It is difficult to find Spanish wine below 13% and even these seem to be in a minority these days with 14.5% making an increasing proportion of wines on offer - especially new wave reds. Do the Spanish really drink these winter-warmers in summer? 'Joven' and 'Verano' wines do not offer any mitigation in terms of alcohol it seems.
So when in El Corte Ingles we like to try to find the lowest alcohol wines just out of interest. There are a few styles of white which are satisfyingly low including Treixaduras from Ribeiro, the dreaded Zalemas in Condado de Heulva (Cadiz), a wine from Sevilla which looked nicely obscure and indeed some Verdejos from Rueda at 12.5% etc. The reds posed a greater challenge. At Casa Pablo in Marbella we had been warned not to expect anything from Ribeira del Duero and had been steered towards Rioja of all sections but there was tiddley squat under 13%.
So it seemed that the only place to look was on the bottom shelf at El Corte Ingles among the cheapest wines and lo, for E. 1.69 there was a 12% -er, the bottom of the class - with a satisfyingly cheap but decidedly uncheerful label "Catedral de Leon". The back label is one of those which tells you that the wine is made in our winery, that the colour is red and that it goes with appetisers, meats, roasts and cheeses etc. Not a word about the variety or varieties from which it is made of course.
We bought this bottle anyway, as much for the mystery as for the low alcohol and put it on ice while we logged into the producers' website www.bodegasvinosdeleon.es' There, in sharp contrast to the back and indeed front labels was a very well presented and informative descriprion of this excellent operation and its wines. We were thrilled to discover that the major constuent of our bottle was PRIETO PICUDO, one of Slotovino's recent additions to our hallowed Hall of Fame for rare grape varieties and a standout at our January tasting.
And so it was: the wine was delicious and excellent chilled with a lunch including Gazpacho and prawns, salad etc. So what was going on? Obviously the people responsible for marketing this excellent wine decided that the words Prieto Picudo would spell commercial death to their bottle and furthermore, only a crap name and design would persuade anyone to buy it, priced as it was at the bottom end of the spectrum with the lowest Abv in the shop. Marketing triumphs again, no doubt. Perhaps they sell masses of this wine. Good luck to them. We are sure the consumers don't complain. It's just a pity they may never know their enjoyment comes from Prieto Picudo and another opportunity to advance the cause of diversity is lost.