The Cortijo Tinto is is another reminder that Spain’s Roija produces some of the world’s best red wine — cheap, expensive and everywhere in between
The Wine Curmudgeon has watched in horror this summer as several of Dallas leading retailers stuffed much too old vintages of cheap wine on their shelves. How about a $10 white Bordeaux from 2011?. They’re playing off the consumer perception that old wine is better wine; in fact. most old cheap wine is vinegar. Unless, of course, it’s something like the Cortijo Tinto.
The Cortijo Tinto ($10, sample, 13.5%) is a Spanish red made with tempranillo from the Rioja, which produces some of the world’s best red wine, cheap, expensive and everywhere in between. The Cortijo is no exception – that it can provide so much interest and character, despite the vintage, speaks to the quality of Rioja, the producer, and the importer.
Look for lots of dark fruit (blackberries?), but where the fruit doesn’t overwhelm what Rioja wines are supposed to be like. That means a bit of floral aroma, some spice, a bit of smokiness on the finish, and just enough in the way of tannins to hold everything together.
This is one of my favorite wines to keep around the house, so I know I’ll have something worth drinking when I feel like a glass of red wine. It’s fine on its own (you can even chill it a touch), and it pairs with almost everything except delicate fish.
CVNE’s Cune Crianza is a red Spanish wine that delivers tremendous value and quality
Spanish wine still offers some of the best value in the world. And, whenever the Wine Curmudgeon despairs about the future of cheap wine, I drink something Spanish like CVNE’s Cune Crianza and feel better.
The Cune Crianza ($13, purchased, 13.5%) is everything an inexpensive Spanish Rioja (a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rioja region in northern Spain) should be. It’s varietally correct, with that faint orange peel aroma, not quite ripe cherry fruit, and a bit of earth and a touch of minerality. The touch of oak offers a little vanilla, but it’s in the background and doesn’t take over the wine. In this, there is a tremendous amount of structure for a crianza – the least expensive class of Rioja, and one that sees little of the oak aging that helps to provide structure.
And yes, it’s worth the extra two or three dollars – especially when you consider the alternative is something likes this.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame and the $2019 Cheap Wine of the Year. The past year has not been kind to cheap wine, but the CVNE Cune Crianaza is a reminder about what is possible.
The La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza speaks to terroir, tradition, and quality – and at a more than fair price
Rioja, the Spanish red wine made with tempranillo that comes from the Rioja region of northern Spain, is one of the world’s great wine values. And it doesn’t matter whether you want to spend $10 or $100. Case in point: the La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza ($37, purchased, 13.5%).
In the past decade, Rioja producers have been caught between Parkerization, which demanded riper, higher alcohol wines for a high score, and traditionalists, who believed in Rioja’s legendary terroir.
The traditionalists won; even Parker likes the La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza, giving it 93 points.
Their victory is a triumph for everyone who appreciates terroir and making wine taste like where it came from. The blend is 80 percent tempranillo and 20 percent garnacha, and the latter smooths out the tempranillo but doesn’t cover it up. The result is a full, open, expressive, and traditional Rioja that is a joy to drink.
Look for an inviting earthiness, the lovely and telltale orange peel, and rounded cherry fruit, all balanced by a subtle acidity and a hint of tannins. There is even a little baking spice tucked in – the whole is truly greater than the sum of the wine’s parts. This vintage should age and improve for another five years or so, but is ready to drink now.
Highly recommended, and especially as a Father’s Day gift for a red wine drinker who wants something different. Or who appreciates classic wine produced in a classic manner.
The Bilbainas Zaco, a $10 Spanish red, proves the first rule of wine criticism: Drink before you judge
The first rule of wine criticism – never, ever judge a wine before you drink it. The Bilbainas Zaco is a case in point.
The Bilbainas Zaco ($10, purchased, 14.5%) is not the sort of Spanish red from the Rioja region that I would normally buy; in fact, I bought it by accident, thinking it was something else. So when it was time to taste and I read the back label and saw the alcohol, I was prepared to write the wine off before the first sip. “Full bodied,” which is winespeak for too ripe fruit, is not what I want from Rioja.
