Spanish Wine Recommendations, Part 4 – Where to Buy Spanish Wines
As I was rather hoping for, this post is becoming a living thing – I started receiving suggestions for the additional sources of Spanish wines in different regions of the world – and will be updating the post with those. If you have suggestions of your own – please reach out!
And we are back with the Spanish wine recommendations series. In the previous three posts I talked about my long-time favorite ( and therefore, recommended) Spanish wines in the three different price categories – under $20, from $20 to $50, and from $50 to infinity. Now I want to talk about seemingly a non-subject – where can you buy Spanish wines.
This seems to be a non-subject as the answer is simple – in the wine store, duh. Well, of course, but it is not that fast and easy. Most of the wine stores in US would have a section of the Spanish wines – however, majority of the wines in that section will be the “value wines” – unknown producers, unknown wines, limited selection of Rioja of unknown pedigree and some of the better names at often inflated prices. You really need a “specialty retailer”, someone who has a passion for the Spanish wines, to be able to buy exactly what you want at a price you want.
So in this post, I will share with you what I know about buying the Spanish wines. As I live in US, I will give you first-hand recommendations based on my own buying experience. Well, US is a big country, and I live in a close proximity to New York, so again, this is where my experiences come from. However, I will include some store recommendations for other areas in US, and I will do the same for the Europe and Australia- but this will be mostly based on the information I found on Internet, not something I know myself. Of course my recommendations will include both online and “brick and mortar” sources – as you can imagine, there is only a handful of the physical wine stores I’m familiar with, so most of the recommendations will pertain to the online stores.
Before we begin talking about the stores, I want to make a few general comments about buying Spanish wines. It may be even just one comment – when it comes to the Spanish wines, the information on the wine label matters. Another “duh moment”? Well, may be it is, but still – I want to make sure it is something you clearly understand. The words such as Reserva or Gran Reserva are protected by the law – unlike US, for instance, where the words such as “Special Reserve” can appear on the bottle at winemaker’s desire, and actually mean nothing regarding the wine. Why is it important? Reserva typically cost more than Crianza, and Gran Reserva typically costs more than Reserva – and you need to understand that to avoid surprises and to be able to buy exactly what you intended to buy and at a right price. And the vintage and producer matter – of course, this is universal, no mater where the wine is coming from.
Okay, let’s now talk about good places to buy good Spanish wines from.
Before we get country-specific, let me elaborate on the first “duh moment” – the place to buy Spanish wine is at the wine store. It is definitely true, as a trusted wine retailer is your best source of the Spanish wines. To me, “trusted wine retailer” means exactly that – a person you trust with giving you the best deal and taking care of you. As in any other business, some retailers will be simply looking for the quick buck, but some will be there for the mutually beneficial, long term relationship – retailer gets paid, and you get an access to the wines you want at a price which makes sense. If you have a wine retailer you trust, this might be your best source of the Spanish wines, or at least, one of the best sources. But again, “trusted” is a key word here – and if you have a retailer like that, you are in luck, as hunting down good Spanish wines is a challenge.
One more (last!) general note: if you are looking for the particular wine (where to get it from) or just want to check if the price you see makes sense, Wine-Searcher is the place where you should start. Of course it has limitations – if the wine store, for instance, doesn’t sell online, you will not see it come up in the Wine-Searcher results. Also, even if you see the wine to be available in the particular store, especially if you plan to drive to the store, check with the store first if the wine is still available. And Wine-Searcher can’t tell you anything about the reputation and reliability of the store (had my share of issues). Still, it is a great tool to start your search. It is also available as an app on the mobile devices.
I have to start with my favorite wine store – the wine owned my friend Zak in Stamford, Connecticut – Cost Less Wines. Zak is exactly that “trusted retailer” – not just for me, but for hundreds and hundreds of his regular customers. The Spanish wines section in his store was built gradually over the last 2-3 years (your truly was a bit of a motivational factor, I have to modestly admit) – but at this point, Zak has an excellent selection – La Rioja Alta, R. Lopez Heredia, CVNE, Imperial, Bodegas Juan Gil, Alto Moncayo and many other wines I mentioned in my recommendations are readily available at his store. It is not just the selection – the prices are great too. For instance, you can’t even find 2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial in the stores anymore. Using Wine-searcher, I found one place online where this exact wine was still available – at $89 per bottle. Zak has this wine on the shelf as $29.99. Unfortunately, Coast Less Wines doesn’t sell online, but if you live in a reasonable proximity to Stamford and looking for a good Spanish wine at a good price, this store would worth a drive.
