One of the things I love most about travelling around the Mediterranean, besides the new experiences, the culture and the significant improvement in the weather is – not only getting to try out the local dishes, but also the wines that go with them.
I generally choose to save on my travel and accommodation by booking cheap package holidays and then spending my savings on exploring the local restaurants and quaffing a drop or two of the regions wine.
Just like its food, Spain’s wines have long played second fiddle to those of France and even Italy.
Venturing Beyond Rioja and Sherry
Even now there are probably plenty of people who would be hard pressed to name many Spanish wine-growing districts beyond a glass of jolly Rioja, and Auntie’s old favourite, sherry.
Ribera del Duero
So, how about a Ribera del Duero? If you want to get some idea of this wine’s pedigree, it takes its name from being produced on the banks (riberas) of the Duero river. If you’ve never heard of the waterway that could well be because it is known in English as the Douro, the name it changes to once it crosses into Portugal. On the way to its Atlantic estuary in Oporto, the river’s terraced slopes are where the grapes are grown for port.
So, two great wines from one river. And if you think I’m exaggerating about Ribera, here are the words of a French friend who took a few bottles back home to Strasbourg. “My family couldn’t believe how they could produce such a good wine for the price,” she commented.
Like anywhere in the world, mark-ups in bars and restaurants can really push up the prices, especially for vintage editions. But if you’re looking to try a bottle for a sun-downer in your hotel room, you should be able to find a young, non-vintage Ribera del Duero in a cut-price supermarket chain for not much over two euros.
There are even bigger bargains to be found trying out young, yet full-bodied and fruity wines such as Cariñena from the Aragon region in the north east, and as far away as the Badajoz area out in Spain’s wild west. Look around the special promotions bin and you’re likely to find several for under €1.50; some come as low as a euro.
A glass of Cariñena goes down well with a snack to eat – and there’s no better country for that than Spain: a dish of olives, a slice of nutty-tasting Manchego cheese or of fuet spicy sausage perhaps.
If you’re looking for something a lot lighter, then perhaps Sangria, one of Spain’s classic summer drinks would fit the bill. Most tourists try a jar of sangria at least once on their beach holiday. But the Spanish themselves tend to leave out the splash of spirits and the fruit cocktail. They just mix a cheap red wine with a bottle of fizzy lemon soda over ice and a slice of lemon, a sort of wine shandy if you like.
If nothing else most people get a laugh from searching for the soda, (called gaseosa), on the supermarket shelf, for making up a refreshing drink that’s simply known as a tinto de verano (a summer red) if you want to try one in a bar.
Albariño and Rueda
Given the country’s hot and sunny climate, red wines are normally the best choice in Spain. Good, well-priced whites can be a bit trickier to find.
Because Galicia is home to the leading fishing ports in Spain, most seafood restaurants around the country tend to serve Albariño, which is from the same region. But it doesn’t normally come cheap – some (including me) say too expensive for what it really is.
A good safe alternative comes from right next door to Ribera del Duero, from the Rueda district. You’ll find that Rueda is usually a bit more expensive than the reds. But for under €2.50 you are sure to find a bottle or two you wouldn’t mind popping in a safe corner of your case to take home from your holiday.
About the author: Katie is a wine and travel-loving blogger who spent the early part of this year travelling round Spain. You can find her on Twitter @delightsomeblog.