Jonathan Ray

September Wine Club I

September Wine Club I
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For the second Wine Club running, we’ve six great wines all for under a tenner. This time, though, we’re heading to Spain and Portugal where a mix of traditional and modern, energetic young producers are putting these ancient wine regions firmly back on the map.

These are six excellent wines from six distinctly different regions — three from Spain and three from Portugal — with each bottle discounted and priced well under ten pounds. And we’re in safe hands too with family-owned Tanners of Shrewsbury, long-time champions of such wines who were recently and quite rightly named Independent Merchant of the Year by Wines of Portugal.

Both Spain and Portugal are going through something of a wine-making renaissance at the moment and there are many treasures to be found in both countries — and not just in Rioja — and still at great prices. Wines of equivalent quality in France or even Italy would be far pricier.

Robert Boutflower, Tanners’ private sales director, fair bubbles with enthusiasm at our tasting. Portugal, he reckons, is producing classy, modern wines that are a match for any other country in innovation (just look how the port producers of the Douro have reinvented themselves as makers of fabulous red and white table wines, for example) while Spain is the ‘old faithful’ with soft easy flavours and accessible wines helped by mellow Tempranillo and American oak. ‘What they have in common is that both countries offer truly excellent value,’ he says. ‘And these wines are the proof.’

The 2013 Tons de Duorum White (1) is light, delicate, citrusy and wonderfully refreshing. At only 12 per cent alcohol by volume, it’s light and makes for a jolly decent aperitif. Although a blend of five local varieties, it is far removed from the clumsy Douro whites of old and gets its vibrant freshness from being grown at the top of the vertiginous slopes that line the wilder reaches of the upper Douro valley. Delicious. £8 a bottle.

The 2013 Marquès de Borba (2) is made by Joâo-Portugal Ramos, Portugal’s most entrepreneurial winemaker, near the hilltop town of Estremoz in Alentejo, Portugal’s ‘big country’. A blend of indigenous Arinto, Antâo Vaz and the decidedly non-indigenous Viognier, it has good weight, delicate peachy, nutty aromas and — again — a striking freshness (thanks in part to the grapes being harvested early in the morning). It’s great on its own or with food and if you like white burgundy you’ll like this. £8.50.

From Spain we’ve the 2013 Prado Rey (3), a 100 per cent Verdejo, a grape that’s indigenous to Rueda in the province of Vallodolid, north-west of Madrid. It’s modern and expressive with plenty of nuts and citrus on nose and palate and a whisper of herbs on the finish. It’s much more of a food wine, this, and really comes into its own alongside a typically Spanish chorizo and clam stew. £8.80.

Also from Spain, we’ve the 2010 Marius Reserva (4) made by Bodegas Piqueras, family-owned since 1915 and the leading producer in Almansa, the sun-soaked region just inland from the Costa Blanca. A blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) and Garnacha (aka Grenache), it spends 18 months in oak and is jammily juicy, spicy and richly, deliciously concentrated. £8.30.

The 2013 Rioja Vega (5) is a really splendid blend of Tempranillo (mainly) and Garnacha made in a palatial Romanesque style winery near Logroño in Rioja Baja. It’s fair stuffed full of plums, prunes, blackberries and blackcurrants and is a resolutely modern Rioja, rather than the brick-red, vanilla-rich Riojas of old and definitely none the worse for that. Even better, it’s only £6.80 a bottle, down from £7.20 and a veritable steal.

Finally, the 2013 Terra de Lobos (6) from Tejo in the south of Portugal. Made from Castelão, Trincadeira (one of the most widely grown grapes in Portugal, much used in port production) and Cabernet Sauvignon, it has lovely dense, dark fruit with plenty of underlying freshness. It’s an excellent quaffing red designed for drinking young rather than keeping. Get stuck in and enjoy it now. £6.80, down from £7.20.

All prices are correct at time of publication, but we may alter prices at any time for any reason.
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Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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