Value from Spain
Wine travel is fun, not least because winery tastings provide an unusual opportunity to taste wines so hard-to-get and frankly expensive that you'll rarely have a chance to try them at home.
But does a weeklong diet of pricey Bordeaux first-growths and other high-end goodies spoil the wine lover's palate for everyday stuff?
Just to be sure, I put my bargain-seeking taste buds to the test this week, choosing a good, low-price Spanish wine for one of our first dinners back at home. I'm pleased to report that the $6 Protocolo 2000 Vino de la Tierra de Manchuela meets all my criteria for value: Good balance, good fruit, no obvious flaws, and flavor interest that goes well beyond bland and boring. A wine that can't meet this simple standard is no value at any price.
This wine is one of the many labels produced by Dominio de Eguren, a large, respected Spanish producer perhaps best known for Sierra Cantabria Rioja and its high-end San Vicente line. Its budget red wines, Protocolo (from La Mancha, legendary home of Don Quixote) and Codice (from Castilla, the ancient seat of royal Spain) are also made from Rioja's Tempranillo grape, and both qualify as bargains.
Here are my notes on the Protocolo, tasted this week, and a previously unreported note from my files on the current Codice release, tasted last autumn.
Protocolo 2000 Vino de la Tierra de Manchuela ($5.99)
Dark ruby, with reddish-orange glints, this hearty Spanish red offers warm, grapey aromas with hints of spice. Soft and juicy fruit flavors gain structure from crisp acidity. Simple, quaffable, with good balance to elevate it beyond the jug-wine level, and ample structure to marry well with food. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Fairfax, Ohio, and other regional importers. (May 19, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Very fine with a simple dish of braised boneless country-style pork spareribs and a quick orzo-and-cheese "risotto."
VALUE: Very good value, significantly exceeds its low-end price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not for cellaring, but it should hold for another year or two.
WEB LINK: Dominio de Eguren's Website, in Spanish and English, will be found at
Codice 2000 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla ($5.99)
This clear, dark reddish-purple wine's aromas focus on oaky vanilla, a scent that's pleasant enough, though dominated more by wood than fruit. Happily, though, ripe black fruit comes through on the palate, tart cherries and soft acidity that offers a lactic, almost milky tang. Like its partner, it's on the simple side but offers plenty of flavor interest for the price in an easy-sipping, refresing quaff that goes well at the dinner table. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Fairfax, Ohio, and other regional importers. (Oct. 14, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Excellent with the quick variation on Ragu Bolognese featured in the Oct. 17, 2002 Wine Advisor FoodLetter,
VALUE: Fine value.
WHEN TO DRINK: The wine's oaky backbone might give it an extra year or two of aging capability, but it's not really made for cellaring.
WEB LINKS: The winery's Codice fact sheet is online here:
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Call 1-800-777-4443 to join. For more information visit the California Wine Club website at
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Wednesday, May 21, 2003