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In This Issue
Big brand Rioja No artisanal wine, Martin Codax of Galicia joins with giant Gallo to produce a surprisingly appealing and affordable Rioja.
Big brand Rioja
If you enjoy Spanish wine, the chances are you've heard of Martin Codax. Named for a medieval Spanish troubadour and using his lute as logo, Martin Codax is a large wine-grower cooperative on the Atlantic coast of Galicia in Northwestern Spain.
Known for its crisp, white Albariño wine, Codax ships some 8 million bottles to the U.S. every year, making it a major player even before giant Gallo teamed up with the co-op in 2007 as its exclusive American distributor.
But when I ran across a Martin Codax Rioja the other day ... now, that was a surprise. As it turns out, it's Gallo's goal to make Codax the largest supplier of Spanish wines in the U.S., and pasting the familiar Codax label on a Rioja is part of that plan.
According to published sources, the red - although it's labeled "Rioja Tempranillo" presumably to satisfy the varietal-curious U.S. marketplace, is actually a blend of 86 percent Tempranillo with the regional grape Mazuelo. Its proprietary name "Ergo," Latin for "therefore," is actually a more prosaic acronym for "Ebro River Grape Origin." Like most RIojas, it spends a little time in oak barrels, but fresh black-cherry fruit dominates its aromas and flavors; it's made for drinking young. You'll find my notes below.
We're looking at the wines of Rioja in this month's Wine Focus.
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Martin Codax 2006 "Ergo" Rioja Tempranillo ($12.99)
Very dark blackish-purple, a shiny patent-leather look, clear violet at the edge. Simple but fresh, young and primary aromas, cherries and vanilla. Bright and tangy cherry fruit on the palate, with plenty of fresh-fruit acidity for balance and food-friendliness. Tannins evident only as a slight puckery quality in the long, juicy-cherry finish. A bit closed in youth; pouring out a couple of glasses with splashy aeration about an hour in advance helped it open up in time for dinner. U.S. importer: Martin Codax USA (Gallo), Hayward, Calif. (Jan 12, 2009)
FOOD MATCH: Good with red meat in general; it made an outstanding match with beef short ribs, simmered, deconstructed and defatted, then braised in their own gravy with onions.
VALUE: A fine Rioja at an affordable price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking very well now, and likely designed for the shorter term, but you needn't be in any hurry to drink it, as it will certainly hold and might evolve with a few years' cellar time.
The Martin Codax Website apparently deals entirely with the Albariño; it is published in Spanish, English and Galego, the dialect of Galicia. Here's the home page:
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