In my opinion, Crianzas do not get as much love or recognition as they deserve, and yet they are some of the most incredibly well-made wines available in the market today.
They are a highly satisfying wine-drinking experience, and their value makes it even more appealing to the consumer.
Most winemakers take way too many liberties with their marketing and false advertising; however, Spanish winemakers fall under rigorous regulations when it comes to marketing on their labels. When you see a D.O. label (Denomination of Origin) on either a Crianza or Reserva bottle of wine, you can rest assure that it meets the requirements to be labeled as such.
Rioja winemakers take so much pride in their wines that they do not release their wines into the market until they are adequately aged and are ready to drink. This means that when you buy a bottle of Crianza with a D. O. on its label, you know for a fact that it has been aged at a minimum of one year in barrels and a few months in a bottle. So when you purchase a bottle of Crianza, you can be guaranteed that it is ready to drink from the moment you uncork it.
If you are not very familiar with Spanish wines, or perhaps you are a bit intimidated by them, you should take a chance and explore some of these affordable and approachable Crianzas mentioned here.
Here are some of my current favorite Crianzas. Every single one of these bottles is under $15 bucks, which are all readily available at most wine shops or liquor stores in the U.S.
LOPEZ DE HARO, Crianza-90% Tempranillo, 7% Garnacha, 3% Graciano (Rioja): I am a single varietal kind of guy, and I usually try to stay away from blends as much as I can, mainly Spanish red blends. However, this particular Crianza is one of the few exceptions to my no-blends rule. I have been a fan of this winemaker for a few years now; they make a charming 100% Tempranillo, as well as a few other exciting limited edition wines. This Crianza consistently appears on many wine lists throughout New York City restaurants, mostly at Spanish tapas restaurants.
Ripe red fruit on the nose, stable balance of tannins and acidity. Mid-long finish. Very pleasant to drink by itself, but you can always pair it with some prosciutto and Idiazabal cheese. I have never found it for less than $14.99, and it should not be more than $15.99.
VALDE LACIERVA, Crianza-100% Tempranillo (Rioja): This wine comes from Hispano Bodegas, which owns wineries in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Rueda. They are fast becoming one of my favorite wine producers, and there is only a handful of places where I have been able to find bottles for sale, and when I do, I usually end up grabbing a few bottles at a time. You get a nice mix of dark and red fruit on the nose. A stable balance of acidity and tannins. Long smooth finish.
I love pairing this wine with some spicy soppressata; the spiciness accentuates the flavors and aromas of this Crianza. I also pair it with some Cabrales cheese. It is currently selling for $14.99, and it is well worth it, so do not hesitate to buy it.
EL COTO, Crianza-100 % Tempranillo (Rioja): This winemaker has been around since 1970. Their property Los Lamendros is now the largest vineyard within all denominations of origin in the Rioja wine region. They also produce a delicious, vibrant Rose and an amazing Garnacha aged in oak barrels. This particular bottle is a solid choice when it comes to affordable and approachable Spanish wines. You get red fruit on the nose, peppery and acidic (which is what I like in my reds), light tannins — a delicate balance of spice at the finish. Easy to drink on its own, right from the moment you uncork it, and it gets better after the second pour.
Pair it with some firm or medium-firm cheese made from sheep’s milk. Currently selling at $10.99 and under, but I have also found it at some wine shops for $14.99. Avoid paying more than $14.99 for it.
MONTECILLO, Crianza-100% Tempranillo (Rioja): From Bodegas Montecillo. The third oldest winery in Rioja. They make all kinds of affordable and very approachable wines. They also have a vineyard in the Ribera del Duero region, but I have not seen any wines from that vineyard around in the states yet. The only ones that I have seen and tasted are their Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, which are available at most Total Wine store locations that I have visited recently. This Crianza shown here in the picture is what I consider to be one of my “house wines” or one of my go-to wines — for those random nights at home when I want something consistent and not in the mood to overspend too much on a bottle. You get dark fruit on the nose, aromatic, oaky, medium-bodied, mid-long finish. Let it breathe for 20-30 minutes and enjoy it.
Pair it with some Mahon cheese or some campo de Montalban, along with some chorizo or jamón serrano. Excellent value at around $9-12 bucks. If you find it higher than $12.99, somebody is trying hard to rip you off.
LAN, Crianza-96% Tempranillo, 4% Mazuelo (Rioja): Produced by Bodegas LAN, which stands for La Rioja (L.), Alava (A.), Navarra (N.). LAN has consistently scored high in the top 100 list of W.S., with 7 of their wines making a list, which is great and all, but this particular Crianza is one of my all-time favorite easy-drinking, comfort wines. There was a time when I lived in the D.C. area where my local corner grocery store always had this Crianza in stock in their limited wine selection section (I think I was the only one buying it consistently). Hints of vanilla, some cherry on the nose, oaky and leathery. Long pleasant finish.
I pair it with any firm cheese, but manchego, it is probably my favorite pairing. It is currently selling for $14.99, which is a fair price for it, but I have also found it for $11.99 in some stores.