A Fine Balance – why expensive wines and cheap wines often bore me

I am feeling increasingly marginalised in the wine world, my view of wine just does not seem to fit the modern market:

The Expensive Side

Books and critics, magazines and the twittering classes talk about the Cru Classés and En primeur Campaigns (what an ugly phrase), but to me that has as much to do with wine as investing money in Laithwaites. It is not really any longer about the wine, but the money and potential for profit. Much the same can be said about the sort of wine that the American magazines often discuss, these rich ‘collectors’ – the word means someone rich enough to buy a lot in this instance – smiling in front of their new purpose built cellar complete with a glass-walled showroom for their Petrus collection – that isn’t about wine either. Neither are the hugely expensive California Cabernets or Super-Tuscans anymore, they are all about esteem, branding, marketing and other people’s perception of your taste and wealth. It is the modern obsession with brand writ large and describing these as wine is a bit like saying that staying at the Peninsular Hotel in Hong Kong is travelling.

These wines can be great, but very few of us can afford to drink them and as they are more often bought for investment hardly anyone does seem to drink them, so in reality there is hardly any point to them from a wine perspective. That is why I mainly ignore such wines and focus on things that are more affordable and interesting – to me.

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Very drinkable great value wine

Most of the cheap stuff on the UK market nowadays seems to be the big brands that operate at the lower ends of the quality spectrum; Blossom Hill, Kumala etc. I am sure most of these find favour with someone, but I always presume that they sell rather more because of marketing budgets than on wine quality. So, I am always on the look out for honest and well made wines that can compete at low price levels.

 

vineyards just outside Requena

It seems that I found a bit of a winner recently – and it promises a great deal right from the start, with its modern packaging, screwcap and a Decanter World Wine Awards Silver Medal sticker.

The only visual negative is that at first glance I assumed it was from Toro – one of the very best Spanish wine regions for good value – the design even resembles some Toro wines.

 

Map of Spain’s wine regions, Utiel-Requena is just West of Valencia – click for a larger view

I like Utiel-Requena, I was there a few months back and it is a beautiful place. Administratively it is part of Valencia, but geographically and historically the region is more like La Mancha – they don’t speak Valenciano and the area is a plateau quite unlike the coastal conditions. I really enjoyed visiting Requena itself, the town is very Spanish with no hint of the costas about it – and the prices of most things are cheap . It is surrounded by lovely countryside – mostly flat and covered in vines, but there are always hills in the distance and the landscape gets a bit more bumpy inland from Utiel.

The quality of the modern wines was a revelation too and as a consequence they are now more widely seen on Spanish supermarket shelves as well as creeping onto the UK market.

The Bobal grape is the traditional speciality here, but this wine is made from the much more famous and respected Tempranillo, which produces the great wines of Rioja as well as Ribera del Duero.

2009 Toro Loco Tempranillo
DO Utiel-Requena, Spain

There is nothing to dislike about this wine, unlike most at this sort of price it is not dilute, it is not over-extracted, it is not sweet, confected or jammy and at a modest 12.5% it is not over aclcoholic either.

It is soft with minimal tannins, a tiny waft of spice and lots of gluggy blackberry fruit characters. I found it most agreeable with some sausages – 88/100 points.

Available at £3.49 from Aldi – which must make it what Parker strangely calls ‘a value’ and what I call great value for money.

I have reviewed the same producers excellent dry Bobal Rosé before, but for the 2009 vintage the have  revamped the packing to Toro Loco and lowered the price to just £3.49.

These are amongst the very best cheap wines that I have tasted in a long time and I think they provide a much more pleasurable experience than most in their price bracket.