While we may always be inclined more towards whiskey and beer, especially after a weekend in the mountains, we can always go for good glass of wine too. Nothing quite like kicking back on a Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine, especially when it’s a bit hot and sunny out.
When it comes to wines, some get more attention than others. California wines (Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles) get a lot of attention here in the States, as do Italian and French offerings. But us – we’ve always had an appreciation for Spanish wines, which you just do see as much around here.
It all started with a serendipitous trip to Trader Joe’s a few years back – and a sojourn to Spain not long after. Once the first drops of that first $7 Tempranillo passed our lips…there was no turning back.
Spain, like all wine-growing countries, has an abundance of different wine regions, each known for its distinct climate and terroir. A few that come to mind are Jumilla, La Rioja, Priorat, and Tierra De Castilla. The most common Spanish grapes are tempranillo, which has been grown in Spain since Ancient times, and Garnacha, which is one of the most common grapes in the world. And whether it’s the intense purple fruitiness of tempranillo, or the red earthiness of Rioja, Spanish wines tend to be rich and full of flavor – perfect for tasting on their own or enjoying with a hearty meal.
Like any other wine, you can find Spanish wine ranging from the dirt cheap (like $3 a bottle at Trader Joe’s, and actually pretty good) to the price of a small car, if you like. But we’ll focus mainly on bottles anywhere from $10-$25 bottles a pop.
Ready to for a drink? Here’s our list of the Best Spanish Wines For 2019 – as told by both our experience and word on the street.
On the budget end. Carlos Serres Reserva is a Rioja from 2011, with 90% Tempranillo grapes mixed with 10% Graciano. Riojas are generally known for their ripe fruit and earthy touches, and Carlos Serres Reserva from Haro – the heart of Rioja – doesn’t disappoint, with its aroma of black fruits, raspberry and strawberry complemented by vanilla and spice. It’s smooth but with a lot of tannin, and has been aged for 24 months. (Reserva wines are, by Spanish law, aged for at least 12). Meant for pairing with smoked meats and stews. You can grab this wine online, or even find it hanging around Costco for as little as $15.
Another popular Rioja, hailing from the Campo Viejo Vineyard. Campo Viejo used three different kinds of Tempranillo grapes for this wine, from three different parts of Rioja – Alta, Baja and Alavesa. Another reserva, it’s been aged for about 18 months in American and French oak casks, before being aged another 18 months after bottling. Like the Carlos Serres Reserva above, it’s fruity, with cherry, plum, and blackberry, but also has strong flavors of wood, cocoa, and coffee notes. And, like the Carlos Serres, costs less than $20 a bottle.
You should be able to snag a bottle of this Jaun Gil anywhere near you. 12 Meses Silver Label comes from the Jumilla region, made with Monastrell grapes and aged for 12 months in French oak casks. Monastrells and Jumillas are known for deep, rich red color and tons of flavor, and 12 Meses Silver Label is packed with it, especially flavors of fruit. Goes well with lamb for dinner, or just tapas. It’s easy to find and available for under $20 a bottle.
In the southwest of Aragon, in northern Spain, is the Catalyud region, arid and rocky, and known for bold, red wines with tons of fruity flavor – usually from Garnacha grapes. Garnacha is usually known as Grenache in France, and they are often confined to blended wines. Pallas Old Vine Garnacha Reserve is a classic example of a Catalayud Garnacha – medium-bodied and dry, with rich blackberry powerful aromas and a long finish. The grapes all come from vines at least 50 years old, which lends it the name Old Vine. And it pairs well with cheese, smoked meats or even barbecued chicken, thanks to the bold flavors and light tannin.
Valdepenas – which means Valley of the Stones – is located in the south of Castilla-La Mancha, the heart of Spain, and surrounded by La Mancha, where the famed Don Quixote hailed from. The arid region produces light wines, called aloque or claret, often from Cencibel and Airen grapes, but also from more common varieties like Tempranillo or Cabernet.
Anciano Tempranillo Gran Reserva is an easy Tempranillo perfect for weekday dinners, with Valdepenas’ customary lightness. As a Gran Reserva, it’s aged 10 years, made from 30-year old vines. The color is a deep red, and the flavor is very wide-ranging – black cherry fruit, spicy notes of leather and musk, tobacco and vanilla oak. Smooth on the finish, and good for pairing with grilled meats. At about $12 a bottle, it’s a wine you can enjoy all the time.
Of course, we can’t forget sherry. Spanish sherry is often quite dry, and hails from the arid Jerez region, near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, in Southern Spain. Sherry is usually a fortified wine that goes through a solera, which is a system of blending wines where different years are mixed together slowly, over time, to create an entirely new blend. A layer of yeast, called flor, will often form on the top of the wine, keeping oxygen out and adding an entirely new flavor to the wine.
Lustau Dry Don Oloroso Nuno is an Oloroso, which actually never develops a flor. The flavor instead comes from the meeting of wine and air together and is left alone to age for several years (maybe even twenty) and become a rich, dark, full-bodied drink that pairs well with beef or chocolate. Lustau Dry Don has flavors of coffee, caramel and even some cinnamon, for a taste that feels almost like a stout or porter – but in wine form. Dry, thick and nutty. At about $20 a bottle, it’s a perfect pairing for Sunday dinner.
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