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JRNet
Madrid, Spain
Email: jriis@jrnet.com

Phone: (+34) 913 205 911
Fax: (+34) 913 205 911

Wines to Try List
Recent Selections

Still More Wines to Try

Reds
Solagüen Reserva 1995 [Red]
(DOC Rioja,  Unión de Cosecheros de Labastida)
 
Established in 1964, Unión de Cosecheros in the Rioja Alavesa town of Labastida, unlike the typical coop designed to turn its members grapes into wine to sell in bulk, is a well respected producer of quality, classic barrel aged Riojas. 1995 was a very good vintage, and this "reserva" is showing exceptionally well right now, and it's a good "food wine" to accompany dishes based on beef or lamb.

Medium depth cherry red color, lightish but showing no appreciable signs of age. A nice, [if somewhat rustic] nose is clearly Rioja with red/black berry fruit, vanilla/spice and a hint of anise. The palate's clean with ripe berries & spice, well integrated oak, crisp acidity, noticable [yet smooth] tannins and respectable length. Very good.
[$M]

{2 Sept 2001}


Alceño 2000
(DO Jumilla,  Pedro Luis Martínez)
 
Alceño is yet another example of the new generation Jumilla wines which have take the local market by storm. Made from a Mediterranean mix of Syrah, Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and Tempranillo, Pedro Luis Martínez' wine is an unoaked hearty, fruit-driven red wine that should work exceptionally well with a barbequed steak.

Dark purple/garnet color. Hearty aromas of well ripened fruit (plums/bing cherries) with a hint of brushness/eucalyptus, black olives and licorice. Rich and ripe on the palate with beautifully ripe dark berry fruit, balanced acidity, smooth/ripe tannins and superb length. Very good indeed.
[$M]

{24 Aug 2001}


Valdelosfrailes Prestigio 1999
(DO Cigales,  Bodega Valdelosfrailes)
A neighbor to the better known Ribera del Duero, Cigales is one of Spain's "lost" regions, best known for hard, dry rosés; but is coming into its own as serious producers such as Carlos Moro [Matarromero] begin to make their mark and start to make better use of the region's fine old vine Tempranillo grapes. A fine oak aged red which works well with exotic foods like duck in orange sauce or skate in black butter sauce.

Good dark cherry red color. Blackberry fruit dominates the nose with a nicely integrated note of spicy oakiness. The palate's fruit driven with a clean, balanced oak background, crisp acidity and sharp yet smooth tannins. Nicely balanced, long finish, good all terrain food wine.
[$M] {12 Jul 2001}



Valsacro 1998
(DOC Rioja,  Bodegas Valsacro)

While quite different from the '97, Valsacro's second vintage is showing well. The 80+ year old vines are among the oldest in Rioja and this year's crop, while more austere than the '97, is a nice mix of classic Rioja with a modern touch and a noticably Mediterranean character. Excellent wine on its own and especially good with with lamb.

Medium depth cherry red color, bright. A nice fruit & pepper nose with vanilla and toasty wood. Medium to full weight palate that belies the lightish color with bramble fruit [blackberry/raspberry and strawberries] with a warm, spicy Rhone-like character. Superb and starting to show very well, but could probably use a bit more time in bottle.
[$H]

{27 Jun 2001}


Múrice Crianza 1998
(DOC Rioja,  Viña Ijalba)

Organically grown and produced, Múrice is made from the traditional Rioja blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo (Carignan), and Graciano. A refreshing mix of traditional Rioja style with a modern flair and just the thing for today's wine fancier; Múrice is great on its own and works well with a wide range of dishes from poultry to casseroles, stews and roasts.

Dark ruby/garnate color. The nose is classic Rioja with red/black berry fruit, vanilla/spice with a hint of licorice. A palate of medium body shows ripe rich plummy fruit with a touch of spice and oak, good balance and excellent length. Very good.
[$M]

{27 Apr 2001}


Señorío de Nevada 1999
(Table wine from Andalucia, Señorío de Nevada)

Located in the Sierra Nevada valley near Granada, the Señorío de Nevada winery is outside the boundaries of any of Spain's wine denominations [DO's]. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Syrah (20%), aged 10 months in American oak barrels, this full bodied red shows real promise and should work well with a grilled steak or roast rack of lamb.

Dark inky garnate color with a purple tinge. Somewhat closed nose shows ripe blackberry/blueberry aromas, vanilla/spice and a touch or menthol/eucalyptus. A powerful, full bodied palate reflects the nose [blueberries], with firm tannins, crisp acidity and good length. Needs time to mellow out a rather tannic finish.
[$M]

{5 Apr 2001}


Vía Romana 1999
(DO Ribeira Sacra, Adegas E Viñedos Vía Romana)

The Ribeira Sacra region in northwest Spain is a recent addition to the country's officially denominated regions. Unlike the better known Rías Baixas region closer to the coast where red grapes just don't ripen, this area upstream along the rivers Miño and Sil, offers some first rate reds using the local Mencía variety. A young unoaked wine is nice on its own and should go well with veal, pork and rice dishes.

Dark garnet/purple color with a bluish edge.  Elegant fruit and floral nose [blackberry] and a pleasant herbal touch of fresh cut hay.  Blackberry/raspberry fruit dominates the palate:  medium bodied with fresh crisp acidity, nice complexity and great length.
[$M]

{25 Mar 2001}


Marqués de Cáceres Reserva 1994
(DOC Rioja, Unión Viti-Vinícola)

1994 is rated as one of Rioja's best vintages in recent times. While this is a large volume producer [a mere 40,000 oak barrels in their ageing cellars], their 1994 "reserva" is a truly fine example of what a quality classic Rioja's really all about. A truly fine wine which will go well with game or well aged beef.

Deep bing cherry/garnet red color with a hint of brick along the edge. A well defined, elegant and complex nose dominated by tertiary aromas [leather, cigar box, chocolate] with a spicy cherry/berry fuit background. A full bodied, elegant palate with crisp acidity,  marvelous complexity and great length. A superb example of a fine barrel aged Rioja "reserva".
[$H]

{11 Mar 2001}


Viña 105 1999
(DO Cigales, Telmo Rodríguez)

In recent years, Telmo Rodríguez has carved a reputation as one of the country's leading winemakers. Viña 105 is made from Tempranillo & Garnacha grapes in the Cigales denomination, along the Duero River and best known for its dry crisp rosés. Telmo's projects include wines from other regions like Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro and Málaga, but this inexpensive Cigales red is not to be underestimated. It's young, fresh and fruit driven.  A nice quaff on its own, and should work will with rice or pasta dishes.

Medium depth cherry red color, clean and bright. Primary fruit aromas dominate the nose: cherries, currants, red berries and the like. The palate's dry and fruity with crisp acidity and a firm tannic background that offers a pleasant, bitterish balance to the nicely ripened fruit. Very good indeed.
[$L]

{15 Feb 2001}


Guelbenzu Lautus 1996
(DO Navarra, Guelbenzu)

The family owned and operated Guelbenzu winery has consistently been one of Navarra's [and Spain's] top producers in recent years. This high-end "Reserva" is made from a mix of Tempranillo (50%), Merlot (30%) Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) & Garnacha (10%) . A deep, elegant, moderately full bodied red this wine will certainly improve over the next couple of years and should work well with game or beef.

Dark cherry red color. Powerful yet beautifully elegant aromas of cherry/berry fruit, nicely integrated oak complemented by a touch of vanilla & spice. The palate shows mature fruit, along with great depth, elegance and complexity, along with lively [but smooth]tannins and nicely balanced acidity. Truly magnificent!
[$H]

{5 Feb 2001}


Leda Viñas Viejas 1998
(Leda)

"Viñas Viejas" means old vines and this is what the García brothers [Bodegas Mauro] use for this tremendously deep and concentrated  wine. The grapes are carefully chosen from sellected producers in and around the Vallodolid/Toro area. A truly wonderful wine which should work well with a sirloin or porterhouse steak.

A dark garnet/cherry red color, clean  and bright. Somewhat closed, but delightfully deep and complex nose: ripe cherry/berry fruit, with toasty minerality. Potent and full bodied palate with good balance and rather lively tannins that will need some time to mellow out. A terrific wine which will certainly improve over the next couple of years.
[$H]

{14 Jan 2001}


Numanthia 1999  [Red]
(DO Toro, Dominio de Eguren)
Dominio de Eguren is a new venture from Rioja producer Sierra Cantabria in the now fashionable DO Toro region. This is the winery's first vintage and Numanthia 1999 is nothing short of spectacular! It can only be described as immense, a huge wine with incredibly powerful fruit and still in its infancy. Needs time to reach its full potential and would surely overpower all but the heartiest of food. Should go well with game: venison or wild boar.
Deep, dark almost black in color. Powerful fruit aromas [blackberry/gooseberry] literally charge out of the glass accompanied by marked yet integrated quality oak and pencil lead minerality. Enormous palate with rich ripe fruit and lively yet elegant tannins and tremendous length. Wonderful stuff!

