As Spain continues to forge ahead as a major exporter of wines, regional styles that were once found only in Spain are finding their way to our shores.
As vineyard land grows more expensive in the recognised Denominación de Origen regions, those who wish to produce wine at everyday prices must look elsewhere for quality fruit. The once humble Vino de la Tierra designation now includes many excellent wines, usually at the value end of the price bracket (though more high end exceptions to this general rule appear with each passing vintage).
This week we feature a handful of wines that come from Spain’s lesser known regions where familiar grape varieties can be made into wine at a fraction of the expense incurred in the more established and demarcated areas.
Additionally this week, just because I think they are so tasty, I offer up a couple of reds, one from Portugal and one from Argentina that will compliment whatever is for dinner without breaking the bank.
Las Colinas del Ebro Garnacha Blanca 2008 When we see Catalan wines made from 100 year old Garnacha Blanca they usually come from Priorat and are accompanied by a pretty hefty price tag. Colinas del Ebro is located in Terra Alta on Catlunya’s western edge and this lesser known region is the source for this tank fermented white wine that displays aromas of wildflowers and green herbs along with flavors that evoke white peach and green apple. $11.99
Maximo Blanco 2007 Bodegas Maximo, founded in 2002 by the Barón de Ley Group (best known for El Coto in Rioja)is dedicated to producing monovarietal wines in central Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region. Their white Viura (a grape more common to the Rioja region as well as in Catalunya where it is called Macabeo) is tank fermented (no oak) and displays gentle aromas of wet slate and chamomile tea to match flavors of green apple and grapefruit. $10.99
Maximo Tinto 2007 The red wine from Bodegas Maximo is made from Tempranillo and spends a period of six months in oak prior to bottling. The goal at Bodegas Maximo is to produce monovarietal wines at affordable prices. This red wine expresses the bright pie cherry fruit character of Tempranillo bolstered by a moderate level of oak barrel tannin. $10.99
Tres Ojos Tinto 2007 Tres Ojos Tinto, a favorite young red made from old vine Garnacha in DO Calatayud is back in the new 2007 vintage and sports a newly designed label and, more importantly, has traded the plasti-cork for the oh-so-user friendly screw top (please, do not fear the Stelvin closure for it is your friend ). $9.99
Maipe Malbec 2008 The new vintage of this popular Argentine red is composed of 100% hand harvested Malbec from 35 year old vines. 10% of the fermented wine spends 3 months in American oak before blending and bottling. Maipe Malbec is dark purple in color with expressive aromas of ripe berries and a bit of oak scent. Ripe dark berry flavors combine with notes of cocoa powder and earthy minerality on the finish. Fire up the grill and serve this wine alongside some steaks or kabobs and a bit of spicy chimichurri sauce. $9.99
Veedha Tinto 2007 Here is another great red from Portugal’s Douro Valley, source of numerous excellent wines these days. This one is young and expressive, blending traditional Douro varieties (mostly Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz) in a dark, bold style that will compliment spicy, grilled foods. $12.99
We love our light, summery white and rosado wines but sometimes a big, chewy, mature red wine is just what the moment requires. If you are in the mood for a formidable wine that will grab your attention and intrigue both your palate and your intellect, here are a couple of unique suggestions:
Carmelo Rodero Reserva 2004 Carmelo Rodero is a fourth generation grape grower and wine maker. His grandfather was one of the founding members of the local wine cooperative in Pedrosa back when the region was better known for producing sugar beets rather than grapes. Using the fruit from the family vineyards, including many parcels of rare old vines, Bodegas Rodero started making their own wine in 1991. Carmelo Rodero Reserva 2004 is a blend of 90% Tinto Fino (the local version of Tempranillo) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. After fermentation the wine spent 21 months in barrel (a mix of new and second use French and American oak) followed by an equivalent maturation period in the bottle before release. The final result is a powerful darkly colored wine that expresses rich fruit character intermingled with sweet oaky tannins and expressive minerality. $42.99
Flor de Grealó 2004 Vinya l’Hereu de Seró is a small family owned company with a long tradition of grape growing and wine making. The wines from Vinya l’Hereu are elaborated in the small village of Seró, located in D.O. Costers del Segre. The estate vineyards, all certified organic, are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot varieties. Flor de Grealó is a dark garnet colored wine with aromas of fresh earth, meat locker and rusty iron. Dark berry fruit character is supplemented with black olive and moderate oak barrel flavors. Underlying minerality adds weight and structure to the wine, balancing the ripe berry fruit. $34.99