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Everything I Drank On Holiday
A highbrow review of all the lowbrow wines drank during a week in the south of Spain.
I was away on holiday most of last week, patiently awaiting the results of the MW exam, which we now all know that didn’t pass this time around.
We were near Granada, on the south coast, not known for being the heart of premium Spanish wine production, and we did most of our wine shopping at the local Lidl or Dia Maxi in the town, so please don’t be expecting deep insight here.
I’m just a normal guy, drinking normal wines at the house1, after trying and failing to sit on a beach and not get sunburnt.
We picked up the hire car from Malaga airport and drove to the house. Excitedly, we’d already pencilled in a ‘big shop’ the next day, so just needed some ‘bits’ on the way. We’ve been to this bit of Spain fairly regularly, so know exactly where the nearest Lidl is.
We stopped in for tortilla, bread, cured meat, manchego, boquerones, olives and wine. Just enough to get us through the early evening.
We’re not generally the ‘go out every night types’, even when we’re on holiday. A book and a settee in a warmer bit of the world will do just fine, thanks.
We unloaded the pre-stocked fridge of Cruz Campo Radler and ‘Especial’, and replaced the space with the wine, meat and cheese.
My Lidl Wine of choice for the first night was Condes de Albarei, Albariño, ‘Salneval’, Val de Salnés, 20222, from Rias Baixas, almost the exact opposite corner of Spain that I was in, but you know, when in Spain, drink Albarino.
It was fine, fresh simple, easygoing, cost about €5,99 in Lidl.
I also popped in a bottle of Casal do Río, Ribeira DO, just in case. We had that later in the week and it was also, unsurprisingly, fine. It was something stupid like €2,99 and made from unspecified varieties.
The Big Shop
The Alcampo in Motril, ahh, the delights. Massive section for pastry based treats, an actual fish market, a whole wall full of hanging legs of jamón next to the sausage counter… and, just like any large supermarket, a big area for a broad selection of average wines.
We bought. Puente de Pietra, ‘Chardonnay Fermentado en Barrica’, Cariena 20203, for €6, and Bodegas O’Ventosela ‘Manoliño Verbenas’, Ribeiro DOC (‘the bottle with a monkey on it’) for about €7. Just two different whites to try while sitting about on holiday.
Firstly, the Puente de Piedra was shit. Flabby, old oak, yellowish in colour, some old style oxidative character, nutty and not very interesting at all. It was a bit of a shame really, I’ve had plenty of decent oak fermented Spanish whites, white Rioja and such, but this was just note great.
The next day we opened the Monkey wine, which was actually great. Lean, saline, fresh, bright, lemon peel. Uncomplicated, but perfect with some prawns, manchego and a hunk of bread for lunch.
Ribeira whites are a bit under the radar I think. There’s a distinct presence for Rueda, White Rioja, and definitely Albariño in the UK. Maybe a little bit of other Galician whites, such as Godello, and maybe other northern Spain whites such as Txakoli, but you don’t really see much from Ribeira. Maybe I need to be looking a bit harder.
Yllera 5inco.5, Blanco Frizzante
If there’s one wine that’s perfect for day drinking it is Asti; low alcohol, light, bright and slightly sweet. However if you’re in Spain, this is the closest you’ll get. There was an aisle end display pod with loads of this 5.5% moderate alcohol, sweet spritzy thing.
I’ve bought it before when doing the Big Shop, so obviously there’s some demand for it in Spain. Perhaps it’s my holiday view of the supermarket shelves, but I’d definitely overlook this if I saw it in the UK. Frosted glass and a crown cap give it this kind of modern feel though.
I can’t find any details about it, but assume it’s interrupted ferment, tasted like 50gl(?) RS and it says on the bottle it’s made from Verdejo. I liked it, my wife didn’t but that didn’t matter because it’s so low in alcohol that you can drink a bottle without really noticing.
Two Reds Wines
Honestly, our holiday was essentially; Sit on the beach, a spot of lunch, back to the beach, nip past the shop on the way back to the house for some bread, something for dinner and a bottle of wine.
We picked up a couple of pork chops, planning to grill them alongside a pile of salad and such, so I wanted a light-ish red. It’s interesting how tricky it is find anything that isn’t Tempranillo in the little local grocery shops. Walls of Rueda whites, and various DO’s doing various takes on Tempranillo.
I managed to find a Garnacha, Valdemilanos, Campo de Borja DO which was perfectly juicy, fresh, bright red fruited and silky, a young Garnacha with low-ish extraction, and minimal complexity. There were a couple of Gold Medal stickers on the Label, but you can never trust those. This was €4,99 I think.
I also picked up later in the week, for the meagre sum of €2,99 an organico/ecologico Tinto, Sismicus ‘Sin Sulfitos Añadios’, Monastrell, Jumilla. This was lovely, floral, bright purple, crunchy. I’d buy this again. It’s made by Spanish mega winery J.G.C if you’re interested.
A Bottle of Rose for Lunch
We had a few lunches out, but only one in a place that was a walk away, so we had some rose vino by the beach. The guy serving us laughed out loud when I confidently chose the Navarra Rosé.
The rosé options consisted of ‘Rosé Grenada’, ‘Rosé Navarra’, ‘Rosé de Casa’. I knew the Navarra would be a darker style, but the guy described it to us as “water with grenadine”… but dutifully gave me a taste before pouring and sitting it back in the ice bucket.
It was rubbish, but it was cold and didn’t last long with our Menu del Dia for €12.
Thoughts on Prices
I love Spain, the wine prices are ludicrous. I don’t need to explain why. I also trust that you’re all well aware the UK Gov absolutely ruins any hope of getting decent affordable wine here, by slapping a minimum of £3.20 on every bottle of wine in duty and VAT for themselves.
Domestic production is so high for entry level reds, that even here in the UK, there’s some really cheap wines available from Spain that are perfectly drinkable, but for the prices I was paying in Spain, the average equivalent price here would be £9 - £12 per bottle I think, pound for pound quality-wise.
Simply put, you can drink better for less in Spain without a problem. Next time I’m in that bit of the world, I might do bit of digging for a better place to buy cooler wines.
Relentless top quality writing from Jason Wilson, with a recent piece on Albariño, its successes and failures, and its spread around the world.
‘The House’ is luckily my in-laws pad in the town of Salobreña on the south coast. Well stocked with creature comforts.