[$H]
{20 Dec 2000}


 
Cérvoles 1997
(DO Costers del Segre, Celler del Cantonella)
A recente creation from Tomàs Cusiné (Castell del Remei), Cérvoles is a fine example of the new generation of Spanish wines made from a mix of Tempranillo (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Garnacha (30%) with a moderate dose of oak barrel age. A rich, full bodied red wine, fruit driven; Mediterranean in style with a definite international flair. A fine companion for roast beef, beef stew or lamb.
Medium dark cherry/garnate color. Great complexity on the nose with well ripened black/red fruit, brushy herbs and noticable [yet balanced] quality oak. The palate shows the same ripe fruit, nicely supported by crisp acidity and  firm tannins which will certainly gain with a bit more cellaring. A superb wine.
[$M]
{20 Nov 2000}

Martinet Bru 1997
(DO Priorato, Mas Martinet Viticultors)
Once again it's time go back to an old favorite we've tasted several times before, Martinet Bru. While Priorat prices have all been on the rise in recent, this great wine remains a good value. A rich, dark concentrated wine which needs game or good red beef to show its stuff.
Deep dark, almost inky purple color. Aromas show extra ripe fruit [prunes/plums/raisins], a touch of volatile acidity and clean [but not nesessarily new] wood. Palate is powerfully built, full bodied with the same ripe fruit flavors offset by vanilla/spice, noticable but not unpleasant oak, smooth yet firm tannins, adequate acidity and good length. Excellent wine.
[$M]
{14 Nov 2000} 
Castillo de Maluenda Reserva 1996
(DO Calatayud, Bodegas y Viñedos del Jalón)
In recent times we've seen wine from "lesser" regions like Calatayud, Cariñena or Campo de Borja growing in popularity, offering both quality and excellent value. Made from 75% Tempranillo and 25% Garnacha with 14 months of barrel age [American oak], this is a medium to full bodied wine with style and personality. An excellent value and a wine made for steaks & chops.
Medium dark cherry/garnate color with a hint of brick along the edge. Mature jammy fruit with a touch of vanilla and spice on the nose. Tha palate shows ripe plum/prune/cherry fruit with a slightly cheesy/yoghurty background, licorice and vanilla/oak, along with moderate tannins, adequate acidity and decent length. Excellent value.
[$L]
{5 Nov 2000}

Yuntero Reserva 1994
(DO La Mancha, Coop. Jesús del Perdón)
Despite its size [3,600 hectares/8,900 acres under vine], the Jesús del Perdón Cooperative makes some very good wines at remarkable prices. This Tempranillo [60%] Cabernet Sauvignon [40%] blend with 18 months in oak, is a mid-weight red wine with plenty of flavor and a wine for a broad range of dishes from pasta and rice to roasts, game and cheese.
Medium depth dark cherry red color showing a hint of brick along the rim. Clean fresh aromas of berry/plum fruit, a touch of vanilla/spice, unobtrusive oak with a fair trace of animal & leather reduction/evolution elements. Medium body with sufficient fruit, well developed tannins, moderate acidity, well integrated oak and a decent finish. Good wine, great value.
[$L]
{31 Oct 2000}

Castell del Remei 1780, 1998
(DO Costers del Segre, Castell del Remei)
Castell del Remei [along with Raimat and Celler de Cantonella], continues to be a benchmark for both the Costers del Segre region and the new generation of quality Spanish wines. A full-bodied, powerful red wine with a decidedly international touch, 1780 is made form a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Tempranillo (30%) and Garnacha (10%). Still very much in its youth, it needs a bit of cellar time to mellow out. A wine for game, stews and mature hard cheeses.
Deep cherry red color with a touch of bluish purple along the rim. Aromas show nice complexity with ripe red berries/plums, mocha/spice and a distinct yet discrete touch of wood. The palate is ripe, rich and balanced, with good length, balanced acidity and potent but smooth tannins. Very good indeed.
[$H]
{23 Oct 2000}

Terreus Pago de Cueva Baja 1996
(Vino de Mesa de Castilla y León, Mauro)
Gone [it seems] are the days when an official appelation was the only way to market premium wines. Since starting up in 1980, Mariano García has opened the way for top class premium "vinos de mesa" (table wines). A highly extracted international style wine from a single vineyard (Pago de Cueva Baja), Terreus is made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha. A full bodied wine, it's still very much in its infancy and probably needs a year or two more of cellaring to start to come into its own.
Dark inky purple, almost black color. Clean, well defined aromas show fine new oak and ripe blackberry and cherry fruit. Powerfully extracted palate shows the same concentrated mature fruit  with potent yet smooth tannins from both fruit and oak, sharp acidity and a bit of youthful, but pleasant astringency which point to an ageworthy wine. [There's a bit of sediment, so decanting is in order.]
Incredible stuff!
[$H]
{15 Oct 2000}

Raimat Abadía 1998
(DO Costers del Segre, Raimat)
A few months back, we featured the '97 version of Raimat's Abadía, so it's useful to see how the winery's progressing with this "volume production" Cabernet/Tempranillo barrel aged red from the Costers del Segre region. Perhaps it's the extra 5 months of bottle age that makes the difference, but the '97 tasted in February seemed noticably smoother and riper than the recently released '98. All in all a good, cost effective  wine, with enough hefty for most beef dishes. Just the same, it may need a bit more bottle age.
Dark cherry red color. Well defined aromas of plums/blackberries, eucalyptus, vanilla and a brushy herbal scent. Full bodied palate with ripe plummy fruit, well integrated oak and balanced acidity. Tannins seem to have a somewhat vegetal edge, which will [hopefully] smooth out with a few months on the cellar. Very good.
[$M]
{8 Oct 2000}

Ánima Negra 1998
(DO Pla i Llevant, Ánima Negra)
A virtual unknown from the recently christened Pla i Llevant denomination on the island of Mallorca, the wines of Ánima Negra ("dark soul" in Spanish) have caused a bit of a stir of late on the international wine scene. Made from a mix of the local Callet and Cabernet Sauvignon with a year's time in American and French oak, this thick, dark wine is very much worth a try. Almost too full bodied for most food, but should work with something like a hearty beef or oxtail stew.
Very dark, inky black/red color. Potent nose shows plummy ripe fruit with spice, oak and eucalyptus. Thick, chewy palate shows the same ripe plum fruit with sourish plum/grape skins, prominent acidity and firm tanins. The finish is persistent, distinctive with a not unpleasant bitterish tannic astringency. Shows real promise, but clearly needs time to mellow out. Very good.
[$M]
{1 Oct 2000}

Valsacro 1997
(DOC Rioja, Bodegas Valsacro)
Made from grapes grown on vines over 80 years old, Bodegas Escudero's "new" Valsacro has been one of the Spanish wine industry's pleasant surprises in 2000. The Rioja touch is certainly present, but it's got more weight and character than the "typical" Rioja fare ... and 1997 was [at best] an awkward vintage for the region. A rich, full bodied red with personality and style. Just the thing to accompany a nice thick sirloin steak or a perhaps a slice of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.
Dark cherry red color, showing the merest hint of brick along the edge. Ripe red/black berry aromas with balsamic spice, vanilla and nicely integrated oak. Red berries [currants/strawberries], plums and cherries dominate the palate with balanced acidity, a touch of oak/vanilla, firm/sweet tannins and great length & complexity. Excellent indeed!
[$M]
{23 Sept 2000}

Duque de Azara Crianza 1996
(DO Somontano, Viñas del Vero)
In recent years Somantano has produced some excellent wines including some very good "noble" varietals as well as some real surprises built around local grapes varieties such as Moristel and Parraleta. This wine is a mix of Spain's classic Tempranillo, the local Moristel and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. A medium to full bodied wine with 8 months of oak barrel age, and a good companion for mature cheeses, roasts and steak.
Bright cherry red color. Aromatic nose of ripe red berry fruit, balsamic/spice and a touch of vanilla scented oak. Smooth, rich palate with good mature jammy berry fruit, noticable but nicely integrated wood and a clean fresh finish. Very nice wine, excellent value.
[$M]
{9 Sept 2000}

Glorioso Crianza 1996
(DOC Rioja, Bodegas Palacio)
In these times of upwardly spiraling Rioja prices, a decent "crianza" at a moderate price is not always an easy thing to come by. Bodegas Palacio's Glorioso is a pleasant exception: a nice Rioja red with style and personality. While not necessarily overwhelming, it's a very good wine and a fine value with all the things you'd expect in a Rioja. An excellent multi-purpose, medium-bodied food wine that will go with a broad range of meats, pasta, rice and casseroles.
Medium depth cherry red color showing a hint of brick along the edge. Clean well developed aromas of blackberry fruit with a touch of leather, balsamic/aromatic spice and a gentle vanilla-tinged oakiness. Fresh fruit dominated palate shows currants and tart cherries along with eucalyptus/menthol and sandalwood, combined with pert [but not agressive] acidity and a silky, gently astringent finish. Very good.
[$M]
{3 Sept 2000}

Hécula 1998
(DO Yecla, Bodegas Castaño)
As a wine growing region, the province of Murcia has been known mainly for potent, alcoholic reds; but the advent of producers like Castaño [as well as Julia Roch, Huertas & Agapito Rico] have opened the door to a "new" form of quality Mediterranean wines, built around the Monastrell [aka Mourvèdre] grape ... and in this case some Merlot as well. A full ripe red wine with just enough oak [4 months of barrel age], this is a perfect match for steaks, beef stew and meat/cheese casseroles.
Dark garnet/cherry red color, clean and bright. Well developed nose of wild cherry/berry fruit and spicy balsamic and floral/herbal elements.  Powerful, yet elegant palaten  shows sun ripened fruit, eucalyptus/balsamic/tobacco, firm/sweet tannins, good acidic balance and excellent length. An fine wine, terrific value.
[$L]
{27 Ago 2000}

Vino Primero 1999
(DO Toro, Bodegas Fariña)
Every November,  just 6 weeks after the grapes are crushed,Vino Primero [a carbonic maceration "new wine" & Spain's answer to Beaujolais Nouveau] hits the market. 6 weeks from now, the 2000 grape harvest is due to start in Toro, so it seemed a good point in time to see how last year's model is progressing. A full rich fruit laden wine which should go well with just about any meat course. [Fariñas says it will cellar well for about two years.]
While 10+ months of bottle age has smoothed and mellowed out some bright spritziness seen in the November version; there's still plenty of fruit and freshness on nose and palate. Dark cherry red/purple color. Ripe red berries and lots of complexity on the nose with some prunes/plums & herbal scented wildflowers. Full bodied, ripe fruit palate [blackberries/plums] with lasting fruitiness, smooth grape tannins and a mildly astringent, pleasant & lengthy finish.
[$L]
{20 Ago 2000}

