Southeastern Spain is an excellent source of great value reds. While the area has successfully preserved its main indigenous/well-adapted grapes (Bobal, Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera…), top producers are now busy recovering obscure, ancient varieties like Mandó or Moravia Agria. Our selection is focused on entry-level, unexpensive reds including (for the first time in SWL, I believe) a wine retailing at around €3.
As usual we have tried to compile a wide array of styles to match different tastes. The goal is to carry on drinking decent wines even on occasions when we have to tighten our belts. You can check this map by Wines from Spain to locate the regions we mention.
Selected by expert Juancho Asenjo for his tasting at Conbobal, a Bobal-focused conference we attended –reviewed– a few weeks ago, this wine is one of those little beauties one comes across from time to time. Made by a cooperative, the wine offers an interesting combination of rusticity and salinity at a ridiculous price –the attractive, colourful label makes an impression too. It is made with old vine Bobal and aged in French oak barrels for four months. Discreet oak notes on the nose, with pleasant fruit and herb aromas. Earthy, well-integrated tannins on the palate and a briny, distinctive finish which is unusual at this price level. A real treat for wine lovers!
It is usually sold for €3.50 on the producer’s online store, but price has been dropped to €2.70.
Slightly cheaper than the blockbuster Juan Gil 4 Months (also called Yellow Label), this is a single-varietal, unoaked Monastrell with a solid international distribution. Its clean, straightforward fruit and smooth, round palate with plenty of sweet fruit make it a perfect everyday drinking red. The commercially savvy Gil family in Jumilla are great experts at delivering seamless, crowd-pleasing wines.
Elena Pacheco (Viña Elena) and Isio Ramos are behind this exciting, terroir-driven venture, one of the most exciting in Jumilla in recent times. Their aim is to reflect the region’s variety of landscapes and vineyards with a relatively wide range of attractively priced wines. The unoaked Paraje Marín is their entry-level wine. According to Elena, the concrete tanks they use enhance the wine’s pure fruit expression. Monastrell grapes are sourced from a variety of sun-exposed and shaded plots with limestone soils at 300m above sea level. The wine displays a pleasant core of black fruit enhanced by fresh herbal notes and an earthy, rustic yet authentic profile. Good to see terroir showing through in accesible, modestly priced wines.
Unfortunately, this wine is sold mostly abroad with little of it left for the domestic market. This is the case with many of the wines made by Piqueras, a long established producer from Almansa (Albacete, Castilla-La Mancha) which is the second largest Spanish supplier of LCBO, the Ontario monopoly. Widely planted in Almansa, Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) is a powerful, structured grape variety capable of invigorating almost any blend, but not that easy to tame as a single-varietal wine.
In this case, they have succeeded. Made from 45- to 60-year-old vines grown at 750-900m of altitude on sandy soils, this wine displays all the punch and grip expected from Tintorera but it is well wrapped up by loads of black fruit over a spicy, earthy background. A perfect winter red to pair with stews and pulses.
Celler del Roure is a fascinating new project focused on recovering traditional varieties, mainly Mandó, which are later fermented and aged in the ancient tinajas (large amphorae) they have in an old underground cellar. Mandó plays a small role (only 10%) in Vermell –the blend is 75% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) with some Monastrell completing the picture. In order to tame Alicante Bouschet's powerful structure, part of the grapes were directly pressed as if they were destined for a rosé and the rest underwent a short maceration. The wine has jammy black fruit aromas with meaty and earthy notes on the nose. This is a fruit-driven red with polished tannins, not too warm considering the area it comes from.
This Bobal blend includes 10% Tempranillo and 10% Syrah. Each variety is fermented and aged separately and then blended before the wine is bottled. A well-known good value red from southeastern Spain, it shows Bobal’s friendly, fruitier face in an accessible international style. Clean nose with moderately complex red fruit and herbal aromas. A fresh, round red with wrapped tannins, lots of red fruit notes and lovely texture –probably the product of micro-oxygenation but it works for this style and price range.
When it comes to tightening belts, entry-level wines from benchmark producers can be an excellent choice. This is the case of this slightly more expensive Monastrell blended with 10% Syrah and made by Artadi, one of the region’s flagship producers with roots in Rioja. The wine’s style is a clever combination of seasoned fruit aromas and spices over an inky background making it balanced and fruit-driven. Aged four months in 500-litre barrels, oak notes go unnoticed –fruit steals the show. A lively red with a smooth texture that makes you want to drink a second glass; really versatile and a smart buy.