Odds 'n Ends - And Great New Spanish Reds

I’m calling this Featured Tasting “Odds ‘n Ends” because there’s no unifying theme...just great wines at great prices that I want you to try. My real purpose this week is to introduce the new reds...so read on.

Venturini Baldini Reggiano Lambrusco Rosso Amabile (Reggio, Italy) Regular Price $12.20/ Feature Price $10.37

We start with a wine I introduced last April. I said it was fun “...but it’s sophisticated, quality fun.” This is a wine in the light-bodied frizzante style with 8.5% alcohol, and its label of “demi sec” means that it’s got some sweetness to it (but not as sweet as Moscato D’Asti).  It’s more like our fabulous Brachetto D’Aqui than it is like Cold Duck. If the name “Reggiano” sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve had Parmesano Reggiano cheese from the same region. But Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is also from that region, as is Prosciutto di Parma. I guess it’s all expressed in the last phrase of the wine’s name - “Rosso Amabile.” It means “lovable red.”

Heinz Eifel “Shine” Riesling (Rheinhessen, Germany) Everyday price $11.95

This was the first German Riesling I was able to offer in the “$12 and Under” section...and it’s still the only one.  It’s from Germany’s largest wine region, and it’s designated “Qualitätswein” - a wine of quality, the second level from the bottom in the arcane German wine classificatin system.  I think it’s pretty darn good for the price. And I like the simple, clean label and the convenient screwcap. This is German wine that can be enjoyed everyday with a wide range of food or simply on its own.

Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) Regular Price $14.50/ Feature Price $12.33

I used this wine in my recent wine course as an example of the style of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc - “herbaceous,” meaning “like fresh green stuff” (new-cut grass is the usual reference). But when I ended the class with a tour of wine regions, I realized it’s the only NZ wine we’re currently carrying. Not good. So I’m working on finding some more. In the meantime, if you like grassy and limey and kiwi fruit and gooseberry, this could become a favorite.

Normand Mâcon La Roche Vineuse 2011 (Burgundy, France) Regular Price $22.95/ Feature Price $19.50

I have always considered this to be one of our best white Burgundies in the store. It is, of course, made from the Chardonnay grape in the region Burgundy known as Mâcon. But some of its specialness comes from the fact that it’s from a small sub-area of Mâcon called “La Roche Vineuse” (“the wine-y rock”), referring to the huge, nearly vertical outcropping of limestone that the village nestles up against. This special region, plus the dedication and passion of winemaker Alain Normand, make this wine lush and rich but with a mineral core that gives it the backbone to hold its own at the feasting table. This is another one to keep your eye (and taste buds) on as you make your holiday feasting wine selections.

Tezza Corte Majoli Valpolicella 2011 (Verona, Italy) Everyday Price $10.85

The area of Valpolicella, “the Pearl of Verona,” is known for its red wine blends based on the Corvina grape. This one is the entry level blend (65% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, 5% Molinara) that is light and fruity. It reminds me of Beaujolais Nouveau and is great as a summertime red or paired with casual Italian fare. As we approach the holiday feasting period, we’ll be hitting up the Haw River Wine Man for a supply of the Valpolicella Classico, the Valpolicella Ripasso (finished wine poured over “raisin-ated” grapes to add to the richness) and the ultimate Christmas Eve treat...Amarone della Valpolicella. In the meantime, treat yourself to this end-of-summer version at a really extraordinary price.

Aveleda Charamba (Douro, Portugal) Everyday Price $10.95

And speaking of extraordinary price, here’s the first Portuguese red to fit nicely in the “$12 and Under” neighborhood. The wine is named after a traditional Portuguese folk dance and I wanted to dance when I tasted it. Like our other Portuguese reds it is a blend of the grapes used in Port wine: Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. It’s light and spicy and goes great with grilled meats or sharp cheese. But what will really have you dancing the Charamba is the price. It’s practically a steal.

Borsao Berola 2008 (Campo de Borja, Spain) Regular Price $16.95/ Feature Price $14.41

We’ve got a number of selections from Bodegas Borsao, from the Borsao Red Garnacha (awarded “Top Wine Best Value” by Wine Enthusiast magazine) to the award-winning Tres Picos Garnacha. This Berola blend is a brand new one for us...I first tasted it just yesterday!  I’m excited about bringing it to you.

Campo de Borja (the area around the ancient hilltop town of Borja) is in the northwest of the province of Zaragosa, adjoining the Rioja region. It is known for its Garnacha grapes, the backbone of this Berola blend (70% Garnacha, 20% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon). The wine is 14.5% alcohol but the rich Garnacha fruit carries it well. As in all the best wines, the secret is in careful, quality winemaking. Borsao starts with Garnacha grapes from 30-65 year-old vines grown at elevations between 1,800 and 2,000 feet above the plains. The fermentation is done in temperature-controlled stainless steel vessels, then the wine is aged 14 months in barrels of French and American oak. The resulting blend is spicy, earthy and dee-licious...a very worthy addition to our growing Spanish wine selection. 91 Points - Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar

Jorge Ordoñez Zerran 2010 (Montsant, Spain) Regular Price $24.70/ Feature Price $20.99

But there’s more! At yesterday’s tasting, Sarah also brought me this Montsant blend of 50% Garnacha, 40% Mazuelo (Carignan), and 10% Syrah. Montsant is one of Spain’s newest “Denominación de Origen,” having been carved out of the world-famous Priorat region in northeastern Spain. Priorat is beautifully situated near the Mediterranean with a wonderful terroir distinguished by its “llicorella” slate soil (remember the wine of the same name?) and vines planted on impossibly steeply terraced vineyards. Montsant borders Priorat, at a little lower elevation, with the same combination of proximity to the sea, soil, steep terraced hillsides and gnarly old vine grapes. The big difference is the value. This great Montsant wine is a fraction of the price of similar Priorat wines.

This Zerran is from the 2010 vintage, which is two years newer than the Berola, and its youth shows in tannins that need a bit of age...or some great Spanish cheeses...to soften and round them. No matter. This is a great wine that’s ready to drink right now...but I guess I’ll have to wait until the end of the day.