Monasterio de las Viñas Reserva 1993
(DO Cariñena, Grandes Vinos y Viñedos)
Not long ago, the Cariñena region was best known for inexpensive, heavy, alcoholic & unsophisticated red wines. Times have changed, and we're starting to see lots more quality wines from this region just down the Ebro River valley from Rioja.  A style somewhere between Rioja and warmer climate areas like Valdepeñas or La Mancha, made from 50% Garnacha, 25% Tempranillo and 25% Mazuelo with extensive oak barrel ageing. A mature, medium bodied wine which should go well with a charcoal barbequed steak.
Medium depth cherry red color with brick tones along the edge. Aromas of ripe cherries/plums, vanilla/chocolate spice and a hint of leather. The palate is warm and vinous, but there's ample sweet/mature fruit as well with candied cherries, balsamics, chocolate and a touch dusty/leathery/woody reduction. Definitely a wine for those who prefer mature wines, nonetheless tasty and good value as well.
[$L]
{13 Ago 2000}

Finca Elez 1997
(Sierra de Alcaraz, Manuel Manzaneque)
Manuel Manzaneque's vineyards are located in the western part of the province of Albacete. Sierra de Alcaraz is in La Mancha but categorized as a "lesser" VT (Vino de la Tierra) denomination. The region's climate, sandy clay soils, and 1000+ meters of altitude provide the ingredients for some rather unique wines, - distinct from other parts of La Mancha. A mix of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot with 6 months of barrel age, this is a full-bodied red wine with personality and style, just the thing to go with steak or roast beef.
Dark cherry red color. Aromas of ripe plums, green pepper, spicy/vanilla oak & and an interesting tarry/earthy component. Rich, complex & full-bodied "Bordeaux-like" palate with plums/prunes, smooth/sweet/firm tannins, fresh acidity, nicely integrated/unobtrusive oak and good length. Very good, great value.
[$M]
{5 Ago 2000}

Solarce 1999 Tinto
(DOC Rioja, Alicia Rojas)
A month or so ago, we looked at this same producer's "crianza" barrel aged red. This week's selection is a tinto joven (young unaged red) made of organically grown Tempranillo grapes from the winery's Collado de la Estrella estate in Ausejo, south of Rioja's capital, Logroño. A fresh and fruity red which will go well with rice, pasta or even a barbequed chicken.
A medium to light cherry color with bluish purple tints. Aromas of goosberry, cherry and strawberry. Fresh berry-fruit filled palate with pleasant acidity. Not all that complex, but an easy drinking, tasty lightweight red, and a very good value as well.
[$L]
{29 May 2000}

Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva 1985
(DOC Rioja, Marqués de Murrieta)
The Ygay estate's 250 plus hectares of vineyards are the pride of the Marqués de Murrieta winery. The 1985 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva is made from 76% Tempranillo, 13% Mazuelo, 8% Garnacha and 3% Graciano, aged 8 months in tanks, followed by 30 months in American oak barrels. Very much in the classic Murrieta style, and holding up very well. A good match for roast beef or venison.
Bright cherry red color of medium density with the merest hint of brick along the edge. A touch of bottle funk quickly blows off leaving a pleasant leathery/animal nose, along with ripe red berry fruit, vanilla/oak and an interesting dusty/spicy background. A surprisingly fresh palate echos the nose with noticable [but balanced] oak, a crisp/firm acidic backbone and excellent length. A fine wine and a good example of a well made classic-style Rioja.
[$H]
{7 May 2000}

Manuel Quintano 1994 Reserva
(DOC Rioja, Unión de Cosecheros de Labastida)
The Labastida Coop long been known for their their somewhat rustic traditional-style Solagüen label. The recently introduced Manuel Quintano has won plaudits from the critics at home and abroad as a fine international-style wine. Made from 100% Tempranillo from old vines with 45 months of barrel age, this is a full bodied wine with character, and a companion to game, steak or well aged cheese.
Dark cherry red color showing a hint of brick color on the rim. Rich, plummy aromas of well ripened fruit with a touch of spice, chocolate and a fair bit of oak. Elegant [but tannic] palate with cocoa/spice, crisp acidity, and good length. Perhaps a touch woody, but nonetheless very good.
[$H]
{23 Apr 2000}

Solarce 1997 Crianza
(DOC Rioja, Alicia Rojas)
While Alicia Rojas may not be a household name, this producer has been making good Rioja wine for many years, but only recently appeared on the market with their own Solarce and Collado de la Estrella labels. Situated in the higher elevations (700 meters) of the Rioja Baja sub-region with over 100 hectares of vineyards on a lovely 650 hectare estate, Alicia Rojas makes wines with quality fruit, excellent color and body. A good food wine that can use decanting as a bit of sediment shows up as a product of the high color, organic production techniques and minimal filtering.
Medium dark cherry/garnet color, clean and bright. Primary fruit aromas dominate the nose: ripe cherry, plum and gooseberry, with a touch of vanilla and spice oakiness. Ripe berry and cherry flavors with sweet tannins and nice crisp acidity make for a fruit driven, mid-to-full bodied wine with pleasant oak nuances and good length. Nicely rounded and ready to drink. Very good, especially considering Rioja's dodgy 1997 vintage.
[$M]
{16 Apr 2000}

Remírez de Ganuza 1995 Reserva
(DOC Rioja, Fernándo Remírez de Ganuza)
Founded in 1989, Fernándo Remírez Ganuza's Rioja Reservas have become synonymous with quality since the very first 1992 version appeared on the market. The last 6 months have been noteworthy for the winery: Best Young Carbonic Maceration Red Winein Nov 1999, and recently selected Winery of the Year by Sibaritas magazine. The '95 follows the tone set by the excellent '94: a rich, potent, complex Rioja with an international flair [87% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 3% Garnacha]. Simply superb!
Deep dark cherry red color, retaining a youthful purplish tone. Full, complex palate with bramble berry fruit, vanilla and nicely integrated oak. Clean, elegant, full bodied and wonderfully complex palate showing fresh ripe fruit, good acid balance and smooth sweet tannins. A glorious, modern style Rioja.
[$H]
{9 Apr 2000}

Raimat Cabernet Sauvignon
(DO Costers del Segre, Raimat)
Raimat, located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, has made "noble varietals" their trademark. The 1996 Cabernet is a typical Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) and Merlot (15%) with 24 months of oak barrel ageing and a mininmum of 6 months in bottle before release. A full bodied red which will go well with roast beef, grilled steaks or well aged cheese.
Deep, dark garnet red color with purple tints. Clean, potent aromas of red and black bramble berry fruit with prunes/plums and a bit of chocolatey spiciness. Full, rich, smooth palate with ripe pruney fruit, nicely integrated wood and a long, sweet tannic finish. Very good indeed.
[$M]
{5 Mar 2000}

Gran Feudo Reserva "Viñas Viejas" 1994
(DO Navarra, Julián Chivite)
While similar in many ways to the younger "crianza" version of Chivite's Gran Feudo reviewed here last week, Viñas Viejas is much more complex, richer and with more body. "Viñas Viejas" means old vines and this one is made from vines dating back to 1940, 1954 and 1960. A mix of Tempranillo and Garnacha with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon aged in French Allier oak, this is a full bodied wine that will go nicely with a grilled steak or well aged cheese.
Deep dark garnet color showing just a hint of brick along the edge. Clean well defined aromas show ripe jammy plum and bramble berry fruit, along with peppy vanilla spice and a brushy sort of background. Rich full bodied palate, potent yet elegant with a certain Cabernet pruniness, balanced acidity and well integrated oak. A truly glorious wine, and a great value that belies its $11 (in Spain) price tag.
[$M]
{19 Feb 2000}

Gran Feudo Crianza 1996
(DO Navarra, Julián Chivite)
The Chivite family has been making wine in Navarra since 1647. For many years, the winery's product line has been centered around it's Gran Feudo Garnacha rosé, but in recent times Chivite has made a name for itself with a useful line of quality varietal wines and solid cost effective performers like this barrel aged, mid-bodied red made from Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon with 12 months in French and American oak. Great value, still young and a good general purpose food wine.
Medium dark garnet red color, purplish edge. Aromas show red berry fruit, toasty-spicy tannins and just a hint of old leather. Palate is fresh and dry, medium bodied with well integrated bramble berry fruit and wood. Moderate acidity and a slightly vegetal tannic background. Clean and well made, a very good wine for the price.
[$M]
{13 Feb 2000}

Raimat Abadía 1997
(DO Costers del Segre, Raimat)
"Fusion wine" might just be the right descriptor for Raimat's fine Abadía red wine: "imported" Cabernet Sauvignon grapes along with "native" Tempranillo, barrel aged in French oak (6 months) & American oak (12 months). [In all fairness, I must confess to having a soft spot for this particular wine since "discovering" the pleasures of this Cabernet/Tempranillo beauty some years back.] A full bodied yet elegant red, just the thing for lamb or beef.
Dark cherry color with a touch of purple. Well developed aromas of blackberries, plums and prunes, wrapped in elegant spice and vanilla, with a hint of brushy resins, eucalyptus and pepper. Full bodied, smooth palate with plums, prunes and spice. Balanced, elegant wood elements with pleasant acidity, tannins have smoothed out nicely, shows good structure and length. Super wine, excellent value.
[$M]
{4 Feb 2000}

