Ipsum, a Spanish white, demonstrates that wine doesn’t have to cost $40 to be well made and delicious
One of the many advantages of doing the blog is that I get to taste terrific wine I might not taste otherwise. The Ipsum may be the best example of that.
The Ipsum ($10, sample, 13%) is a cheap wine that is consistently excellent, and has been since I wrote my first review of it in 2009. In this, it demonstrates the perennial value of Spanish wine, the integrity of the producer and importer, and that wine doesn’t have to cost $40 to be well made and delicious.
This version may be the best vintage of the past 10, which is saying something considering how wonderful the Ipsum usually is. The 2017 offers more than just the crisp, and sometimes tart, lemon fruit that is common in white wine made with the verdejo grape. Instead, there’s an almost almond nuttiness mingling with green herbs and even some spices. In addition, there ‘s a surprisingly full mouth feel, something else that isn’t common with $10 verdejo wines.
Chill this and drink it on its own, or pair with grilled chicken or seafood. Highly recommended, and certain to take its place in the $10 Hall Fame next year. It’s also a candidate for the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year.
Imported by Ole Imports
Gordo, a Spanish red blend, is complicated, sophisticated, and more than enjoyable
I reviewed the 2012 version of Gordo, a Spanish red, 18 months ago, and marveled at how well made it was. The 2014 version of the Gordo may be more enjoyable.
The Gordo ($13, sample, 14%) doesn’t seem to be the kind of wine I’d be this enthusiastic about. It’s made with about one-third cabernet sauvignon, and regular visitors here know how I feel about Spanish cabernet. But this vintage, like the last, uses the grape to its best advantage, blending it with the native Spanish monastrell (mourvedre in France) to produce a wine where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Look for an earthy yet fresh wine, with almost herbal aromas and dark berry fruit that isn’t all that fruity. And, even though there’s so much cabernet in the wine, the acidity and tannins are muted, providing structure but not really being noticeable. In all, this is a difficult wine to describe because so many contradictory things seem to be going on – which, I suppose, is one reason why it’s so enjoyable.
Highly recommended, though pricing may be an issue – this wine is as little as $12 in some parts of the country and as much as $16 in others. This is a food wine, and about as versatile as red wine gets. Pair it with almost anything you can imagine, save fish or chicken in cream sauce. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it shine with turkey pot pie.
Imported by Ole Imports
The Spanish Carro Tinto is a red wine that makes us realize not all wine should taste the way we expect
Patrick Mata of Ole Imports, whose company brings the Carro Tinto into the U.S., told me something recently that speaks to what so many others in wine don’t want to understand.
“The wines are what they are,” says Mata, “and they’re not supposed to be the same. They’re like people you meet, where everyone is different, and where you talk to one person differently than you do another person. What the wines are about flows from that. We don’t want them to all taste the same. That would be very boring.”
The Carro Tinto ($10, purchased, 14%) demonstrates exactly what Mata means. It’s a Spanish red wine, and my tasting notes make the point that “it’s not a wine one thinks of when one thinks of Spain. But it works.”
What do you need to know about the Carro Tinto?
• It’s a French-style blend with a little tempranillo from the Yecla region of Spain. But why not a different style, given that Yecla is small and little known?
• This is a previous vintage, which makes the quality even more remarkable given the price. There is no sign of age or that the wine is old and worn out. The 2016 should be spectacular.
• There is ripe and juicy cherry fruit, almost more California than Spanish, as well as an almost spicy character. But those are played off against a more traditional chalky earthiness, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
• Pair this with almost anything in the run-up to the holidays, be it a burger on the run or a beef stew for a family dinner. I’m thinking the Wine Curmudgeon’s infamous arroz con pollo.
The Dacu tempranillo is $10 red wine from Spain that offers what we want in cheap wine – quality and value
There is nothing spectacular about the Dacu Tempranillo, no fancy appellation, no 90-plus scores, no hipster sommelier raves. Rather, it’s solid and enjoyable cheap red wine from Spain.
