Tempranillo, garnacha and albariño. You’ve heard these bargain buzzwords whispered before. They’re the Spanish wines already synonymous with good value. But as their popularity continues to rise, they’re slowly disappearing from the bargain category. And finding an enjoyable one priced under $10 has become nearly impossible.
Luckily, there are still a few corners of Spain where you can easily discover pockets of great deals — like the places that grow monastrell. Although not exactly a household name like tempranilllo or garnacha, monastrell is quickly redefining what value means in Spain. Forget the Spanish wines you already know — it’s time for you and your wallet to get acquainted with this native grape.
You probably don’t even need a full introduction to monastrell. In countries outside of Spain, it wears another hat and goes by the better-known alias, mourvèdre. It’s with this different name that monastrell has achieved its greatest fame. The grape is most famously grown in France, where it’s used to make pretty rosés in Provence and powerful Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines in the Rhône Valley, home to the esteemed “GSM” blend. The prominent “M” part of the blend, winemakers in regions all over the world blend mourvèdre with grenache and syrah to make wines that are both juicy and savory.
But back in its native home of Spain, monastrell remains largely off the radar, which is good news for you and your penny-pinching pockets. With a recent resurgence of interest in the grape, producers in regions like Jumilla and Yecla in southeastern Spain are focusing on making quality wines using monastrell that you can actually afford. And unlike other countries that use mourvèdre to blend with others, it’s not uncommon to find varietal wines made entirely from the grape.
I recently set out to gather as many bargain bottles of monastrell as I could find in my local wine stores, and was surprised to see so many flooding the shelves of the Spanish section. If you’re looking for an affordable red, you will always be able to find a reliable bottle of monastrell.
The ones I tasted were a nice break from the sometimes jammy, always boozy bottles of garnacha from the same price point that I’ve tried. And they were much more refined than any bottle of $10 tempranillo would typically be. Naturally, not every bargain monastrell was delightful. Some tasted overly-ripe and lacked acidity entirely, or had unpleasant aromas and fell flat in the finish.
But others were more complex, like the 2012 Bodegas Castaño Old Vines Monastrell, which was richer and more complex than you’d ever anticipate finding in a $10 bottle from an extremely hot region. The best ones were full of rich dark fruit flavors with enough acidity to balance them out, and had super savory and meaty notes as well. They were the perfect kinds of wines to drink with a crowd, alongside food, or alone by themselves in a glass.
While affordable bottles of Spanish monastrell may not be profoundly remarkable or thought-provoking wines, they’re definitely worth your attention. After all, you’re far more likely to find an enjoyable bottle of monastrell with that $10 bill of yours than any of the other “value” wines available from Spain.
Bodegas Juan Gil Honoro Vera Monastrell 2012 (14% alcohol by volume, $7)
One of the best bargains you’ll find from a bottle of Spanish monastrell. Fruity but not jammy, this wine tastes more sophisticated than it costs, with a savory amaro-like finish.
Castillo del Barón Monastrell 2009 (13.5%, $10)
Deep brick red in color, with dark concentrated fruit flavors of figs and raisins. Spicy, with a hint of cigar box and cedar on the finish. A more rustic style of monastrell.
Bodegas Castaño Old Vines Monastrell 2012 (13.5%, $10)
Vibrantly purple in the glass with ripe plum and dried tobacco aromas. Exactly what you’d expect from an affordable Spanish red — big and bold, but incredibly drinkable.