Finca La Planeta 1997
(DO Priorat, Pasnau Germans)
In the last few years, old vines single-vineyard wines from the Priorat region have taken the critics (and the market) by storm. The steep slate-soils slopes of the region with their well aged vines make for low productivity, difficult harvests and great concentration. The Pasnau brothers "Finca La Planeta" French, oak barrel aged with 90% Cabernet and 10% Garnacha, is an excellent example of the style. A superb, full-bodied red which will improve with cellaring and should go well with grilled steaks or a well aged cheddar cheese.
Deep dark purple/cherry/garnet color. Well developed, but slightly closed aromas show great concntrated pruney, spicy Cabernet fruit with an elegant oak edge. The palate is thick and rich with plummy ripe fruit, smooth spicy vanilla and a classic Priorat graphite/mineral mouthfeel. Good balance and length. A terrific wine that still needs a fair amout of cellaring to reach it's full potential. Simply superb!
[$H]
{19 Jan 2000}

Aldor 1998
(VM Castilla y León, Aldor)
Aldor is an interesting "alternative" wine from the Ribera del Duero environs, but not oficially registered in the Denomination. Technically a Vino de Mesa (Table Wine), this is a 100% Tempranillo with 6 months of barrel ageing in American oak barrels. Medium to full bodied, it's a perfect match for steaks, roasts or grilled lamb chops.
Dark bing cherry color, deep purple along the edge. Aromas reveal ripe bramble berry fruit, vanilla, spice and a hint of coconut. Rich fruit dominates the palate with interesting nuances of coconut and balsamic spice. Well made, if somewhat rustic, it will round out with a year or so of cellaring. A good value, interesting Ribera del Duero "alternative".
[$M]
{13 Jan 2000}

Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1991
(DOC Rioja, Bodegas Muga)
Established in 1932, Bodegas Muga has become a Rioja classic despite its relative youth. A family operation from the beginning, it's a winery which has stayed in touch with the times. Their "modern-style" Torre Muga has won critical acclaim, and the renewed Prado Enea Gran Reserva appears to have become a traditional Rioja with a modern touch. Remarkably fresh and fruit driven, despite 3 long years in oak. Good now, but should age well for years to come.
Deep garnet/cherry red color with no obvious signs of age. Powerful, complex nose of ripe red berries, spice and muted oak. Full rich palate of blackberries, dried stone fruits, chocolate, leather and balsamic spice. Excellent wine with depth, complexity and length.
[$H]
{29 Dec 1999}

Lan Reserva 1995
(DOC Rioja, Bodegas Lan)
A Rioja "classic" with a new look from Bodegas Lan, this "reserva" is made from a time honored Rioja blend of Tempranillo (80%), Graciano (10%) and Garnacha (10%) with 12 months of oak barrel ageing. A medium weight wine which may need a few more months of bottle ageing to fully mellow out. A good match for beef stew, lamb chops or a nice cheddar cheese.
Medium depth bing cherry red color. Good, but not overly potent nose shows toasty tannins, ripe cherries and a hint of cocoa. Palate is medium weight with ripe red berry fruit, firm/smooth tannins, moderate acidity, slightly astringent. Nice unobtrusive oak; long finish with berries, cocoa/bittersweet chocolate and a touch of wood. Good, but perhaps still a fraction disjointed - may need some bottle time to integrate fully.
[$M]
{12 Dec 1999}

Primero 1999
(DO Toro, Bodegas Fariñas)
In recent years, Primero from Bodegas Fariña has been Spain's equivalent of "Beaujolais Nouveau". No longer alone with thirty or so wineries producing early release carbonic maceration red wines at this time of year, Primero continues to be best known prototype of the style. Clearly needing a couple of months of bottle ageing, this is nonetheless a promising young, fruit laden red showing a delightful hint of carbonic fizz.
A bright purple color going pale along the edge. Fresh, ripe fruit carbonic nose is initially overshadowed by the sulfites which blow off in a few minutes. The same fresh red berry fruit and carbonic zing dominate the palate, which shows some roughness. Good, but needs some time to burn off sulfites and smooth out those rough edges.
[$M]
{4 Dec 1999}

Principe Alfonso 1996
(Bodegas El Cortijo de las Monjas)
Labeled table wine as it's not produced under any DO regional control, this "Bordeaux-style" red wine is made by Prince Alphonse Hohenloehe in the unlikely area of Ronda in Andalusía - southern, mediterranean Spain. Assisted by flying winemaker Michel Rolland, Prince Alphonse makes his wine from Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot, tempered by 16 months of barrel aging in French oak casks.
A good clean cherry ruby color of medium depth. Subtle but well defined aromas of ripe plummy fruit and a hint of black olives. Smooth palate shows good complexity, plums, red berries, a touch of green pepper and black olives, followed by a curious bitterish and lengthy finish over a sweet ripe-fruit background. Nice, interestingly different and pleasant wine.
[$M]
{28 Nov 1999}

Marqués de Murrieta Ygay Reserva 1991
DOC Rioja (Marqués de Murrieta)
In a 1.5 liter magnum, this was beautiful expression of a really good, classic-style Rioja "reserva". At times, wines from this Rioja institution have come up a bit short, but this is definitely not case. Still remarkably youthful, with color, depth and balanced character, which went very nicely with a pork and mushroom paella-style rice casserole.
A clean cherry-garnet color, good depth and no signs at of "browning" along the edge. Well developed aromas of ripe blackberry and currant fruit with a touch of balsamic spicyness. Full rich palate, of surprising depth and complexity follows the nose. The wood element is there, but very subtle and with no old wood mustyness or blatent oak. Well defined acidity and youthful color indicate a long life ahead. Superb!
[$H]
{21 Nov 1999}

Borsao 1998
DO Campo de Borja (Agrícola de Borja)
One of Spain's lesser known rigions is Campo de Borja, which lies along the Ebro River, downstream from Rioja. Borsao is an inexpensive unoaked young wine with loads of fruit and a good companion for pasta and rice dishes.
Medium dark bing cherry color with a purplish tinge. Aromas show thick, rich ripe strawberry/raspberry fruit. Palate is clean, powerfully fruity with juicy strawberry, cherry and raspberry. While not all that complex and perhaps lacking a bit of acidity, this is a beautifully fruity wine. Great value and a nice quaff.
[$L]
{14 Nov 1999}

Viñas de Gaín Crianza 1995
DOC Rioja (Cosecheros Alaveses)
An international-style red from the "Artadi" winery, Viñas de Gaín is a well made Rioja red with a modern flair. Yet another fine "crianza" from the excellent 1995 vintage, medium bodied, flavorful and a good companion to lamb or beef.
A bright cherry garnet color with no noticable signs of age. Penetrating aromas of new wood, vanilla and spice are clear indicators of the winemaker's internationalist pretentions. Good, ripe briary berry fruit is perhaps overshadowed by the newness of the oak on nose and palate, but there's great complexity and depth with sweet, but not yet docile, tannins. Palate shows moderate acidty and good length, and perhaps a hint of dryness on the finish. All in all a very good, eminently drinkable Rioja.
[$H]
{5 Nov 1999}

Balbás Reserva 1994
DO Ribera del Duero (Balbás)
This is a good example of how a Ribera del Duero should be. Made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon with 18 months of oak barrel ageing, it's rich, full bodied and a great match for roast lamb or grilled chops.
Thick, dark cherrry color with no noticable signs of age or oxidation. Clean, elegant aromas show vanilla spice, eucalyptus and ripe briary/blackberry fruit. Rich, jammy fruit dominated palate with nicely integrated spicy wood, vanilla and milky chocolate. Great, depth, length and balance. Ready to drink, and should continue to improve and mellow with cellaring. Excellent!
[$H]
{29 Oct 1999}

Codice 1997
DOC Rioja (Bodegas Sierra Cantabria)
This young, fruity Rioja with a touch of oak is an interesting variation on the classic Rioja Alavesa style. The light, but tasty easy style makes for a pleasant quaff on its own, or a good companion for roasts, "paella" or pasta.
Medium depth garnet purple color. Aromas are relatively light, but well defined showing ripe Tempranillo fruit with red/black berries an a hint of vanilla. Palate is fruit driven with a bit of background oak, moderate acidity and a pleasant, fruity finish. Nice wine for the money.
[$L]
{16 Oct 1999}

Oliver Contí 1997
DO Empordá-Costa Brava (Celler Oliver Contí)
This new "Bordeaux mix" wine from the Empordá region in the northeast corner of Spain has met with enormous critical success. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, aged 12 months in French oak barrels. An elegant, medium weight red of the highest quality.
Deep cherry red color. Rich, elegant, complex aromas: ripe red berries, floral elements and an interesting minerally background. Medium bodied palate follows nose: silky smooth, rich, complex, balanced and long. Excellent!
[$H]
{10 Oct 1999}

Casa Gualda Cencibel/Merlot 1998
DO La Mancha (Ntra Sra de la Cabeza)
A curious mix of classic Bordeaux Merlot elegance and Spain's excellent Tempranillo with a touch of barrel ageing make for a most interesting new generation La Mancha red. A fruit driven, medium bodied wine which goes well with lamb chops or a medium strength cheese.
Garnet red with purple tones. Flowery, fruitful ripe cherry berry nose. Medium weight, fruit and fruit tannin palate with just a hint of wood. Moderate acidity, good length. A terrific value!
[$L]
{2 Oct 1999}

Terra do Gargalo 1998
DO Monterrei (Gargalo)
The Monterrei region in northwest Spain achieved DO status in 1996. Production is realtively small, but of late, the area's wines have begun to appear around the country with notable success. Medium weight, fresh and unoaked, Terra do Gargalo is a fine food wine with enough body to stand up to most dishes, but light enough to accompany, rather than overpower.
Medium dark red-purple color with a bit of blue along the edge. Beautifully complex nose shows red berry fruit, milky elements and a touch of black pepper spice. Fresh, balanced palate with bramble fruit good acidity and some leafy, mushroomy touches as well. Nice complexity, very good indeed!
[$L]
{22 Sept 1999}

