Spanish wines are red hot right now and represent an extremely high quality bargain. Why? Many producers are expanding into global markets for the first time, taking big aim at the growing wine consumption in America.
Recently, I attended a gala wine-tasting event at Symphony Hall, where eight producers from Spain's Castilla-La Mancha region presented their bottlings. Most of the journalists and wine merchants in the room, including the Wine Wizard of Lowell, Dickie Rourke of Tutto Bene Cheese & Wine Shop, agreed that the wines were impeccable in taste and value. After each tasting, the producers told us the wine's price. To our amazement, none were higher than $24 and most were in the $8 to $18 range. These wines, especially the 2005 Nuestra Seleccion Riserva made from 40-year-old vines, were impressively underpriced in my view. An oustanding Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo, Merlot blend, the Nuestra exhibited velvety tannins and a powerful, black cherry taste and long, dry finish. I thought it sold for $50 and was shocked at its $22-$24 price range.
The Castilla-La Mancha region has 600 wineries that produce 5 million gallons of wine annually.
If you are lucky to find these beauties on store shelves or restaurant menus, I urge you to buy them and drink them:
Senorio de Fuentealamo, $9 -- A nice white blend of Macabea and Airen grapes, this young wine is clean and crisp with pleasing white flower aromas and pear taste. A great summer sipper or aperitif. About 30,000 cases were produced and the producer is searching for a U.S. importer.
Santa Cruz de Alpera, $12-$15 -- A greenish tint unmasks this expressive Verdejo blanco (white) varietal that has the right touch of acidity to make it a fine Pan-Asian food companion. Seductive bouquet and very fresh taste.
Villavid Tempranillo, $8 -- Ahh, what a find! I could not believe the intense cherry aromas and ripe fruit yet dry earthy taste and finish. More complex than the price suggests, this is $100 percent varietal is produced by an all-female winery and goes well with roasted chicken and mushroom sauce.
Solmayor, $10 or less -- Another 100 percent Tempranillo that comes from 100-year-old low yield vines which produce quality and earnest fruit. You're drinking history here and it's superb. A bit tannic in its 2011 vintage, this is a dry red with a long, powerful finish.
Aljibes, $16-$18 -- Aged for a year in America and French oak barrels, the type of wine is called "Crianza" and it is a Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon blend that is richly structured for a mid-palate transformation from intense berry fruit to a soft, dry, green pepper finish. Wow! A distinctive blend for the biggest grilled steak you can find.