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In This Issue

 Big brand Rioja No artisanal wine, Martin Codax of Galicia joins with giant Gallo to produce a surprisingly appealing and affordable Rioja.
 A message from Wine Library Bacio Divino Pazzo 2005 is an innovative red blend from Napa that earned a 91-point review from Robert Parker. Just $24.98 per bottle on sale at Wine Library today!
 Martin Codax 2006 "Ergo" Rioja Tempranillo ($12.99) Bright and tangy cherry fruit on the palate, with plenty of fresh-fruit acidity for balance and food-friendliness.
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This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 and can be found at

Big brand Rioja

If you enjoy Spanish wine, the chances are you've heard of Martin Codax. Named for a medieval Spanish troubadour and using his lute as logo, Martin Codax is a large wine-grower cooperative on the Atlantic coast of Galicia in Northwestern Spain.

Known for its crisp, white Albariño wine, Codax ships some 8 million bottles to the U.S. every year, making it a major player even before giant Gallo teamed up with the co-op in 2007 as its exclusive American distributor.

But when I ran across a Martin Codax Rioja the other day ... now, that was a surprise. As it turns out, it's Gallo's goal to make Codax the largest supplier of Spanish wines in the U.S., and pasting the familiar Codax label on a Rioja is part of that plan.

According to published sources, the red - although it's labeled "Rioja Tempranillo" presumably to satisfy the varietal-curious U.S. marketplace, is actually a blend of 86 percent Tempranillo with the regional grape Mazuelo. Its proprietary name "Ergo," Latin for "therefore," is actually a more prosaic acronym for "Ebro River Grape Origin." Like most RIojas, it spends a little time in oak barrels, but fresh black-cherry fruit dominates its aromas and flavors; it's made for drinking young. You'll find my notes below.

We're looking at the wines of Rioja in this month's Wine Focus.

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Martin Codax 2006 "Ergo" Rioja Tempranillo ($12.99)

Martin Codax

Very dark blackish-purple, a shiny patent-leather look, clear violet at the edge. Simple but fresh, young and primary aromas, cherries and vanilla. Bright and tangy cherry fruit on the palate, with plenty of fresh-fruit acidity for balance and food-friendliness. Tannins evident only as a slight puckery quality in the long, juicy-cherry finish. A bit closed in youth; pouring out a couple of glasses with splashy aeration about an hour in advance helped it open up in time for dinner. U.S. importer: Martin Codax USA (Gallo), Hayward, Calif. (Jan 12, 2009)

FOOD MATCH: Good with red meat in general; it made an outstanding match with beef short ribs, simmered, deconstructed and defatted, then braised in their own gravy with onions.

VALUE: A fine Rioja at an affordable price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking very well now, and likely designed for the shorter term, but you needn't be in any hurry to drink it, as it will certainly hold and might evolve with a few years' cellar time.

The Martin Codax Website apparently deals entirely with the Albariño; it is published in Spanish, English and Galego, the dialect of Galicia. Here's the home page:

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