In the days leading up to the Rotary Wine Festival, I felt as if I was eating, sleeping and breathing wine. At that point it was almost a subject I didn’t want to contemplate for a week or two.

However, I recently tried some very good Spanish red wines and special-ordered one from the Yukon Liquor Corp. (YLC). I couldn’t resist sharing with you what I have learned.

First I should say that Spanish wines currently enjoy among the best value-to-price ratio in the Yukon, and perhaps elsewhere as well. I am finding a slew of fantastic Spanish reds in the $12 to $18 price range that are interesting, exciting, and consistently scoring well amongst wine tasters.

Spanish wine makers are taking their tremendous indigenous grapes, such as Tempranillo, and blending them with grapes better known for their French origins, such as Grenache (called “Garnacha” in Spanish).

For about the last 10 years, Spanish reds have just become better and better, and I believe the country is on the cusp of playing the big leagues, with countries such as Italy, Australia and France.

The Spanish are retaining and exploring their rich heritage of local grapes, but also embracing 21stCentury wine technologies and creating exciting, modern tasting wines that still retain the best of their 1,000-year-old plus heritage of the grape.

In this respect they seem to be far more open to new ideas and tastes than their famous wine-making neighbours to the North (France). To illustrate the point I would challenge you to find a comparably priced French wine that holds a candle to the following Spanish reds.

My first discovery was a wine that the YLC brought in ten cases of about a month and a half ago. It is the 2007 Bodegas Lomablanca Bardosa Tempranillo Garnacha, from the Ariñena region. According to the label, the grapes were harvested at night, which I think is a slightly romantic idea.

I found this robust red to have deep dark fruit notes, a nice tannic pucker note on the tongue, and a spicy, slightly fruity finish. It seemed a perfect wine for a cool autumn or cold winter night.

I guess my fellow Yukoners must have agreed, as all 10 cases were snapped up, and are currently gone from the YLC shelves. But ask about it and keep your eyes peeled … it was a steal at about $12.00 a bottle!

My second Spanish red find was courtesy of my friend and fellow wine aficionado Craig Hougen, who had read about the Antaño Crianza and brought in a case or two through the YLC (more on that in a moment).

This classic Rioga style red is made in the little town of Briones, in the Rioja Alt region in North central Spain.

I tried it back to back with the Bodegas Lomablanca Bardosa mentioned above, and I have to say that it was even better! The bouquet (smell) immediately reminded me of some of the better Bordeaux wines that I have tasted.

I have subsequently read that this is because the wine makers of this region age their wines in oak barrels, and were first influenced by French wine makers in the 18th Century. This wine is called a crianza, which means that it has been aged for at least two years. It again has dark cherry elements on the taste, along with a nice balanced spiciness and a medium- to full-bodied taste.

It is a blend of four grapes, leading off with the classic Spanish tempranillo (80 per cent), blended with granacha (5 per cent), mazuelo (5 per cent) and graciano (10 per cent). Those four grapes land on slightly different parts of your tongue and give it a great breadth of flavour. There are also slight notes of red dusty and cedar, which only seem to enhance the structure of this wine.

This wine reminds me very much of the well known, maroon-labelled Bodegas Montecillo Crianza, which is a perennial favourite at the YLC, offered for $20.25. The difference is that the Antaño Crianza is a steal, at about $15.00!

The YLC doesn’t currently carry the Antaño Crianza, but for the first time in my wine drinking in the Yukon, I ordered 24 bottles to be brought in. It turns out that if a wine is carried in Southern BC, it can probably be ordered in. The YLC will check to see if it is available, and ask for a 50 per cent deposit up front.

I’ll report on how long it takes to come in, but I am being told that it will be about 3-4 weeks at this time of year. It is shipped by barge and I assume trucked in from Skagway, so shipping is not too bad. You can only order by the full case, but in some wines, including this one, a case is comprised of six, rather than 12 bottles.

If this works out as well as I expect it might, I may be ordering in a few more wines to expand my tasting options in the Yukon. In the meantime, I encourage you to give Spanish reds a try.

The Montecillo Crianza ($20.25) and its big brother the Reserva ($25.80) are excellent examples, while the Osborne Solaz ($14.10) and the Emporda Costa Brava Espelt ($17.90) are very satisfactory, more moderately-priced alternatives.

Happy explorations and ¡Buena suerte!