One of the great bargains today are wines from Spain. While prices climbed in formerly inexpensive Australian labels and quality waned in other regions’ wine offerings, Spain has continued to export high quality, interesting wines ranging in price from $8–$20.
Generally, these are immediately drinkable wines that tend to reflect the easy going, fun–loving nature of the Spanish people.
Among the wines are those made from or blended with the Tempranillo grape. It’s the most important red wine varietal for both everyday and world–class Spanish wines. Frequently, the wines made from Tempranillo have aromas of black cherry fruit, as well as leather and earthy qualities – sometimes it’s reminiscent of great Pinot Noir.
Look for Tempranillo from two regions: Ribera del Duero and the Rioja. In the Duero, the wines are commonly blended with Cabernet and/or Merlot. While in the Rioja it is more frequently blended with Garnacha (Grenache).
Juan Manuel Rodriguez, proprietor of Rancho Alegre, is “:Mr. Tempranillo.” I knew I could find a nice selection at the restaurant’s MLK location – and that Juan Manuel would be happy to pour a flight for me to taste.
Here’s what I found:
Big Bang 2007 Exopto: Blended from 50 percent Garnacha, 40 percent Tempranillo and 10 percent Graciano, this wine’s dark ruby color offers exceptionally spicy aromas along with floral notes, cassis, cherry and plum. It has layers of flavor, excellent acidity, savory fruit and enough structure to evolve for 2–3 years. Around $20.
Zestos 2009: Another blend, this one’s half high altitude Tempranillo and half old vine Garnacha. Expect big fruit from the bold characteristics of the Garnacha. This will pair beautifully with savory, gamey meats like lamb or aged Manchego cheese.
2006 Rivarey: This all–Tempranillo wine gets 12 months of aging in American oak and delivers as a near perfect expression of its terroir. Earthy, spicy and rich – layers of complexity peel away as this wine ages in the glass. A nice roasted fig subtlety leaves your taste buds wanting more. A real bargain at $8–$10.
Martin Codax Ergo: Martin Codax is well known in Spain for its quality Albari o white wines produced in the Rias Baixas region of northwest Spain, but also has a winery in La Rioja. This value–packed red is teeming with new world fruit notes and spice, along with more traditional wood influence and lots of food friendly tannins.
The Martin C dax Ergo Rioja is 86 percent Tempranillo and 14 percent Mazuelo (one of the several Spanish names for Carignan), sourced from the Rioja Alta. Much of the wine is aged eight months in American oak. Sweet oak, toast and vanilla come as primary aromas, with red berries and citrus peel. The wine is very well balanced and fully palate friendly, bringing cocoa, tobacco, dried herb, deep ripe cherry and red berry. Another superior value at $14.
It’s a real eye–opener to taste a few of these wines together –and its makes for a great fiesta with friends. Grill some meats and veggies, slice some Spanish cheese and enjoy it all with Tempranillo.