*Best Value Crianzas​ under $15

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, 2013

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, 2015

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, 2015

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, 2015

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, 2015

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.

​*BODEGAS MUGA

I am very much of the idea that everyone should enjoy wine in their own way. Wine can be an easily pretentious topic, and it should not be. It angers me when it does. The allure and idea of experiencing different varietals from different regions are fascinating to me; that is why it is essential to be open and to continually be experiencing new wines from different wine producers and diverse wine regions.  Your wine preferences should always be about your tastes, regardless of what is deemed trendy or cool.

It is just as simple as that.

I subscribe to the philosophy that wines should always be at least two things: Affordable and Approachable. Meaning that you should never have to overspend for a bottle of wine, the value should always be somewhere between $10.00 to $35.00 bucks, and you should be able to easily find fantastic wines from excellent winemakers at around $10.00-$15.00 regardless of your wine preferences and without breaking your budget.

img_9365-1Tempranillo grapes and Garnacha grapes are two of my favorite varietals, and you can often find me drinking Tempranillo from Rioja or Ribera del Duero wine regions. I have a deep fondness for wines from those particular regions, and just like I stated earlier, wine preferences are a very subjective topic. I tend to gravitate towards the non-nobility family of wines (Merlot, Syrah, Pinot noir, Cabernet, etc.). Those types of wines bore me, and I usually steer away from them. When I look at a wine list from a restaurant, I like to see a list of diverse and complex wines. It is a huge turn off for me when I see a wine list at a bar or restaurant with only wines from what is considered the nobility of wine varietals, which tells me that their wine selection is lazy and has no personality.

The particular wine I want to share with you today is a 2014 Reserva (aged for two years and spent one year on Oak barrel).  It is 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% Mazuelo and Graciano. You can taste dark and red berries on the nose, smokey, oaky, vibrant ruby colors. Medium to full-bodied, and a beautiful long finish. If you can still find a Muga Reserva from 2011, do yourself a favor and buy it. When it comes to my favorite wines, those bottles that I tend to consider as my favorite comfort wines, you will always find somewhere at the very top of my list wines from Bodegas Muga.

A few interesting things about this family-owned winery: They have been around since 1932. They are the only cellar in Spain with a maestro Cubero (master cooper) and three in-house barrel-makers, which gives their wine a unique and fascinating characteristic.

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Their wines are grown in five distinct vineyards throughout La Rioja region, most notably their vineyard in Sajazarra. It is located near the highest altitude of La Rioja, which gives their wines more significant aging potential. They produce many exciting wines, like, Muga white (90% Viura, 10% Garnacha Blanca), Torre Muga (75% Tempranillo, 15% Manzuelo, 10% Graciano) and they even produce a deliciously refreshing Rose, for those hot summer days.

img_9365So, give wines from Bodegas Muga a try; I suggest their Red Reserva. You can pair it with some Jamon Serrano, Prosciutto, Soppressata, and any nice stinky cheese. I prefer goat cheese or even some Manchego, Mahon, or Idiazabal cheese. It also goes well with some steak, ribs, pork, and lamb.

Everyone’s palate is different, so enjoy this or any other wine for that matter as you please, and pair it with whatever foods you think compliments your taste best. However you decide to enjoy your wine, always remember that a wine bottle is more than just fermented grape. A bottle of wine captures the substance and the spirit from the actual harvest of a grape varietal; it also captures the place, the culture, and the soil from where it was grown, as well as the passion of the people who harvested and produced it. Salud!

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