed us. I think I will definitely look at trying a lot more wine from the Castilla y Léon region. The whites interested me the most, especially the oxidative style, so I will look out for more!

You can find out about Three Wine Men here, or visit Tim Atkin’s website here.