The Zestos Old Vine Garnacha, a Spanish red, remains one of the world’s great wine values
One of the hallmarks of a great wine, regardless of price, is consistency – does it offer quality and value every vintage, while remaining true to its terroir and varietal? Which is exactly what the Spanish Zestos Old Vine Garnacha does.
Look for red fruit (cherry? berries?), but it’s not too jammy, which can be a problem with garnacha. There’s even a trace of minerality, and the bit of oak that seems to lurking in the background should fade as the wine ages. In this, it’s lively and juicy and everything I hope for in great $10 wine. But what else we expect from an importer as brilliant as Ole Imports?
The Zestos will complement almost any kind of food, tapas or otherwise. And you could even chill it a bit, and it would be fine its own on a lazy weekend afternoon. Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame – and it’s a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.
• 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.
One of the Wine Curmudgeon’s battle cries is varietally correct — that is, does the wine taste like the grapes it came from, or has winemaking been used to make it taste a certain way? The latter approach, though useful in making certain kinds of cheap wine, is ultimately not very satisfying. The best wines, of whatever price, should be varietally correct.
Which is why the Zestos garnacha ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is so stunning. I rarely quote from producer websites, but this says it all, including the exclamation point: “This tremendous quality wine is made from old vine Garnacha and it sells for a song!” No less than Robert Parker — yes, that Robert Parker — calls the Zestos “a staggering value.” If Parker and I agree on quality and value, it’s time to buy a case and reserve a spot in the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.
So what makes the Zestos so impressive? It combines the best parts of garnacha, its fresh and juicy red fruit, with the qualities added by using grapes from old vines, most 40 to 50 years old. That means rich, concentrated fruitiness (dark cherries?), an almost oak-like depth, though there is no oak, and layers of flavor rarely found in $10 wines. The tannins are soft, as they should be, and the finish is chalky, befitting the terroir.
All this is impressive enough. But the Zestos does it with normal alcohol; other wines with these attributes need to be 15 percent or more to taste this way. Hence, you can drink a bottle with dinner and not pass out. That Parker likes a wine that hasn’t been Parkerized is the Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday gift to his readers.
Mata’s passion for Spanish wine is famous, and his palate is exceptional. Which is why I trust Ole implicitly. Otherwise, a wine like the Zestos would raise all sorts of red flags. It’s a white wine from a region in Spain best known for red wine, and the red wine doesn’t have all that great a reputation. Its color is different, sort of off-yellow, and it’s made with a grape, the malvar, that is obscure even for those of us who appreciate obscure. Malvar, grown only in that part of Spain, is not even listed in the incredibly comprehensive Winegrape Glossary.
My faith, not surprisingly, was rewarded. The Zestos ($10, purchased) is unique, though it had some similarity to the Gascon wines I like, including a little white grapiness. It is simple, but definitely Spanish in style — less fruit than the Gascon wines (some lemon, maybe) with a stone fruit pit kind of finish. One tasting note described the finish as bitter almonds, and that works, too.
Drink this chilled on its own or with a any week night dinner that calls for white wine. It’s a candidate for the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame, and is highly recommended. Just don’t expect it to taste like something you’ve tried before.
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