The Radio Boka offers Spanish value and quality for less than $10
The best cheap Spanish wines are made with grapes most of us haven’t heard of and are from regions that are equally obscure. Witness the Radio Boka, a Spanish white. It’s made with verdejo, common in Spain and almost nowhere else, and comes from La Mancha, a huge bulk wine region near Madrid.
In other words, this ain’t from Napa Valley or Burgundy.
In this, the Radio Boka ($9, purchased, 12.5%) is exactly what competent and enjoyable cheap wine should be. It doesn’t try to impress anyone, despite the post-modern name and showy label. This is a wine made for weeknight dinners, without any fuss or bravado. As we say on the blog, simple but not stupid.
Look for barely tart lemon fruit with a hint of something tropical in the middle. The finish is clean and fresh, and, like many Spanish whites, it’s a terrific food wine. Tapas, like the potato omelet, certainly, but also seafood and it would be terrific as a braising liquid for chicken.
Imported by Hammeken Cellars
Pricing note: All prices are suggested retail or actual purchase price before the October 2019 tariffs unless noted
• El Circo Volatinero 2018 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that doesn’t taste especially Spanish or much like tempranillo. It’s bland and boring – dare I say, “Smooth?” Imported by Seaview Imports
• El Terrano Verdejo 2017 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Another cheap white wine from Whole Foods that isn’t worth even the little it costs. Spanish, but thin and watery lemon fruit, and not much else. Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits
• Flora & Stone Gewürztraminer NV ($5, purchased, 12%): Aldi private label California white that tastes like gewurtzraminer, but also tastes like it has been sweetened to please a focus group. It mostly tastes like wine, but it could have been so much more enjoyable.
The Naia verdejo is $10 Spanish white wine that speaks to the great quality and value of Spanish white wine
A couple of years ago, not even wine geeks paid much attention to verdejo, a Spanish white grape. Today, though, verdejo is showing up more often; hence, prices are often way out of line with quality, while cute labels are all over the place to make up for the lack of quality. Through all of this, the Naia verdejo has been a beacon of consistency and value.
The Naia vedejo ($10, purchased, 13.5%) reminds us of the tremendous value in Spanish wine. It tastes of tart lemon, as it should, but there is also an undercurrent of tropical fruit (pineapple?) that you don’t usually get in a $10 verdejo. It’s not so much that it’s very well done, but that the producer understands the role of $10 wine – that it’s not supposed to cost $15 just because.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame. And yes, dad will enjoy this over the weekend, whether it’s porch sitting while his family celebrates Father’s Day or as something to sip while grilling chicken or shrimp.
The Marques de Caceras verdejo is grocery store wine that does what grocery store wine should do — it’s cheap, drinkable, and available
Quality grocery store wine should do a couple of things. First, it should be fairly priced, and not include a premium for a cute label or the marketing budget. Second, it should taste like what it is, so no cabernet sauvignon that tastes like a sweet red blend and no sauvignon blanc that tastes like a sweet white blend. That both of those are increasingly rare these days speaks to the crisis in cheap wine.
Which is where the Marques de Caceras verdejo ($9, sample, 13.5%) comes in. It’s a Spanish white made with the verdejo grape, so it fills two of the requirements for quality cheap wine – less expensive region and less known grape. And it does what quality grocery wine should do, too.
That means the Marques de Caceras verdejo is fairly priced, and it more or less tastes like verdejo – lots of lemon fruit and a clean finish. It’s simple, and the fruit could be less New World in approach, but it’s not insulting. This is the kind of wine for Tuesday night when you have to stop at the supermarket on the way home to get something for dinner, and you want wine as well.
The Naia 2015: Another wine of the week, another Spanish value
The surprise is not that we’re in Spain again for the wine of the week, but that the Spanish never seem to run out of quality cheap wine like the Naia. Even I’m beginning to be surprised, and I’m the one who wrote that Spanish wine offers the best value in the world.
The Naia ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is made with verdejo, a Spanish grape that produces passable, tart white wine that has been on the blog many times. The Naia, though, has another goal in mind: A wine that is more than passable but not costing much more than the usual verdejo.
In this, it succeeds. The Naia 2015 is a softer, more round version of verdejo, with white fruit (peach?) to go with the usual lemon, and the lemon is not nearly as pronounced as usual. There’s also an herbal something or other going on that rarely shows up in verdejo. Hence, the wine isn’t as straightforward and obvious, but less tart and more balanced.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 Hall of Fame in a year when the candidates that actually cost $10 are few and far between. Drink this chilled on its own, and keep a couple of bottles around the house as the holidays approach. And verdejo and fish are long-time pals, something to keep in mind when you’re making seafood.
The Conde Pinel Viura-Verdejo is a $9 wine worthy of the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.
What do you get when you blend two Spanish white grapes that make great cheap wine? You get the Conde Pinel Viura-Verdejo, a $9 wine that is worthy of the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.
The Conde Pinel Viura-Verdejo ($9, purchased, 13%) demonstrates again why Spanish wine is the best value in the world. This isn’t some focus-grouped wine with lots of sweet fruit and a cute label devised by a marketing company – quite the opposite, in fact. It comes from Castilla in central Spain, where the real estate is much less expensive and the grapes, viura and verdejo, are little known elsewhere in the world.
Which is fortunate for us. Look for tart green apple fruit, a smidge of tropical something or other in the middle, and a fresh, surprisingly long finish. How this wine can be this delicious at this price is one of those questions that not enough producers are able to answer.
Chill this, and drink it on its own (yes, a porch wine), or with grilled or roast chicken, as well as anything with garlic, herbs, and olive oil.
Want to find out what real verdejo tastes like? Want to strike a blow for quality, terroir and value? Then buy the Arrumaco Verdejo. Its importer, Handpicked Selections, is one of those well-run but too small companies that are being squeezed by consolidation and premiumization.
Look for white fruit flavors and aromas (apricot?), plus a certain rich feel in the mouth that I didn’t expect and the touch of almond and lemon peel that top-notch verdejo is supposed to have. I couldn’t believe how well done this wine was after the first bottle, and went back and bought a couple more just to be sure.
Highly recommended. Drink this chilled on its own or with grilled fish, and it would also match a summer salad with lots of fresh herbs.