Our search for the world’s most expensive wines travels to one of the world’s largest wine-producing regions.By Natalie Sellers | Posted Wednesday, 19-Jun-2019
It may not have quite the starry reputation for wine and food as its next-door neighbor France, but Spain has always marched to its own beat.
Although less exalted when it comes to food and wine than its northern counterpart, it’s arguably the more dynamic of the two. Spanish cuisine is now in a class of its own, with tapas wildly popular around the globe, and it can also lay claim to one of the world’s most renowned chefs, Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. All these patatas bravas, jamón and paellas need something to wash them down with and that’s where we get to Spain’s most expensive wines.
Spanish wine, like much of Europe, is locked in deep tradition with a web of rules particularly surrounding Rioja but it’s not just the old stalwarts of Rioja tradition that make this list – just two, in fact. Ribera del Duero and Priorat wines are also making waves.
1. Teso La Monja, Toro Topping the charts price-wise is this wine, which was also the most expensive at $1041 when we ran the list back in 2016, and since then the price has only risen. The wine is made by Sierra Cantabria, a producer which specialises in all things Tempranillo. The estate has been going in Rioja since 1870, passing through five generations, and now has no fewer than six wineries to its name. However, it’s the Teso La Monja winery that’s under our spotlight. As the name suggests, the winery is based in the Toro appellation, where the family has had a strong presence for more than a decade. The winery produces a range of wine, from the moderately priced Almirez to this crowning glory, which sits with the almighty price tag of $1129. With an aggregated critic score of 91 points, the wine is one of the most revered expressions of the Tinta de Toro grape variety.
2. Descendientes de J. Palacios La Faraona, Bierzo Second on our list is a wine made from the Mencia variety in the Bierzo region. The winery was founded in 1998 by Alvaro Palacios, who had already made his name in Priorat with wines like the 1995 L’Ermita which won international acclaim, and his nephew Ricardo Perez Palacios. Descendientes de J. Palacios wines are mostly recognizable by distinctly artistic labels and maroon-topped bottles, although La Faraona does away with all that, opting instead for a simple presentation. However, with a heavyweight score of 95 points, the same cannot be said for its flavor. Pure Mencia from vines that are 70 years old – some even older – the wine is a clear hit with the critics but it comes in at a full-on $1031.
3. Dominio de Pingus Pingus, Ribera del Duero Dominio de Pingus rounds out the top three. The Pingus estate has a small but highly regarded portfolio consisting of this flagship Pingus wine, Amelia, Flor de Pingus and PSI. With an average price of $896 it’s not exactly budget-friendly, but with an aggregated score of 95 points, this pure Tempranillo doesn’t disappoint.
4. Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita Velles Vinyes, Priorat DOCa Situated in the Catalonian region of Priorat, the Alvaro Palacios winery specializes in Grenache. Founded in 1990 by the aforementioned Alvaro Palacios who had spent time in both Rioja and Pomerol’s Petrus in France before winding up in Priorat where he has proved himself a force to be reckoned with. The L’Ermita is made from Grenache grown in the L’Ermita vineyard, and rocks an aggregated score of 95 points – but it has a price to match at $791.
5. Sierra Cantabria Magico, Rioja DOCa Another offering from Sierra Cantabria is the Magico from Rioja. It may come fifth on this list but it is the most-expensive wine in the Rioja rankings, commanding an average price of $515. Unfortunately, we don’t have another critic review to provide an aggregated score but if the Teso La Monja is anything to go by, the Magico is unlikely to be a poor drop.
6. Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero No list of wow-factor Spanish wine is complete without Vega Sicilia’s heavy hitter Unico Gran Reserva. This celebrated Tempranillo blend from the Ribera del Duero has become the flagship wine for Vega Sicilia. The Vega Sicilia winery was founded in 1982 by the Alvarez family who own various other companies, like Bodegas y Vinedos Alion. The Unico is a blend of both Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grown from sandy soil plots peppered with quartz and gravel. The wine is made using a controlled fermentation with native yeasts in wooden tanks with the wine also undergoing malolactic fermentation. Most significantly, the wine undergoes one of the longest aging processes for any red wine, over the course of six years, the liquid spends time in various oak barrels made of both American and French woods and then three years in bottle. All of this has garnered the wine an impressive aggregated critic score of 94 points and, at $428, it is a far cry from the weighty prices Teso La Monja commands.
7. Alvaro Palacios Quinon de Valmira, Rioja DOCa Another offering from Alvaro Palacios, who is quite the tour de force. The Quinon de Valmira is rated one of the top 10 Rioja wines, Decanter gave the 2016 vintage a whopping score of 97 points. Overall, the wine has an aggregated score of 92 points and, at $377, it’s slowly entering the realms of affordability being the fourth cheapest on this list and almost exactly a third of the price of the most expensive.
8. Dominio de Es La Diva, Ribera del Duero The estate sits in the Ribera del Duero on the site where, in 1999, old vines unaffected by phylloxera were discovered by Bertrand Sourdais. These old vines naturally generate small, concentrated yields and, naturally, not much is made. The resulting wine is highly rated with an aggregated score of 92 points with a price to match at $348.
9. Alvaro Palacios Les Aubaguetes, Priorat DOCa Another from Spain’s wonderboy. The Alvaro Palacios Les Aubaguetes is a Cariñena-Grenache blend from Priorat. With an aggregated score of 90 points, it may not be quite as highly rated as previous offerings from Alvaro – but at $321 it is one of the more affordable.
10. Bodegas Hermanos Sastre Vina Sastre Pesus, Ribera del Duero The most affordable wine on our list is from Bodegas Hermanos Sastre. The winery was founded in 1992 and comprised of just 23 hectares of vineyard in the Ribera del Duero. The Pesus wine is made up of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from old vines around 90 years old. The wine then spends 18 months in 100-percent French oak. Production is limited to 2000 bottles, which explains the $318 price tag – but with an aggregated score of 93 points, it’s probably worth it.