Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy: budget wine breakdown

Hello Prince Albert! Spain is a fantastic wine section to hunt for good deals and delicious wines. In many instances, Spanish wines deliver some great flavor at affordable prices; the red wines are often balanced with a decent amount of dark fruit flavor and the whites have a crisp, tropical and green fruit style. If you’re searching for some new varietals to taste, you’ll find versatile red wines like Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell and Syrah, which are usually blended together to create drinkable, fruity wines that won’t break the bank. Fans of white blends are also in luck with grape varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Albarino and Macabeo.

I came across the El Abuelo brand this week on the bottom shelf in Spain and saw the affordable price of $13.99 (before tax). Since there were both red and white wines in this brand, I thought I would try them out. One immediate positive attribute to the wine is the fact that both the red and white come from the D.O. of Almansa, Spain which is located to the East near the Mediterranean Sea. When a wine has a specific designation or DOP, it often indicates higher quality grapes and production methods. With this is mind, let’s take a quick look at the Almansa region aka Castillo de Almansa (castle of Almansa).

The Almansa region earned its D.O. status in 1966 and viticulture has been practiced there since the 16th century. The area is known as a “Continental” region due to its very hot summers (growing season) and cold winters. The Mediterranean Sea has a slight moderating effect on vineyards which helps balance sweetness and acidity in the grapes. The resulting wines from this region display rich, fruity characteristics and tangy acidity while the generally higher altitude (around 2200 feet above sea level) ensures that the grapes don’t overdevelop in the heat.

Rainfall is relatively low in Almansa but this is countered by the geological makeup of the soil which is often poor with loose rocks and limestone-flecked soil. This type of soil is ideal for moisture retention and the roots of the vines grow deep to gain access to water. Since the roots grow deeply for water, they are also protected from the hot sun which allows the grapes on the surface to grow big and full with thick skins and an excellent combination of both sugar and acidity (both perfectly suited for winemaking). Wines of the Almansa region are exported to over 30 countries around the world and their reputation for quality, affordable wines is growing.

So how about this El Abuelo brand of wines? In my opinion, the red had an off-flavor which ruined the experience for me. The dark fruits and smooth style of the red are alluring at first, but I quickly noticed the lack of acidity and tannins quickly followed by the scent and taste of rotting produce/grapes. My score of Average reflects these facts and I wanted to enjoy the red much more than I actually did.

On the other hand, the white blend was very tasty, and I loved the tangy flavor aspect that sticks to the tongue. Good acidity and a delicious combo of tropical and green fruits gave it a score of Good. The wine lost a few points due to its lack of complexity and its somewhat short finish. All in all, I recommend picking up a bottle or two of the white as it will pair well with many types of food, but you may want to give the red a skip. Here are my wine picks of the week!

El Abuelo de Piqueras Tempranillo/Monastrell 2021: (D.O. Almansa, Spain). Off-dry red, deep purple color. The nose is simple but fruity with juicy notes of cherry, raspberry, black plums, blackberry and a whisp of smoked meat or smokey leather. On the palate, the wine is satisfyingly full-bodied with a fruity mid-palate of juicy dark fruits. There is a slightly meaty note which moves in and out of the fruity flavors and a strange mineral buzz almost like a light carbonation at the edges of the flavors but in general, this wine packs a lot of smooth, fruity flavors of cherry, plums, dark raspberry and blackberries. The wine lacks balance however, with medium tannins and low acidity while tasting flat on the palate and the flavors of intense fruit are marred by the aftertaste which is slightly off (lingering notes of rotten fruit or garbage). A bite of pepper hits the tongue on the quick finish which blends in with the dark fruit and garbage note (it doesn’t sound pleasant because it isn’t). This Spanish red tastes cheap and the lack of balance and complexity mixed with the off-notes and lack of texture (tannins) drop the score significantly. Average. $16, 14% ABV

El Abuelo de Piqueras Verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc 2021: (D.O. Almansa, Spain). Dry white, pale lemon color. Simple fruit scents waft from the glass with medium intensity including tropical fruit (passion fruit, papaya), hints of green veggies, and fresh garden. To the taste, this white is less fruity on the palate than the nose, but the wine has a tangy, crisp character that is refreshing and delicious. Medium-plus intense tropical fruits hit the mouth first (pineapple, passion fruit) followed by fresh greens (green pepper and vegetable stalks). The medium-plus acidity buzzes enjoyably and creates a lively mouthwatering effect while the wine never feels too heavy with a medium-minus body. The medium-length finish carries a slight lemon/citrus fruit flavor blended with subtle green pepper. Tangy flavor sticks to the mouth and makes me come back for more. This would make an excellent food wine and will pair perfectly with Greek or Caesar salads, Asian foods (spring rolls and bird’s nest dishes with peanut sauce) or fish cakes with fresh dill/cream sauce on top. A delicious blended white wine that is well worth the money. Good! $16, 12.5% ABV     

Cheers and thanks for reading!