During the course of this year’s extensive tastings of new releases from Spain for annual coverage in the International Wine Cellar, I lost count of the number of bottles that deliver extraordinary value. But I’ve gotten used to that by now. Thanks in large part to a benign climate and massive acreage of old vines, Spain is simply unmatched as a source for red wines that deliver an outstanding quality/price ratio, or “QPR”, as it’s known in the trade.
Some of the smartest wine buys from Spain are produced by prestigious wineries and winemakers eager to gain the attention of wine lovers who normally refuse to pay much for a bottle. These releases represent a great opportunity for savvy consumers, who can now experience the talents of some of Spain’s best producers at a fraction of the price of their flagship bottlings. Literally dozens of such wines are reviewed in the current issue of the IWC and I feature some of my favorites here.
The 2010 Celler Can Blau Blau Montsant ($12; Gil Family Estates) displays ripe red fruit, floral and spice character, delivering impressive energy for its silky texture. Montsant abuts the famed Priorat region and its wines often come close to those of its more famous neighbor in style and quality, but usually at far gentler prices.
Fans of velvety, elegant red wines should look for the 2011 Bodega Bernableva Camino de Navaherreros Vinos de Madrid ($15; Rare Wine Company). Made entirely from garnacha, it offers fresh red fruit aromas and flavors, along with exotic floral and blood orange nuances. With its impressive clarity and finishing cut, it’s actually reminiscent of a rich pinot noir.
Bodegas Volver (Fine Estates from Spain), partially owned by its U.S. importer Jorge Ordoñez, produces a range of high-quality wines, all of them exceptional values. The 2011 Monastrell Alicante ($10) is a deep, powerful wine with intense cherry and dark berry fruit boasting uncommon concentration for the price point. Also look for the 2010 Single Vineyard La Mancha ($17), which is made from 100% tempranillo and shows sexy, complex aromas and flavors of red and dark berries and incense, along with a suave floral nuance. Aged in some fancy French oak, this intense wine shows the complexity of plenty of bottles that sell for two or three times as much. Volver’s 2010 Tarima Hill Alicante ($17), made entirely from monastrell, comes from vines that were reportedly planted between 1935 and 1970. Those old vines explain its powerful floral, cherry and cassis aromas and flavors and intense mineral character. There’s no way I’d have guessed its price when I tasted it, and I wouldn’t hesitate to let it age for a couple more years even if it’s already delicious.
Bodegas Finca Torremilanos (Grapes of Spain) is a highly reliable producer in Ribera del Duero known for its high-end wines, but the 2010 Monte Castrillo Ribera del Duero ($14) is the current release that really caught my eye this year. Two thousand ten is a great vintage here, as in most of Spain, by the way. This wine offers spice-accented aromas and flavors of dark fruits and violet, and displays a subtle vanilla accent and alluring silkiness on the palate. It showcases the depth and power for which Ribera del Duero wines are renowned but for a ridiculously low price.
Among the most consistent Spanish producers we review each year, Bodegas Olivares (Rare Wine Company) produces two of the country’s greatest values. The 2011 Altos de la Hoya Ungrafted Old Vines Jumilla ($13), made from ancient monastrell vines and a bit of garnacha, displays intense dark fruit and floral character, with a rich, velvety texture leavened by an impression of vivacity. It would make a great house wine for the coming fall and winter months. For even less money, the 2011 Tinto Jumilla ($10), made from 75% monastrell along with some garnacha and syrah, offers scents and flavors of fresh dark berries and cherry, with bright spice accents and a touch of candied flowers. This tangy, appealingly fruity wine, made without any contact with oak barrels, drinks wonderfully by itself or pairs easily with a range of rich or lighter foods.