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The wines that stole my heart in 2023

Generally, I don't pay too much attention to the year-end lists and rankings, such as ‘best-of’, ‘top five’, or ‘top ten’, that are published just before the New Year. These lists tend to be pretty similar, with only one or two new entries making an appearance.

However, this year, after some reflection and a great deal of memory stretching, I decided to create my own personal list - "The best tastes of 2023" (a little late) - 1st edition.

The rules are simple: These are the best wines I tried during 2023 that 'stole my heart'. I'm sure I've forgotten some wines that deserve to be included in the list, but it's impossible to include every worthy wine.

I have no idea how many wines I’ve tried, sniffed, and spat in 2023. This year though, I plan to get better at documenting what I taste and what I love. Mental note - take more photos.

And so, without further ado, here are my favourites:

Tasting the Carmelo Rodero Reserva 2017 Magnum

Firstly, a special mention to Carmelo Rodero Reserva 2017 Magnum

Out of all the wine tastings I attended during my recent visit to Ribera del Duero, the Carmelo Rodero tasting stood out the most.

I was able to sample all but one of their wines, and the team was extremely generous with the refilling of glasses.

This Reserva Magnum 2017 was particularly impressive - well-aged and at the perfect point of maturity. I loved it so much that I purchased some to take home!

Enjoying a bottle of Oliver Moragues Gargo in the sunshine

This winery never fails to produce excellent wine. Their standards are incredibly high, and the satisfaction in the glass is guaranteed. Gargo is a 100% Callet, and one of the best in Mallorca. No further discussion is required.

Accidents happen, and beautiful things can emerge from them. This wine was not meant to be a rosé, but it was a happy accident. It was going to be a white wine made out of the rare and newly authorised red grape Escursac. But then this rosé wine came to life instead. This was Hada’s first wine and it left a strong impression on me. I will be watching her career closely.

Can Gelat is cooking something special. Their vines are among the most beautiful on the island, and their winemaking is a reflection of them. I am not sure how many other wineries blend Callet and Mantonegro, but in the case of Can Gelat, they have done a wonderful job. This wine is elegant, with flowers, fruit, and spices in the nose, and a juicy and silky mouthfeel.

This wine is hard to find, which simply adds to its allure. Being a Priorat, one would expect it to be of  a certain style, but as it happens, there is a little part of Priorat with unique soil, and this is where Domus is made. It carries the aroma and flavour profile of a Priorat, but somehow, it cannot be recognised as a Priorat. It challenges your preconceptions about wine, and that's what makes it so enjoyable for me.

Enjoying a bottle of Maestro Sierra Oloroso 15 años in a bar in Barcelona

I tasted this jewel on a terrace in Barcelona's Eixample back in October, and I can still taste it today. Loooonnnnng is the only way to describe it... The magic of Sherry consists of two tricks - firstly, it's an explosion of flavours and textures in your mouth, and secondly, it captivates you to continue searching and trying new Sherries. Drinking this wine was like having liquid umami.

A bottle of Dehesa de los Canónigos Luzianilla in a presentation box

In Spain, it's not typical to spend more than 30€ on a bottle of rosé, particularly one that doesn't adhere to the popular standards of colour and taste. However, a shift is occurring, as some of the finest rosé wines in Spain are being crafted in Ribera del Duero, with some costing hundreds of euros. These are Clarete wines, made by fermenting red and white grapes together.

Luzianilla stood out as the biggest rosé surprise of the year, and was the only wine of its kind to make it onto this list.

A bottle of Maisulan Los Magines 2020, one of our favourite finds of 2023

Rioja has long been a favourite of wine lovers - how could it not be? This region is constantly producing new and improved wines, with over 700 wineries vying for the attention of consumers. For me, Los Magines is a wine that truly stands out. Located in an underrated area of Rioja Alavesa, this single plot is surrounded by olive trees and wheat fields, yet its unique landscape and climate make it special. Los Magines is hard to resist as it is an experience that transports you to the region's terrain, climate, and other delights through your sense of smell. It's magical!