So why do we need spectacular?
The Dacu Tempranillo ($10, purchased, 14%) comes from an almost unknown part of Spain, in the southwestern part of the country near the Portuguese border. As such, it’s completely different from the tempranillos from Spain’s most famous regions – not as refined as those from Rioja and not as lush as those from Ribera del Duero.
In this, look for just ripe cherry and berry fruit, plus a little licorice and spiciness as well as the fresh acidity that marks Spanish tempranillo. It’s not a complicated wine, but that’s not a problem given how well made it is – balanced and eminently drinkable.
Pair this with red meat on the grill, whether steak or hamburgers, and it would do the job with smoked chicken or brisket as well. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame.
Imported by Ole Imports
The Gordo is a Spanish red blend where cabernet sauvignon adds character instead of detracting from it
The Spanish do not need to make wine with the so-called international grapes. If you make some of the best tempranillo and albarino in the world, why bother with cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay? Because, sometimes, as the Gordo demonstrates, international grapes used correctly can make the native grapes that much better.
The Gordo ($12, purchased, 14%) comes from my pals at Ole Imports, perhaps the best Spanish wine importer in the country. And, even more importantly, the wine is a labor of love for Ole impresario Patrick Mata – a tribute to his father, whom he called Gordo, and to his family’s long gone winery.
This Spanish red is a blend of 70 percent monastrell and 30 percent cabernet, and when I saw that on the label I almost didn’t buy it. Why ruin the monastrell with lesser quality Spanish cabernet?
But the cabernet doesn’t overwhelm the monastrell; rather, it adds structure and complexity to the monastrell’s fruit and spice. Look for a surprisingly rich wine for the price, as well as lots of black fruit. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame. And always, always trust great importer to provide great wine.
If you’re tired of drinking great cheap wine, then don’t buy the Zestos Blanco
Tired of the Wine Curmudgeon writing about Spanish wine? Then you’re tired of drinking great cheap wine, as the Zestos Blanco demonstrates.
The Zestos Blanco ($10, purchased, 13%) fulfills all the qualifications for quality and value:
• Made with an odd Spanish grape called malvar, and we know how much I enjoy odd grapes. More importantly, since it’s not Spanish chardonnay, there’s no reason to charge a premium for it.
• Malvar produces a white wine that is not quite chardonnay, not quite sauvignon blanc, and not quite viognier. That means tart green apple and stone fruit flavors, and even a little white pepper.
• The Zestos Blanco comes from the area around Madrid, which even in Spain isn’t highly regarded for wine. Hence, another reason not to charge a premium for it.
• My favorite cheap wine importer, Ole Imports, brings the wine to the U.S., and regular visitors know how many terrific wines Ole handles. Like the Zestos rose. And the Zestos garnacha.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame. Chill this, and pair it with salad Nicoise, grilled fish or shrimp, and even chicken fried steak. And, given the grape, the wine is better with food.
What do I say when I find yet another tremendous value from Spain brought into the U.S from Ole Imports? Not much, other than to be grateful that the Flaco Tempranillo, a red wine, is as well made and as well priced as it is.
The Flaco Tempranillo ($9, purchased, 13%) is not as tart as I would have hoped, but then it’s not from Rioja, where that’s part of the wine’s character. Instead, it’s from the region around Madrid in the middle of the country, where a decade or more of winemaking improvements have turned wine that was barely drinkable into something consistent, commercial, and interesting.
The Flaco Tempranillo is just one more example of that winemaking revolution. It’s more even throughout, and there are fewer elements to balance than in a similarly priced Rioja — call it a terroir difference, and who thought we would ever write that about a wine from Madrid? Look for enough cherry fruit to be recognizable, soft tannins, and a bit of herb floating in and out. It’s an exceptionally well done wine, let alone for the price, and the French could learn a thing or two about how to make quality wine for $10 from tasting this.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.