What kind of wines consumers search when it comes to getting value for money? Which are the top under €6 bottles? Do they share any common features?
In order to answer these questions, we asked TomeVinos, a national wine chain specialized in medium-size stores and affordable wines, to let us taste some of their best bargains under €6. We tried to pick wines from different wine regions and grape varieties as well as others that stood out for their novelty or originality. Below is what we found.
Predictably, this category is no longer limited to hippies, purists, terroir-obsessed producers or anti-whatever crusaders. Le Naturel 2013 by Aroa Bodegas (Navarra) is apparently, a rather popular choice. Aroa is part of the Vintae group, which has based its marketing on a clever mix of moderately-priced wines with eye-catching front labels.
What’s most striking is that the label shows —in large bold numbers— the wine’s expiration date. Does the idea of wine as a perishable product lead to purchase a bottle? I must say that the liquid inside the bottle matches expectations: red fruit and maceration/stem aromas with a herbal background, a slight carbonic zest, sweet fruit and no annoying astringency. Although it is Grenache-based, the grape character is not really present; its youthful character and the absence of sulfites seem more evident. It’s a pleasant fresh wine that simulates a home-made red wine. Price: €5.90
I am convinced that Aragón provides some of the best values in Spain thanks to its fleshy and succulent Garnachas (check my previous article on 10 great value Grenache under €12). One of TomeVinos best selling wines in this category is Cutio 2013. Made by the Navascués family in Cariñena —father and son are the winemakers—, this Grenache offers a rich middle-palate with nice weight. Although somewhat restrained on the nose (bramble fruit, fresh herbaceous notes), this is a rather commercial style, with noticeable oak, but its gentle texture makes for an easy and drinkable red. Price: €5.40
It is an increasingly popular trend in Spain. As retailers get to know their customers well, gaps in style, price and concepts are identified. Alegradías Conquistador Selection 2011 is a VT Castilla red specifically made for TomeVinos by Dominio de Eguren (makers of Sierra Cantabria) which sources most of its grapes form Manchuela (Castilla-La Mancha). The colour is surprisingly deep for a 2011. It shows black fruit jam and plain toasted oak notes on the nose, but it’s really fruit-driven on the palate with some juiciness that enhances its value for money, considering that it sells for €4.60
Worthy of note is the funky name (Alegradías means “brighten your day”) and the legend (in Spanish) in the back label encouraging people to put a glass of wine in their everyday life (see photo gallery).
This was one of my favourite wines of the tasting, simply because it offered great intensity, accuracy and balance for less than €6. Despite the lack of a clear expression of the region or the grapes, the wine was pleasant and the fruit was nicely defined. Habla de la Tierra 2013 is a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon from Bodegas Habla (Trujillo, Extremadura). It retails at €5.95 and is sold as a "varietal wine from Spain", therefore with no indication of origin.
With an intense and attractive purplish colour, it’s packed with fresh red fruit, licorice and candy aromas with a herbal background; tasty and juicy fruit on the palate with well-polished tannins. Regardless of the great deal of technology behind it, it was really pleasant to drink. You could probably think it retailed at a higher price.
The barrel-fermented style of wines that made Ribera del Duero so popular in the late 1990s and early 2000 led to an excess of oak in all but the most prestigious brands, thus precaution is recommended when tasting wines in this category. Supernova Roble 2013 from Alberto Benito has spent six months in French and American oak and is one of the most successful brands at TomeVinos stores. Giving the cool 2013 vintage, I expected a lighter and perhaps more astringent red, but tannins were well integrated in this wine with ink, cranberries and orange peel aromas. Oak is not at all overwhelming. I would advise to drink it now. Price: €5.45
Despite its price (€6.95), La Galana Garnacha Tintorera 2012 from Bodegas Aljibes (VT Castilla) drew my attention because of its label and style. This variety is internationally known as Alicante Bouschet and thrives in the Almansa area (Albacete). It is known for its distinctive coloured flesh and power, but in this particular wine, alcohol was surprisingly low (12% vol.) and the wine was rather light-bodied. It’s the second time I find this style with Tintorera.
The first one I encountered was Albahra from Envínate (over €10), where extraction is intentionally skipped in favour of freshness. I find both wines rather unusual —they seem to go against what this grape naturally gives. La Galana, aged in 10,000-liter oak vats, provides a spark of lively fruit that I certainly like and the palate is quite light and friendly. This wine is likely to please many consumers although I personally shy away from recommending such a restrained Tintorera.
Like Grenache, this grape —which is widely planted across Murcia and Alicante— has the ability to produce mouth-filling reds with a gentle texture. Monastrell is synonymous with value, as many wineries from Jumilla with the Gil family at the forefront have amply proved. Although Alicante is home to serious ventures such as El Sequé, Bernabé Navarro or Enrique Mendoza, Monastrell seems to be rather unknown. That’s why I enjoyed tasting Bodegas Sierra Salinas’ entry level wine, a venture initially developed by the Castaño family from Yecla, who are also great Monastrell experts. Mo Monastrell 2012 offers a simple but clean nose with red and black fruit and fresh herbs. The palate is tasty, fairly fresh and balanced with well integrated tannins. An easy, versatile and highly recommended red that stood out at the tasting. Price: €5.50
Having over 100 years’ experience producing fine wines leaves a mark in the glass. Rioja can be criticised for many things but overall it remains a safe place to find well-balanced barrel-aged reds at reasonable prices, especially now that the over-extraction fever seems to be going out of fashion. Bodega Classica is arguably the most successful Vintae venture given its ability to exploit the collective imagery of the region both in terms of packaging and style.
Hacienda López de Haro Crianza 2012 is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Graciano which has been aged for 18 months in French and American oak. It’s not very intense on the nose with red fruit and vanilla aromas and minty nuances. On the palate, the distinctive balance and pleasantness makes for a versatile red offering that unmistakable and comfortable “Rioja character” that are so popular among Spanish consumers. Price: €5.20
My trouble picking a Verdejo wine stems not so much from having to choose among tonnes of brands in the market but rather from finding one with some character that skips the tropical pattern of cultured yeasts or the run-of the-mill commercial bottle. Viña Sanzo Verdejo Viñas Viejas 2013 is made by winemaker Javier Rodríguez, who runs several projects in various regions and appellations across the country. His wine has the virtue of boasting a restrained nose (white fruit, hay) with balance and a rather persistent finish. This style is likely to be more versatile than the tiresome profile of Verdejos that thrive in this bargain price segment, below the next price tier, where more distinctive examples of the variety can be found. Price: €5.45
It is difficult to find interesting whites —especially Albariños— below €6 in Galicia. Mara Martín 2013 is made from Godello in the Monterrei region and is part of Martín Códax’s Alma Atlántica, a project focused on indigenous Galician grape varieties. This more expensive white (€6.95) shows intensity and flavour (fruit salad, herbs, citrus zest) and a certain unctuousness on the palate.
Obviously, the under €6 category is not the place to look for terroir, although some wines can show a certain varietal character. In general, palates are better built that noses and I was greatly surprised by the fact that in most cases tannins were well integrated in the wines (I guess micro-oxigenation plays a role in this). Balance, discretion and versatility can be great virtues in this price range making them good options to match for different occasions.
All wines reviewed can be found at Tomevinos.