Inexpensive Spanish reds

Spain is seeing a lot of very exciting developments in its wine scene. Not only are traditional high-quality regions like Rioja undergoing a revolution in the way they make and market their wines, but little-known and under-achieving regions are beginning to produce some very interesting wines from both native and “international” grape varieties. This is mostly due to an on-going process of modernisation, of both techniques and thinking. Some of the world’s most progressive wine-makers are currently to be found in Spain. Below are a few recommendations for wines I’ve tasted over the past few days.

Viña Armantes (Calatayud) Tempranillo 1998 – £3.99
This has a bright ruby colour and a nose of spice and jammy blackberries and raspberries. There is good juicy fruit in the mouth too, some drying tannins keep it fresh into the moderate finish. Nice food wine.

Viña El Salado (Extremadura) 1998 – £4.49
With its very deep ruby colour and darkly-scented nose of pepper, tobacco and black fruits this is a value for money choice. The palate is silky and round with a solid core of sweet blackberry fruit and ripe tannins filling-out the finish. A very good effort from a region previously known for rather dried-out, old-fashioned wines.

Ochoa (Navarra) Tempranillo-Garnacha 1998 – £4.99
Medium plummy colour. This has an attractive leathery quality on the nose with aromas of sweet berry and plum fruit as well as autumnal hints of damp leaves and forest floor. The palate has plenty of sweet berry fruit too. Soft and very easy to drink.

Dehesa Gago (Toro) 1998 – £6.49
This interesting wine is from highly-regarded Rioja estate of Remelluri , but is made in Toro on the Portuguese border, not far from Ribera del Duero. A Tempranillo/Garnacha blend, this has plenty of bold, spicy fruit that is tempered by an earthy, dusty quality. The palate is quite firm, tannins are grippy, and the fruit is chewy and dense. Good balance too. This could reward a couple of years cellaring.

Vinicola del Priorat (Priorato) Onix 1998 – £7.99
Unfortunately my bottle tasted unusually thin, flat and bitter: indicating this bottle was almost certainly corked. A pity, as there were vestiges of very nice fruit with interesting herb and mineral qualities. Robert Parker rates this one highly, scoring it 88/100 and describing it as the best Onix ever made. Might well be worth a punt.

Marqués de Riscal (Rioja) Reserva 1995 – £8.99
Top quality house Marqués de Riscal have made the most of another fine Rioja vintage with this elegant and savoury wine. The nose has cherry, tobacco, dark chocolate and a slick of vanilla. On the palate it is medium-bodied and has plenty of juicy currant and cherry fruit. There are good tannins and acidity, and the finish is long and focused.