Chile is certainly providing the cheapest drinkable wine in the country at the moment but it also suffers a little in having a very limited range of flavours given how reliant it is on international grape varieties.
Spain used to be rather monotonous also with only Tempranillo-based wines available, but that has all changed in recent years. Back in the 1990s Rioja was the only reliable wine region and beyond Rioja it was advisable to stick to big brands such as Torres.
Nowadays I would almost advise the opposite given the oceans of remarkably drinkable and affordable wine that is arriving on our shores from Spain. Spanish wine has increased almost 300% in the past ten years and now accounts for around 15% of our imports.
There is no Spanish wine region I would not recommend exploring, and even the strange salty whites of the Basque country have their charms with the right food.
The reds are dominated by Tempranillo but also watch out for Garnacha from Priorat and elsewhere; Monastrell (Mourvèdre) from the south-east (Alicante, Jumilla, Yecla, Valencia); Mencia from the north-west; and even the Cabernet-Merlot blends from Navarre are worth trying.
For whites I strongly recommend perfumed Albarino from Rias Baixas, minerally Verdejo from Rueda and fragrant Godello, Treixadura and Loureira from the north-west. At the value end I also recommend any inexpensive young Macabeo, Viura or Xarel-o that you encounter.
Cava is still good value but the best will have some Chardonnay in the blend and don’t forget about the marvels of Sherry which is still the world’s best value fine wine.
* For the Diary: October 10th, Hennessy Cognac Presentation and Tasting, Grain Store, Ballymaloe. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 021-4652531
Cal y Canto Tinto, La Mancha — €8.99
Stockists: Wines On the Green Dawson St, McCabes, Blackrock, Baggot Street Wines ,
A ripe fruity blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah from La Mancha, increasingly one of the best value regions of Spain. Ripe cherry aromas and flavours, light and almost frothy and perfect for an Indian Summer barbecue if the warm spell continues.
King and Queen Verdejo, Castilla Y Leon — €9.99
Stockists: Cork: Matsons Bandon & Grange, No 21 Midleton & Coburg St, Cork.
I’m not sure the current trend for inexpensive Verdejo is the best way to treat this fine quality grape but I did like the lively lemony freshness in this version along with some decent washed stones’ minerality. If you haven’t tried Verdejo yet, this is an inexpensive introduction.
Casa Carmela Macabeo — €9.99-€10.99
Stockists: Matsons Bandon & Grange, Vintry Rathgar, Searson’s, Monkstown.
Macabeo is grown all over Spain but is perhaps better know as Viura, the white grape of Rioja. Rioja does make unusual but occasionally wonderful oak-aged versions but the grape is easiest to like when presented in a floral, crisp and zingy style like this one.
Zuazo Gaston Rioja Joven — €11.99
Stockists: Matsons Bandon & Grange, No 21, Midleton & Coburg St, No. 5, Cahirciveen.
Most Rioja we drink is aged in oak for a long time and needs some barbecued meat or steak to show at its best. Sometimes however it’s nice to taste a juicy fresh, fruit-driven wine with not too many complications. This is packed with bramble fruit and is eminently drinkable.
Lan Rioja Crianza — €15.99
Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, Deveneys Dundrum, Baggot St Wines, Holland’s, Bray.
A classic example of what Rioja does best, packed with ripe fruit but neatly enveloped and softened with fine oak flavours and a complex lingering finish. Lan’s Grand Reserva is also very fine as is their Lan a Mano limited edition.
Pizarras de Otero, Bierzo — €12.95
Stockists: Ardkeen Stores, Next Door, Raheen, JJ O’Driscoll, Cork, Wine Centre, Kilkenny.
Bierzo is located in Castillo Y Leon in north-west Spain on the border with Galicia. Mencia is the main red grape and almost all I have tasted have been fragrant, ripe and characterful. This version is typical with ripe soft fruit, depth and complexity.