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Spain: A Delicious Secret

Spain makes nearly as much wine as Italy and France, but the natives drink it right up and export little, so we don't see much Spanish wine in this country.

This is a shame, because the wines of Spain can be startlingly good, combining the finesse and character of France's finest with a sunny, Mediterranean quality like that of Italy

On the other hand, it's a delicious secret for wine tasters in the know, because the laws of supply and demand have kept most Spanish wines in the bargain range.

Spanish sparkling wines from Freixenet (particularly its Cordon Negro in a Darth Vader-black bottle) and Codorniu (whose "English Cuvee Brut Clasico" is my favorite Spanish sparkler) are gaining deserved popularity while remaining in the modest $6 range.

Sherry, a British mispronunciation of "Jeres," the town near Seville from which it's shipped, has been popular with Anglo-Saxons for centuries but still remains cheaper than currently-chic Port from Portugal.

I like Spanish red wines best. Good ones, drunk young, are as bright and refreshing as grape juice. Aged in wood and then in the bottle, they add a spicy savor that's hard to match at any price.

Rioja, in north-central Spain, above Madrid, became home to emigrant French wine makers more than 100 years ago; they applied their traditional skills to their new country's native grapes to create a new wine with a familiar accent.

Among Rioja labels usually available in this area are the products of Marques de Caceres, Marques de Riscal, Domecq and Olarra.

Olarra, a relatively new and very large bodega (winery), has made a considerable effort to capture an American market. Its wines, if rarely outstanding, are consistently good and have been available here at remarkably low prices.

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