The exact meaning of “la cuesta de enero” doesn’t immediately translate to English as it’s literally, “the uphill January”. When taken in a Spain context, this is however, a struggle very much felt in the country.

Typically everyone is broke from buying holiday gifts not just for the traditional Three Kings celebration but also Christmas, as well as all the festive meals and special drinks involved during this period. Then, as it’s a new calendar year, metro and train tickets go up, gas and electricity, postage as well, the heating bill come into effect, etc. While the Spanish government is, shockingly, trying to take measures to offset these issues by lowering the VAT on food, the fact is that if January were to be condensed into an acronym, it’d be, WTF?

Admittedly, it doesn’t seem that we’ve had only an ‘uphill January’ this year but more like an ‘uphill second half of 2022’ leading up to this point. New variants of Covid are looming on the horizon and pretty much everything has gone up in price whether that was warranted due to out-of-control fuel costs resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or then a lot of other increases that fell under then, “just because we could” category.

It’s for all these reasons that my quasi-annual list of excellent but affordable wines is even more needed now at the start of 2023, to bring a touch of joy to these uncertain times. Unless of course you’re doing Dry January, in which case I salute you and maybe I’d ask to consider a Dry July instead as it seems like a more sensible goal.

In looking back at wines I tasted or drank over the last year to recommend a selection from Spain it seems like everything really has gone up in price. Sure, you can get bottles for less than 10€ (usually at the supermarket) but you’re usually just cheating yourself. Having seen what winemakers and grape growers have been going through over the past year(s), the prices really are the prices and if something is too good to be true there’s often a reason for that. You’d be much better served in drinking less than paying 1-2€ less as in Spain, every Euro counts.

Thus I’ve rounded up a selection of 10 wines below for subscribers that retail for maximum 13€ or less here in Spain, with nearly half being well below 10€ such as these two Reservas I’d mentioned previously. I’ve no idea what they may end up at in your respective market given that transport costs went way, way up and then came way, way down.

Additionally, if looking to ‘splurge’ and pay up to 18€ a bottle, a couple of recommendation would be: Ortega Ezquerro – Garnacha 2019, Sabaté i Coca – Castellroig So Serè 2017, Sangenís i Vaqué Lo Bancal de Granatxa, Gritelles Siurana Negre, and Capçanes Costers del Gravet.

Also, if casting a glance outside of Spain I’d highly recommend the Domaine la Sarabande – Misterioso 2019 from Faugères, Southern France as well as Frecciarossa – Gli Orti 2020 and previously-covered Defilippi i Gessi – Crocetta 2021 from Oltrepò Pavese, Italy are some solid choices as well.

Otherwise, best wishes in the new year and let’s get back up the hill!


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