What's a Guelbenzu?
The appropriate response to "Guelbenzu," in case you were wondering, is not "gesundheit!" but "Yum!"
Pronouncing it "Gwell-ben-zoo" comes close enough to place your order for this delicious red Spanish wine, produced by a historic winery in the Navarra region that's been in the hands of the Guelbenzu family since 1843. Well-known in the 1800s (when Navarra exported a huge amount of wine to phylloxera-stricken France), the property in the Queiles River valley fell into disuse for a century until the Guelbenzu descendants brought it back to life during the 1980s.
I'm focusing on this wine today because it's a good example of a market niche that's growing rapidly in interest: Affordable but excellent wines from Spain that tend to fly below the radar screen of many wine critics and publications because they come from regions that aren't sought-after or well-known.
Navarra, an arid region in Basque country on the flanks of the Pyrenees, lies just north of the better-known Rioja region. The most popular grape there nowadays is Garnacha (the Spanish word for Grenache), but Tempranillo - the grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero - also thrives.
Guelbenzu turns Tempranillo into a modern blend, internationalizing the wine by mixing Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in proportions that vary from year to year. The 2000 vintage featured today contains 40 percent each of Tempranillo and Cabernet with 20 percent Merlot; it's aged for a year in oak barrels, but the producer holds oak flavors in restraint by using a combination of two-, three- and four-year-old casks rather than new oak, which can impart more obvious wood flavors to wine.
Coincidentally, in the process of interviewing local sommeliers for another story, I was intrigued to learn how consistently these restaurant-wine experts are recommending Spanish wines from less-known regions. Navarra, Jumilla (featured in the July 2 Wine Advisor), La Mancha, Valencia and Terra Alta come up again and again for reds; Rias Baixas and Valdeorras for whites, just to name a few.
I'll be looking at Spain regularly in my quest for affordable wines that rate as bargains for quality and value. Stay tuned!
Guelbenzu 2000 "Azul" Ribera del Queiles ($10.99)
Very dark ruby in color, this Spanish red offers appealing cherry-compote aromas that blend fresh black fruit, vanilla and spice. Ripe and juicy flavors follow the nose, tart-sweet black cherries with bright, snappy acidity to keep it in balance. Oak is present as a spicy note but doesn't dominate, and soft, barely perceptible tannins add an attractive textural dimension. A blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. U.S. importer: Classical Wines from Spain, Seattle. (July 12, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: The wine's fresh and forward fruit makes it a fine companion with pork chops simply sauteed with lots of garlic.
VALUE: Excellent value in the $10 range.
WHEN TO DRINK: Delicious now, and intended for immediate consumption. Still, its structure and balance suggest that it could hold up well for several years. At this affordable price, it would be worth putting a few away as a tasty experiment.
WEB LINK: The winery Website is online in Spanish, English, French and German. For the English-language entry page, click to
The California Wine Club:
Open the cellar door to California's most coveted wines!
The California Wine Club's Signature Series is an upper-level club featuring only the rarest and most coveted wines from California's most prominent boutique wineries. The Signature Series is limited to just 800 members and is not for everyone. Each two-bottle shipment averages between $75 and $125, including all shipping and handling. The selections are extraordinary ... library wines held in reserve, others covered in gold and silver medals with only a few cases remaining.
If you'd like to be a part of The California Wine Club's Signature Series, call 1-800-777-4443. Mention The 30 Second Wine Advisor and they'll send you 3 bottles for the price of 2 in your first shipment. For more information you can also visit
About sponsorship: How YOU can help
No, we're not asking for donations. Since launching WineLoversPage.com (then the Wine Bargain Page) in 1993 and starting The 30 Second Wine Advisor at the beginning of 1999, I've been committed to providing wine-appreciation information on the Web without any charge to readers ... ever.
But bills do have to be paid, and we've kept this venture afloat for a decade with the help of quality wine-related advertising partners like today's sponsor, The California Wine Club. Using the same simple premise as magazines, newspapers and television programs, advertisers pay us for the privilege of delivering a discreet commercial message to readers like you.
I accept as advertising partners only established wine-and-food-related businesses with a track record of service; businesses like California Wine Club, Chateau Palmer, Domaines Dillon (Chateau Haut-Brion), Brentwood Wine Co., Villa Banfi, Decanter, Wade's Wines, French Wine Explorers, WineCommune, K&L Wines, Garagiste Wines, Avalon Wines, Vinote, the Australian Wine Centre and many other past and present advertising partners from around the world that I have felt comfortable about personally recommending to you.
As we look forward to another 10 years of publication, and more, it's important that this support continue and grow, making it possible for me to support the costs of running WineLoversPage.com and distributing these E-mail publications.
You can help, not with donations but by your word-of-mouth support. If you have connections with wine-related businesses, whether it's as a consumer, employee or executive, I would be in your debt if you'll encourage them to consider joining us as advertising partners and sponsors.
You might point out to them that there is no quicker, better or more efficient way to deliver a wine-related message to wine lovers around the world than WineLoversPage.com. Because we're not encumbered by the costs of producing a print publication or television program, our operating costs are relatively low, and this benefits our advertising partners in the form of rates that the traditional media can't deliver. And because we've been around the Web longer than any other wine publication and enjoy wider readership, we offer a larger audience of readers than any other online wine publication. It's no surprise that advertising partners who've tried the competition tell us that the results - even from the big names in the wine-magazine world - simply don't compare.
If you're in a position to give advertising a try, or if you know someone who might, I'll be happy to provide more information. Please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Primitivo or Zinfandel? (July 11, 2003)
Wine-shipping barriers under attack (July 9, 2003)
Exploring Southern Italy (July 7, 2003)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Caprese revisited, and a useful link (July 10, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at email@example.com, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.
We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, July 14, 2003