In winemaking terms, if Spain and France were Aesop's famous racing hare and tortoise, Spain would definitely be the tortoise.
After years of languishing in the shadows cast by their more illustrious French neighbour, Spanish winemakers have finally come from behind, to make some of the most impressive red wines in the world.
The best thing is, they don't break the bank, but you'll have to find them in wine stores or online rather than in your local supermarket.
Spain is blessed with an incredibly diverse climate, terrain and culture from north to south.
Hence, it is not only powerful, structured red wines that do best in this vast country, although they are the most famous.
Add to your Spanish drinks list some of the brightest, boldest-tasting pink rosé made anywhere today, and the great, salty sherries of the south.
This week, though, we'll stick to the top-tasting, modern Spanish reds, which have shed the dusty flavours of old and now wear the flash new coat of high quality, without the attendant price tags.
Whether you're looking for a barbecue red, a delicious drink mid-week at home, or something to impress at your next dinner party, this trio easily over-deliver on flavour, drinkability and value for money.
2004 Montgo Yecla Monastrell Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon $19-$20
If you've been bowled over by the high quality and low prices of Australian reds, check out this massively powerful red from Spain. It's a blend of the Spanish grape, monastrell, with better known shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Its broad shoulders are balanced with fresh fruit flavours and a long, elegant finish.
Where to buy: The Wine Importer, email email@example.com
2004 Torres Sangre de Toro $16-$18
Remember this? A blast from the past it may be, but now this well-known Spanish red sports a screwcap, it's better in quality, with brighter fruit flavours and has a longer finish than ever before.
2001 Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva $24-$25
This stunning aged red is the best Spanish red you'll find for $25 or less. I've also twice voted it "wine of the year" in my book, The Indispensable Wine Guide (HarperCollins, $25.99).
Why? Character and balance are the keys to its fantastic fresh but savoury flavours. To find a wine that is already aged at the time it's hitting the market is incredibly unusual in this country. It comes from the Spanish wine dynasty, Bodegas Chivite. Founded in 1647 and modernised in 1990, it's run today by three 11th-generation members of the Chivite family, Julin, Carlos and Fernando. This wine is made from Spain's tempranillo grape, blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. A powerful blend of old and new.
Where to buy: Fine Wine Delivery Company (Auckland), Regional Wines (Wellington), Vino Fino (Christchurch) and specialist stores. Or contact Bennett & Deller, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Joelle Thomson is wine editor and associate editor of Mindfood, an integrated online and news-stand magazine, out in March.
- Detours, HoS