Another affordable Spanish Grenache
September is here, and there's a hint of autumn in the air (actually, it's been there through much of this odd summer). Before we move on to a new topic in our periodic Wine Tasting 101 program, let's take a taste of the second value-priced Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) featured this month.
The first Garnacha we examined, you'll recall, was the Borsao 2002 Campo de Borja, a wine that proved controversial among those who've posted comments on the WT101 Forum or by E-mail. I have to confess that I enjoyed its burst of forward, exuberant raspberry fruit, in somewhat the same way that I might enjoy an ice-filled glass of "Big Red" soda on rare occasion. Others objected to its almost bizarre fruitiness, likening it to Kool-Aid; opinions were also divided as to whether it was technically sweet or just seemed that way because of all the fruit.
Today's wine, another Garnacha that is marketed in the U.S. as "Viña Alarba Old Vines Grenache" but in the rest of the world as "Castillo de Maluenda," may be somewhat less controversial. It offers a more balanced and structured blend of Grenache "raspberry" fruit with spicy white pepper and a good acidic structure, and while it offers plenty of tasty fruit, it's certainly not as over-the-top as the Borsao. A good, enjoyable table wine, it's a fine value for well under $10.
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Viña Alarba 2002 Calatayud Old Vines Grenache ($8.99)
Dark garnet in color, almost black in the glass. Pleasant scents of raspberries and spice lead into a ripe, fresh-fruit flavor that marries raspberries and floral white pepper; mouth-watering acidity provides balance, and lingers in a long, clean finish. In contrast with the Campo de Borja, this isn't as much of a "fruit bomb," but it's arguably a better-balanced and more refined wine, with plenty of berry-like Grenache fruit to give it personality. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Fairfax, Ohio, and other regional importers; from Jorge Ordoñez. (Aug. 30, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with grilled meats, burgers or just about any red-meat match, it also went well with a hearty, earthy but meatless Italian-style involtini di melanzane, eggplant slices rolled around creamy ricotta filling and baked with a fresh tomato sauce.
VALUE: Hard to beat for $9, although we can thank the weak dollar for a $1 local price increase over the previous vintage. (Some online vendors offer it for as little as $7 or a bit less.)
WHEN TO DRINK: Meant for consumption while it's young and fresh, but it won't suffer from a year or two in the cellar or wine rack.
WEB LINK: Bodegas y viñedos del Jalón, the producer
of Viña Alarba, has its Website in Spanish and English at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: To find U.S. sources for Viña Alarba on Wine-Searcher.com:
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Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004