Spanish Wines – Seven things you need to know

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend a Spanish wine tasting and seminar in San Francisco. I tasted many interesting wines, which once again bolstered my belief that Spanish wines offer the bargain wine hunter a wide choice of quality wines. Here are seven things you need to know when shopping for bargain Spanish wines.

Spanish wine buying tips

Many 90-Point wines to choose from at less than $20
If you are into the point rating system from the likes of Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator, etc., there are many good Spanish wines available that get scores in the 88-90 Point category and cost less than $20. Two examples recently reviewed: Bodegas Dinastía Vivanco Rioja Crianza 2008, Bodegas Volver Tempranillo La Mancha 2009. Ask your local wine shop for recommendations of good inexpensive Spanish wines. You will likely get several recommendations.

Albariño Wine
This is without a doubt the most versatile white wine from Spain. It is crisp, refreshing, dry, and a perfect match with a variety of light dishes, especially seafood. It is produced in the cool climate region of northwestern Spain in the wine region of Rias Baixas. Two favorites: Sete Cepa at Weixmax Wines and Paco & Lola at Costco. Both were previously reviewed along with others.

Other Spanish white wines –Verdejo and Viura
Verdejo is a white wine with characteristics similar in style to Sauvignon Blanc. Most of these wines come from the Rueda region of Spain near the city of Valladolid. Two examples: Bodegas Angel Rodriguez Martinsancho Verdejo Rueda at KL Wines for $16.99, Shaya Verdejo 2010 at The Wine Stop for $11.99.
Viura is a white wine grape that is grown in Rioja. It is dry and often barrel fermented. Recommended, 2009 Cune Monopole – White Rioja at the Spanish Table.

Tempranillo – the King of Spanish wines
Tempranillo is the main grape of Spain and is prominent in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro. Most of the wineries produce various levels of Tempranillo, ageing the wine in barrels and bottles for as long as five years. See label terms below. See results of our Tempranillo taste test.

Other Spanish reds – Monastrell and Garnache
Both of these grapes are lighter than Tempranillo and somewhat similar in style to their Rhone counterparts Mourvedre and Grenache. Recommendations: Juan Gil made from the Monastrell grape is at Weimax and sometimes Costco at $12 to $15. Tres Picos Garnache $12 to $15 at various stores including Costco.

Important label terms for Tempranillo
The term “Joven” means “young.” It is a wine that may age less than six months, perhaps not in barrel, and made for immediate drinking. These wines are the less expensive wines on the shelf.

The term “Crianza” on a label means the wine has been aged a minimum of two years, with 6 months or more in oak barrels depending on the specific DO. For example, the Rioja DO requires one full year in the barrel.

The term “Reserva” on a label means aged for three years, length in oak barrels is one year (In Rioja).

The term “Gran Reserva” on a label means aged for five years, two years or more in oak barrels.

Where to shop for Spanish Wines
These stores have a very good selection of Spanish wines and at any of these you are sure to find several Spanish wine bargains.

KL Wines – Redwood City, San Francisco
Spanish Table stores – Berkeley, Mill Valley
Weimax – Burlingame
Du Vin Fine Wines – Alameda
The Wine Club – San Francisco, San Jose
Beltramo’s – Menlo Park

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