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Budget-Friendly Spanish Wines to Savor

SOMM TV host Matt Kaner on why Spain offers superb value for money

Vicki Denig By June 1, 2021
A photo illustration of wine professional Matt Kaner with images of wine bottles and swirling red wine in the background.
Photo illustration by Allison Kahler.

Matt Kaner’s early love for gastronomy sparked an interest in wine and kindled a career that was soon to boom. He started with a stint at a retail store in Santa Barbara before moving to Los Angeles to help during the holidays at Silverlake Wine. Although he eventually became a manager there, Kaner had bigger ambitions in mind. 

In 2010, with his buddy Dustin Lancaster, he opened Bar Covell on Hollywood Blvd. This unique wine haven is now known for pouring up to 150 wines by the glass at a time, with no written list to be found. In 2015, Kaner and Lancaster joined forces with their friend David Gibbs to open a second vino-focused establishment, Augustine Wine Bar, which focuses on by-the-glass pours of vintage wines, some over 100 years old. 

Kaner now also serves as a wine brand ambassador and most recently has begun sharing his love of wine as a host and producer on SOMM TV. He’s also garnered numerous awards, including getting listed on Wine Enthusiast’s 2019 40 Under 40 and Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year 2013. Kaner plans to debut his first podcast, The History of Wine, this year. 

Kaner’s passion for Spanish wines, particularly those from Rioja, led him to these three picks from the region.

bottle of Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva

Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva 2015 ($20)

“Let’s hear it for another female-run winemaking team,” says Kaner. Bodegas LAN farms their vineyards without commercial fertilizers or pesticides, and celebrates the subzones of Rioja by cultivating and vinifying each vineyard site separately. They then blend them to create a Tempranillo reflective of the broader region. “A stunning memory I have from my visit to LAN is when I walked into their majestic barrel room for the first time,” says Kaner. “Never before have I seen so much wood. It made my jaw drop to the ground.” Kaner notes that the Rioja Reserva sees a minimum of 12 months in a combination of American and French oak, followed by 24 months of bottle aging at the bodega. For warm weather meals outdoors, this red wine’s got your back. “Open this stunner at your early summer barbecue to enjoy with grilled chicken, lamb chops, dry-aged ribeye, or a smoked brisket,” says Kaner. “It’s perfect for all the meats.”

bottle of Valserrano Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva. White wine from Rioja, Spain.

Valserrano Blanco Rioja Gran Reserva 2015 ($55)

Valserrano is run by the fourth and fifth generations of the de Simon family and is located in Villabuena de Álava, a significant town in the Rioja Alavesa subzone. “I first visited Pablo and his family back in 2013 and I’ve been back twice since,” says Kaner, adding that in his opinion White Rioja just doesn’t get enough love. Made from 100% handpicked Viura, a white grape also known as Macabeo, this white wine is perfect when sipped with lamb chops, paella, goat cheese, or seared scallops. “The extended oak aging gives delicate tannins and a developed bouquet that will intoxicate you before you ever take a sip,” says Kaner.

bottle of R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosé. Rosé from Rioja, Spain.

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 ($130)

López de Heredia’s property is located in Haro, the winemaking capital of Rioja. Unlike most rosé wines, this cuvée ages in the cellar before release: four years in barrel and an additional six years in bottle. “María José is the current generation who heads the winemaking team, and the rosado is the ace up her sleeve,” notes Kaner. “The estate’s 10-year-old Gran Reserva Rosado will blow your mind and open you up to the magic that comes with bottle aging, even in rosé.” Kaner says that the wine stands up to spicy Thai food and can also hold its own with Omakase sushi or grilled pork chops. “This is a versatile wine that will make you rethink all you think you know about rosé.”