Posted by: puebloman | July 23, 2011

Cheap Red Spanish wine: reading the label – a crib list

Reserva, Grand Reserva and Crianza all under €4

Reading the label on a bottle of Spanish table Wine

Where we live, in the Axarquia, Andalucia, you can’t grow a good grape that produces table wine. It’s far too hot. Here we grow muscatel grape that produces a sweet white “digestif”or an “aperitif” these are not usually drunk with meals, though of course drinking is always accompanied by food, usually tapas.
West of us, around Jerez, they produce sherry of course. North of us, around Granada, it is colder and grapes can be grown that produce table wine. It’s said that the grapes must be kissed by frost to produce grapes for table wine.
The world class Spanish grape, on a par with Cabernet Sauvignon,  is the Tempranillo grape.
One of the great things about life in Spain is that you can talk about “Grand Reserva” wine and cheap red wine in the same breath. And this is not because Grand Reserva is a meaningless term. Very far from it. In fact the wine buying consumer with little or no experience of buying can have every confidence in the terms on the label.
You may or may not like the taste of the wine, but this is, well, a matter of taste. You can however have no doubt about the quality of the wine, the expert assessment of its vintage, the work that has gone into processing it, or the commitment of the vintners. It is benchmarked at every stage, and each bench mark assessed by experts. Our favourite cheap red wine at the moment is called Vespral. The Denominatio d’Origen is Tierra Alta. That’s where it comes from, a region almost as famous as Rioja. The grape is tempranillo and granache. Native Spanish grapes. A Crianza is €1.99, A Reserva is €2.49 and a Grand Reserva $3.49.

Someone thought it worth investing 6 years of shelf space in this wine. Laid down in 2005

To find out the value of these wines, see the crib below.

Spanish wines: what it says on the label

  1. Vino de mesa: the cheapest table wine, often blended, with no indication of its geographic origin
  2. Denominacion d’Origen This little badge is found on all wine bottles whose wine has been tested and tasted by a committee of vintners and professionals from the area in which the grapes are grown, and been found to be of an acceptable standard and conforming  to the statutory processing standards.
  3. Vino joven: new wine, usually from a qualified Denominacion de Origen, occasionally with slight ageing, without qualifying as “roble” or “crianza”
  4. Roble: “roble” in Spanish means oak. Sometimes a wine is very lightly oaked and some regions are allowed to use this term on the label for wines that are oaked but don’t reach the requirements of a “crianza”.
  5. Crianza: Is a good D.O. wine, aged for two years, with a minimum of six months in oak barrels
  6. Reserva: Is a high quality wine at least three years old. At least one of these years must be in an oak cask, with a further 2 years of ageing after bottling, made from top vintage grapes.
  7. Gran Reserva: quality wines usually aged for at least two years in oak barrels with three more years after bottling, made with grapes from the exceptional vintage years

Supplementary information:

  1. Bodega = From a named winery, always named, usually a family business
  2. Añejo = Means aged or matured
  3. Cepa = The type of grape – tempranillo, cabernet for example
  4. Cosecha, vendimia = The year, or the vintage

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