In Praise of Spanish Supermarkets!


Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Neither did I! If you look back at my articles (you can see many archived here click Articles, that’s if you haven’t got them posted on your bedroom walls, of course?) you’ll see that I’ve always put wine shops before supermarkets when talking about sourcing wine. If you can’t buy directly from the bodegas themselves, the next best thing will always be wine shops.

I still believe this. Wine shop owners (there don’t seem to be many chains here in Spain, I’ve actually never come across one) have a passion for wine – they care. Consequently they look after their stock; rotate the wines properly; keep a handle on their buying so as not to be left with wines that are creeping past their best; keep abreast of developments in the wine world; attend tastings, certainly nationally, and at times internationally too; read the literature & watch the videos; organise tastings; teach their staff and encourage (sometimes with financial help) assistants to attend courses, take exams, and so on.

Supermarkets, in my view, don’t do much of the above. Most are too big. Wine is just one line, amongst countless others. Yes, some of the larger concerns will have a designated ‘wine buyer’, hopefully with sufficient wine knowledge and expertise, but will they have staff to whom they can diffuse this info? Is there any training of staff in the individual supermarkets – well, I don’t think there are many or much.

To a point I understand this – do the supermarkets train their staff to have greater knowledge about other lines, e.g. which are the best detergents and why; why is one pet food so much more expensive than the one on the shelf nearby; is it best to buy olive oil as young as possible or is it better to wait a year from production. They can’t be expected to employ an expert in every field.

However, if we go to, for example, Mercadona seeking Jamón Serrano, it’s likely there’ll be at least one person there with a good knowledge of the subject. Despite an obvious bias and trying to be as objective as possible, I think this should also apply to wine – but I’ve yet to find it.

So, colours nailed to the mast there, and yet I also stand by my title – lately I’ve noticed that some supermarket wine choices are deserving of praise, and should be lauded so.

The confinement, the lockdown we’ve been undergoing in Spain has meant that we have been essentially ordered to use only the supermarket nearest to where we live, and of course, we’ve been unable to attend a wine shop at all (though some have managed to gain permission to deliver). Plus, I’m also required to recommend a Supermarket Wine of the Week for Valley FM. Therefore, I’ve been tasting a greater number of supermarket wines than is normally the case, for the last 8 weeks!

I’ve chosen carefully, mind. Age and health wise I’m in the ‘at risk’ category, so my lovely wife, Claire-Marie Soprano, far younger than myself, has generously, and bravely, been doing all our shopping when this has always previously been my role. This has meant that Claire has been asked to go to Mas y Mas and send me photos of their wine selection, for me to make the choices!

I’ve mostly got it right, and some of the wines we’ve been trying have been rather good. Here are a few of the best ones, all priced between about 5 – 8€.

My favourite has been the Bornos Verdejo 2019, closely followed by Hécula, from Bodegas Castaño, and in Bronze medal position, the Enate Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado 2019.

I’m not sure when I first tasted Bornos Verdejo. It was new to my area at the time and people very quickly developed a taste for it. My guess is that demand exceeded supply at the time and supplies ran out. There then, it seemed to me, was a short period where the same wine was of a slightly lesser quality. My guess was that, in order to satisfy that demand, vines were allowed to over crop – more grapes, equals more wine, but at a quality cost. I stopped buying it, though it’s been around ever since, remaining popular.

I really like the 2019 above and I think this may be because of two factors – the vines are now older (the average age for this vintage was 15 years), therefore naturally producing slightly fewer bunches, and the producers are now restricting that growth further. The result is a straw coloured wine with lime green hints, fresh, dry white bristling with intense aromas and flavours of citrus fruits, gooseberry and green herbs.

If, like many, you like to have a wine you term your ‘house wine’, this has to be a candidate for your white wine!

I tasted several reds: Bo, as well as Con Un Par,from Bodegas Vicente Gandía; Enate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot; Soplo, Garnacha from Rafael Cambra, Laudum Roble from Bocopa – all good quality, and all from supermarkets! My favourite red was Hécula, from Castaño – consistent quality for years now!

And so good to see a rosé, the Enate above, coming a close third! Twitter @colinonwine Facebook Colin Harkness

Wine Tasting Lunch at Restaurante Canali, Javea/Benitachell

Thank you Colin for an excellent wine tasting lunch yesterday at Restaurante Canali. It was a perfect setting with great wines and delicious food! Excellent pairing of wines with the menu. Well done Colin! A brilliant way to spend a birthday! Thank you! Jane Tovey

First in the series of wine tastings for small Groups from Sweden!