Casa Castillo Vendimia Seleccionada 1997
DO Jumilla (Julia Roche)
Jumilla has a reputation of producing heavy, alcoholic reds from the local Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) grape, but this unoaked economical red made from 100% Tempranillo is a fresh, youthful wine with personality. Bright and refreshing on its own and should combine well with cheese, meat or fowl.
Medium dark red-purple color with bluish tints. Good fruit and carbonic maceration aromas show blackberries and cherries with floral tones. By now the carbonic tingle has faded, but it remains bright and fresh on the palate with gentle acidity and ripe Tempranillo fruit. A good example of a young carbonic maceration Spanish red.
[$L]
{16 Sept 1999}

Martínez Bujanda Vendimia Seleccionada 1993
(DOC Rioja, Martínez Bujanda)
This 100% Garnacha red from the makers of Conde de Valdemar is a pleasant surprise when compared to most '93s - one of Rioja's weaker vintages. "Vendimia Seleccionada" means selectively harvested grapes, and this time the selected grapes came in before the rains that diluted so many of the region's wines in 1993. A full to medium bodied red which went beautifully with cuttlefish raviolis with "ink" sauce, followed by roast duckling and a creamy parmesan risotto.
Nice dark garnet color with no noticable signs of age. Rich plummy, strawberry nose with a pleasant dose of oakiness. Warm, mouthfilling mature fruit palate with red berries, a bit of spice and smooth oak tannins. Still youthful enough, beautiful to drink now and should hold up well for some time. Superb wine, terrific value.
[$M]
{12 Aug 1999}

Cims de Porrera 1996
(DO Priorat, Vall-Llac Mas Martinet)
The DO Priorat region has become famous in recent years. The slate soil slopes of the rugged hill country outside Tarragona in northeast Spain have produced a series of world class wines including the newly introduced Cims de Porrera. A full bodied mature red, it's a good companion for steaks, roast beef or game.
Deep dark garnet color. Incredibly rich, complex nose showing ripe plum and red bramble fruit, spicy integrated oaky tobacco elements and a nice mineral tinged background typical of the Priorat terrain. Thick mature raisiny plum fruit palate with moderate acidity, ample (not overstated) toasty vanilla oak and a very long finish. Already well developed and ready to drink now. Superb!
[$H]
{25 Jul 1999}

Viña Recreo Cencibel 1998
(DO La Mancha, Coop San Isidro)
Cencibel (aka Tempranillo) is surely Spain's top red grape. While the hot climate version from La Mancha doesn't seem to reach the heights shown by the top Rioja or Ribera del Dueros, modern technology and careful winemaking is producing some very good wines like this delightfully fresh, fruity Viña Recreo. A good summer wine, serve slightly cooled - goes great with paella, and also makes a great sangría.
Dark cherry red/purple color with bluish edges. Potent cherry/berry fruit nose with some stony mineral touches. Smooth, sweet cherry fruit palate with adequate acidity, grapey tannins and a nice, long fruit salad finish. Great value!
[$L]
{18 Jul 1999}

Barón de Oña Reserva 1994
(DOC Rioja, Torre de Oña)
Taken over by La Rioja Alta, SA in1995, the 1994 Barón de Oña is the first vintage 100% controlled by the "new" winemakers. This is truly a new Barón de Oña, richer, fuller and fruitier than the previous style. An excellent Rioja which will improve over the next few years and goes well with mature cheeses, roasts and steaks.
Very deep, dark cherry color. Ripe red and black berry fruit aromas with clean spicy vanilla wood. Rich, rounded mouthfilling palate. Good fruit, firm tannins with great structure and balance.
[$M]
{4 Jul 1999}

Guelbenzu "Jardin" 1998
(DO Navarra, Guelbenzu)
Garnacha (aka Grenache) is a key grape variety in Navarra, where the region's winemakers are famous for fresh fruity rosés and Rioja-like reds. Made from 100% old vine Garnacha grapes, "Jardin" is a young unoaked red which goes well with rice, pasta or cheese. It also has the power and fruit to make an outstanding sangría.
Deep purple-red color with bluish tints. Raspberry and strawberry aromas dominate the beautifully fruity nose. Fresh, slightly spritzy palate with a solid ripe-fruit tannins, strawberry fruit, nice acidity, and good complex length. An excellent young red.
[$L]
{26 Jun 1999}

Chivite Gran Feudo Crianza 1996
(DO Navarra, Julián Chivite)
Navarra may not be as well known as Rioja, but there are many interesting, attractively priced wines from Rioja's next door neighbor. In recent years, the Chivite winery has produced some fine "classic style" as well as varietal wines. Made from Tempranillo with a touch of Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, Gran Feudo Crianza is a medium bodied barrel aged red, which will go well with a broad range of dishes from duck to caseroles, pasta or roasts.
Medium dark, clean cherry red color: Plummy grape aromas with a hint of spice & wood. Soft, velvety medium bodied palate. A nice wine, good value and goes very well with food.
[$M]
{19 Jun 1999}

Pesquera Gran Reserva 1989
(DO Ribera del Duero, Pesquera)
Pesquera's become one of Spain's most respected wineries, and this Gran Reserva makes it easy to see why. Still in excellent drinking condition after 10 years - one of the most outstanding characteristics of Alejandro Fernández's barrel aged Pesquera reds. Rich and full bodied - perfect with roasts and steaks. Decanting advisable.
Deep cherry red color with just a hint of brick along the edge. Delightfully complex aromas of ripe red berry fruit with nicely integrated toasty oak, and a mere hint of reduction which quickly disappears. Full bodied, rounded palate with full rich tannins well supported by ripe berry fruit, good acitity and some interesting background elements including chocolate, vanilla and a great leathery finish.
[$H]
{30 May 1999}

Castillo de Fuendejalon Crianza 1994
(DO Campo de Borja, Bodegas Aragonesas)
Not far downriver from Rioja and Navarra, the lesser known DO Campo de Borja region has begun to produce some interesting, cost-effective wines.A while back we sampled the excellent Borsao young red, and it seemed an interesting idea to sample a barrel aged "crianza" from the area. 75% Garnacha, 25% Tempranillo with 6 months in American oak barrels.
Lightish cherry red color. Pleasant, medium strength aromas of cherry, strawberry and a hint of vanilla-spice. Medium bodied palate showing a nice mix of strawberry, raspberry and red cherries with an unobtrusive oak background and reasonable acidity. A tasty, unpretentious wine. A pleasant quaff, excellent value.
[$L]
{14 May 1999}

Abadía Retuerta 1996
(Abadía Sta. María de Retuerta)
Despite being situated in the heart of the Ribera del Duero district, this newly founded winery does not belong to the DO Ribera del Duero. Made from Tempranillo (65%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (5%), Abadía Retuerta has met with outstanding critical success. A superb wine with character and the body to stand up to steak or roast.
Good dark cherry red color with just a hint of blue along the edge. Subtle, but concentrated jammy black fruit aromas with hints of plum/prunes, eucaliptus, chocolate and spice. Rich, rounded meaty palate follows nose with hearty blackberry fruit, balanced acidity and good length. Excellent!
[$M]
{4 May 1999}

Faustino I Gran Reserva 1989
DOC Rioja (Faustino)
This top-of-the line Faustino is a fine, classic Rioja red.  The 1989 harvest was rated "Very Good", with many wineries producing some excellent, ageworthy reds. A full, rich wine with ample body and plenty of complexity, this is a wine for hearty red meats and well aged cheeses.
Medium to dark cherry red color tending toward brick tones at the rim. Earthy, ripe fruit aromas elegant and complex  with a mix of black pepper spice, and smooth vanilla elements. Rich, rounded, medium bodied palate with mellow, ripe fruit, balanced oak and a pleasant leathery, earthy finish.
[$H]
{19 Apr 1999}

Monte Real Reserva 1994
DOC Rioja (Riojanas)
Bodegas Riojanas has been making classic Riojas since 1890. The just released 1994 Monte Real is a good opportunity to sample a good, traditional style Rioja from the now famous 1994 vintage. Medium bodied and an excellent companion to tuna macaroni salad and pan fried veal steaks.
Medium depth cherry red color. Pleasant cherry-berry aromas with a touch of well integrated wood and spice. Medium weight palate with lingering cherry, raspberry, gentle oak tannins. Smooth, tasty with good acidity. Balanced.
[$M]
{4 Apr 1999}

Martinet Bru 1995
DO Priorat (Mas Martinet)
Wines from DO Priorat have won critical acclaim and a strong following around the world. The Martinet winery is better known for it's Clos Martinet label, but the more modest Martinet Bru is nonetheless a superb example of the new generation Priorat Garnacha-based reds. This wine is helped by decanting and needs a very careful pour as there's usually a bit of sediment.
Deep dark bing cherry color. Persistent ripe plum fruit aromas, chocolate, and vanilla wood elements. Rich, full bodied palate showing ample ripe fruit, integrated oak with nice smooth tannins and a pleasant, slightly minerally finish. Superb!
[$M]
{28 Mar 1999}

Solagüen Crianza 1996
DOC Rioja (Unión de Cosecheros Labastida)
Made by the local cooperative in Labastida, Solagüen Crianza is an good example of a classic, well made Rioja Alavesa barrel aged red. While the '94 and '95 versions are probably of higher quality, the '96 is still quite good. Ready to drink now with red meat or game, and just about perfect with a good "paella".
Dark cherry red color with no signs of age. Solid varietal aromas of red berry and cherry fruit with toasty vanilla and a hint of balsamic spice. Medium bodied palate with plum/berry fruit, gentle oak and a touch of mineral/lead pencil. Good acidity and a pleasantly astringent finish. While there's not a lot of depth or complexity, this is certainly an enjoyable wine with a most attractive price tag.
[$L]
{20 Mar 1999}

