Guía Peñín archives from 1992 to 1996

Javier Luengo (@JavierGuiaPenin)

(Leer en español)

Where were you from 1992 to 1996? Were you interested in wine back then? What wines were in fashion?

We continued our journey through the history of Guía Peñín, emphasizing the wines that were breaking the mold years ago, since the styles followed and praised at that time were not exactly the same as those of today. It turns out that wine in Spain has changed a lot in a very short time and best of all, the change has been very positive. We will see it better if we move on to the second edition of Guía Peñín, entitled at that time Wines and Wineries of Spain 1992-1993.

At this time in Spain we were shocked by the brutal Alcasser crime that kept us glued to our televisions. The most widely played drug trafficker of the 21st century, Pablo Escobar, was escaping from his luxurious cell in the maximum security prison known as The Cathedral. In sports, Miguel Indurain won the Tour de France for the second consecutive time and Michael Jordan announced his retirement from professional basketball. The soundtrack of that time left us with interesting things, like Friday I'm in love by The Cure or the ballad of a heavy band called Nothing Else Matters.

While all this was happening José Peñín was going about his business, the wine. At that time he was preparing the launch of a guide which, in its second edition, would already include more than 4,000 tastings. Luis García Torrens, an accountant by training, joins the tasting team. He is a very important person in José Peñín's career, with whom he shared years of work even before the Guide came out for the first time. Luis will be an important part of the tasting team until 2001, when he decides to go for new adventures. During these years, Ana Sandoval left the team to join José Luis González Cledera's team at Vinoselección.

José Peñín and Luis García Torrens flying to Miami

The Guide still maintains the 0-10 point system of the first edition (put link to first article). Fortified wines continue to dominate on a qualitative level in Spain, as the highest representatives of a country's winemaking tradition, and they have the highest scores of the year: Noe Pedro Ximenez (Jerez- 9.5 points - 3,100 pesetas) by González Byass, Fino La Ina (9.5 points, 700 pesetas) by Bodega Pedro Domecq and PX 1830 by Alvear (9.5 points - 3,400 pesetas). Nowadays, it is remarkable the absence in this selected group of wines, of any amontillado, oloroso or palo cortado.

Mauricio González Gordon - President of Gonzalez Byass (1993)

The first still wine to reach 9.5 points in the Guide was a red from Ribera del Duero. The person in charge was the great Alejandro Fernández, a key figure in Spanish wine during 20th century and the awarded wine was Pesquera Gran Reserva 1986 (9.5 pts - 1,600 pesetas). Vega Sicilia introduced its unique Vega Sicilia vintage blend in the Guide at a price never seen before, 13,000 pesetas (8 points). We were also able to taste this Unique under the 1968 (8 points) and 1980 (8 points) vintages. In these years in Ribera del Duero, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec were as strong or stronger than the fine red and the wineries shown, with pride, on their labels. Today it is much harder to find them on the backs of wines. It was said, at the time, that Ribera del Duero was going through a production boom, as a large number of wineries were settling in the area. Yet very few managed to shine. Tinto Pesquera, Vega Sicilia and Mauro, were almost alone the best representatives of the moment.

Among this year's top-rated red wines were current well-known brands. In Penedès, Gran Coronas Mas La Plana 1983 (9 points - 2.800 pesetas) by Miguel Torres. In Rioja, Imperial Gran Reserva 1982 (9 points - 3,600 pesetas), Viña Real Gran Reserva 1982 (9 points - 3,400 pesetas), Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva 1978 (9 points - 1,600 pesetas) and Barón de Chirel Reserva 1986 (9 points - 1,000 pesetas) represented the best of the most international production region in our country. This region was praised for the important work of improving and further defining the ageing category, an improvement that boosted sales of Rioja wine in Spain. However, at that time, there were certain imbalances in the treatment of their regions, due to subsidies differences of regional governments. It also looked at the "permeability" of its three sub-zones and their exchange of grapes and wine, something which was accused through an excessive homogenization of product which was "worrying". Still, it was and is an envied and serious area in their control protocols. And it should not be forgotten that they were able to see the danger of incluiding foreign grapes in their vineyards when very few areas saw it. One year before the release of this Guide, Rioja had achieved the status of a Qualified Denomination of Origin, being the first Denominación de Origen in Spain to do so.

