Wherever you go in Spain, from Malaga in the south-east to La Coruna in the north-west, you’ll be offered Rioja as the house red. That’s not to say there’s not also more local stuff on the wine list, and, going by the detailed research we undertook during our October trip in Madrid, Merida and Seville, Ribera del Duero is coming up fast on the rails – and rightly so.
However, Rioja’s still the default option, and jolly good glug it is too, particularly if you like a bit of oak. Or, sometimes, quite a lot of it. The net effect though, is that the good folks of Logrono etc. have had to upscale their production over recent years, and most of their vineyards are pretty large, modern places with stainless steel tanks and such. Not so romantic, but pretty efficient in terms of delivering a reliable product.
However, the other regions – especially those in the north – have a lot to offer, so we were bearing this in mind when tasting off two of Morrisons’ Spanish reds, namely their own brand Navarra against a 2011 Rioja reserva. Both six quid at the minute. They look like this:
Now, a proper wine writer would tell you I’m comparing apples with pears here, as the Navarra’s young whereas the Rioja’s kissed the oak for a pretty decent length of time. Whatever. We tested them first against the backdrop of my duck legs, chorizo, tomato and puy lentil recipe, which is fairly Spanish in character, and both did well. The Navarra is lighter, as you’d expect, and would tend to disappear more easily, I suspected, with a stronger flavoured dish.
With this in mind, we exercised iron self-control and held back half of each for the next night, and my chicken and spinach curry, which, although completely free of chilli, is stronger flavoured.
FINAL VERDICT: what a difference a day – and, just possibly, some curry spice, makes. The Rioja stayed a pleasant, oak-edged companion. On the other hand, the Navarra came out of its corner fighting, throwing big plummy left hooks of damson at us. Both of them good value; both of them worth another go. Not the greatest wines ever, but definitely drinkable. 7 out of 10, with the Navarra ahead on points in the final round.
Not an advert for Morrisons or anything, it’s just where we happen to shop. Below this line, people may try to sell you things. They’re not my people.