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Spanish Values Off the Beaten Path

By Michael Schiaparelli · May 9th, 2007 · Fermentations

To find value, you have to make supply-and-demand work for you by looking where others aren't. If you're willing to stray off the beaten path, you can find some awesome values. Spain, for example, produces a flood of terrific wine from regions and grapes that are sometimes challenging to pronounce -- and often fly under the radar.

Of the wines below, two feature Monastrell, a prominent grape in many blends from France's Rhone Valley; these two come from Yecla and Jumilla in southeastern Spain. Another hails from Bierzo in the northwest and is made from Mencia, an indigenous grape often compared with Pinot Noir. The fourth is from northeastern Cariñena and is made from 80-year-old Garnacha vines. Best of all, they sell for $12 a bottle or less!

· 2005 Olivares Altos de la Hoya Jumilla D.O. ($11)

Deep, not-quite-opaque purple; aromas of dark fruit and a hint of smoked meat.

Medium bodied with some bright acidity, the palate shows tons of raspberry and blackberry fruit but also licorice, chicory and anise. Finishes with stiff but well-integrated tannins. Delicious now, it should improve over time.

· 2005 Carro Tinto Yecla D.O. ($9)

A blend (Monastrell, Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot), this is deep, clear red and smells of roasted coffee grinds and unsweetened chocolate-covered cherries. Medium-bodied, it has a medicinal character, like mentholated cherry cough syrup (in a good way); smooth through the finish, it comes across as low acid but with persistent, intense fruit and a touch of meatiness.

· 2005 Peique Tinto Mencia Bierzo D.O. ($12)

Clear violet, turning pink at the rim, it has that earthy, umami perfume often found in red Burgundies. Loads of earthy strawberry and huckleberry flavors rest on a medium-bodied frame that shows well-integrated acidity and slightly chalky tannins.

· 2005 Menguante Garnacha Cariñena D.O. ($9)

Slightly hazy ruby in the glass; blackberry and blueberry dominate the nose with a touch of oak and oregano. On the palate, it's full-bodied and mouth-filling with good acidity. Tannins are stiff, so a little bottle age or a big, juicy steak might be in order.

When shopping for Spanish wines, look for importer Jorgé Ordoñez's trademark. His wines tend to be made in a "new world" style (full bodied and smooth with lots of upfront fruit and oak). They offer great value at every price point.

Now get off the beaten path and start finding some good values.

CONTACT MICHEAL SCHIAPARELLI: mschiapa(at)cinci.rr.com


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