Rioja – red wine made with the tempranillo grape from the Rioja region of Spain – has long been one of the world’s great wine values. The simplest Riojas, called crianza, are everyday wines that usually deliver tremendous quality for $10. That more of us don’t know about them is one of the many things that make the Wine Curmudgeon so cranky.
Bodegas Faustino, which has been making wine in Spain for 150 years, has long been known for its wines with Roman numerals – Faustino I, Faustino V, and Faustino VII. This Faustino ($10, purchased, 13%) is part of its “modern reds” line – a term that usually makes me run screaming into the night, hinting as it does of merlot blended into the mix, winemaking alchemy to produce sweet fruit, and lots of fake oak.
Happily, this “modern red” is terrific basic Rioja, with everything as it should be. Look for cherry fruit, bright acidity, earthiness and that wonderfully funky Rioja aroma. The only thing that seemed modern about it was better winemaking – no off flavors or smells, which can sometimes happen with old-style Rioja.
You can serve this with almost anything except a white cream sauce, which is one of the great strengths of Rioja. It’s especially fine with bean dishes.