Which is why there is the first rule of wine criticism. The Bilbainas Zaco is surprisingly enjoyable, even if it doesn’t exactly taste like tempranillo from Rijoa. There isn’t anything subtle or sophisticated here – just cherry fruit and a style that comes from young, not much aging before it’s released, Rioja. It’s a little rough from all the alcohol and the very unrefined tannins, but not in an unpleasant way. In other words, exactly the kind of wine that got 90 points from Parker and the Wine Spectator and that I would dismiss out of hand.
So taste it, and see what you think. Know, though, it’s a food wine: Beef, barbecue, and the like. Imported by Aveniu Brands
The El Coto Rioja crianza is one of the world’s great cheap wines, a Spanish red to enjoy over and over — even when you don’t get a sample
The Wine Curmudgeon has always been ambivalent about samples. Yes, they save me a lot of money, but too much of the wine I get as samples isn’t worth drinking — let alone writing about. One of the few times I’ve missed samples is when the El Coto Rioja stopped showing up.
Which is entirely too long. This is classic tempranillo, a red wine from the Rioja region of Spain. And the price makes it all that much better. All of the varietal character that is supposed to be in this kind of wine is there: the bright cherry color, the fresh red fruit with a touch of orange peel in the aroma, and the tart cherry fruit and spice flavors. Know, too, that Crianza is the most affordable and accessible of the three versions of Rioja, so it’s supposed to be simple – and simple does not mean stupid.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame. This is winter red wine, perfect for stews, braises, and almost anything else (a sloppy cheeseburger and onion rings?) when it’s cold and snowy and you want to sip and to sigh and to enjoy.
The Franco-Espanolas Bordon Gran Reserva is classic Rioja and a stunning value
This spring, I tasted a half dozen or so wines from Franco-Espanolas, a 125-year-old Spanish producer. I liked almost all of them, and even the one or two that I didn’t like were well made and worth what they cost.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to write about most of them because their availability is limited. The rose, for example, is classic Spanish pink and $10 Hall of Fame quality. But it’s almost impossible to buy in the U.S. unless you live in a couple of East Coast states.
Which brings us to the the Franco-Españolas Bordón Gran Reserva ($30, sample, 14%). It’s as excellent an example of this style of red wine from Rioja as I’ve tasted in years. It reminded me what great Rijoa, made in the traditional way, can be.
The wine is a stunning value. Yes, almost old-fashioned, but done impeccably, from the quality of the fruit to the two years of oak aging (something that is especially relevant given the recent fake oak controversy on the blog). The Franco-Espanolas Bordon Gran Reserva is a textbook example of Rioja – earthy, green herbs, a touch of sweet cherry from a little garnacha blended with the tempranillo, plus plum and bitter orange.
My notes say, “Just delicious,” which says it all. Highly recommended. Pair this with any red meat, and drink it now. For one thing, it’s too good a wine to let sit, though it might have a year or two left of aging.
The Muga Rioja Reserva ($26, purchased, 14%) may be $40 worth of wine if it came from France or California. But given that Muga is a top-flight producer, that’s not surprising; its wines, whether the $12 rose or its most expensive reds, consistently deliver more value and quality than they cost.
This is a surprisingly traditional Rioja given that garnacha is blended with tempranillo, as well as the 14 percent alcohol – very high for this style of wine. That means tart cherry fruit; layers of flavor, including green herbs, a smokiness that hangs around the edges and just the faintest note of oak. There is also the more common black pepper and orange peel. The garnacha adds richness to the wine, and it’s not as rustic as other vintages.
The Muga Rioja Reserva should age for at least a decade. As it does, the layers will become noticeable and more of a whole, while the flavors will become more full. Highly recommended; pair this with any grilled or roasted dinner, whether beef or chicken.