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Cheap Spanish Wine

by Steven Taylor on 29 August 2009

Spanish WinesI am relatively new to the regular enjoyment of wine. It wasn’t all that long ago that I thought wine essentially came in two types, i.e., red and white, and was categorized from there on a spectrum from cheap to insanely expensive. I can safely say I know more than that these days, although I am mostly to the point where I know what I like, even if I can’t tell you exactly why.

My tastes run towards merlots, zinfindels, and shirazes, although I have no objections to cabernets. In truth, I am will to try anything, but as noted, I am far from a connoisseur. Indeed, I am still at the stage where each new label or grape is still part of a process of discovery.

My tastes and skills in regards to the fruit of the vine has only evolved so far, but I can certainly tell the difference between a $4.00 or $5.00 dollar bottle and an $8/$10/$12 bottle (the latter price range being my upper limit normally). I have to date avoided finding out what a $30/$40/$50+ bottle taste like for fear I would like it too much.

One aspect of my process of discovery of the world of wine is the desire to try out new wines. Of course, such exploration can be expensive and since my wife does not care for reds, an open bottle means committing to the whole thing myself (not, however, in one sitting, of course). Still, this makes me a bit cautious in trying out new labels.

I will confess that my main wine suppliers are Costco and World Market—not exactly fine bottle shops to be sure, but they do have nice selections for my skill level and the prices are agreeable. World Market’s propensity to have specials on new wines is especially appealing to my interest in exploration. This led to the sampling of a Spanish shiraz, Opera Prima ’08, for the remarkably low price of $4.97 a bottle (a price I typically find equals “undrinkable”). However, I was pleasantly surprised at its quality, so much so that I went back to stock up while the price remained low (and to date, it has remained such).

The Opera Prima shiraz is a full bodied wine, with a complex finish that suggests berries, which to me ranges from a dark cherry to a blackberry. I think it is one of the better shirazes that I have tried to date.

My positive experience with the Opera Prima shiraz led to the purchase of a couple bottles of their tempranillo, also only $4.97 at World Market and also impressive for that price. I found the tempranillo to have a pleasant, almost floral aroma and had a pleasant finish. I would say that the tempranillo is a drier wine than the shiraz.

My general experience with the wines above led me to try a few other Spanish wines, each of which were in the $9-$12 range. One was at Garnacha de Fuego and the other was a Zestos tempranillo/garnacha blend. Neither was, to me, as good as the far cheaper Opera Prima. In fact, the Zestos had a disappointing finish that I associate with run of the mill cheap cocktail party reds.

However, not all the cheap Spanish wines at World Market are worth trying. I also gave a Solaz 2006 tempranillo/shiraz blend a try. It, like the Opera Prima, was $4.97, but unlike the Opera Prima, it tasted like a $5 bottle of wine.

Bottom line: if you come across the Opera Prima shiraz (or tempranillo) it is worth a try, even if it seems too cheap to be any good.

Photo by Steven Taylor

About Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor is a political science prof who blogs daily at PoliBlog.

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Manly Thoughts
29 August 2009 at 09:27


1 Mark 29 August 2009 at 11:04

If you want good drinkable Red try Rosso from Francis ford Coppola. I buy it at Publix for $8.95 a bottle and I find it the best Red for the money. He also has a nice white, of course, called Bianco at the same price. These are the kind of good dependable wines that I remember drinking in Europe.

2 James Joyner 29 August 2009 at 13:55

I have to date avoided finding out what a $30/$40/$50+ bottle taste like for fear I would like it too much.

Alas, I had done the same thing until 5 or 6 years ago and it has spoiled me. The progression is easy:

“Ah, it’s a special occasion.”

“Well, life’s short, every day is really a special occasion.”

“You know, we pay $50 for a mediocre bottle of wine at restaurants all the time. We can spend $30 a bottle and have spectacular wine at home. Thus saving money!”

3 Steven Taylor 29 August 2009 at 17:28

No longer living on a prof’s salary probably aided the evolution as well :)

4 James Joyner 29 August 2009 at 21:15

Ye hath a point.

Plus, things are so much more expensive in DC than in Alabama that one’s perspective on what’s outrageously costly changes. I remember eating at the Ruth’s Chris in Nashville 7ish years ago and thinking it astonishing that someone would pay $30 for a restaurant steak that didn’t even come with side dishes. Now, I just sigh a little.

5 Steven Taylor 29 August 2009 at 21:54

Of course, the zin I had at your place was quite nice, and I am sure cost more than $4.97 ;)

6 James Joyner 30 August 2009 at 07:29

Almost certainly! Zins and shirazes/sirahs tend to be more affordable than pinots and cabs, with some really excellent varieties of the former easily obtainable in the $15 range. Alas, we mostly drink pinots.

7 Steven Taylor 30 August 2009 at 11:21

My mainstay is a Bogle merlot that I can get at Costco fro something like 8.99, but see priced elsewhere in the 12-15 range. The have a Zin I like and my Dad can get at his Costco in AZ, but that we never get here (and conversely, they never get the Merlot).

8 Neil Hudelson 30 August 2009 at 21:20

I was very lucky to attend Purdue University. Why? It is, among many labels, an agricultural school with a quite advance enology department. While studying political science, I was able to take class after class that taught me the joys of wine–both expensive and cheap. What I learned is that while there are many bottles of wine for $30/$40/$50, with enough research you can find $15 bottles that often equal those bottles. I would suggest looking into what’s coming out of Chile nowadays. Some of their $10 bottles of cabernet or pinot noir are the equivalent to a $30 or $40 American bottle, IMHO.

9 eric 2 September 2009 at 02:29

nice review and look forward to trying the Opera Prima. pulled together several reviews, articles on Spanish wines off of kosmix.com for anyone trying to dig a bit deeper.

thanks for the tips,


10 hcantrall 2 September 2009 at 12:01

You seem to like he same types of wines that I do. If you haven’t tried it, get ahold of a Malbec – this is my new favorite. Bodega Norton from Argentina is one I like and it’s about $9 at Publix.

11 One Fine Jay 3 September 2009 at 14:31

I once had a Vinho Verde when I stayed up in NYC for New Year’s 2006. It was not bad. Alas, for the smoker, most wine boils down to what you are willing to bear: acid for whites, tannins for reds, and both for rosies. I also find it ironic that so much wine is described as tasting like other things. I’ve heard such absurdities as pencil shavings, melon peels, and staples.

Whatever happened to wine tasting like wine?

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