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Wine Value Archive

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Wines of Spain

(For tasting notes on Sherry, see Wine Value Archive: Fortified Wines.)

Sierra Cantabria Cosecha 1995 Rioja ($6.99)
I usually think of Sierra Cantabria for its top-end Riojas, which offer startlingly good value in a wine of near world-class. Naturally I was intrigued to see a bargain-bin bottle with S.C.'s name on the label, a modest Rioja for seven bucks, with the vintage in such tiny type on the back label that I missed it at first. The verdict? Ummmm ... it's OK, but my socks remain snugly attached to my feet. Dark ruby color. Herbal, black-fruit and oak aromas. Soft fruit and flavor at first, with hints of fragrant black pepper, tart acidity and muted tannins showing up as it crosses the palate. Simple, pleasant table wine, a good value. Importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (April 7, 1997)

Vega Sindoa 1994 Navarra ($6.99)
I've been pleasantly impressed of late with the Spanish wines from Vega Sindoa for exceptional QPR. This Cabernet-Tempranillo blend from Navarra is about as good as it gets in this low-end niche. It's a slightly hazy ruby color with red-fruit and spicy oak aromas. Ripe cherry and apple flavors appear over lemon-tart acidity; simple but fresh, clean and lasting. It's 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Tempranillo. Importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (April 6, 1997)

Sierra Cantabria 1995 Codice Rioja ($7.99)
Sierra Cantabria's Codice line, almost always an excellent value, continues the tradition in the 1995: Really excellent wine for a single-digit price. (I have to note, though, that the 1992, the last vintage I've got in my records before this one, sold for $4.99. That's pretty significant inflation in three years' time!) Clear garnet color. Spicy oak over cherry-berry fruit aromas. Juicy black-fruit flavor, ripe and lush at first, with lemon-tart acidity becoming more evident in a medium-long finish. A bit of a "fruit bomb" and far from the traditional Rioja style, but a tasty quaffer nonetheless. Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va. (April 3, 1997)

Bodegas y Viñedos Alion Cosecha 1992 Ribera del Duero ($22.99)
Little brother of the renowned Vega Sicilia, Alion is a mighty fine Ribera del Duero in its own right, and although it's no low-end quaffer, it's still quite a buy at $23; in style and in quality it reminds me very much of Penfolds Bin 707, a bottle that's generally considered fairly priced at roughly double the toll of the Alion. Very dark ruby color, nearly opaque. Oaky vanilla and "weedy dill" bespeak oak, and plenty of it, but ripe black-fruit aromas punch through the wood. Juicy plum and black-cherry fruit flavors are built on a sturdy structure of lemon-tart acidity and firm tannins. Good clean fruit persists in a very long finish. Excellent wine. Importer: Europvin USA, Emeryville, Calif. (March 26, 1997)

Remelluri 1993 Rioja ($11.99)
Clear garnet. Attractive and aromatic, cedar and rose petals with subtle oaky vanillins. Light, juicy fruit flavor, follows the nose; definitely a Rioja in the new style, pleasant and accessible. Went very well with roast chicken. Importer: Willett Distributing Co., Alexandria, Ky. (March 22, 1997)

Sierra Cantabria 1990 Rioja Reserva ($11.99)
Clear dark ruby color. Pleasant scents of black cherries and oaky vanilla. Good crisp fruit and sweet oak, but it seems strangely light-bodied and thin for a Rioja Reserva. Plenty of good acidic structure and soft tannins suggesting aging potential, but there's a hole in the middle that leaves me feeling a bit disappointed. Importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (Dec. 6, 1996)

Bodegas Vilariño Cambados "Burgáns" 1995 Albariño Rias Baixas ($8.99)
Clear straw color. Appetizing mixed-fruit aroma -- pears and pineapple and an elusive hint of almond. Crisp, dry flavor, consistent with the nose, with a light, pleasant touch of bitterness in the finish. Very good wine, very good value. Importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (Nov. 27, 1996)

Hearty Catalan bargain
Demonstrating the principle that excellent wines from little-known regions often represent good value, I present this tasty treat from the Prioriato region of Tarragona in Catalunya (Catalan) in Northeastern Spain, a region known for its "black" wines made from Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignane).
Onix 1993 Priorat (Spain), ($5.99)
Inky dark ruby color. Ripe black-fruit and spicy oak aromas, hints of cloves and cinnamon. Mouth-filling cherry-berry fruit, lemony acidity and firm but palatable tannins. A big, full-bodied wine, not the least subtle but hearty and accessible, with clear potential for cellaring. Importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (Oct. 29, 1996)

Vega Sindoa 1995 Navarra (Spain) Viura/75% - Chardonnay/25% ($4.99)
Pale straw color. Floral and tropical fruit aromas with an aromatic whiff of pine, rather Chardonnay-like. Simple fruit flavor over lemon-tart acidity. Fresh, clean table wine, good value. (Viura, by the way, is Rioja dialect for Macabeo, a Spanish varietal best known for its role in White Rioja.) Importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (Nov. 7, 1996)

