Everyday Spanish Wines

spanish-red-wineWe are spoilt for choice in Spain for wines and especially in the past few years when the quality of the wines from various regions has rapidly improved and more and more small labels seem to be appearing.

In England, French and non European wines are still the wines that are most frequently purchased for daily consumption (or ordinary should I say bearing in mind medical advice to have 2 or 3 alcohol free days a week) so a lot of people are rather unsure of the rich variety available here.

Spain has over 40 wine regions all of which have a denominacion de origen label for the better established wines. Cheaper wines and wines which are fairly new to the market (from a new bodegas or winery) will be labelled as vino de mesa.

The word Cosecha gives you the year of vintage; Crianza means a wine that has aged 2 years with 6 months in an oak barrel and Reserva wine has aged at least 3 years with 1 year in oak. Gran Reserva doesn’t really come in to the every day category but it needs to have had at least 2 years in oak and 3 in the bottle! Vino Joven is young wine and often very good.

Starting with red-tinto here please-the wine that springs to most people’s mind is the fruity rioja. Rioja is in North Central Spain and the wines have traditionally been a good bet at a reasonable price range so you really don’t have to spend over 4 euros for an adequate bottle. There is a big jump in the quality of all Spanish wine at around the 2.5 Euro mark.

Don’t be tempted by wines at 1.30 euros -even if you manage to drink it your head will not thank you the next day! As for the carton wines-incredible prices at about 70 centimos a litre-don’t touch them! They are best left for teenagers to mix with coke in a horrible mixture they call “kalimoche”.

Only teenagers have the stomach for this. Anyway with a rioja-tinto or white you can’t go wrong including even the major hypermarkets own labels. Other standards to look out for include Marqués de Caceres, Campo Viejo and Torres.

Penedés is in the North of Spain and their reds and whites are quite delicious. The best known white must be the excellently priced Viñasol from the Torres Bodegas. This is often on restaurant menus and is great with virtually all food. It seems to be available in most supermarkets as well.

However, a word of warning, in more rural and inland parts of Spain you will rarely find the white wine in the fridge in a supermarket or restaurant but bizarrely enough the tinto will be sitting in the chiller cabinet! The red, in theory, is in the fridge in order to make tinto verano-a summer mixture of wine and lemonade-but why the white is warm is anybodies guess!

Navarra red is very reasonably priced but the wine type used gives a distinctly dusky flavour to the wine so it is not to everybody’s taste. However the real success story of the past few years has been the Ribera del Duero reds from the North West central region.

These range in price from around 2.50 up to very special wines in costing over 20 euros. They are all delicious and not particularly heavy and the quality is consistent-bottle after bottle (or should I say that!). Easily available in shops and restaurants you could look out for Mayor de Castilla, Altos de Tamaron, Sitial and Navas del Emperador. The crianzas are particularly nice and still not out of a daily price range.

White wine is always a bit of a younger sister here in Spain with the Cavas (fizzy wine-like champagne) and the fino sherries taking all the glory. However some lovely new refreshing white wines have recently come out of the Cadiz region based on the Palermino and Riesling grape.

Tierra de Blanca from Arcos de La Frontera is excellent and is great for quaffing very cold with some bread, cheese, and jamon next to a beautiful flowing river or on a sun soaked beach!

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