Friday, March 03, 2006

Ten bucks

Big Red opens a few wines for tasting on most Saturday afternoons. Last Saturday offered a couple of inexpensive ($10+ ) winners so I bought one of each and confirmed my opinion at dinner over the week. The first is a Spanish wine made from grenache grapes – "garnacha" in Spanish. The vineyard, Bodegas Valascro, is located on the northern edge of the Rioja district and most of their wines are entitled to the Rioja name and priced accordingly. But this one, "Razon," is grown just outside the Rioja district, thus having no official designation, and is less expensive. It’s a suave and easy-drinking red, a fine companion to a fairly zesty dish – in my case, for a chicken with green olives and garlic. It’s not likely to remain in the store for long. During the tasting, two different customers tried it and picked up a case on the spot. The other bargain was an Argentinian cabernet sauvignon, the 2004 Andeluna. While I was tasting it in the store, a friend came in, tried some, and asked why it didn’t taste like his familiar cabernets. In wise-ass mode, I was tempted to say, "What’s different about it is that it’s not over-oaked, over-extracted, over-priced and over-hyped." Reflecting on the fact that my supply of friends is for some reason not expanding and I have no need to shed the ones I have, I said "h’mm" instead. When I took my bottle home, however, I soon saw that my first reaction, that this was delicious because it was natural and simple, was all wrong. The wine is full of fruit, cherry and other red fruits, and has lots of sweet tannins. To a more attentive taster than I was, these are the classic earmarks of the international style. It pretty clearly has been manipulated and oaked, but with a deft hand. The winemaker is Michel Rolland, the Bordeaux avatar of micro-oxygenation if Jonathan Nossiter’s caricature in Mondovino is to be believed. In any case, this is a fine, modern example of pure, beautiful cabernet sauvignon at a simple price.


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