In Spain rules for classifying wine have been codified since 1982, with the lower run of the designation labeled cosechas, which are inexpensive wines aged fewer than three months. For the longest time, these bottles weren’t synonymous with quality, unlike the reserva and gran reserva wines. But a collection of winemakers have felt the rules for upper-echelon wines were getting to restrictive, so they started experimenting with high-quality bottlings and just labeled the cosechas, which has turned the system on its head. The wines have won great acclaim internationally where drinkers are less attached to Spains’ decades-old designations. Now the low-priced cosechas of old sit side-by-side with high quality cousins on store shelves around the world.
How, beyond the price tag, can you tell the difference between cosechas selling for $10 and $100? First, check the year: If the wine is from 2021 or ’22, it’s probably a standard cosecha. If it’s an expensive new release from 2019 or earlier, it’s more likely modern and high-end.
Then, check the larger back label (above the consejo sticker), which should offer information such as vineyard site, production method, and number of bottles made. Terms such as “aged in concrete” or “aged in foudres” are a sign that you’re holding a nontraditional vintage. And in general, the fewer bottles there are, the more special it is.
While you are unlikely to encounter chuleton de buey outside Spain, the modern-style Ribera del Duero wines below are perfect with a tomahawk steak or porterhouse. Here are seven bottles you should pursue.
Arzuaga 2017 Amaya
A silky texture enhanced by flavors of black cherry, cassis, anisette, espresso, and lavender, with a bright finish
Dominio de Calogia 2019
Smooth on the palate with terrific acidity, notes of red and dark berries, crème brûlée, clove, and lavender.
Félix Callejo 2019 Suelos de Caliza
Forceful tannins play host to pomegranate, raspberry, clove, nutmeg, and holiday-baking-spice flavors with a rose-petal finish.
Dominio de Atauta 2016 La Roza
Full-bodied on impact but softens quickly. A gorgeous balance of fruit, spice, and dried-herb flavors, with lingering vanilla-custard notes.
Pago de Los Capellanes 2018 Parcela el Picon
Juicy on entry, with cherry, strawberry, coffee, and chocolate flavors, luxurious tannins, and a rose-petal finish
Viña Sastre 2016 Pesus
Powerful in the mouth, with black cherry, anise, milk chocolate, and violet flavors wrapped in opulent tannins
Vega Sicilia 2018 Valbuena 5°
Fresh at first sip, opening to reveal beautiful structure, polished tannins, and flavors of cherry, black currant, and Mission fig, with a dusting of baking spice