If Spanish wine is the best value in the world, Rioja crianza may be the best value in Spanish red wine. Every once in a while I’ll run into a clunker, but almost all deliver stunning quality and cost $10, or not much more. The Beronia Rioja crianza ($11, sample, 13.5%) is no exception.
Wine terms first: Rioja, in northern Spain, is the country’s best-known wine region, and where tempranillo is used to make the wine. Crianza is one of three levels of Rioja, followed by reserva and gran reserva (and there is also, thanks to the EU, a fourth style wine simply called tempranillo). Each level requires a specific amount of oak and bottle aging; for crianza, it’s a year oak and at least a couple of months in the bottle. That’s why it’s the least expensive of the three.
The Beronia isn’t quite as traditional as some — the Ramon Bilboa crianza, for one, also a steal at $12 — and shows a more modern approach. That means softer and more approachable cherry fruit, and a little less zingy feel in the mouth. But there is still enough acidity to be Rioja, and enough earthiness to speak to the region’s terroir.
Pair this with most meat or poultry, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well it goes with grilled shrimp with a paprika edge.