Tempranillo is the national grape of Spain. It’s grown all over the country and appears in a wide range of styles, from fresh and fruity young reds to aged and profound wines that are reminiscent of great Bordeaux. Prices, of course, cover the spectrum as well, and two discoveries on the affordable side are well worth seeking out.
It’s no secret, of course, that you can find highly satisfying Spanish wines for not much money, whether red or white; there's been a big influx of them into the United States in recent years.
Both wines I enjoyed the other night were $10 and came from Martin Brothers, my neighborhood wine store here in New York. And both, it turned out, were brought into this country by Olé Imports, whose young owners have quickly made a name for themselves with an eye for excellent values from a number of Spanish wine areas.
The 2007 Cortijo III is the name of an excellent young Rioja, which is the most famous wine region in Spain. Cortijo III is a blend of 80 percent tempranillo and 20 percent garnacha, known as grenache in France. I liked this one for its bright red-berry notes, its zippy acidity and its overall refreshing quality, which reminded me of a good Beaujolais at about half the price.
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The second red is the 2007 Zestos Especial and bears the Vinos de Madrid denomination, which conveys that it is from the southern part of the province of Madrid. This one is also a blend, with 85 percent tempranillo and 15 percent syrah. The later gives it a slightly meaty quality that, with its cassis and herb notes, makes for an interesting and complex wine with good tannic structure (remember we’re talking $10 here!).
Both wines are well-suited to everything from steak to Mediterranean-style dishes. Try them, as I did, with chicken fillets sauteed with superbly flavored kalamata olives, tomatoes, onions and chopped fresh rosemary. Chilling them for a few minutes will make them even more refreshing.
As we've seen here in recent weeks with red wines from Austria, Italy and now Spain, it's not hard to find excellent bottles with considerable complexity in the $10 to $15 range or even less. These are all medium-bodied wines with moderate levels of alcohol, making them perfect for food. We'll stay on the hunt for more of them in the weeks to come.
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 email@example.com
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