Where does the world's best cheap wine come from?

Where does the world’s best cheap red wine come from?

Spain. It’s official.

I’m on a plane at the moment, sitting in the back, and expecting bad wine. But the Spanish red on offer, Finca Vallero Tempranillo Garnacha 2011 Carineña, supplied by Bibendum, is really tasty. It’s ripe and sweetly fruited, with lush berry fruits, but it avoids being confected or jammy. It tastes like proper wine, and finishes with a hint of pepper, a bit of tannic grip, and some fresh green herb notes.

Spain makes lots of reds like this. The basic resource Spain has is huge volumes of unirrigated bush vines, planted in proper vineyard soils, in sunny climates. Couple this with some decent winemaking know-how, and the avoidance of dirty cellars, oxidative handling and oak, and you have fruity, direct reds at bargain prices.

In any supermarket press tasting, the wines I have the most joy from are usually the cheap Spanish reds. I get a lot more pleasure from an unoaked red made from a decent vineyard source than I do from a more expensive wine where the winemaker has tried too hard.

The world needs good cheap wine, and I enjoy drinking honest cheap wine. I hate drinking cheap wine that has been tricked up in the winery to taste more like an expensive wine, or a cheap wine where the edges have been masked by oak substitutes or grape juice concentrate.

Drinking this wine reminds me how far things have progressed with cheap wine. When I was a student I was, by necessity, a bottom feeder. This was back in the early 1990s. Cheap reds were about £3.50 a bottle, and most of them were nasty. Some made you gag. Cheap reds (starting at around £4.99 now, but typically in the £4-7 range) can taste quite nice. That’s comparatively speaking cheaper, but the wine is often better.

My recent tasting has shown me that from £4-10, there aren’t many countries that can match Spain for red wines. Truth.

8 comments to Where does the world’s best cheap wine come from?

  • Yes well said – Portugal right up there too. Great to read a piece on wine that’s not weighed down by qualifications. Cheers

  • Ben Fawcett

    Totally agree Jamie. Say the very same things myself infact I’ve always advised someone with £5-£10 retail to spend on a red unsure of what to buy or in an unfamiliar merchant/shop go to Spain, everytime. I may go a step further. In the crucial £10 – £30 bracket the quality and value is just as appealing.
    Great piece.

  • Keith prothero

    Think there are some very good reds in this price range from South Africa from producers such as Adi Badenhorst ,Lammershoek and Mullineux . Many more but these tend to be my house red wines

  • Arthur Goode

    As a student in the early 90s it was £2.99 Romanian Pinot Noir from Safeways. CHB used to get a 1.5l bottle of liebfraumilch and make it last him all night.

  • MarkT

    Yep, no surprises there. No other country can even get near the sheer acreage of old vines in good terrain with a reliable climate.

  • Bob Parsons

    KP is sort of spot-on but prices here in AB are insane. One example..Verdejo. Nothing under $15, most closer to $20 and even more.
    Mullineux is priced pretty fairly I think, Muscadet too.

  • TerryT

    I’m not arguing about the quality of some cheap Spanish wine, and I think
    that the pursuit of critically rated wines takes them off the table and into
    the cellar. Here in Toulouse I buy wine on the Place du Capitole (2nd Saturday
    of the month) from Christian Valenti who makes old bush vine Carignan (organic)from the Minervois and sells at 4 euros a bottle. Nice bloke and brilliant wine!

  • David Hughes

    the cheapest wine is around 49p in uk money.
    when i get ill and poorly through too much cheap planc and more will get myself back on the feet again

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