Paco Hurtado - Bodegas Marqués de Riscal

Especially significant are the impressions rescued in Toro after the tasting of its wines. "Toro is in," it was said. Foreign fans were beginning to see Toro as an original place and that prompted the producers to wish to be there. It still had to pass a few more years to see how the number of projects in the area would grow. In spite of the good expectations, Toro lacked technology and it was said that its vineyard needed to be restructured to increase the insufficient number of Toro red grapes, which at that time shared the land with other grapes such as garnacha, malvasía, verdejo and palomino.

Time ran relentlessly through the calendar and soon we would taste a new edition of the Guide. At Guía Peñín this feeling is even more pronounced, since from our beginnings we work with the wines that will see the light a year later, so the year of each edition of the Guide is always a year to come. The latest Guide, the 2020 edition, was released in October 2019. For this reason, each one of us has a hard time reflecting when we are asked about the edition of the Guide we are working on or even the year we are in.

Peñín Guide to the Wines of Spain 1994-1995

The third edition of our Guide announced important new features. This is the first edition in which the name of the guide is personalized, to Guía Peñín, a brand that will continue to be present to this day. The scoring system has also been changed from the Spanish 0-10 to the American 50-100 points, although only wines above 70 points are reviewed. Furthermore, the scores are adjusted to five point’s ranges, i.e. a wine obtains 70, 75, 80, 85, 90 points but never intermediate scores such as 82 or 76.

This change in the scoring model resulted in a significant variation in the number of wines with high scores, as the new score was calibrated downwards. Thus, in this edition only two wines reached 95 points (Fino La Ina - 800 pesetas and Alvear 1830 PX - 3,400 pts), comparable to the 9.5 points of the first editions. On the other hand, the number of wines with 90 points rose to 15 brands, with a notable representation of Rioja and Jerez, and with the first 90 points in Priorat, thanks to the wines of two Clos; Clos Mogador 1990 (90 pts- 700 pesetas) and Clos Martinet 1990 (90 points - 600 pesetas).

The potential of this area, the Priorat, is beginning to be seen, hidden until now from national producers, through some French producers who are starting their work around a still anonymous terroir. It is said that the most unique thing about this region is the value of tradition, its century-old wineries, the slate soils and the presence of its two most important varietals: Grenache and Cariñena. "Old traditions, old techniques and grapes adapted to the soil are the crux of the matter, elements that condition the originality and unrepeatability of some centuries-old wines", it was said. This message, which today is assumed to be a value, was not entirely so at that time. We would still see the rise of French grapes in Priorat too. On a stylistic level, the wines here were exuberant, hyper matured, with vigorous tannins, but with an acidity that compensated for all this excess sun and warm slate soils. Today’s freshest and lightest wines had not yet arrived.

José Luis Pérez - important personality in the development of Priorat

This year there were almost 1,000 fewer wines than in the previous edition, partly due to the lack of confidence of the wineries in sending the samples to our offices, and all this in spite of the intense work of telephone calls, and also because of the advance in the launch of this Guide. Marqués de Cáceres suffers a significant drop in his 1986 Reserve score, leaving this new crop and new scoring system at 85 points.

Rueda was going through a sweet moment of growth in which it was consolidating as a prestigious area through the boom of small wineries, whose brands were becoming known very quickly. At that time, the division between Rueda and upper Rueda was maintained, considered by the Guide as "a great success in facilitating choice among consumers". Little by little verdejo grape is taking control of the area and palomino and viura are losing hectares as the years go by. Some wineries in the area were pressing for the introduction of red wines in a white wine area. In this regard, the Guide commented "whoever wants to make red wines should do so, but reserving the name of Rueda for both table white wines and it historic fortified generoso, which, by the way, should be further promoted". Seen in perspective, it was an interesting reflection on those years.

