The Volver Tarima is not traditional Spanish red wine, but it is a value
Spanish wine producers, save for some notable exceptions like the reds from Ribero del Duero, have resisted the impulse to Parkerize their wines. Most are still lower in alcohol, restrained in fruit, and taste like Spanish wine has traditionally tasted.
The Volver Tarima 2018 ($11, purchased, 14.5%), a red wine made with monastrell, inhabits the mid-ground between the too ripe, cocktail-like Parker wines and a 12.5 percent Rioja. In this, it’s a pleasant surprise for those of us who want something different, but not something so different that it doesn’t taste like wine.
Yes, the wine is a bit hot, so that the alcohol shows on the back. Having said that, it’s very well-made and surprisingly balanced. There is lots of black fruit (blackberry, black cherry?), but it isn’t too ripe. There’s a little spice, and the tannins are under control – not always easy to do with monastrell. It’s mostly used as a blending grape (known in France as mourvedre).
This is a food wine – braises and stews as the weather gets colder.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.
• Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling 2018 ($13, purchased, 10%): This Total Wine private label is a German white that is honeyed and lemony. It’s simple but enjoyable, and the “medium dry” sweetness doesn’t get in the way. Imported by Saranty Imports
• Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2016 ($32, purchased, 12.5%): The Big Guy brought this white Burgundy, from our favorite Burgundy producer, to WC world headquarters for pandemic, socially-distanced, porch sipping. Sadly, thanks to the tariff and premiumization, this is no longer the “affordable” wine it used to be. It’s fine for what it is, with some green apple and well-constructed oak. But it lacks the Sauzet verve and dash, and especially at this price. Imported by Vineyard Brands
• Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2018 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Spanish white is made with godello, which the wine geeks compare to chardonnay (same green apple fruit, same mouth feel, though a bit more spice). Hence the problem: You can buy a nice albarino or a Basque Txakolina for more or less the same price. Imported by Aaron LLC
• Rombauer Sauvignon Blance 2019 ($25, sample, 14.2%): This California white is a terrific example of this style of pricey wine — and it’s the style that Rombauer made famous. It’s a little hot, and features some grassy notes but surprisingly muted citrus fruit. Plus, it has a much fuller mouth feel than other sauvignon blancs. In other words, $10 New Zealand it ain’t.
Does that sound odd, especially coming from the Wine Curmudgeon? Not at all. Because not only is the wine top-notch, but the El Coto Rioja Bianco doesn’t waste money on a heavy bottle with a punt, which so many $15 supermarket wines still do. Plus, it comes with a screwcap. What more could the WC ask for?
So drink and enjoy the El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%), a white wine made with almost all viura. That means it doesn’t taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Rather, it’s viura as it should be: Tart, lemony, and simple without being stupid. Plus, it’s also consistent from vintage to vintage without being boring, perhaps the third hallmark of a great cheap wine after quality and minimal marketing costs. Hence, the kind of wine to buy because you know it will offer quality and value every time. And buy more than one bottle at a time.
This vintage of the El Coto Rioja Blanco may be a touch light on the back; I couldn’t tell because I enjoyed it so much that I drank it without paying enough attention. Regardless, it’s well worth drinking, and especially at this price and especially given the tariff.
The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs.
The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, which is uniquely American. How lucky are we, in the history of the world, to have what we have? And, given my appreciation of the holiday, I’ve never been able to figure out why we save turkey for one dinner a year.
Turkey is also uniquely American. In this, it’s plentiful, almost always inexpensive, is versatile, and is delicious when it’s cooked properly (something my mom mastered early on, which helped me appreciate turkey that much more). This recipe fits all the categories — it costs maybe $6 for three or four four adult-sized servings; the lemon and rosemary complement the thighs’ gaminess; and it’s a welcome respite from chicken.
• Granbazan Etiqueta Verde Albarino 2018 ($20, purchased, 13.5%): This Spanish white is more nuanced than the albarino I prefer, the ones that are savory, practically salty, and taste almost lemony tart. The lemon fruit is still there, but it’s softer and much less savory. Having said that, it’s very well done and a fair price given the tariff and how much so many ordinary albarinos cost. Imported by Europvin
• CVNE Monopole 2019 ($11, purchased, 13%): Spain’s Rioja region is best known for red wine, but quality has improved considerably for its whites, often made with viura. The Monopole is a wine to buy, drink, buy again, and drink again. This vintage isn’t as quite as tart and lemony, but remains a tremendous value. Imported by Arano LLC
This vintage of the Spanish Azul y Garanza tempranillo isn’t as interesting as the past couple, but still delivers quality and value
This is the fourth vintage I’ve tasted of the Azul y Garanaza tempranillo, a Spanish red. And each year has been different from the others. That’s incredibly refreshing in our post-modern, all wine must taste alike world.
This time, the Azul y Garanza tempranillo ($13/1 liter, purchased, 14.1%) is a little more rustic and tannic than past vintages, with less cherry fruit. In this, it’s about the opposite of the first vintage I tasted, the 2016, which was softer and fruitier than I normally like. The Azul probably isn’t Hall of Fame quality this time, like the 2017 and 2018. But, like the 2016, it is perfectly enjoyable to drink.
And it remains a fine value, and not just because it’s a liter, with the extra glass and a half of wine. (And, in four vintages, this is the fourth different price I’ve paid – all bought from stores in Texas).
One other thing: Don’t worry about the 14.1 percent alcohol, which is likely a little sleight of hand to get around the 25 percent Trump wine tariff, which applies to Spanish and French wines less than 14 percent. This “adjustment” is happening quite a bit, and it really doesn’t affect the quality of the wine.
Fourth of July wine 2020: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 244th birthday
The Unites States celebrates its 244th birthday on Saturday, which means a need for quality cheap wine. Hence, these suggestions from the Wine Curmudgeon. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside (which is the forecast for Dallas).
Consider these Fourth of July wine 2020 suggestions:
• MAN Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This South African white is well-made and enjoyable — citrus (softer lemon?), but fruitier than France though not as tart as New Zealand. Simple, but enjoyable and a fine value. Imported by Vineyard Brands
• Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2017 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This Spanish red, mostly monastrell, is a heavy, more Parker-style effort that is mostly balanced. There’s lots of dark fruit, and though it’s a bit hot, there is a surprisingly clean finish. Imported by Rare Wine Co.
• Masciarelli Rosato 2019 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a revelation: Barely ripe strawberry fruit, an almost chalky finish, and so much else going on it’s difficult to believe that it doesn’t cost $18 and have a too cute label. Highly recommended. Imported by Vintus, LLC
• Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential
The Balnea verdejo is a stunning wine, one of the best of its type I’ve tasted in years
Verdejo is a common Spanish white grape used to make lots and lots of wine, most of it OK and some even more than OK. But the Wine Curmudgeon had not tasted a verdejo as decidedly uncommon as the Balnea verdejo in a long time – if ever.
The Balnea Verdejo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a stunning wine, somehow layered and almost nuanced – but costing nothing more than a bottle of very ordinary supermarket plonk that tastes sweet and syrupy. A wine of this quality at this price, and especially these days, is nearly unprecedented.
Look for almost candied lemon fruit, although the Balnea is not a sweet wine; an almost flinty minerality; and a fullness in the mouth that is rare in verdejo at any price, given how simple most of the wines are and how tart lemon fruit is their reason for being.