Enjoying a bottle of Soca-Rel Mantonegro on our terrace

Labelling a wine or winemaker as natural is becoming a burden. Making wines with little intervention is no easy matter, but making them as poetically perfect as Pep from Soca-Rel is something only a few can achieve. They are pure, they are fluid, and they are soul-enhancing. You are not only drinking wine, but you are also visiting heaven! ANY of Pep's wines is worth drinking, and if you come across one of the scarce number of bottles produced, just get your hands on it and never let it go.

And just when I was about to give up hope of finding something unique in Ribera del Duero, Andrea and Pablo showed up and told us, ‘in a whisper’, that an alternative Ribera is possible and it is here to stay. Magna Vides is a refreshing change from the usual mass-produced Ribera del Duero wines, offering a depth of fruit forward flavours, smooth tannins, complexity, and minerality. It’s worth every cent of its 40€ price tag. Thank you Andrea and Pablo - you and your generation are welcomed with open arms!

A close up photo of a bottle of Magna Vides

A bottle of LoHer Cosechera Orange, a surprise hit

I tried this wine with a group of eight people one autumn evening, and everyone agreed it was their favourite wine of the night - and we drank a lot of different high quality wines that night.

When Fatima, the winemaker, told me it was an orange wine made with the rather bland Listan Blanco, I couldn't believe it. Orange wines have the unique capacity to surprise and challenge your taste buds, and LoHer Cosechera Orange does not disappoint. It’s a wine that elevates the most familiar grapes to a whole new level - like a caterpillar to a butterfly! With its unique volcanic touch, it’s an excellent choice for those looking for a distinctive taste.

Artadi La Poza de Ballesteros wine label - a red wine that plays in a different league

For my mother's birthday, I decided to open a bottle of Artadi La Poza de los Ballesteros – a red wine that plays in a different league. Even though my mother isn't a wine connoisseur, it was the perfect occasion to indulge in this delightful wine. From the cork to the label, to the bottle itself, Artadi is a wine that offers a complete sensory experience. It's perfectly balanced, and every sip is worth the investment. Artadi is the Mount Olympus of wines, and sometimes it's worth aiming for the peak to reach the best.

Son Puig Crianza Tinto - the 2004 vintage was magic.

Son Puig Crianza 2004

When you work in the world of wine, curious things tend to materialise. During my frequent visits to Son Puig, we would often walk along a corridor cluttered with dusty old wine bottles. I once joked with Isabel about stealing some of these wines, but instead, she surprised me with an assorted box of old bottles dated since their first vintage. As soon as we opened this particular bottle, the world stopped and we were transported back to 2004 - the year this exquisite wine was bottled.

Aromas of fruit and spices inundated the room! It was pure MAGIC.

Tisalaya Diego, a Canarian unicorn

When we talk about unicorns in the world of wine we mean it is impossible to find, and Tisalaya Diego is a Canarian unicorn. It's made from old vines using an ancient and extreme winegrowing technique, making it a one-of-a-kind wine. The small producer has created something that is like drinking a piece of Lanzarote. This wine has all the right ingredients, and if it is good enough for Michelin Star restaurants to include it in their menus, it is certainly good enough for us.

A bottle of Gutiérrez de la Vega Monte Diva

Gutiérrez de la Vega Monte Diva is a remarkable white wine made from Moscatell - a simple table grape that's grown all over Spain, with a humble history and usually destined to be a raisin.

This wine smells like a walk in a Mediterranean forest - the same forest you walk through during an autumnal stroll to the beach - and feels like a warm and filling sunset.

The taste resembles a super ripe and juicy nectarine. It’s liquid Levante and it’s a must try!

Albamar 69 Arrobas Albariño, Rías Baixas

Albamar 69 Arrobas is an Albariño that's made a name for itself, and for good reason. It's made from vines older than 100 years, and it's elevated to the max. It isn’t just ANY Albariño, it is THE Albariño. If you're looking for the best white wine you'll ever have, this one is better in every aspect.

Amancio was revealed to me one warm summer evening, on the most amazing yacht, anchored in a lovely cove, with the sun going down, and the soothing sound of the sea in the background. I tasted it with the yacht owners during a private wine tasting and I am convinced the idyllic conditions played an essential part in making this wine the top one on my list. But… with its unique flavour and story, it also stood out from all the other wines I tasted last year. I loved the setting, I loved the wine, and I love my job for giving me these memorable occasions.

A bottle of Sierra Cantabria Amancio on its side

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