In Galicia, in the very young D.O. Rías Baixas, the modernization of the facilities and the creation and renewal of the vineyard is taking place at a breakneck pace, "so much so that it has caused the supply to increase considerably", which has forced them to set up appropriate marketing channels. It is precisely at this time of growing prestige that it began to fall into a rush to market. The idea was and is that the sooner the wine is sold the better, without taking into account the optimum time for consumption, which is later here than in the less cool areas. It's not that long ago, so it shouldn't be so complicated to change it, as long as all the producers are happy.... In this edition, it is said, about Somontano, that it could be called the Rioja Aragonesa, because of its greater freshness and glyceric smoothness of the rest of Aragonese wines. From this D.O., the cabernet sauvignon, merlot and moristel grapes are praised. These grapes are native to Somontano (from the parraleta, another grape typical of Somontano, neither heard nor expected). The moristel has not yet achieved great results that place it as a unique value within the red wines of Somontano. Maybe we'll read about it in future Peñín guides, who knows.

1995-1996: 3,000 wines tasted but only 1,600 reviewed, as the criterion of not publishing wines below 70 points is still maintained. For the first time three cavas manage to enter the ranges of 90 points or more: the 90 points: Jaume Codorniu Br (92 points - 5.400 pesetas), Codorniu 1551 BN (90 points - 1.200 pesetas) and Raimat Gran Brut (90 points - 1.300 pesetas). In this edition 31 wines are between 90 and 95 points, and for the first time 4 wines reach 95 points.

In Priorat we started talking about the "Clos" and four firms that are placing the red wines of Priorat at the head of Spain: Barbier, Martinet, Álvaro Palacios and Pastrana. At a varietal level, the area continues to work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Grenache and Cariñena vines. This is the year in which the wine L'Ermita de Álvaro Palacios is tasted for the first time, vintage 1993 (94 points - 17,000 pesetas), with a price never before seen in a wine from Spain. Mas Martinet reached the maximum score for a red wine with a cabernet sauvignon, Martinet Especial Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 (95 points - 2,600 pesetas).


Meanwhile, in Ribera del Duero, Vega Sicily, Pesquera, Hacienda Monasterio, Canónigos and Carraovejas, are beginning to spearhead a D.O. "that might become one the three great red wine areas in Europe, surpassing even La Rioja". The Alión winery enters the scene, obtaining its Alión Reserva 1991, 93 points (1,500 pesetas), more than the Vega Sicilia Gran Reserva 1970 (92 points - 12,000 pesetas) or the Vega Sicilia Único Reserva Especial (90 points - 15,000 pesetas). Valbuena Reserva 1990 is the highest rated red wine in Ribera Del Duero (95 points - 5,000 pesetas) and one of the two highest rated in Spain. Only 4 Rioja wines score 90 points and one of them is a white wine: Barón de Chirel Reserva 1988 (90 points - 4,500 pesetas), Cosme Palacio y Hermanos Crianza 1991 (90 points - 1,000 pesetas), Marqués de Griñón 1992 (90 points - 700 pesetas) and the white wine Muga Fermentado en Barrica 1994 (90 points - 600 pesetas).

For the first time a wine from Somontano enters the universe of the 90s and is not a red, but a white chardonnay: Enate Chardonnay Fermented in Barrel 1993 (90 points - 900 pesetas). It appears on the scene Viñedos y Bodegas de Malpica in the Guide and in its first year it places three wines with 90 points, two of them in the first vertical tasting that appears in the Guide: Dominio de Valdepusa Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 and 1992 (1,000 pesetas).

And so we closed the fourth edition of a Guide, which would continue to advance in parallel with the wine industry, reviewing not only the most unique and exclusive wines, but also those destined for mass consumption.

Sobre el Autor

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