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Edward Deitch
By Wine columnist
TODAY
updated 2/13/2008 10:00:24 PM ET 2008-02-14T03:00:24

Tempranillo, which is Spain’s signature red grape, is best known in such regions as Rioja and Ribera del Duero, but is also grown and made into excellent wines in other areas, as this week’s superb value demonstrates. This exciting and inexpensive wine from La Mancha also gives us a great opportunity to decipher the often-tricky language of the label. But first a little background.

With wines from Spain, perhaps more than any other region, you can walk into a large retailer and have no trouble walking out with a dozen potentially excellent bottles to explore for under $15 each. In fact, many of them can be under $10 if you choose, both reds and whites. You’re bound to find at least a few standouts, as I did not long ago.

And that’s the bigger point. Learning about and appreciating wine, as I discovered early on, is all about variety — trying many wines and finding the ones that appeal to you. And so it was with the 2005 Ercavio Tempranillo Roble from Más Que Vinos.

Now, just what is this delicious wine that I bought for around $8? In this case we’re  helped to some extent by the label, which discloses that the wine is, in fact, a tempranillo. As for the other words on the label, a little translating is in order. “Roble” means oak in Spanish, and tells us that the wine has spent a relatively short period — five months for this one — maturing in oak barrels. (Crianza, reserva and gran reserva are other terms that refer to increasingly longer periods of aging.) Más Que Vinos is the name of the company and just under that, in the smallest type, we see “Mesa de Ocaña,” which tells us where the wine comes from.

Mesa de Ocaña is a plateau in the Castilla-La Mancha area of central Spain south of Madrid, and the grapes are grown in the town of Toledo.  Just about every wine reference to La Mancha these days makes the point that this very large, arid region is developing a reputation for quality and value as well as quantity, with the tempranillo grape emerging as its star.

And with the Ervacio tempranillo it’s easy to see why. The wine has enticing dark-berry aromas and tastes, mainly blackberry with a touch of blueberry, as well as intriguing earth and spice notes. I thought I detected cardamom and other Indian spices that, in combination with the ripe fruit and good tannic structure, add up to a wine of surprising depth and complexity.  Remember, we’re talking $8 or so here!

This is a highly versatile wine to enjoy with all kinds of meat and vegetarian dishes and shows us again why Spain offers some of the best wine values. I bought it at PJ Wine in New York. The importer is European Cellars of Charlotte, N.C.

Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at edwarddeitch@hotmail.com

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