How Bad is a 90 Cent Bottle of Spanish Wine?

90-cent-bottle-of-red-spanish-wine.jpgThis was PURELY a scientific study. No, REALLY, it was! Today, I was at my Madrid neighborhood supermarket doing my usual Friday shopping for the weekend. Since I always buy a bottle or two of Spanish wine, usually the reliable Rueda white wine, I found myself at the wine section.

Sure, I grabbed the usual bottle of Rueda but perused the others as well just out of curiosity. There, I saw a bottle of store-brand red wine for 61 Eurocents – on sale! I thought for a moment, “How bad could this swill be?” Upon further inspection of other “cheap wines”, I found a non-store brand bottle of red wine for 90 Eurocents – NOT on sale – and decided to buy it with the intention of writing this blog posting – which I’m doing now with a slightly light-head while listening to RadiOlé flamenco music. Seemed fitting.

I chose the 90 Eurocent bottle of “Campo Bajo A.R.” red wine, listed on the one-label as “Vino de Mesa” or, simply put, “Table Wine“. What is table wine? Table wine is the inexpensive wine they give you when ordering the “menú del día” – the set lunch menu. Most often, they’ll give you the option of drinking this basic table wine with “Casera” – carbonated water – in order to “cut” the basic-ness of the wine. Adding this water usually helps a lot.

Somewhat ominously, the wine’s brand name, “Campo Bajo“, or “Lower Fields”, should have been indication enough to scare me away from even trying this cheap red wine but, as I said, this was in the name of science! And for me, being a former professional geologist, the study intrigued me.

So I bought the bottle and paused for a moment at the checkout line, wondering if the cashier thought, “Damn! This is one cheap bastard for buying such a cheap wine.” Oh well. No matter. This is a blue-collar neighborhood so I’m sure I’m not the first one to buy it. Besides, this is a serious study! (uh-huh.)

What better wine to drink with leftover Chinese food than this one? Perfect! Upon opening it with corkscrew I was already prepared for the worst. “Sniff!” Well, it wasn’t bad at all. Now, how does it taste? The first glass was fine, not strong at all, pretty easy to drink. So far so good. I’d finished my lunch and most (read: all) of the bottle and thought, “Okay. Now for the post-drink headache test.” Two hours have passed and I still don’t have a headache, and haven’t taken a siesta, but still certainly feel the affects, while not overwhelming, of the 12% alcohol content.

So what is my summary? What is my official review? Okay. First I must say that I’ve often been called “cutre” for my simple pleasures so please keep this in mind. But without prematurely devaluing my review, I must say that the 90 Eurocent bottle of red Spanish table wine was not bad at all. It definitely exceeded my expectations. Really, I thought it’d be undrinkable but I was wrong. That is not to say it was better than a 1998 Rioja Reserva, far from it, but it was drinkable and fine.

Earlier this week I had lunch with a friend at the very exclusive (read: unknown) “Casa de Granada” rooftop restaurant (nice views!) near the Tirso de Molina metro station in downtown Madrid and the 9 Euro “menú del día” included a similar table wine. With that, without even asking, a bottle of Casera carbonated water was offered to accompany the wine. It was fine without the water but made even better with it so I imagine today’s wine would’ve been the same.

So fear not the table wines given with the menús del día lunches in Madrid or throughout Spain. You’ll often get – or be offered – a bottle of Casera water to accompany the wine. I’d say accept it, if only to try it with the wine or to have bottled water to finished your meal as they don’t (usually) charge you for it.

FEAR NOT the cheap Spanish red wines. I wouldn’t choose them for dinners or good lunches, but for a glass or two to accompany an average lunch they’re just fine.

MONDAY UPDATE: Just 3 days after writing the above Madrid blog entry about “cheap” Spanish wine, I returned to my local supermarket to discover they’ve lowered the price of the same bottle of wine from 90 Eurocents to 81 Eurocents – and that’s not even the sale price! Incredible.

 
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