In September and October I’ll be presenting a series of wine tastings for small groups of Swedish people who are visiting Spain, combing various activities with the opportunity to experience a little Spanish culture, and some sunshine!


The Iberian peninsular, even if we take Portugal out of the equation, though still include the islands, is a rather large area, no? And, as Cork Talk readers know full well, there are many, many wine producing zones here in Spain.


It’s clear therefore that there is rather a large number of wines from which to choose. My job, although hugely enjoyable, is also tough! I like to include at least one wine from a world famous wine producing area. However, I also like to champion the cause of the smaller, less famous areas. Plus, I’m a great believer in promoting local wines too!


So, for the first groups at least (I’ll probably ring, or pop, as in cork, the changes as time goes on) I’ve chosen, for the ‘famous areas’ – Cava. I’m a great believer in Cava, as regular readers will know. For ‘smaller, less famous’ I’ve chosen DO Yecla, another favourite area of production for me, as well as DO Terra Alta, where there is some great winemaking going on the moment. And for ‘local’ I’ve actually chosen a white wine from DO Valencia and another red from DO Utiel-Requena.


I think it’s a good balance, and I’m hoping that the always very appreciative Swedish attendees will agree!

Our cava, is not just any cava! I’ve mentioned Premium Cavas in Cork Talk before – these are the Reserva and Gran Reserva cavas that, for me, distinguish Cava as one of the foremost sparkling wines of the world, always equalling Champagne in quality, and often beating it!


Cava producers, Canals i Munné have been mentioned here before too! Their Cava ‘Adn’ Brut Nature Gran Reserva, priced at well under 20€ is made with two of the classic cava varieties, Macabeo and Parellada, plus it has 30% Chardonnay in the blend. It really is a winning combination, and when you include aging on its lees ‘en rima’, for a lengthy 48 months (easily exceeding the minimum 30 months for Gran Rerervas!) – well you have something a little bit special!


For white wine, I’ve gone for a favourite of mine since its inception several years ago. Cullerot (meaning tadpole, in Valenciano you’ll know why when you see the label!). A super wine which is made with each variety (Chardonnay, Pedro Ximénez [yes, PX, of sherry fame, but as dry as you like here!], local variety Verdil and, linking nicely with the above, Macabeo) being fermented separately. Then, blending takes place and the almost finished wine is placed in huge, underground ‘tinajas’, clay amphorae, with its lees, for a further 6 months of ageing. You have to try it!


I’m a fan of rosado wines and Llumí Rosat from Celler Alimara, DO Terra Alta is a firm favourite. It’s made with 100% Garnacha grapes and is certain to make those who think rosé wine is just for girls, think again! Perfumed, yes, with raspberries, under-ripe strawberries, a touch of pomegranate and wisp of ripened cranberry; but also full and lasting on the palate. Excellent paella wine, by the way!


My great friends at Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla, make a large range of wines, every one of them excellent value for money, from those retailing at under 3€ all the way through to their flagship wines that cost 30+€. I decided to go for the one which has consistently been given 90 points and above in the Robert Parker guides, since its first release, quite a few years ago now, when it earned 93 points out of 100. And this for a wine that still retails for under 7€!


Made with elderly Monastrell grapes the wine is placed in oak barricas, 80% French and the other 20% American (incidentally, it sells out every year in the USA!) for no more than six months. The lovely plum and damson fruit is to the fore, with some oak back-up for depth and added flavour and aromas.


The final wine will be from Bodegas Pigar, made by my pal, the slightly rebellious, Juan Piqueras up in the rolling, mountainous hills of Utiel-Requena. Here, the indigenous Bobal, queen of all she surveys, gives of its best, and Juan’s version is proud to be among the best that the area can offer. Cherries, light, dark and Picota are the fruits involved here, with some mountain herb notes, a little minerality and a depth of flavour that would surely make you think it cost twice as much!


First Swedish tasting tonight (as I write) – I can’t wait! Facebook Colin Harkness

Twitter @colinonwine

Musical Dinner with Paired Wines

Hi Col,
You excelled yourself once more by introducing us to Restaurante Puerto Blanco in Calpe, an inspired choice of venue. We both enjoyed fantastic food and impeccable service complemented by your excellent choices of wine from Bodegas Castaño.
You even managed to persuade Raquel from that bodega to be part of the evening.
Not only that but we were splendidly entertained by the lovely Claire-Marie who sang beautifully and gave us some haunting flute pieces.
The whole evening was very special and your descriptions of each wine were educational and fun. Roll on your next wine and food pairing evening.
Cheers, Mick