Campillo Crianza 1994
DOC Rioja (Campillo)
The 1994 harvest is certainly one of Rioja's best, and this fine Campillo is a superb example of what a good winery can do with an excellent harvest. Still relatively young, this wine's beautiful to drink right now - and will certainly be good for some years to come. 100% Tempranillo.
Dark cherry and garnet color with just the barest hint of brick along the edge. Clean elegant aromas of ripe cherry/berry fruit with tabacco, chocolate and spicy vanilla. Palate is rich, smooth and mouthfilling. No rough edges, balanced with good length. Excellent!
[$M]
{21 Feb 1999}

Primero 1998
DO Toro (Fariñas)
Primero has traditionally been the first of Spain's new harvest wines to be released (and normally a lot better wine that the more famous Beaujolais Nouveau). Hitting the market in November, this hearty, fruitful red is a popular favorite year after year and combines well with meat and fowl.
Deep purple garnet color. Potent plum and bramble berry fruit aromas. Full bodied palate with rich, chewy poweful berry fruit flavors. There's substance here to hold up for at least year or two. Good wine, good value.
[$L]
{15 Feb 1999}

Whites

Blanco Nieva 2000
(DO Rueda,  Viñedos de Nieva)

For some time, many of Spain's most interesting economical whites have been produced in the Rueda denomination, situated on the northern plateau in the provinces of Valladolid and Segovia. The region's Verdejo grape produces a tasty white wine with depth, character and a personality all its own. A good food wine to accompany fish or fowl.

 
Bright pale straw color. Rich aromas show the classic Verdejo orange peel along with straw flowers and anise-seed. The palate's rich and tasty with crisp acidity, citrusy-pear fruit and a pleasant, vaguely bitterish finish. Very good.
[$L]

{10 Aug 2001}



Altos del Cabriel 2000
(DO Manchuela,  Coop. San Antonio Abad)

Manchuela, a little known corner of La Mancha in the provinces for Cuenca and Albacete,  was converted to an official DO less than a year ago. Best known for producing economical bulk wines for export, producers like the San Antonio Abad Co-op, show that the potential is there for fresh, lively [and very cost effective] young wines like Altos del Cabriel. This is a good "quaffer" that should also work well with fish or fowl.

Pale yellowish straw color, clean and bright. Well defined tropical fruit [passion fruit, pineapple, banana] along with less exotic apricots/pears dominate the nose. Fresh and clean on the palate; crisp lemony acidity, good complexity with nice lingering fruity richness.
[$L]

{20 May 2001}


Bornos Sauvignon Blanc 2000
(DO Rueda,  Bodegas de Crianza de Castilla la Vieja)

Since its introduction in the early '80s, the Sauvignon Blanc grape has adapted very well indeed to the harsh climes of Old Castile's high plains in north central Spain. The Bornos Sauvignon is a regular favorite and [for all types of Ruedas], the 2000 vintage is showing especially well. A bright and potent wine with lots of Sauvignon character, it should work well with grilled tuna or perhaps smoked salmon.

Pale golden straw color with a greenish tint. Powerful varietal nose shows a grassy character and  a typical boxwood/"cat pee" aromas. Thick, rich and fruity palate repeats the nose with nicely balanced acidity and very good length.  Excellent.
[$M]

{13 May 2001}


El Grifo Malvasía Seco 2000
(DO Lanzarote, El Grifo)

Founded in 1775, just a few years after a series of volcanic eruptions covered a good part of the Canary Island of Lanzarote with lava and ash, El Grifo [The Griffon] grows it's Malvasía grapes in pits [photo] dug in black volcanic ash which absorbs moisture from the sea air, while the pit and lava rock windbreak protect the vines from the constant blow of the tradewinds. One of three Malvasía grape whites [dry, semi-sweet, sweet], this "seco" is a fine, delicate, crisp, dry white wine and a perfect companion to fish and shellfish.

Pale golden straw color, clean and bright. Delicate, yet well defined aromas show fresh tropical fruit [passion fruit, mango] plus apples/pears with a stony/mineral touch. The palate's fruity, elegant, clean and refreshing with crisp, balanced acidity and good length. Very good indeed.
[$M]

{23 Jan 2001}


Palacio de Bornos Verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc 1999
(DO Rueda, Bodegas de Crianza de Castilla la Vieja)
The Rueda region has earned a reputation for quality, cost effective white wines made from the local Verdejo variety, as well as the "foreign" Sauvignon Blanc. This recently released Palacio de Bornos combines both varieties [50/50], barrel fermented in new American oak, to produce a lovely wine with loads of fruit and character. A nice sipping wine with enough weight and body to go well with something like garlic sautéed shrimp.
The nose is dominated by apples, pears and elements of tropical fruit [pineapple] along with grassy herbs, citrus and a very subdued hint of wood. The palate's rich and the fruit holds sway over a more noticable, but well integrated wood component and a mineral/citrus background. A great mix of both Verdejo and Sauvignon typicity, nicely complex and persistent.
[$M]
{4 Dec 2000}

Lagar de Cervera 1999
(DO Rías Baixas, Lagar de Fornelos)
The reason for growing popularity of Albariñosis easy to appreciate with this particular wine. For many producers, 1999 crop was not an easy one in Rías Baixas, many of this year's Albariños have not shown all that well. However,  the '99 Lagar de Cervera is very good indeed. An excellent white wine, especially good with shellfish and seafood dishes. Ready to drink now, but will hold up reasonably well for another year or so.
Bright golden straw color with greenish/metallic tints. Clean and beautfully fresh aromas show orange blossom,  fennel/anise, fruit (apple/pineapple), fresh cut hay and an interesting stony/mineral element. Fruit and flowers dominate a fresh crisp lemony/orange blossom palate. Nice mineral component, long and complex. Excellent.
[$M]
{30 Jul 2000}
Villa Narcisa Sauvignon Blanc 1999
(DO Rueda, Javier Sanz)
Summer's the time for white wine, so this week we'll look and another Rueda from Javier Sanz Cantalapiedra,. This Villa Narcisa is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes,  and is a fair example of the "French alternative" to the prized local Verdejo. A nice crisp white wine that will go well with baked fish or fried scallops.
Clean pale straw color with a slightly greenish tint. Nose shows apples/pears with a gentle but unmistakable grassy/boxwood varietal notes. Palate is fairly simple, pleasantly refreshing with moderate citrusy acidity. While it's not all that complex, this is a fine summer quaff and a pretty good food wine as well.
[$L]
{22 Jul 2000}

Villa Narcisa Verdejo 1999
(DO Rueda, Javier Sanz)
A Rueda Superior from Javier Sanz Cantalapiedra, Villa Narcisais made from 100% Verdejo grapes, which many consider to be one of the peninsula's finest white grape varieties. A fine example of the regional style; this is a crisp, fresh white wine which goes well with a variety of fish, poultry and cream sauce style pasta dishes.
Bright, clean golden straw color with brassy tints. Varietal aromas show pear/mango fruit, with an interesting grassy/anise seed touch and a hint of citrus. Palate follows nose with crisp acidity, fresh mangos and pears and a lovely [typically varietal] bitterish orange peel finish. Very nice indeed.
[$L]
{17 Jul 2000}

Valmiñor Albariño
(DO Rías Baixas, Adegas Valmiñor)
In recent years, the bright, fresh young Albariños [ahl-bahr-eenyo] from northwestern Spain have become exceedingly popular, not only at home but in the export market as well. Rising demand has pushed prices up of late, but the up and coming Adegas Valmiñor has taken a sensible stance in maintaining reasonable prices. A fine, moderatly priced Albariño which goes beautifully with fish and even better with shellfish.
Pale straw color with green/metallic tints. Flowery fruity aromas show honeysuckle, pears witha pleasant herby/grassy touch. Minimially effervescent with fresh, tart lemony acidity, and a palate of sweet fresh pears, fresh cut hay, lemon flower and an interesting minerally finish. Terrific stuff!
[$M]
{2 Jul 2000}

Belondrade y Lurton Barrel Fermented 1996
(DO Rueda, Belondrade y Lurton)
Bordeaux winemakers Brigitte Belondrade and Jacques Lurton have made wine lovers stand up and take notice since their Rueda winery was founded in 1994. Using the fine local Verdejo grape and French-style winemaking techniques (barrel fermenting, battonage, etc.), the couple has built some superb wines. While 1996 may be a virtual antique in normal Rueda terms, the '96 B&L is far from typical and nothing short of sublime. Great on it's own and with enough body to stand up to a wide range of fish and meat dishes.
Medium golden straw color. Potent yet refined aromas of yeasty lees, fine oak and ripe Verdejo fruit with a subtle grassy orange-peel tang, plus hints of pears/mangos. Thick, rich glyceric palate reflects the nose quite nicely, with crisp (but not agressive) acidity and excellent length. Superb!
[$M]
{21 May 2000}

Martinsancho Rueda Superior 1999
(DO Rueda, Angel Rodríguez Vidal)
It seems that Angel Rodríguez Vidal essentially "saved" the excellent local Verdejo grape from extintion. The story goes that when the large, oldtime Rioja producer, Marqués de Riscal, decided to build a facility in Rueda, most local growers had moved over to the more productive [but poorer quality] Palomino and Angel's were about the only vineyards left with Verdejo vines. Today, Verdejo has shown its worth, and most of the region's vines come from Rodríguez Vidal's cuttings. 100% Verdejo, an excellent Rueda and fine companion to fish or shellfish.
Very pale straw color with a hint of metallic green. Elegant [not all that potent] nose shows pears, mangos, a touch of fresh hay and the classic orange peel Verdejo. Clean, crisp palate with pears, tropical fruit on a grassy background with moderate acidity and a medium finish. A good white wine, and an attractively priced example of the Rueda style.
[$L]
{14 May 2000}

