What I know about wine flavors may be summed up in a single sentence. It’s either mellow and tastes good, or it doesn’t. Which brings up a question. If that’s all there is to it, why do I generally prefer red wine to white? Well, as a friend of mine said, the reds are beefier. By that I suppose he means fuller bodied. Makes sense. He prefers his women like that, too.
Some of the heartiest, beefiest, boldest red wines I know are Spanish. No comment on the women. Spanish wines often offer a mouthful of flavor, with a smooth finish. Ok, so everyone knows about the justly famous Riojas, with their well-deserved reputation for aging into magnificence. They are also give-up-your-cable-service and empty-your-pockets pricy. The top of the line (so it is said by experts with a strong disrespect for the American dollar) is Vega Sicilia, which can run to big money.
I’m not above paying for superb taste, but I’ve found if you look to Spain and wander outside the Rioja region, you don’t have to empty your wallet and search under the car seats for that last quarter.
The three wines in the photo, Valtier on the left, Mil Cepas in the middle, and Vega Libre on the right are, quality wines at soda prices. Valtier and Vega Libre are 2004 and 2007 Reservas respectively. The Mil Cepa is a 2004 Gran Reserva. Average price: four bucks a bottle. Maybe you can’t find these where you live. No problem. Search for Spanish reds and try what you find.
What do Reserva and Gran Reserva mean? Reserva means the wine was stored for at least 36 months, 12 months in oak barrels. Gran Reservas were stored at least 60 months, 24 in oak.
Valtier is from La Mancha. The other too come from Terra Alta, in the province of Tarragona, southwest of Barcelona. I drink them daily and find them unparalled, if you like dry red wines, bursting with flavor, to the point that you look forward to the next bottle. My tongue tingles with delight. The stingy part of my brain glows. A Rioja would cost me many times the price. Worst of all, the Rioja wouldn’t taste as good.
Want a bold Spanish tinto? Be bold yourself and venture into wine districts outside Rioja, like Valdepeñas, La Mancha, and Tarragona. Leave your money, bring your thirst.