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Spanish Wine Recommendations, Part 1 – Wines under $20

March 24, 2015 23 comments

List, list, list – who doesn’t like to make lists? Especially the lists of your favorites, where you basically regurgitate something familiar, and you can happily stumble on each and every entry, basking in the happy memories for a moment or three. Yep. That’s the wine list I’m talking about, people. Nope, not the restaurant wine list (that one more often than not is only a source of frustration) – the list of your favorite wines it is.

A short while ago, I was asked by one of the readers for some Spanish wine recommendations. Spanish wines as a group are probably my most favorite, so I happily engaged in the e-mail conversations. After few e-mail exchanges, I got the idea – how about I would simply create a list – a list of Spanish wines I would gladly recommend? Yep, I liked the idea, hence the post which I’m presenting to you.

Before we start, let me clarify a few things. First, I will split this list into the 3 parts – wines under $20, wines from $20 to $50, and the last one will be from $50 onward, with no limitations – no, Spanish wines can’t really compete with Petrus or DRC, but there are some wines there which would clearly require an expense account or lots and lots of passion. Another important note is that I will bring to your attention particular wines from the particular wineries – but for the most cases, without specifying the particular vintages – I tried absolute majority of recommended wines throughout the years, and wines had been always consistent, hence they are on the list. Ahh, and one more thing – I will not be trying to make balanced recommendation – the wines will be heavily skewed towards the reds – sorry about it. Okay, let’s get to it.

While I promised to focus on the reds, I have a few perennial favorites among Spanish whites which I have to mention.

White  Wines:

Bodegas La Cana Albariño – the wine is more round than a typical Albariño, with lesser acidity, but it is nevertheless delicious. Typically around $15.

Botani Moscatel Seco DO Sierras de Malaga – incredible aromatics followed by the dry, perfectly balanced body. One of my favorite summer wines. Around $16

Bodegas Angel Rodriguez Martinsancho Verdejo Rueda – might be the best Verdejo in Spain from a small artisan producer. Wonderfully complex. Around $16

Red Wines:

Let’s start with Rioja. Believe it or not, but good Rioja is hard to find in this price category, so here are few names which I know are consistent:

Bodegas LAN Rioja – one of the best values in Rioja, typically at $12 or less. Consistent, round, balanced. Not going to blow your mind – but not going to disappoint either. A perfect party wine too – often available in magnums.

CVNE Vina Real Rioja Crianza – outstanding introductory level Rioja from one of the best Rioja producers. Once you try it, you wouldn’t want to drink anything else. Typically around $15.

Grupo Olarra Bodegas Ondarre Reserva Rioja – soft and round, with nice brightness and acidity. A great introduction into the Rioja wines. Around $15.

Continuing with Tempranillo, here are a few more recommendations:

Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero DO – Ribera del Duero is a source of powerful, clean 100% Tempranillo wines – but there are practically none available for under $20. Emilio Moro is a happy exception at around $18. Layered wine with broad shoulders. Great introduction into the Ribera del Duero region.

Viña Mayor Reserva Ribera del Duero DO – another excellent Tempranillo rendition from Ribera del Duero – dark, concentrated and polished. Can be found under $20.

Bodegas Ochoa Tempranillo Crianza Navarra – Tempranillo is the most planted red grape in Spain, so of course the wines are made everywhere. This wine is an excellent rendition of Tempranillo – round, polished, with nice fruit and traditional tobacco notes. Around $16.

Bodegas Volver Volver Red Wine DO La Mancha – another Tempranillo rendition, this one simply bursting with raw power. Powerful, brooding, very muscular wine – which is a great pleasure to drink at the same time. Around $16.

Here comes another darling of the Spanish red wine grapes – Garnacha, a.k.a. Grenache in the rest of the world.

Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha DO Campo de Borja – one of the best red wines you can buy overall for $12. Simple and delicious.

Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat, Priorat DOCa – okay, this is a Garnacha blend, but considering that this wine comes from Priorat, one of the most exclusive winemaking regions in Spain, you should hardly complain. An excellent introduction into the region – dialed back red fruit and mineral complexity. Around $15.

And the last from the best known traditional Spanish varietals – Monastrell, a.k.a. Mourevdre in the rest of the world.

Bodegas Luzón Luzón Red Wine, DO Jumilla – simple, fruity, approachable, and nicely balanced. Almost an exception in this list at about $10.

Bodegas Carchelo Carchelo “C” Red Wine, DO Jumilla – a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. After my first encounter with this wine I coined the term “dangerous wine” (or at least I think this was the wine) – what makes this wine dangerous is the fact that after the very first sip you can’t stop until the bottle is empty. Perfect balance of fruit and power. Around $15.

