Hefty prices at Tate Britain, don’t they know there’s a recession!

On top of facing bad news from a commissioning editor, novelist Joseph Connolly not only has to face a paltry portion of chicken (at more than 30 quid!) but he can t even afford a whole bottle of wine at Tate Britain School hols – dontcha love em? You

If, in drinking the wines of Spain, you want to be in the best company, go for the sherries and smart sweet wines.

That's not to dismiss the gamut of dry wines, from happy cava and crisp whites to serious rich, tannic reds. But the true stars of the 2009 New Wave Spanish Wine Awards come at the end of the 105-wine list. Don't rely on my opinion alone: there were some very distinguished wine writers saying so, when the

line-up was revealed earlier this month.

The New Wave initiative, now in its fifth year, aims to highlight the best of Spain's myriad offerings available in the UK, and this year's choice is the top 10 per cent of those submitted. Attending the tasting of the award-winners is a splendid overview of the whole of vinous Spain.

What's fascinating, for example, is that rioja - though the largest representation, yet again - meets some very strong competition from lesser-known regions or alternative styles of wine. I'll move on to the sweet treats in a moment, but among the dry wines there were some very, very drinkable examples from places which feature in few wine drinkers' vocabularies: Alella, for example, Sierras de Malaga, Emporada, Valdeorras, Navarra...

One region which shone for whites was Rueda, where the verdejo grape rules - often in company with the somewhat similarly aromatic sauvignon blanc. It's an unlikely source of crisp, fragrant whites, but modern winemaking more than compensates for the difficulties of a continental climate. Unfortunately for summer picnickers, most of the New Wave examples are yet to reach mainstream UK outlets.

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The situation is much the same for quite a lot of the reds, too. So thank goodness for Tesco, which does Spain proud. All these New Wave are recommended: Tesco Old Vines Garnacha Campo de Borja (�5.50), Torres Vina Sol tempranillo Catalonia (�6), Vina Mayor Tesco Finest tempranillo Ribera del Duero (�7.55), Baron de Ebro Reserva 2004 rioja (�5.55 - a mature bargain).

But for rarer delights, Ham&High vinophiles are within easy reach of Moreno Wines, whose shop in Maryland Road, Maida Vale (ring 020-7286 0678 to check opening times), is a treasure trove. Strike gold - literally, in the colour of the first of what I thought were two of the very best wines in the list. Montecristo 2008, a moscatel from Navarra, has a herby, spicy edge to its sweetness, with freshness too.

At �12 for 50cl, it's remarkable value.

Capricho de Goya, another moscatel from the same producer, Bodegas Camilo Castilla, is more walnut than golden in colour, but is a stop-you-in-your-tracks wine, deeply perfumed, delectably rich and complex, and lingers even longer, again with wonderful freshness. The old 37.5cl packaging has been replaced by a smart new 50cl bottle, and �19 is well spent.

Moreno has a huge choice of dry wines, too, and I lost count of how many were in the New Wave list. But begin a memorable tour of the country with these: Inocente Fino, a clean, dry, yeasty, sherry which you can drink through all the savoury part of a meal, �8; Marques de Alella, a zesty, sweet-fruited white aperitif wine, �11; La Bascula The Charge viura, a great seafood-friendly white rioja, �10; Getaria Txomin Etxaniz, tongue-twisting but an enjoyably spritzy white from the Basque country, �15.

For more, go to the shop and be tempted...

Liz Sagues