Year in and year out, Spain remains one of my go-to countries for approachable table wines of fine quality and value. A leading wine region by any standard, Spain boasts more acres under vineyard than any other nation; and it ranks third in the world (behind France and Italy) in wine production.
From the bargain-seeker's standpoint, Spain stands out because of its extremes on the value spectrum. In the regions that the big-name critics have "discovered" - Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat, in particular, and to some extent Galicia for its white Albariño - supply-and-demand inflation operates in full force, and good cheap wines are thin on the ground.
But move out into the less sought-after Spanish regions, from Jerez (Sherry) to Penedes to La Mancha to Calatayud to Castile, and you'll find a lake of affordable wine, some of it forgettable but much of it fine. Today's featured wine is an excellent example, from Tierra de Castilla ("Land of Castille," a designation akin to the French Vin de Pays).
Made by a large new producer, Bodegas Tikalo (founded in 2002), it's 100 percent Tempranillo, the flagship grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Jammy and fruit-forward, it's a bit on the "international" side, but a touch spicy complexity and good acidic and tannic structure raise it well above the pack at this price point.
Bodegas Tikalo 2004 "Rubens" Tierra de Castilla Tempranillo ($10)
This very dark reddish-purple wine's jammy cherry-berry scent and its initially fruit-forward flavor starts it out with the sense of a "fruit bomb," but spice and smoke and good tart acidity add interest on the mid-palate, with soft tannins filling out its structure in a longish finish, making for an enjoyable and food-friendly wine of good value. U.S. importer: European Cellars Direct, NYC; an Eric Solomon Selection. (April 16, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: It's made to go with grilled red meat or poultry.
VALUE: A fine value for 10 bucks.
WHEN TO DRINK: Made for immediate enjoyment, not cellaring, but Tempranillo's a keeper, and this wine shouldn't fade in a year or two on the wine rack.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006