Next store I have to mention is called PJ Wine, and it is located in New York City. This store and its owner, Peter Yi, literally put Spanish wines for me on the map (Peter is incredibly passionate about Spanish wines). First I discovered the store online, while looking for some specific wine, and this is how I ended up on their mailing list. Then I got an email advertizing free Spanish Rioja seminar – I signed up, drove to the city – the rest was a history and a love from the first sip (especially a first sip of 1964 Rioja). PJ Wine sells both in the store and online, and their selection is nothing short of incredible, including lots of Rioja from the best years – 1964, 1978, 1994 and lots more – all in stock. Again, if you live in New York city or a close proximity, this store absolutely worth a special visit (just do me a favor – decide on your spending limit before you come there, or better yet, leave all credit cards at home and bring limited amount of cash, as once you will start shopping, you will not be able to stop – and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you). Online selection is equally excellent.
One more store I have a good experience with is the Bottle King in New Jersey. It is not just one store, it is a number of stores, mostly located in Northern New Jersey – plus an online store called The Wine Buyer. Overall Bottle King offers good selection of the Spanish wines at good prices. What is important to know about Bottle Kings, however, that the selection will vary from the store to the store, and most importantly, the selection and pricing online at The Wine Buyer might differ from the physical stores – stores often offer deals and discounts not available through the online outlet.
I wish I can offer you a selection of the stores in any of the large metropolis around the country, like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas or Denver – but I’m not aware of any of the “Spanish wine” specialty retailers. By the way, if you know of any good “Spanish wine” specialist stores in your areas – please let me know, I will be glad to amend the post.
Going all the way to the west coast, there is not a whole lot I can offer as well. However. there is one store I would like to mention – K&L Wine Merchants. They operate three stores in California, as well as an online store. At the time of this writing, the online store offered selection of about 330 Spanish wines, many with the reasonable prices, so I believe it is worth mentioning here.
Last two sources I would like to bring to your attention are both online only. First of all, my beloved Wine Til Sold Out, WTSO.com (also available as an app). While there are other sites with the similar model (Last Bottles, Last Call Wines and more), WTSO has the best deals when it comes to the Spanish Wines. Yes, you have to be on a look out, true (sign up for email and twitter updates from them), and when the deal shows up, you have to act quickly, but still, they have by far the best selection alongside of recommendations I made. Just to give you an example of a recent deal I got there – 2002 R. Lopez de Heredia Reserva, $23 at WTSO and about $35 (give or take) most anywhere else.
The last one for the US is the online store called Wine.com. To tell you the truth, I never bought anything from Wine.com myself, but I checked their inventory, and at the moment they are offering about 300 different Spanish wines, including many of the names I talked about in this series (CVNE, La Rioja Alta, Carchelo “C” etc.), and the prices seem to be reasonable, so I feel inclined to include them into my recommendations ( if you have a first hand experience with Wine.com, I would appreciate your comments below).
Okay, so let’s get things straight. As I live in US, I don’t have a first hand experience buying Spanish wines in Europe. So for the stores which I found, I made sure the selection looks good and the prices look reasonable. What I found was a link to an excellent article which pretty much summarizes the online sources for Spanish wines in Europe, so in essence, I only need to direct you to read this article here. Note that not all the stores in the article are equally reputable – for example, a reader told me that Uvinum is known to have problems (poor deliveries and bad customer service), so check the references before you will use them.
Now, this was the part of the original post: If you know if any wine stores with the good selection of Spanish wines (with good prices!) in your country in Europe – please let me know and I will be glad to add them to this post. Lastly, don’t forget that Wine-Searcher works internationally, so you can specify your country when searching for the specific wine.
As I have the reader suggestions now, I will include them below:
As recommended by Julian of Vino in Love:
“I highly recommend the online retailer www.vinos.de. They have a great selection (I mostly buy my Spanish wines from them). Vinos also has stores in Berlin and Munich for those who do not like to buy wine online.”
As recommended by Mathias of The Winecurious (some stores are reviewed in the Mathias’ blog, so check it out):
“For those in the UK I can strongly recommend Moreno Wines (http://www.morenowines.co.uk) in Maida Vale. They have an excellent selection of Spanish wines and are almost every other year awarded Spanish wine merchant of the year.
Quite unexpectedly for me, it appears that Spanish wines represent a tough love when it comes to Australia. I understand that Australia produces a lot of their own wine, but so does the United States and many other countries. Yet searching for La Rioja Alta and CVNE for the whole of Australia yield only one result. Many of the Australian wine store web site don’t recognize the word “Rioja” and suggest correcting it to “Rosado”. I reached out to The Wine Wankers, very popular and knowledgeable wines bloggers who happen to live in Australia, and I got a few recommendations, out of which I would like to mention Dan Murphy’s, which is a chain of the wine stores in Australia, where you can find at least some of the wines we talked about in this series. Well, not sure if Australia might be a next opportunity for the Spanish wines, but at least this is the story at the moment. Same as for all of my European friends – if you live an Australia and know of a wine store with a good Spanish wine selection, please let me know and I will be glad to include it here.
And we are done – now you have my Spanish wine recommendations as well as the some of the places where you can buy those wines. I still want to write one more post and summarize all we talked about here, therefore, I’m not waving good bye yet.
To be concluded…