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There’s more to Spanish wine than Rioja - here are four from very different regions

John Wilson: The best-known grapes are Tempranillo and Garnacha but there are plenty of others too

We like Rioja in this country and are among the most ardent consumers worldwide of this wine. There is nothing wrong with this, but many of us go no further and ignore the rest of Spain. From the powerful red wines of Ribera del Duero to the more elegant, refined wines of Ribeira Sacra, Spain offers a wealth of different styles and flavours, often at very competitive prices.

Many regions were once dominated by co-ops that produced large amounts of inexpensive red wine that ended up as vino de mesa or basic table wine. The wines were drinkable but uninspiring and more importantly uneconomic. Today, most regions have a group of younger, innovative growers and winemakers who are making some of the most exciting wines.

The best-known grapes are Tempranillo and Garnacha (both also used in Rioja) but there are plenty of others too. Combine these with a diverse geography and climate, some such as Jumilla in the south or Toro in the north are baking hot during the day, but bitterly cold at night, giving the wines a beguiling mixture of freshness, ripeness and power. As mentioned last week, grapes grown at high altitudes in otherwise hot regions can be surprisingly light and refreshing.

So today, four wines from very different regions of Spain and none a Rioja. With the exception of the Toro, all are 13.5% abv or less.


Tulga Toro Joven 2022, Castilla y Leon

14%, €7.99

Rich and powerful with smooth dark fruits and a rounded finish. Pair it with a barbecued steak, or some roast Mediterranean vegetables.

From Lidl

Vermell 2022, Celler del Roure, Valencia#

13.5%, €20

A favourite of mine that has improved still further. Fresh, lively dark cherry fruits, with subtle tannins. A medium-bodied wine that goes nicely with a wide range of foods.

From 64 Wine, Glasthule; Martin’s, D3; Green Man Wines, D6W; Fallon & Byrne, D2; Baggot Street Wines; Brindle D8; Mac Curtain Wine, Cork; Clontarf Wines; Searson’s, Monkstown.

Tragolargo Monastrell Casa Balaguer 2021, Alicante (Biodynamic)

13.5%, €19.75

Ripe smooth dark plum fruits with dried herbs and an earthy element. Try it with paella Valenciana.

From Sheridan’s Cheesemongers; Martins, D3; Fallon & Byrne; Ely, Maynooth.

El Hato y El Garabato Sin Blanca 2018, Arribes del Duero

12%, €22.53 (was €36)

From one of the more remote wine regions of Spain, this is a very exciting wine. Mouth-watering, succulent red summer fruits with good acidity and a rounded finish.