Altos de la Hoya 2004 Jumilla Monastrell ($9.59)
Very dark reddish-purple, almost black, with a bright red-garnet edge. Dark fruit, plums and cherries, pleasant if a bit shy on the nose. More forward in the flavor department, ripe black fruit and mixed berries, mouth-watering acidity and chalky tannins. Alcohol is on the high side at 14 percent, but the wine carries it well. A splash (8%) of Grenache perks up the Monastrell in the blend. Very good value. US Importer: Vieux Vins Inc., Vineburg, Calif., A Rare Wine Co. Selection. (Aug 17, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: It's on the verge of being too robust for delicate veal polpette, but turning the meatballs into "cheeseburgers" by stacking them on small eggy buns with caprese rounds makes a big difference, as the fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella bring the dish up to meet the inky wine.

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