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Classic red from new region in Spain

'00 Ramblilla great chance to sample very good new wine
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Ramblilla is the name of a charming Spanish red that is slowly making its way into wine stores and represents an excellent value at about $14. It is from 100 percent Tempranillo, the signature grape of Spain that often produces wonderful results in Rioja and Ribera del Duero, two of the country’s most important wine regions.

The 2000 Ramblilla, by contrast, is from Ribera del Júcar, which refers to the banks of the Júcar River and is Spain’s newest appellation, or denominación de origen. The area, south of Madrid, is within the huge La Mancha region of central Spain. Tom George of New Jersey-based Frontier Wine Imports, which started bringing in Ramblilla this past fall, was astounded, he told me, when he heard that La Mancha accounted for 6 percent of the world’s wine production.

The Ramblilla “Crianza” suggests that the region, particularly Ribera del Júcar, is also about quality and worth keeping an eye on. Crianza refers to the fact that a wine has been aged, in this case for a year in new American oak casks and a year in the bottle, before release.

The wood influence is by no means overpowering, providing depth and character and a framework for the ripe fruit. The wine has attractive aromas of blueberry and cedar, joined by some cherry in the mouth. Firm tannins add to the complexity. It matched nicely with grilled leg of lamb marinated in red wine, soy sauce, garlic and rosemary.

Ramblilla is made in a state-of-the art cooperative in which some of the area’s small growers share the winemaking expenses.  While the cooperative label can sometimes have a negative connotation in terms of quality, that is not the case here.  As Tom George explained it, the cooperative offers “an opportunity to get a potentially decent wine at a good price.”

Ramblilla is more than decent. It’s downright good. Very good. And for me it symbolizes what enjoying wine is all about -- the chance to taste new and exciting interpretations of familiar and not-so-familiar grapes. I look forward to discovering lots of them in 2004.

If you have trouble finding Ramblilla, I bought it at Morrell & Company in New York.

Edward Deitch’s wine column appears Thursdays in MSNBC Entertainment section. Write to him at