Posts Tagged ‘tres picos’

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…

Re-post: Affordable Luxuries of the Wine World: Garnacha versus Grenache

September 20, 2012 3 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Affordable Luxuries” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

If you are interested as to “why now”, it is simple – Friday, September 21st is International #GrenacheDay – and I don’t have time to write the whole new post. I think this re-post will fit the bill quite well. Here it is.

So far we talked about and compared Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage wines, as well as sweet wines in our quest for “affordable luxuries” of the wine world. If you remember, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage are made out of the grape called Syrah. Today we are going to talk about Syrah’s brethren (totally unrelated, though), the grape which is often blended together with Syrah – we are going to talk about Grenache.

Grenache is one of the main winemaking red grapes in the world. It used to be the most planted red grape in the world, with biggest planting area being in Spain (Spain actually has the biggest area planted with grapes in the entire world). Grenache, which is known under the name of Garnacha in Spain, lost its “biggest plantings” status in Spain as a lot of vineyards were replanted with other grapes, such as Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and France took “the most planted” helm now.

Grenache is used in winemaking both by itself and as part of the blend. In Spain, Grenache, or rather Garnacha, is main ingredient of the blend in wines of Priorat, many of which have cult status, such as Clos Mogador. In another region, Campo de Borja, it produces amazing single grape wines, for instance, at Bodegas Alto Moncayo. In France, it is a key ingredient in wines of Southern Rhone, with Chateauneuf-du-Pape being most famous – there it is typically blended with Syrah. It is also used in production of Rose wines in Provence. In Australia, it is used in so called GSM wines, where GSM is simply an abbreviation for Grenache Syrah Mourvedre, three grapes used in production of the GSM wines. In California, it is very successfully used in production of the Rhone-style wines mostly in the Central Coast area, with many of the wines also achieving a cult status (which simply means that production is limited and wines are very hard to get – of course because they are good). As usual, you can take a look at the Grenache article in Wikipedia, which provides great depth of information.

When it comes to “affordable luxuries”, there are plenty of wines which can be compared. As this is Grenache versus Garnacha battle, let’s focus on pure Grenache wines. Of course blends would be fun to look at as well, but finding some of the better ones is a challenge in itself, so let’s stay our course.

So today’s contenders are: 2009 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha Campo de Borja from Spain and 2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel Cuvee Alexis Establet Chateauneuf-du-Pape from France. It can’t get any better than that – we have here if not two of the best, then at least two of the most classic areas to produce Grenache wines. Both wines are 100% Grenache – which is very unusual for Chateauneauf-du-Pape, where blend can contain up to 13 different grapes.

Let’s start with 2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel Cuvee Alexis Establet Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The wine is unfortunately way too young (give it 8-10 years, if you have enough patience, of course), but it was very drinkable from the get go – at least you get a punch of tannins at about 10 seconds after the first sip. It is very classic Grenache, with purple color, violets on the nose, and perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Don’t want to repeat myself, but it will be gorgeous – given enough time to mature.

2009 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha Campo de Borja is a full bodied wine, with hint of earthiness on the palate, with lots of dark fruit and hint of pepper. You can also detect violets, hint of cedar, spice box and tar. With supple tannins and medium finish, this wine is more approachable now than the previous one, but will also improve with time.

Is one of those wines better than the other? It is very hard to tell. And for the affordable luxuries, Tres Picos Garnacha costs about $12, and Domaine du Grand Tinel is about $70, so make your choice. And while you will be deciding, I’m going to raise my glass to the pleasures of wine discoveries – cheers!

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