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By Leo Bueno
It is not easy for me to find great wines under $10, but there are plenty of great values to be had for less than fifteen bucks.
We started the New Year with a Spanish Wine Tasting that recently took place at Sunset Corners Fine Wines in Miami. I knew these products were imported by the Jorge Ordoņez firm, which likely triggered a subconscious positive bias given my prior experience with this folk's stuff.
I tasted blind to price only, thus enhancing the possibility of favoritism towards a couple of the labels with which I was already familiar.
Here are the ones I enjoyed in our budget.
2003 Las Brisas (Rueda) ($9)
Generally we (well, at least I do) tend to associate Spanish whites with low fruit intensity. Hey, what can you expect from the country that produces Manzanilla Sherries? I was impressed by this product. It's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (not exactly a variety associated with Spain), Verdejo and Viura. The Sauvignon Blanc comes through in the nose clearly. My first impression was of a fruity California proudct. Light body. At a truly blind tasting, I bet few would correctly pick this wine as Spanish--proof that the wine trade is global indeed.
2002 Codice (Tierra de Castilla) ($8)
Light red color hints of a young wine. Slight taste of chocolate. The back label claims "a bouquet of warm summer strawberries with a hint of sweet vanilla," reminiscent of one of those three-flavored (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate) supermarket ice creams of yesteryear. Light tannins and dry.
2002 Viņa Alarba Old Vines Grenache (Calatayud) ($7)
Light color. Raisin in the nose. The label says "aromas of sweet cherries, dark plums"; feels like raisins to me. Slight hint of residual sugar in mouth. Low tannins. Short finish.
2003 Finca Luzon Merlot (Jumilla) ($9)
Some day total truth in labeling will come to the wine trade. By reading the bottle, you would never know that this wine is a blend of Merlot--at least 85%, else the federal entity regulating wine labels in the US, the TTB formerly known as the BATF, would have a cow -- and Mourvčdre. One should not need to get second hand information about the contents of wine bottles. OK, I'm stopping the rant right now. Gamay-like (as in Beaujolais) nose. Medium to light body. Well-balanced. Soft tannins. I would have never guessed Merlot was the principal variety. Give credit to Mr. Ordoņez for bringing atypical products into the US.
2003 Abadia Retuerta 2003 (Sardon de Duero) ($11)
A blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Notice the trend? Spanish producers are breaking with tradition and experimenting. I suspect that during the Francisco Franco era these winemakers would have gone to jail for miscegenation of the national grape with that of foreign neighbors. The color has a hint of purple. Some candy in the nose. Fruity mouth feel. Short finish but leaving a pleasant sensation.
2000 Borsao Reserva Selection (Campo de Borja) ($12)
Grenache (50%), Tempranillo (25%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%); nice of the winemaker to tell us so in the label. Allspice nose. Some tannins. Quick finish. Even though the label says "Aged sixteen months in French oak" my notes at the blind tasting said "no oak!!!" suspecting at first this was not an oaked wine. I do agree with "smoothness," the label's description of the wine's palate.
2002 Abadia Retuerta Rivola (Sardon de Duero) ($14)
Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend (winemaker did not bother to say how much of each). Light currants and some wood in the nose. Mild tannins. Reasonable acidity if a bit low; overall good balance.