Expensive wine 15: Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

There are many things to like about the Montecillo (sample), starting with the price. At $25 or so, it's not only a reasonably inexpensive expensive wine, but a tremendous value. Second, it's still generally available, which one always doesn't see with wines this old.

But the best thing about the wine? What it tastes like, of course. This is classic Rioja (a red wine from Spain's Rioja region made with tempranillo), and it is made by one of the best of the traditional producers. That means low alcohol, dusty tannins, long finish, and a successful, marvelous, and continuous juggling act between acid, oak and fruit. Do not expect New World style fruit or oak; the oak is a whisper, and the cherry fruit is almost mute. They are there as part of the chorus, not as soloists. As such, this is a much more subtle wine that reflects an entirely different approach to winemaking.

Serve this with almost anything Spanish or Mexican, beef, chicken or vegetarian. I did it with pinto beans, Mexican rice, and guacamole, and it was amazingly complementary. I also decanted it for about 30 minutes, and served it slighty cool, around 55 degrees. One more note: 2001 was an excellent vintage in Rioja, and Montecillo should age well over the next several years, getting even more dusty and interesting.

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