TOP TEN GREAT VALUE SPANISH WINE GEMS

by Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 9 August 2014

You might well have already discovered the crisp dry Albarinos of northwest Spain and the chunky Tempranillos of Ribera del Duero.  Now it’s time to look even further into Spain’s lesser known wine regions as this country, north and south, is offering some of the best value wines in Europe today.  

There are plenty of fascinating new flavours to explore with local native grapes like white Godello and Treixadura to red Bobal and Mencia now being revived and replanted.  Spain has never been so exciting for the wine lover.

WHITE WINES

Getariako Txakolina: ALAIA TXAKOLI 2013
(£11.99 Marks & Spencer)

Grown on slopes near the Bay of Biscay not far from the popular gastronomic tourist town of San Sebastian, wines from the tiny Txakolina regions are usually only encountered by inquisitive tourists or drunk by locals poured into tumblers from a height.  Forget trying to pronounce this Basque name, just enjoy this thrillingly light high acid grapefruity white made mainly from the Hondarribi Zuri grape (known as Courbu Blanc in Jurancon in France).  If you enjoy Vinho Verde or Muscadet or want something lighter in alcohol, try this as an aperitif.  Alcohol: 10.5%

Ribeiro:  CASAL DE ARMAN BLANCO 2012
(£14.99 Alliance Wine, Ayrshire; Good Wine Shop, Chiswick; Worth Brothers, Staffordshire)

Ribeiro is one of northwest Spain’s exciting up-and-coming regions.  This intriguing Galician blend of three Spanish grapes: Treixadura, Godello and Albarino is full-textured, mouth-filling with hints of spice.  What I liked about it was its high natural acidity which keeps the wine very fresh in the mouth.  It would match well with rich textured seafood dishes or barbequed fish.  Alcohol: 13%

Somontano:  VINAS DE VERO GEWURZTRAMINER 2013
(£8.49 each for 2 bts / £9.99 bt Majestic Wine; Tanners Wines)    

When we think of Gewurztraminer, we think of Alsace, Germany, New Zealand perhaps – but maybe not Spain.  This is a very tricky grape to grow as it can become flabby and unattractive in warm climates, but in cool climate northern Spanish region of Somontano east of Zaragoza they seem to coax both delicious juicy flavour and retain adequate acidity.  This hails from a high altitude single vineyard Pago El Enebro.   Just off dry with lychee flavours – delicious.  Alcohol: 13%  STAR BUY

Monterrei:  MARA MARTIN GODELLO 2013
(£10.99 Peckhams, Glasgow; Vinos wine shops, Edinburgh; Lockett Brothers, N Berwick; Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh)

From a small, but expanding, region in Galicia called Monterrei.  It benefits from the cooling influence of the sea and its local river Tamega.  If you have ever enjoyed a Verdelho from western Australia, you will enjoy this Godello – the same grape with more wild flower, limey flavours than found down-under.  Quite rich and leesy, so serve with roasted chicken or rich seafood dish.  Alcohol: 13% 


RED WINES

Navarra:  EL CHAPARRAL DE VEGA SINDAO OLD VINE GARNACHA 2012
(£8.49 each for 2 bts or £9.99 bt Majestic Wine)

Always popular at tastings for those who normally buy Rioja, but want something different and better value.  Made from very old 70-100 year old vines in Navarra’s famous Nekeas valley.  Richly fruited, very soft, smoothly textured with unusual pepper and chocolate undertones.  Alcohol: 14% 

Bierzo:  ESCONDITE PERFECTO MENCIA 2011
(£9.99 bt Marks & Spencer)

For those who like lighter reds like Gamay or Pinot Noir, this delicious red from Bierzo region made from the local Mencia red grape has a breezy freshness, high acid, crunchy blackcurrant fruits, velvet smooth palate and is perfect for serving with a platter of charcuterie.  Basque winemaker Katia Alvarez Bugarin made this unusual red.  Normally you can only buy Mencia in specialist merchants, but good for Marks & Spencer for being the first supermarket to list a Bierzo wine.  Alcohol: 14%

Jumilla:  ‘4 MESES’ MONASTRELL 2012 Bodegas Juan Gil
(£8.99 reduced from £10.99 Aitken Wines, Dundee; Woodwinters, Edinburgh & Bridge of Allan; 2013 vintage of this wine £9.99 Virgin Wines)

A perfect example of the great value to be found in Spain’s lesser known south eastern regions.  For those who love Big Reds, this big dark plummy rich velvet toned softly tannic Monastrell (the same grape as France’s Mourvedre and Australia’s Mataro) made from 40 year old vines, this is a serious bargain at under at tenner.  I have shown this at numerous tastings and it always comes out a winner for red wine lovers.  Just watch the high alcohol level: 14.5% in 2013 – 15% in 2012 vintage.  STAR BUY

Top Ten Great Value Spanish Wine Gems by Rose Murray Brown MWToro:  VETUS FLOR DE VETUS 2011
(£13.99 Peckhams, Glasgow; Markinch Wine Gallery, Fife; Aitken Wines, Dundee; Lockett Brothers, N Berwick)

Big dark gutsy blackberry flavoured red made from the same grape as Rioja, called locally Tinta de Toro.  This is actually made by a Rioja producer, Bodegas Izadi, who invested in the outlying Toro region north of the Duero river nearly ten years ago.  Today their high altitude plantings at 700metres are now bearing good fruit.  With hints of vanilla from ageing in French and American oak for 9 months, this would match well with roast lamb.  Alcohol: 14%

Campo de Borja:  GARNACHA TINTO 2012 BODEGAS BORSAO
(£7.65 Swig www.swig.co.uk)

Th little known region of Campo de Borja in Aragon, west of Zaragoza, often gets forgotten.  It is known locally as the ‘empire of Garnacha’ with so many old vines covering this small region.  It has a long history of winemaking dating back to 1145, but recently it has been totally overshadowed by its much larger northern neighbour Rioja.  Check out this juicy gutsy soft Garnacha from one of the region’s top wineries, a wine which American guru Robert Parker rated as one of the best value wine in the world.  Incredible to find it under £8 – I agree.  Alcohol: 13.5%

Manchuela:  CIEN Y PICO EN VASO BOBAL 2011
(£11.99 Drinkmonger, Edinburgh & Pitlochry; Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh; Beehive, Edinburgh; Cornelius Wines, Edinburgh)

This fascinating wine translates as ‘hundred and something’ referring to the ancient Garnacha Tintorera and Bobal.  Made by four winemakers from four countries: Australia, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy.  It certainly has a New World feel to it, with super-ripe fruits with a dusting of cocoa, mulberry undertones and juicy tannins.  Alcohol: 14%

Join Rose’s Hidden Spanish Wine Gems & Charcuterie Tastings in Glasgow Fri 26 Sept £40 and St Andrews Sat 27 Sept £30 www.rosemurraybrown.com

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