Torres Atrium Merlot, Penedes – as a fun fact, did you know that Torres is the biggest wine producer in Spain? Well, this might not be a fair recommendation, but still. I had this wine only once, but it was extremely memorable. The recommendation might be not fair as I’m not sure you can get it in the store – in Connecticut, it reserved for the restaurants only. I had it in Florida in a restaurant for $26, and if you will be able to buy it in the store, it would be around $12. If you can find it anywhere – go for it, as the wine is simply stunning, with or without taking the price into account.

Before we part, one more note. Outside of well-known grape varieties, such as Tempranillo, Garnacha and Monastrell, don’t be afraid to take the risk with lesser known Spanish varietals in the under $20 range. Look for the white wines made from Godello, or the reds made from Mencia, Bobal, Trepat and the others – there is a good chance you will not be disappointed.

And we are done! I was not trying to give you a comprehensive list – theses are all my favorites, you can just print this post and go to your local wine store, if you feel inclined, and then we can compare notes. The next post will cover wines in the $20 – $50 range – there are lots of treats there, my mouth starts watering as soon as I start thinking about those.

To be continued…

Tempranillo and My [Successful!] DIY Experience

November 9, 2012 8 comments

I guess you are wondering what is the relation between Tempranillo and Do-It-Yorself, and if I started making my own wine. Rest assured – there are no plans for “Chateau Talk-a-Vino” in foreseeable future, no need to be scared. But – my “successful DIY experience” has direct relationship with wine, so let me tell you about it first, despite the fact that today is International Tempranillo Day and we actually have to be talking about Tempranillo wines.

About a week ago I noticed strange clicking sound in the kitchen. Something clicks, not too loud. Few minutes later, another click, and then again – I think you got the picture. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like any unexplained sounds in the house. If you hear something which you are not supposed to hear, that often means trouble. And somehow this clicking sound is associated in my mind with electricity, which I like even less.

Next day – the same story. I’m puzzled, but still, I have to let it go, as I have no idea what this can be.

Then, while sitting at the table, my eyesight stops at the wine fridge, and I see the temperature. Big red sign reads “75”.

75! Do you know the proper storage temperature for the wine? Yes, it is 55, not 75 at all! Do you want to guess the first word which comes to my mind? Yes, you are absolutely correct, that one and you are right about the second one too.

I unplug the fridge, wait a few minutes, plug it back – no effect, and then I hear the clicking sound. Okay, so as it always goes in life, I just got good news and bad news at the same time. Good news – the source of the clicking noise is discovered. Bad news – my wine fridge is busted. It is not new, okay, but it holds about 60 bottles of wine… And new fridge is definitely not budgeted 😦

Okay, google to the rescue. Fridge is unloaded, and I start trying different suggestions from internet. I even found an official troubleshooting guide for my Vinotemp VT-60, and went step by step as recommended. No, it is not the control card, and it seems that the next suggestion from the troubleshooting guide simply recommends replacing the compressor, which not only requires a new compressor, but also some good welding skills and equipment, which is definitely out of my league. Not good. Need better advice, please!

I decided to start looking for just troubleshooting around different parts. LG compressor. Found full spec and the manual – no help. Okay, what is this little cover on the side? I guess it is the relay some people referred to in the posts I saw. I see the part number (P6R8MC), put it in google, and… this blog post comes up, where someone named Chad Munkers is talking exactly about my fridge! Okay, step by step, similar to what I did, yes, the relay and overload protector, and if I will disassemble this small part, take a little disk out, flip, put it back it will magically work? Seriously? Another 15 minutes, put the plug back in – ahh, I love that sound! This is how working wine fridge sounds like! Here are some pictures for you  – these are just random, and all the actually useful pictures can be found in the blog post shown above:

Wine fridge – view from the back

some tools

 

and some parts…

Sorry for sharing in such a detail – a lot of my DIY, or may be rather FIY (Fix-It-Yourself) projects are not so successful – for instance, I fully disassembled our Nintendo Wii (twice), cleaned it up and then even replaced the laser head – only to throw it out later, still not working. So you can see how successful revitalization of the wine fridge made me happy.

And now – to the wine! My Tempranillo wine for today’s International Tempranillo Day was 2004 Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva DOC ($16.98, 13.5% ABV). 2004 was outstanding year for Rioja, one of the best vintages ever. This wine was perfectly drinkable from the get go – nice dark fruit on the nose, the same on the palate with some cherries, raspberries, touch of plums and cedar box notes, perfect acidity and soft tannins. Very balanced and enjoyable. The wine was practically unchanged on the second day, so I’m sure it will last quite well in the cellar. Drinkability: 8-.

That’s all for today, folks. Hope your Tempranillo Day experience was great, and I would love to hear about it. Cheers!

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