Is there a better value Rioja Crianza in the UK right now? If there is, I haven’t tasted it. Sourced from Bodegas Muriel, this is a wonderfully traditional style, made entirely from Tempranillo and aged in American oak. Supple, fragrant and sweet, with notes of coconut, fresh tobacco and wild strawberry underpinned by fresh acidity. Delicious.
Sold as a table wine (vino de mesa), despite the fact that it comes from the sub-zone of O Rosal, widely considered one of the best areas in the Rías Baixas DO, this is an intriguing and quite possibly unique cuvée of Brancellao, Caiño, Sousão and Espadeiro. (The Portuguese names are appropriate, given that the vineyards are close to the River Minho, which separates Spain from northern Portugal). Juicy, tangy and savoury, with an appealingly wild, funky note, bracing acidity, crunchy bramble and pomegranate fruit and the sort of freshness and bite you find in red Vinho Verde. One of a number of impressive wines from this dynamic Galician importer.
The Urbina family’s appealingly traditional Riojas age brilliantly thanks to the acidity that comes with growing Tempranillo in the cool, limestone-dominated Cuzcurrita zone. This isn’t a blockbuster wine, but it’s remarkably complex, savoury and scented with notes of wild strawberries, forest floor and pouch tobacco, filigree tannins and haunting balsamic sweetness.
Some may baulk at the hefty, body-builder bottle, but there’s no denying the balance, freshness and sheer class of this polished Carmenère from Chile. It’s ripe, textured and not remotely vegetal, with fine tannins, subtle use of oak and notes of mint, cassis and damson. The sort of wine that makes you see Carmenère in a new light.
Frothy, zesty and refreshing, this is everything you’d expect from a white from so-called green Spain, with notes of lime and citrus peel, bracing acidity and a salty, mineral-edged finish. A wine that you just have to dirnk by the bottle.
Serious, youthful, good value Ribera that’s at the lower end of the scale in terms of oaking. Sourced from century old vines in Matanza de Soria, this is part of a new wave of balanced, elegant Tempranillos with lovely freshness and poise. Scented, floral and complex with notes of bramble and balackberry and a refreshing finish.
Montsant is not as famous as neighbouring Priorat, but generally offers much better value. Blending Garnacha and Carignan, this isn’t short of alcohol (we’re close to the Med after all), but it has plenty of spice, plum and bramble fruit concentration and stony minerality for balance. In summer, it would make a great barbecue red. Right now, try it with winter stew.
Spain has grubbed up a depressing amount of its Garnacha plantings in the last 20 years, but the grape is still capable of great things, even at this sort of very affordable price. Hailing from the high altitude Grelos Mountains near Madrid, this is a remarkably fresh, refined wine that nods towards Pinot Noir and Cinsault in style. Tangy acidity, raspberry and redcurrant fruit and a long refreshing finish are complemented by silky tannins. Stunning value.
A prime example of why it’s worth paying just a little but more (and still less than most Champagne and English fizz) to drink top end Cava rather than the basic supermarket stuff. Rich, honeyed, yet bone dry, this is a traditional style with toasty maturity and the slight bitterness that’s often a feature of Xarel-lo based wines.
One of a trio of still Xarelo-los from Cava producer, Gramona, this was fermented in concrete eggs (hence the name) and is a thrilling wine that puts the variety on a pedestal where it belongs. Bone dry, rich and complex, with spice, texture and focused minerality, even at a comparatively modest 12%, it’s an unbelievable bargain. You can order it from Spain, but (to my knowledge) it’s not available in the UK. It should be.