Descalzos Viejos and El Regajal, Spain

This is the third and final report on a range of estates and wines being represented by English woman Nicola Thornton, a long-time resident of Spain. After a lifetime working in the wine business, Nicola has launched Spanish Palate, a company representing various bodegas and marketing wines under Nicola’s own labels, including the Botas del Barro range tasted by me last year.

six-spanish-winesThese are the wines of two bodegas, Descalzos Viejos, a 16 hectare estate in La Serranía de Ronda, Málaga, and El Regajal, also farming 16 hectares, this time in the D.O Madrid, with input from winemaker Jerome Bougnaud, formerly of Dominio de Pingus.

Descalzos Viejos is planted with a wide range of varieties, high in the mountains of Ronda in southern Spain. The winery is housed in a 16th century convent, and wines matured in French oak barrels. El Regajal has been planted since 1998 to Tempranillo, Cabernet Saugvinon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and vineyards are worked organically and manually.

The Wines

(2018) A not so common blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, this range-topping wine spent 15 months in French and comes from vineyards close to Madrid. The nose is dark and glossy, cocoa and black plum, a hint of violet, a hint of anise. In the mouth the French oak has eased the tannins, but this is liquoricy and grippy, a plum-skin bite of roughening acidity and tannin as well as the 14.5% alcohol making it svelte but grippy.
(2018) Like its big brother, the Seleccion Especial, this blends Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah and is aged in French oak for a year. Still deep and dark on the nose, it is a little softer and creamier, more focused on spicy black fruits. The palate has a similar combination of sweetness and roughening tannins: its perhaps a little sweeter in fruit profile but also a little more rustic in the finish, but is a pleasing big mouthful of wine at the price that would be good with casseroles or a juicy steak.
(2018) A blend of 50% Garnacha, 40% Syrah and 10% Merlot that spends six months in barrel, 80% French and 20% American. It is a dark and meaty style of wine, but there is a little more light and shade aromatically than in the DV+, spices and red plum, a touch of red liquorice too. In the mouth the sweet ripeness of the fleshy fruit fills the mouth, back-filled with savoury dark oak, and the tannins, alcohol and acid a touch balsamic and leathery, but powerful and persistent.
(2018) A blend of 50% Graciano, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon grown at 650 metres altitude, this spends 12 months in barrique, 90% French and 10% American. Dense and tightly furled, the nose doesn't give much initially, revealing some meat stock and savoury plum. In the mouth the picture is somewhat the same: meaty, dark, brooding, spicy with a big tannic framework. For me just a little overdone.
(2018) From a small plot of Syrah planted at 650 metres on limestone and sand, this is aged 16 months in 500-litre barrels. The nose is fairly tight, dense, mysterious, with meat-stock and balsamic notes, the fruit savoury and equally dark. In the mouth it is a slightly unrelenting style, which seems to mark this house, the wines rather big, extracted and tannic, masking the ripe and plush black fruit that is there in a cloak of dustiness, and slightly agressive structure. It strikes me that all of the DV wines could just lighten up a bit to great effect.


  1. I agree, and having spent a fair bit of time in the region would say this is true of many of the area’s producers. Descalzos were one of the first, and I think their wines are overshadowed by later arrivals who have often planted higher up – 650 metres isn’t much at this latitude, though admittedly Luis Perez does a better job in sherry country with his reds!

    1. Thanks Mark, and good t hear from someone who knows the wines of this part of Spain. Clearly some great potential in these wines, and I wonder if the altitude question you refer to is the key: many winemakers are exploiting their highest vineyards to make ‘fresher’ styles of red wine in places like the Douro for example, so perhaps the slightly too meaty and over-extracted style I found is partly down to these vineyards being relatively low for this hot and sunny part of Spain.

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