Photo Credit: Dan Watkins
As the names may be unfamiliar and the varieties obscure, Spanish wine can be hard to grasp. But it’s well worth the effort. Remember, this is the homeland of garnacha, otherwise known as grenache on the other side of the Pyrenees. Done well, it’s probably the world’s most underrated red varietal. To be sure, the country with the largest grapevine acreage in the world turns out an ocean of plonk. But when she’s good, she is very, very good.
In a recent blind tasting of moderately priced reds, I came away with a number of strong impressions. Direct and sensual (with intensity somewhere between pinot noir and cabernet), the following winners are anytime wines, versatile with food or intriguing enough to quaff on their own.
Tarima Monastrell Alicante, 2010
$10 at Cambridge Wine & Spirits | Cambridge
The spot where these grapes are grown is inland at a high desert elevation. Monastrell, otherwise known as mourvèdre, is a variety that produces powerhouse wines with a wild, gamey edge. Not this baby. It has a ripe, blueberry freshness balanced with hints of vanilla, leather and oak notes. Mellow and a bit tart on the palate, it has a berry taste that lingers. Serve this at your next dinner party and astound your friends with the price.
Los Dos Campo de Borja, 2010
$8 at Liquor World | Cambridge
Given the low cost, wines from the mountainous Campo de Borja region deliver amazing results. This one is a 50/50 blend of garnacha and syrah with a creamy texture upfront. Fragrant with ripe cherry, chocolate, lavender and toast, the wine has a taste that’s almost sweet, with coffee and herb accents. This unoaked blend is a real find.
Muga Reserva Rioja, 2007
$33 at Federal Wine & Spirits | Boston
Rioja is the aristocrat of Spanish reds, but many wines from this region are coasting. Not Muga. Even with 30 months in wood, it tastes fresh and savory, the slightly rustic, earthy notes enveloped in a delicious stew of cooked cherry, herbs and minerals. This is a wine you can age, or enjoy a bottle now with swordfish with a tapenade.