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 California Wine Club
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In This Issue
 In this week's Premium Edition The road less taken in Southern Italy.
 WT101: Rioja, plus Our wine-education forum goes to Spain this month, with an expert guest host.
 Faustino V 1998 Rioja Reserva ($16.99) Straightforward Rioja Reserva from a giant producer.
 California Wine Club Tuscan Sun Sweepstakes: Win an $8,000 Tuscan Wine and Culinary Adventure!
 This week on New material this week ranges from African-Americans in the wine world to new releases, bargain Riesling and magnetic gimmicks that claim to "age" wine.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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In this week's Premium Edition:
The road less taken in Southern Italy

One well-known principle in the quest for wine value is to look at the top wines from less-familiar wine regions as a good way to beat the supply-and-demand equation. In this week's Wine Advisor Premium Edition we'll take a look at a hearty, highly regarded red wine from Southern Italy, where unfamiliarity holds even the best wines well under the lofty price peaks reached by their cousins from Piemonte and trendy Tuscany.

The Premium Edition, our subscription-only E-letter, helps you shop with confidence when you're considering a more pricey bottle for a special occasion. The $24 subscription price - no more than you'd pay for a bottle of exceptionally fine wine - will bring you a full year of biweekly E-mail bulletins. Proceeds go to buy these special wines at retail, and help support too! For a free sample of a previous edition, click here:

Click here to subscribe today:

WT101: Rioja, plus

Ranked third in the world after Italy and France for the title of top wine producer and actually leading in vineyard acreage, Spain may also outpace the competition as the source of wine value.

With the limited exception of a relative handful of pricey "cult" reds from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat, Spain pours out a river of affordable, amiable red, white and pink wines that offer good drinkability and admirable value, remaining good bargains even in a weak-dollar era.

For this month's topic in our Wine Tasting 101 Forum, let's explore two key Spanish wine regions. Rioja, the historic wine region in Northern Spain's Basque country, near the Pyrenees; and Castilla y Leon, a broad term for the wide upland plain that extends from Rioja south and west to the outskirts of Madrid and to Spain's border with Portugal, a geographical region that includes such wine-producing areas as Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Toro.

Rioja, on the banks of the Ebro river, is subdivided into Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alaversa. A little white Rioja is made, but red is the dominant style and Tempranillo is the dominant grape. In recent times, like many other European wine regions, Rioja has seen a growing gap between "traditional" producers and "modernists" who experiment with innovative wine-making processes and blends. We'll hope to explore these differences in more detail during February.

Tempranillo is primary, too, in Ribera del Duero, although - as befits the region's size - there's a diverse collection of grapes and wines throughout Castilla y Leon.

It's my pleasure to introduce my friend Joe Perry, a Boston-based wine lover and Rioja enthusiast, as guest host of Wine Tasting 101 for the month. Joe will participate regularly in the forum, offering tasting notes and responding to questions and comments about these regions and their wines. He has already begun a couple of active topics, which you're welcome to read and join in:

 Joe introduces himself and the topic in "February, Spanish Wine Month,"

 He provides a good, concise overview of Rioja, including an extensive wine-shopping list, in "Rioja: Searching for the end of the rainbow,"

As always, I've selected a couple of "benchmark" wines for the month, for those who wish to calibrate their palates, and compare tasting notes, with the same wines.

 From Rioja, Faustino V 1998 Rioja Reserva ($16.99) from Bodegas Faustino, a major producer that's said to be Spain's largest exporter of Rioja wines.

 From Castilla y Leon, an excellent value, low-end wine that I featured in the June 30, 2004 Wine Advisor, Osborne 2001 "Solaz" Vino de la Tierra de Castilla ($7.69).

My tasting note on the Faustino V is below. My report on the Osborne "Solaz" is online at

Remember, you're encouraged to participate actively in WT101, our free online wine-education program that's aimed at sharing information, and gaining experience reporting your wine-tasting experiences, in a friendly and supportive community of online peers.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Faustino V Faustino V 1998 Rioja Reserva ($16.99)

This is a clear, dark reddish-purple wine, blackish in the glass. Black-cherry and brown-spice aromas add a whiff of oaky vanillins; swirling the glass brings up perfumed notes and a heightened sense of alcohol. Flavors follow the nose, rather light-bodied and tart, but there's plenty of crisp, spicy black fruit. It's a straightforward Rioja, not overly complex, but I wouldn't bet against it evolving with cellar time. Crisp acidic snap makes it a good food wine. U.S. importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: It made a fine match with hearty buffalo-meat cheeseburgers lightly seasoned with Tex-Mex spices.

VALUE: The mid-teens is an appropriate range for a mass-market Rioja reserva. More sought-after labels will go for substantially more.

WHEN TO DRINK: Rioja reserva is built to last, and even this relatively simple rendition should last for years in a good cellar. It's ready to enjoy now, though, so there's no need to wait.

Faustino = "Fow-STEE-noe"
Rioja = "Ree-oh-hah" (A more precise rendition would be something like "Dee-oh-khah," but unless you're fluent, I recommend sticking with the Anglicized version.)

Bodegas Faustino's Website is available in Spanish and English:
The U.S. importer's fact sheets about Faustino wines begin here:

Find vendors and compare prices for Faustino's wines on

The California Wine Club:
Tuscan Sun Sweepstakes

California Wine Club Win an $8,000 Tuscan Wine and Culinary Adventure!

To enter, visit The California Wine Club's website at In addition if you join The California Wine Club's International Selections, you'll be entered again. Plus, each time you send a gift of the International Selections you'll be entered again!

For details on the "Tuscan Sun Sweepstakes" please visit
or call 1-800-777-4443.

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:

Wood on Wine: African-Americans and Wine
African-Americans spend an estimated $300 billion on goods and services every year. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the market potential here, Columnist Linwood Slayton says, in the first of several columns that will look into African-Americans in the wine industry as vintners, consumers, enthusiasts and advocates.

Bucko's Wine Reports: Winter Releases
As he looks forward to joining us on our wine tour of the Rhone in June, new releases columnist Randy "Bucko" Buckner ramps up his tastings of wines from the Southern Rhone, plus a number of value-priced Spanish wines to add a European accent to his monthly report. Here's his account of 100 recent wine releases from around the world ... bon appetit!

QPRwines: Where wine quality and price relate
The latest edition of Neil Monnens' innovative E-mail wine-buying guide QPRwines is now available, featuring wine-value reports on 2002 and 2003 German Riesling. QPRwines groups wines by the major critics' average wine scores, then lists them by price and ranks them by value.

Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: The magnet effect
Several new wine accessories purport to "improve" immature wine by exposing the bottle to a magnetic field. Was Barnum right? Forum participants discuss this topic and propose a rigorous testing protocol. Read and join in the debate:

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Wine from ... India? (Feb. 4, 2004)

 Offbeat grapes and wines: Sagrantino (Feb. 2, 2004)

 What's up with French wine? (Jan. 31, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Duck pasta (Feb. 3, 2004)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, Feb. 7, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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