During my years as a buyer for Majestic in the 1990s, I looked after Spain for many years. At that time only one region was important (Rioja in case it’s not obvious) and, despite my best efforts, sourcing interesting new wines from outside this area was almost impossible.
Things have moved on enormously however. Even small supermarkets in Spain now have a very creditable selection of wines, testament to the great strides the domestic economy has made, which in turn has driven real innovation across the whole of the Spanish wine trade. The tired, oxidised, oak-dependent dinosaurs are long-gone being replaced by fresh, impeccably-made, balanced products (some from Rioja but many from much further south). Commendably too the prices of many of the new products are very modest – here are a few of what I think are the best newcomers:
Castillo Estables Reserva 2002, La Mancha. £4.49 on promotion.
Ten years ago La Mancha had very few quality wines, but it’s all change. New investment, massive planting and innovative winemaking have paid dividends with brilliant value wines like this. It could be Rioja, with a lovely brick-red appearence and a baked-strawberry fruit character. The quality is amazing at this price.
Vilosell 2005, Tomás Cusiné, Costers del Segre. £7.49 on promotion.
Costers del Segre is a small wine-pruding area within Catalunya where the wines are unashamedly modern. This is a blend of Tempranillo and the Bordeaux grape varieities, and is simply lovely. Brimming over with lush, plummy fruit and a really slick use of oak. It’s definitely not austere, and would attract fans of the New World rather than Francophiles, but the quality is very high.
Rioja ‘Single Vineyard’ 2006, Ramon Bilbao. £5.99 on promotion.
This is a bodega never previously on the ‘quality’ radar, but I was impressed with their whole range when our buyer, Matt Pym, offered them up at a head offfice tasting earlier this year. Oak-aged only for a short while. it retains a crunchy fruit character and a purity that jumps out of the glass. A real find this one I think…