Fillaboa Albariño 1999
(DO Rías Baixas, Granja Fillaboa)
Typically released in December, the young Albariños from Northwest Spain really start to come into their own in the Spring, retaining a youthful zesty spritz, but nicely rounded out after a few months of tank storage/age. Albariño grapes make for a lively fresh white wine that goes especially well with shelfish and seafood.
Bright yellow-straw color with slightly greenish tints showing a few tiny bubbles when poured. Potent fresh floral and apple/pear fruit aromas with a hint of grassy herbs. Slightly spritzy on the palate, rich, glyceric, floral, fruity, grassy with nicely balanced acidity. A terrific Albariño that's ready to drink!
[$M]
{19 Mar 2000}

Palacio de Bornos 1999 Rueda Superior
(DO Rueda, Bodegas de Crianza)
Rueda is one of Spain's most important white wine regions. The local Verdejo grape along with Viura and the more recently introduced Sauvignon Blanc provide the raw material for a refreshingly fruity white wine which goes well with a wide range of dishes including seafood and poultry. To be classified as Rueda Superior, 75% Verdejo is required, in this case it's 90% Verdejo, 10% Viura.
Medium pale straw color with a brassy tint. Bright fresh aromas of fresh grapes, pears, a hint of mangos and the classic Verdejo orange peel. Rich & glyceric but fresh palate repeats tropical grapey flavors and citrus elements combined with refreshing acidity and a lengthy, pleasantly bitterish finish. Very good.
[$M]
{12 Mar 2000}

*Viñas de Gain 1996 Fermentado en Barrica
DOC Rioja (Cosecheros Alaveses)
It's been a couple of years since we've tried this [still] superb, almost California style barrel fermented ("fermentado en barrica") white Rioja. By the makers of Artadi with 70% Viura and 30% Malvasia grapes, it's cold-fermented then "rests" 7 months on the lees. An excellent wine on its own which goes well with oven baked fish or even a seafood casserole.
Golden straw color, clean and bright with metallic tints. Mature fruit aromas show through a well defined new oak barrel base. Thick, almost oily palate with lots of substance: ripe appley grape, toasted oak and vanilla. Good acidity and balance in a very much oak driven style. Simply superb!
[$M]
{9 Sept 1999}

Don Pedro de Soutomayor Albariño 1997
(DO Rías Baixas, Adegas Galegas)
Made from 100% Albariño grapes, Don Pedro is an excellent example of one of Spain´s most popular white wine styles. If there were a perfect wine match, it could just be a class Albariño like this with lobster or shrimp. A good example of the Albariño style and a beautiful wine.
Bright yellow straw color with greenish tints. Clean, crisp but not overpowering varietal nose showing garden herbs with tropical fruit-like character. Thick, fresh palate, mouthfilling fruit, herbs, a great midpalate and a nice dryish finish.
[$M]
{1 Sept 1999}

Oro de Castilla 1998
(DO Rueda, Hermanos Del Villar)
The rich white wines from Rueda on the Castillan plain have grown in popularity in recent years. Success has also brought change, and some feel modern technology and grape varieties have begun to mask the Verdejo grape's genuine style. Oro de Castilla is not a tropical fruit laden "designer wine", but rather a nice rendition of the Rueda white in the traditional style. An excellent dry white that goes well on its own and will work well with shellfish, fish or fowl.
Clean pale straw color. Pleasant fruitfilled aromas with yeasty notes, plus mango and green apple with a varietal dry orange peel touch. Rich, thick fruity palate where tropical notes (yeast) fade toward the Verdejo bitterish dry orange peel flavors. Long finish, good wine, great value.
[$L]
{11 Jul 1999}

Raimat Chardonnay 1998
(DO Costers del Segre, Raimat)
For some time now, the Raimat winery in Northeast Spain has been providing some excellent "noble varietal" wines. The 1998 Chardonnay is yet another excellent example of this "bodega's" quality winemaking. A fine 100% Chardonnay with the weight and power to stand up to relatively hearty dishes like tonight's cheese-covered steamed vegetables with olive oil and a touch of Tabasco sauce.
Clean, bright golden straw color with metallic highlights. Crisp aromas of pineapple and fresh green apples/pears with the typical smoky/milky tones of the Chardonnay grape. Full, rounded palate shows apple/pineapple fruit with lemony citrus acidity and nice, long bitterish buttery finish.
[$M]
{6 Jun 1999}

Bach Extrísimo Seco 1997

DO Penedès (Masía Bach)
Made from the local grape Xarel.lo (60%) plus Macabeo (25%), Chardonnay (10%) and Sauvignon Blanc (5%), this is a quality, dry fruity white that will work well on its own with snacks and also to accompany fish or fowl.
Clean, bright, pale golden straw color. Pleasant, medium weight aromas of apple, pear, anise and tropical tones that hint of pineapple. Dry (but not bone dry) palate with fresh, fruity apple/pineapple flavors, moderate acidity, and good length. Nice.
[$L]
{11 Apr 1999}

Rosés
Coto de Hayas Rosado 2000
(DO Campo de Borja,  Bodegas Aragonesas)

Summer's arrived and a chilled glass of rosé wine is just the ticket to accompany lighter warm weather fare. The Campo de Borja denomination lies just down the Ebro River from Rioja and Navarra. In recent years Bodegas Aragonesas has shown itself to be a reliable producer of good quality wines with very attractive prices.

Bright strawberry pink color. The nose shows rich, ripe almost candy-like strawberry/cherry fruit aromas. The palate reflects the strawberry-charged nose with fresh acidity and respectable length. A fine summer quaffer and excellent value.
[$L]

{5 Jun 2001}


Gran Feudo 1999
(DO Navarra, Julián Chivite)
Today Chivite makes a full range of reds and whites, but the business was initially built on this fine classic Navarra rosé. Made from 100% Garnacha grapes, it's a bright and refreshing dry rosé with body; good on its own and a great companion to rice and pasta dishes.
A bright rosy strawberry color. Fresh, pleasantly fruity nose of strawberries and blackberies. A clean, fresh, fruitfilled palate shows the typical Garnacha strawberry elements. Refreshing and a deliciously easy quaff. A first rate Navarra rosé.
[$L]
{26 Mar 2000}

Montesierra Rosado 1995
DO Somontano (Bodega Pirineos)
Here's a good bright, medium-dry rosé. A good choice for the appetizer course, this wine will also go nicely with seafood, casseroles or pasta.
Made from Tempranillo, Moristel, Macabeo and Garnacha grapes. The color's a bright, clean strawberry-pink. The aroma is substantial, showing lots of red fruit with flowery-spicy overtones. The taste is smooth, balanced and lasting.*[$M]
{23 Sept 1996}

Jerez (Sherry) & Fortified wines

 
Fino 47  [Fino]
(DO Montilla-Moriles, Aragón y Cía.)

Whenever the word fino appears, we usually thing of sherry from Jerez, but this one's from the Montilla-Moriles denomination in the province of Córdoba. Made from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes and not fortified as the region's hot, dry climate make for natural alcohol levels up to 16-17%. Frutier and not quite as dry as their Jerez conterpart, this type of fino makes for a nice aperitif, and goes well with nuts, serrano ham, cheese or shellfish.

Pale golden straw color, clear and bright. Nutty aromas plus a touch of "flor" [the veil of living yeast that floats on ageing fino], with a hint of flowery frutiness. Smooth and crisp on the palate with a pleasant nutty sensation and a long, fruit/nut finish. Very good and a great value.
[$L]

{4 Mar 2001}


Patricia Cream [Dessert]
(DO Montilla-Moriles, Aragón y Cía.)
Despite the fact that one of sherry's best styles [amontillado] gets its name from the area, Montilla producers are not allowed to use jerez or sherry to describe their "sherry-style" wines. Patricia Cream is a fine dessert wine made from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes and aged in Aragón's "soleras" in Lucena, Córdoba.
Coffee/chestnut color with a reddish mahogany tint. Aromas of sun-ripened rasins with a hint of toasted coffee beans, vanilla syrup and hazlenuts. Thick and rich on the palate with enough acidity to prevent the cloying sweetness often associated with "creams". Great length. An excellent example of the Montilla style and a superb medium sweet Pedro Ximénez dessert wine.
[$M]
{15 June 2000}

Viejísimo Solera 1922 [Amontillado]
(DO Montilla-Moriles, Toro Albalá)
Aged for a total of 15 to 25 years in a "solera"dating back to 1922, this 100% Pedro Ximénez wine from the Toro Albalá winery in Aguilar de la Frontera, is a fine example of the Montilla-style"amontillado", for many the king of fortified wines. First aged as a "fino" under a veil of "flor", followed by a second phase of standard oxidative barrel ageing. An excellent aperitif that goes well on its own or with almonds & walnuts, or even as an after dinner cordial.
Bright golden/brassy amber color. Delightfully complex hazlenuts/almonds aromas with hints of beeswax, "flor" and a pleasant old/attic/furniture-ish touch. Clean nutty palate with elegant old oak, honey/beeswax and a pleasant, typically bitterish finish. Very good indeed.
[$H]
{30 Apr 2000}