René Barbier 1993 Penedès (Spain) "Mediterranean Select" Merlot ($5.79)
Dark garnet in color, with good black-fruit and oaky vanilla aromas. Tasty black-cherry fruit flavor, firm and fresh, built on a solid acidic structure. Exceptional value. Importer: Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Calif. (Oct. 11, 1996)

Two Spanish Reds
A friend was in from out of town tonight, giving us a good excuse to go to De La Torres, Louisville's most excellent Castilian Spanish restaurant. Along with outstanding dinners, we enjoyed a couple of modest Spanish reds by the glass. Sorry, importer info was not available.
Siglo Saco 1992 Rioja ($4.25/glass, $19/bottle restaurant price)
Very dark ruby color. Pleasant black-fruit and oaky vanillin aromas; soft and juicy fruit flavor, a bit soft on the acid side, but good quaffing, went well with garlicky mussels, shrimp and mushroom-ham tapas. (Oct. 9, 1996).

Marques de Caceres 1992 Rioja ($5.50/glass, $22/bottle restaurant price)
Very dark, blackish purple color. Black-cherry and dark-chocolate aromas lead into full, ripe fruit flavors, oak present but restrained in a sturdy acidic structure. Lasting cherry-berry fruit in a long finish. Fine wine, an excellent match with both garlicky grilled lamb and a lemon and ginger-scented roast chicken. (Oct. 9, 1996)

Montecillo 1991 Viña Cumbrero Rioja ($7.99)
Clear garnet. Spicy oak and plummy fruit aromas; ripe, juicy fruit flavor with a good acidic structure. Oaky vanillins add interest without overwhelming the fruit. Good table wine and a good value. Importer: W. J. Deutsch & Sons Ltd., Armonk, N.Y. (Aug. 25, 1996)

René Barbier non-vintage Penedès (Spain) "Mediterranean White" ($4.99)
Clear pale gold with an almost imperceptible bronze hue. Minerals, bitter almond and cooking apples on the nose and palate; crisp, tart and dry, clean and fresh. Good food wine, and like the red from the same outfit tasted the other day, an exceptional value. Importer: Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Calif. (July 8, 1996)

Marqués de Cáceres 1994 "Satinela" Rioja ($5.99)
Clear pale straw color. Musky, grapefruit and a whiff of spearmint bubble gum. Moderate sweetness (3% residual sugar) without compensating acidity makes for a soft, "flabby" wine, particularly as it warms in the glass. A good entry wine for soft-drink fanciers, but not one I'd buy again, even at this low-end price. Importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Chester, Vt.; Robert Haas Selections. (July 8, 1996)

Faustino V 1990 Rioja ($9.99)
Dark garnet color. Fresh blueberry fruit and oaky vanilla in good balance on the nose (like a seal?) ... Extracted cherry-berry fruit and sweet oak flavors, so ripe it seems soft at first, but the lemon-squirt tang that seems to be a Faustino trademark clamps down in mid-palate. Clean and consistent in a long finish. Importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (July 7, 1996)

Faustino VII 1993 Rioja ($6.99)
Clear garnet color. Spicy oak and plummy fruit aromas; ripe, juice red-fruit flavor with sweet oak, tart, lemon-squirt acidity and soft tannins. Youthful but approachable; oak present but handled well. Delicious Rioja, and an outstanding value. Importer: Palm Bay Imports Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. (July 6, 1996)

René Barbier non-vintage Penedès (Spain) "Mediterranean Red" ($4.99)
Clear garnet color. Light floral and sandalwood aroma, odd but pleasant. Dry and fresh, good, tart red-fruit flavor with sufficient acidic structure. Surprisingly stylish for the price point; made a fine match with grilled lamb chops. Importer: Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Calif. (July 5, 1996)

Vega Sindoa 1995 Navarra (Spain) Tempranillo ($5.99)
Clear garnet, not too dark. Candied fruit scent, reminiscent of maraschino cherries. Flavor follows the nose, ripe and soft. Good quaffer, but a little short on acidic structure to serve well with food. Importer: Willett Distributing Co., Alexandria, Ky. (July 5, 1996)

Faustino I 1987 Tinto Gran Reserva Rioja ($15.99)
Dark ruby in color, with a full, rich aroma of black fruit with nuances of oaky vanilla. Very youthful on the palate, with ripe, juicy black-cherry fruit and sweet oak playing a dance with lemon-squirt acidity and soft but perceptible tannins; these flavors remain consistent into a very long, clean finish. A lot of complexity here, and in contrast with many Riojas, the oak, although certainly present, is held in stylish restraint. Very fine wine. Importer: Palm Bay Imports Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. (July 4, 1996)

