Even as the U.S. dollar continues to tank against the Euro, there are still wine bargains to be had for shoppers who scour the shelves carefully. Where European wines are concerned, I think Spain offers the best values overall, particularly for lower-end and mid-range-priced wines. Here are five very appealing Spanish wines that won’t break your budget and are tremendously food-friendly.
From the Rueda region of Spain comes Bodegas Naia Rueda ($14.99), made from 100 percent Verdejo grapes, which produce soft, aromatic white wines that are medium- to full-bodied.Winemaker Eulogio Callega ages this wine 12 percent sur lie in French oak and the remaining 88 percent in stainless steel. The end result is gorgeous floral perfumes upon opening the wine, with grapefruit, pear, white peach and lime flavors coursing through the mid-palate. It’s a crispy, bracing palate cleanser, making it a no-brainer for grilled fish and other seafood dishes and an interesting detour from more common Sauvignon Blanc.
Although it’s not very well-known to much of the wine-drinking public, Cariñena is the second-oldest demarcated wine region in Spain, after Rioja. The name comes from Carai, a Roman settlement from 50 B.C. A good, entry-level Cariñena wine is “ia” Garnacha Cariñena ($8.99), which is produced from Garnacha vines more than 50 years in age. This wine is unoaked and fruit-forward, bursting with cherry flavors, huckleberry, blueberry and raisins. I enjoyed a bottle recently with chicken/seafood/chorizo paella, but it would also work well with meats from the grill.
Rioja, of course, is as important a winemaking region for Spain as Bordeaux is for France. And, while I love a high-end, premium bottle of Rioja wine, it’s not often I can afford it. But, there’s plenty of good, affordable Rioja wine around, such as Miguel Angel Muro Bujanda Rioja Crianza 2006 ($12.52). This is made from 100 percent Tempranillo. It’s a dark, inky purple wine with earthy flavors and heft to match the brooding color. A lot of cherry and cassis come through on the nose, and you might be surprised to find the first sip a tad sweet. Plum and cherry flavors dominated this juicy, lengthy wine, which benefits from spending a little time aerating in the glass. It’s another very good choice for grilled meats.
For a little less money, Bodegas Breton Iuvene Cosecha 2009 ($9.99) from Rioja is another really great bang for the buck. This is a very good young red wine made from 85 percent Tempranillo, and the remainder a blend of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. It’s aged with no oak, and offers smooth tannins, a light body, mild acidity and zippy raspberry and strawberry flavors. It’s a nice, light departure from the bigger, oakier Rioja wines that we seem to be seeing more and more of. And, while I haven’t seen any here in Utah, if you ever come across Bodegas Breton’s white wine, Iuvene Blanco Cosecha, by all means pick up a bottle. It’s a bracing blend of Viura and Sauvignon Blanc, with nice stone and tropical fruit flavors.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a Spanish bubbly. One of my very favorite Spanish Cavas—in part because it tastes more like French Champagne than Cava—is Marques de Gelida Brut 2006 ($16.99). This is terrific Spanish sparkler made from Maccabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay. Thanks to Marques de Gelida’s yeasty, green-apple notes, tiny bubbles and long finish, I’ve fooled people in blind tastings into thinking this was French Champagne. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better sparkling wine value than this. And, it comes in a snazzy Veuve-colored orange and white bottle.