Argüeso Amontillado
(DO Jerez, Herederos de Argüeso)
Amontillado style sherry is a personal favorite, resulting from a sort of winemaking accident. When the veil of yeast (flor) that protects ageing fino sherry accidentally breaks down, the wine is transferred to sealed oak barrels and aged "normally". The end product carrys characteristics of both flor-aged finoand standard oxidative oak barrel ageing. Argüeso makes a top class manzanilla fino and also this fine amontilladowhich is good as an aperitif with nuts or cheese, and surprisingly enough as an after dinner digestif.
Lovely clean, sharp copper/amber color. Discrete but well defined aromas of nutty caramel, old wood/attic and hazlenuts. Warm pleasant palate, not overly alcoholic, with nice manzanilla salinity and an intrigueing [slightly bitter] almond/hazlenut taste with good length and balanced acidity.
[$M]
{26 Feb 2000}

Pacorrito Amontillado
(DO Montilla-Moriles, Aragón y Cía.)
Not long ago, the Montilla-Moriles region in the province of Córdoba was a virtual unknown for those outside southern Spain. Fortunately, things have changed of late and the rest of the world has been able to discover these delightful, economical sherry-style wines made from the Pedro Ximénez grape. Rich and dry with around 17% alcohol, amontillados are good on their own as a before dinner drink, and also go well with nuts and cheese.
Golden amber honey color with brassy tints. Warm, penetrating aromas of hazlenuts and old wood, a touch of pebbles/stone and hints of orange marmalade. Dry palate with a pleasant nutty taste, warm with a lasting hazlenut/orange peel finish. A good amontillado, not overly complex but well made, clean and very tasty.
[$M]
{20 Dec 1999}

Agustín Blázquez Pedro Ximénez [Sweet]
DO Jerez (Agustín Blázquez)
Sweet wines made from sun ripened Pedro Ximénez grapes make an interesting end of dinner alternative to brandy or other spirits; and are also used to sweeten oloroso-style Jerez wines to make "cream sherries". This limited production PX from A. Blázquez is something very special indeed.
Dark mahogany color with iodine tints and showing very thick and syrupy in the glass. An explosion of delightfully complex aromas: rasins, prunes, halzenuts, moka coffee, and leathery hints of long "solera" ageing . Very thick and richly sweet palate of, but not cloying despite a low 8% alcohol (typical is more like 15%. Balanced, complex and very, very long.
[$M]
{10 Feb 1999}

Fino Quinta [fino sherry]
DO Jerez (Osborne)
A Jerez classic, Fino Quinta is consistently among the region's top rated dry sherries. Crisp and bone dry, it's prized as a cocktail and aperitif wine, but also combines beautifully with fish and shellfish - and also can hold its own with the hot, spicy stuff.
Clean, bright yellowish straw color. Sharp, penetrating aromas of "flor" with a hint of herbs and straw. Very dry, slightly saline palate starts off as nutty "flor", blending into a long, pleasantly bitterish finish. Superb!
[$M]
{20 Jan 1999}

*Araceli Pedro Ximénez [Sweet]
DO Montilla-Moriles (Aragón y Cía)
The DO Montilla-Moriles region in the province of Córdoba is one of two places in the world producing true finos, amontillados and olorosos - the other being Jerez, which owns the name "sherry". Made from 100% sun ripened Pedro Ximenez grapes, Araceli is a delicious sweet wine: dessert in a wine glass.
Very dark walnut-coffee color with bright metallic tints. Rich penetrating aromas of ripe, sweet rasins and dates. Thick, syrupy palate like liquid rasins with notes of coffee and chocolate. Very sweet, but with enough acidity to keep things in balance. Excellent!
[$L]
{8 Dec 1998}

Emilio Lustau "Los Arcos" [Amontillado]
DO Jerez (Emilio Lustau)
Lustau's sherries have won high praise from critics and wine lovers in recent years, and after trying their Solera Reserva "Los Arcos", it's easy to see why. Amontillados, subject to both biological ageing under "flor" and long barrel ageing, boast rich complexity and a unique taste. Dry and nutty, this is a great before dinner cocktail alternative.
Eye catching tawny-gold color with coppery tints. Penetrating nutty aromas with some "antique furniture" hints as well. Great hazlenut palate with old oak and a pleasant finish showing just a touch of fruit-based sweetness. A minimun of "heat" despite a muscular 18.5% alcohol level. Excellent wine, great value.
*[$M]
{1 Sept 1998}

Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez[Dessert]
DO Montilla-Moriles (Pérez Barquero)
While not as well known as Jerez, the Montilla-Moriles region produces some excellent "sherry-style" wines: finos, amontillados, olorosos, and so on using the same "solera" ageing techniques used by Jerez producers. The Pedro Ximénez grape is the region's key varietal, used in both dry and sweet "Montillas". Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez is a first rate dessert wine and a great after dinner drink.
Deep, dark mahogany-chocolate color. Powerful raisiny aroma with hints of chocolate and dates. Full flavored palate of pure liquid rasins, thick and sweet with a pleasant, long lasting taste.*[$M]
{15 Feb 1998}

Fondillón Alone, 1970 [Fondillón]
DO Alicante (BOCOPA)
Fondillón is a type of fortified wine, typical of the Mediterranean area around Alicante. This class of aged-oxidized wine was very much in decline, but has clearly made a recovery in recent years. Fondillón is a red wine, made from grapes which are "toasted" under the sun before fermentation. The resulting wine is aged in oak in a solera system similar to that used for sherry. The process slowly oxidizes the wine, adding complexity, while the color evolves from red toward brick and mahogany.
The 1970 "Alone" is mahogony colored with reddish tones. Fragrant aromas show raisiny fruit, old oak and grassy-hayish notes. Relatively dry on the palate, it's complex and very tasty, and goes down easily despite the 17% alcohol content. A superb after dinner wine.
*[$H]
{17 Jul 1997}

Solera 1847 [Oloroso Sherry]
DO Jerez (González-Byass)
This excellent "oloroso" gets it's name from the fact that the original "solera" was laid down in 1847. Olorosos are not biologially aged like "finos", but once fortified with alcohol, go straight to barrel-ageing using the solera system.
1847 is somewhat unusual, it's a sweet oloroso - not as sweet as the closely related cream sherry, but sweet nonetheless. The color's deep dark mahogany-coffee color. The aroma is old-woody, potent. Mouthfilling, with a good balance between alcohol, sugars and old oak.*[$H]
{30 Jan 1997}

Cavas (bubbly)

Gran Vernier Brut  [Cava]
(DO Cava, Cavas Masachs)

This is a traditional-style cava made by a medium-large, modern style producer situated in the heart of the Penedès cava growing region. Made from 35% Macabeo, 35% Xarel.lo and 30% Parellada; this particular "gran reserva" cava spends a good deal more time ageing on the lees [2 1/2 years] than a typical cava bubbly and this shows in deeper color and fuller, more developed flovors. A good sparkler for a wide range of fare, with enough body to work well with poultry, veal or perhaps shellfish.

A bright, light golden color with plenty of fine bubbles. Very nice toasty, fruity sensations on the nose which repeat on the palate. Dry and flavorful, with crisp acidity, nice length and balance, good complexity,  and pleasant, lasting bubbles. A good cava for any occasion.

[$M]
{6 Jan 2001}


Dioro Baco
(DO Cava, Bodegas Escudero)
While most of Spain's bubbly Cava is made in Catalonia, producers in Rioja and other areas can sign up for the Cava denomination. Located in an isolated part of Rioja, Bodegas Escudero not only makes fine Rioja's, they also do a very creditable Cava. Dioro Baco is the top of Escudero's cava line made from 100% Chardonnay.
Golden straw color with brassy tints, very fine bubbles. Aromas of yeast, oak and ripe Chardonnay fruit. Palate is fresh with a creamy, woody taste and a pleasant lingering, bitterish yeasty/oaky finish. Refreshingly different with character and a unique style.
[$M]
{24 June 2000}

Jaume Giró i Giro Reserva 1995 (Brut Nature)
(DO Cava, Jaume Giró i Giró)
Cava, Spain's classic bubbly is typically viewed as a low end sparkler .. as is the case with most mass produced cavas. However, thanks to the Mediterranean climate and local grape varieties, smaller producers can produce curiously different variations on the bubbly theme: here the grape mix is 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15 Xarel.lo, with over 30 months of on-the-lees bottle ageing. Cavas generally are good on their own or with dessert, but also combime surprisingly well with fish and chicken.
Bright golden lemon yellow color with brassy tints. Medium-sized, lasting bubbles. Aromas show green apples, anise, yeasty lees and a hint of old cellar mustiness. Dry, somewhat acidic palate repeats appley fruit with a curious bitterish-musty background. Interesting wine, but would be significantly better without the musty element.
[$M]
{29 Jan 2000}

Louis de Vernier Brut Nature, '92
DO Cava (Josep Masachs)
Rated "reserva" by the winery - meaning the base wine is barrel aged. A tart, tasty cava that's good as an apetizer and also goes well with meals - in this case the tasting group washed down large quantities of a beautiful seafood rice dish with excellent results.
Made of 60% Parellada and 40% Macabeo grapes. Clean golden color, well supplied with small-medium sized bubbles. Crisp aromas of fruit and yeast with a hint of oak and a pleasant citrus background tang. Dry and tasty on the palate - while the taste is not overpowering, it's clean, with a pleasant, slightly bitterish aftertaste.*[$M]
{6 Jul 1997}

Freixenet Cordon Negro
Freixenet

This popular cava in the black bottle is rather well known. There's a hint of ageing, and perhaps a touch of almonds in the aroma. The taste is dry and crisp. A good value from the Freixenet winery.*[$M]
{9 Jan 1996}

Prices: To minimize confusion, and country to country differences, I'll use a Spanish Relative Price (SRP) approach. That is the normal price of the wine here in Spain, expressed in $ USA (updated to reflect 1999 inflation levels).
*[$L] = Low (less than $7)
*[$M] = Medium ($7 to $12)
*[$H] = High (more than $12)