Marques de Caceres 1994 White Rioja ($7.49)
Clear, light straw color. Pleasant, simple floral scent. Crisp and tart on the palate, simple and rather neutral fruit. Nice sipping on a summery evening, and went well with a Thai salad, but it's nothing to write home about. Appropriate price for the value; inexpensive modern white Rioja, like inexpensive modern Italian, Rhone and California whites, rarely knocks one's socks off. Importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Robert Haas Selections, Chester, Vt. (May 18, 1996)

Sierra Cantabria Cosecha 1990 Rioja ($6.99)
Clear, dark garnet color. Oaky vanilla and ripe black-cherry aromas. Big, extracted fruit and sweet oak steps out in front, but the acidic structure is there to hold it together, and it all comes together in a delicious, if not overlong, finish. Excellent value. Last tasted Dec. 7, 1996; little changed since then. Importer: Willett Distributing Co., Alexandria, Ky. (May 17, 1996)

Marqués de Càceres 1992 Rioja ($8.79)
Clear garnet color, with an appetizing aroma of red fruit -- apple-skin and raspberries. Extracted fruit flavors follow the nose, so fruity that it seems soft at first, but turns crisp and dry as it crosses the palate. Oak present but held in restraint. Well-balanced table wine, made a fine match with grilled lamb chops. Importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Robert Haas Selections, Chester, Vt. (May 13, 1996)

Viña Borja 1995 Campo de Borja ($4.99)
Borsao 1995 Campo de Borja ($5.49)

Reported together because, as best I can tell after a "blind" review, these two wines from the same region and maker are identical. Clear, dark ruby color, with an aroma and flavor of warm, plummy fruit. Soft and juicy on the palate, with fresh black-cherry fruit and modest acidity. Tasty food wines and very good value; went well with a Sicilian beef stew over pasta with lots of Parmigiano. Importer: Kysela Per & Fils Ltd., Winchester, Va. (May 1, 1996)

Remelluri 1991 Rioja Reserva ($10.99)
Clear garnet color. Good rich aromas of black fruit, spicy oak and whiffs of earthy "forest floor." Very ripe black-fruit flavor, full and rich, laced up with tart, lemony acidity and firm but accessible tannins. Went particularly well with a tannin-wiping rare T-bone from the grill. Importer: Willett Distributing Inc., Alexandria, Ky. (March 30, 1996)

Bodegas de Vilarino 1993 "Martin Codax" Rias Baixas (Spain) Albariño ($13.99)
Clear straw color. Rich, elusive scents, peaches and floral notes and something like hazelnuts. Ripe and mouth-filling fruit flavor, soft but with sufficient acidity for balance; good hazelnut and bitter-almond nuances linger in a long finish. This excellent white wine from Spain is rather rare in the U.S. Interpreting the label: Bodegas de Vilarino is the winery; Rias Baixas is the delimited wine region ("Denominacion de Origen" in Spain); Albariño is the white-grape varietal; and Martin Codax is a proprietary name for this wine, honoring a 13th century Galician troubadour of the same name "whose music celebrated love and wine." Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils Ltd., Winchester, Va. (March 29, 1996)

Bodegas Muga 1990 Rioja Reserva ($11.99)
Dark garnet in color. A bowl of red-fruit aromas -- plums, cherries and blackberries, ripe and fresh. Full, juicy fruit and sweet oak flavors, soft and accessible; firm tannins and a sturdy acidic structure become more evident as the wine crosses the palate. Good red-fruit flavors linger in a very long finish. This is a very fine wine indeed, and an exceptional value. Importer: Willett Distributing Co., Alexandria, Ky. (March 13, 1996)

Bodegas Sierra Cantabria 1992 Codice Rioja ($4.99)
Clear dark ruby color. Luscious cherry-berry, herbal and oaky vanilla aroma notes. Extracted mixed-berry fruit flavor with sweet American oak -- a "fruit bomb," framed by wood; somewhat reminiscent of Bordeaux, but with posterized colors. Still, it's a very good wine and an outstanding value. Importer: Willett Distributing Inc., Alexandria, Ky. (Dec. 20, 1995)

Sierra Cantabria (Spain) Cosecha 1990 Rioja ($6.99)
Clear garnet; a boatload of fruit on the nose, ripe cherries and oaky vanillins. Huge, extracted cherry fruit and sweet oak flavors; dries up a little in mid-palate and finishes short, but it's still remarkably fruity and appealing, and great quality for the price. Importer: Willett Distributing Inc., Alexandria, Ky. (Dec. 7, 1995)

Carchelo 1994 Jumilla (Spain) Monastrell ($5.99)
Dark garnet color, with a perfumed red-fruit aroma, raspberry jam, with faint "forest floor" notes. Dry and tart, juicy cherry-berry fruit with the trademark "tree-bark" nuances of Mourvedre (known in Spain as Monastrell). Also 25% Merlot in the cuvee. Importer: Classical Wines From Spain, Seattle. (Nov. 4, 1995)

All my wine-tasting reports 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.

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