Food & Drink The best Spanish wines the pros all know –...

The best Spanish wines the pros all know – and you should too

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Left to right: Tesco Finest Viña del Cura Rioja Reserva 2018 (13.5%, £9); Booths Gran Norte Rioja Crianza 2018 (13.5%, £11.50); Cuatro Pasos Mencía 2021, Bierzo (13.5%, £14.99)

And sparkling wines? Yes, plenty of those but don’t mention the c-word. Some of Spain’s smarter sparkling producers prefer not to let the word cava anywhere near their wine. As winemaker Leo Gramona once put it to me, the problem is that, for some producers, ‘[cava] became a business of costs, of margins, of trying to compete with Champagne by being more accessibly priced’. In other words, a race to the bottom. The history of the Cava DO (Denominación de Origen) makes it unusually easy to make cheap, insipid wine. Winemakers used to be able to make cava from grapes grown absolutely anywhere. Only when Spain joined the EU in 1986 did regulatory bodies insist cava should fall in line with other European wine regions and have some form of geographical demarcation. However, as the permitted areas include regions scattered across Spain, some of which produce less than inspiring grapes, that didn’t entirely solve the problem.

I’m not suggesting you abandon supermarket Spanish wine, which can be excellent value. For instance, Tesco Finest Viña del Cura Rioja Reserva 2018 (13.5%, £9) is lovely, with its woody scent and nosegay of baking spices. Booths Gran Norte Rioja Crianza 2018 (13.5%, £11.50) is excellent too.

Also, the mainstream retailers are beginning to diversify. I tasted my first ever albillo courtesy of Laithwaites and it was delicious – I’d have loved to drink it with buttery fried prawns. It’s likely to have sold out by the time you read this but Laithwaites should still have Cuatro Pasos Mencía 2021, Bierzo (13.5%, £14.99), a smooth red, brimming with juice with a subtle skein of elderberry.

And here are three more affordable new-wave Spanish wines to seek out:

Try these..

a

Viños López El Ventilador Garnacha Blanca 2022, Valdejalón IGP

13%, The Wine Society, £11.50

A rounded but refreshing white made from garnacha blanca and macabeo. Think white peaches, pears and almonds.

Artuke Rioja 2022

13.5%, Lea & Sandeman, £14.50, or £12.95 in a mixed case of 12

A gorgeously vibrant red, made from tempranillo and the white viura grape. A juicy and contemporary style from an old region.

La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo 2021

14%, Majestic, £11.49 or £9.99 in a mixed six

A crimson-fruited red that tastes succulent and bright with a dusting of dried herbs.

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