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.