Spanish Wines And Your Wallet
Spain is one of the dwindling few countries still producing fantastic regional wines that are easy on the pocketbook. You just need to know how to find them. Beware of familiar sounding regions like Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat—these wines can be exceptional, but you may pay big bucks.
Look to these emerging wine regions for great quality, great wine, and great value:
Despite the fact that it is sandwiched between Toro and Ribera Del Duero—two big red wine Denominaciones, the small region of Rueda quietly produces stunning whites. Finding white Ruedas made from Verdejo is relatively easy, as this grape comprises about 90% of the region’s white wine production. But keep your eyes peeled for Viura and especially Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda, including blends of all three! These whites are extraordinarily aromatic, full of grass and citrus notes, and are never oaky.
Try '09 Las Brisas ($10), and prepare for palate liftoff.
Praise For Penedes
This Mediterranean region, tucked into the northeastern coast of Spain near Barcelona, is famous for its sparkling wine called Cava. But don’t be fooled: Penedes also produces some great still wines. Both Spanish and international varieties grow in this region with great success. Look for bright, still whites made from Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo (the three grapes that compose Cava). Furthermore, awesome reds are produced, ironically made from French varieties like Cabernet and Merlot.
Currently, I’m infatuated with the organically-farmed '06 Pares Balta Mas Petit Cabernet / Garnacha ($12).
La Mancha Mania
Known for Don Quixote and now great wine, La Mancha isn’t only the biggest designated wine region in Spain—it’s the largest in the world! It has also been undergoing a facelift. Whereas the arid region used to be planted predominately to white wine grapes, by 2005 more than two-thirds of the wine made in this region was red. Look for Cencibel—the local name for Tempranillo, and Garnacha for some low cost, jammin' juice.
One of the greatest values in Spain is La Mancha's '09 Venta Morales Tempranillo ($9).
Jumilla To The Rescue
This southeastern region faced a near disaster in the late 80s, when the vines were attacked by phylloxera, a louse that has destroyed many European vines over the centuries. Growers replanted vines and modernized facilities, turning Jumilla (who-mia) into a region to watch. Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvedre and Mataro), was the growers' choice for replanting, as it works well with the
Mediterranean climate of the region. The result: fabulous new-world style red wines with old-fashioned prices.
For the real Jumilla effect, grab an '09 Tarima Monastrell ($9).
Tell us in the comments: What's your favorite region for wine?