Posted by: puebloman | March 27, 2011

Cheap Spanish red wine. A users guide

It’s about time someone wrote a wine guide for those who, like me, drink red wine by the bottle rather than by the glass. The pleasures of red wine don’t necessarily require a nose or even a palate – not after a couple of glasses anyway. Those who live by the bottle, however,  need not live by any old bottle, and those who of us who are on the primrose path as opposed to being at the everlasting bonfire, can still distinguish between value and cheapness.

I was talking to Jancis Robinson only the other day. we were sitting on the terrace of my 1 bedroom cottage in Cútar, and she had just uncorked a bottle of Vespral Crianza 2007 ( Lidle’s at €1.99) . “John” she said “Wine has got to be the most honestly and comprehensively described consumer product in existence”. Jancis of course is right. The bottle tells you when the wine was made, where it was made, what the local wine makers think of it, how it was aged, the grapes used in the must, its strength and so on. There are several quality benchmarks, not just one, and this is true not just for expensive wines but for all wines, even the cheapest.

We all have our personal reasons for selecting a low-price-high-value (to us) wine. My Dad for example, will pay up to £4 (3 for £12), and will not drink anything under 13.5%. This leaves him deep in the jungles of south america, or in the australian outback.  Even when he and I go out and treat ourselves to an expensive pint of bitter, he always prefers the beer that flattens out at about 6%. Being near the end of his life, he sees little point in indulging in low proof alcohol.

I am always interested in the date that the wine was laid down. Dad thinks this is a poncey way of choosing wine. This is because he thinks I am referring to the vintage, in spanish the cosecha. I am not. I am literally talking about how old the wine is. In Spain you can easily buy a five year old wine for under €2.50. In England your 3 for £12 are likely to be no older than 2009. Now, if a wine maker is prepared is prepared to give shelf space to a wine for 5 years, he must rate it a bit? So I look at the year. Of course a five year old wine will have other badges and claims to fame but we shall come to that in future blogs . . .



  1. I’m prompted to pitch in with the story of an employee of Tesco, a ‘buyer’, who I once knew. He recommended (and I paraphrase now) that we, “when buying reasonably priced wine, to make a choice on the basis on the aesthetic beauty of the label design. If the label attracted us, then the wine would too. Sometimes this won’t be wholly true, but as we progress through our labels we would remember those we didn’t like so much and revise our appreciation of design at the very least.”

    Well frankly, at the time, I found this advise to be potty. Subsequently I have to admit to applying the method when having to decide between bottles or being confronted with shelves of totally unknown providence. It’s still potty though.

    I’m rather looking forward to following your thoughts on red wine…


    • Thanks for your very apposite comments John. Here in Spain you can get a bottle of wine for under €3.50, decorated with gold wire in very much the way Spanish Admirals and Chiefs of Police are. All comments and observations add to and enrich this very neglected and under researched body of knowledge.


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