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Tempranillo A'anyada 1997
DO Penedès (Albet i Noya)

Albet i Noya is one of the few producers of organically grown wines in Spain. A young wine made from 100% Tempranillo grapes using the carbonic maceration process, this oakless Albet i Noya red is a pleasant surprise - full of grapey taste with a youthful zing. This will go well with steaks and roast beef, or perhaps a nice mature cheddar.

Good purple-red color of medium intensity. Concentrated varietal aromas of black fruit and plum. Tasty palate, bright, fresh, young with good structure and a pleasant, slightly bitterish rustic aftertaste. Good value.

{24 July 1998}

Casa Gualda Cencibel/Merlot 1997
DO La Mancha (Ntra Sra de la Cabeza)

Here's a good example of how good (and cost effective) La Mancha wines really can be. Made from an innovative coupage of Cencibel (aka Tempranillo, Spain's most noble grape) and Merlot with just a bit of barrel ageing, this medium bodied wine is a great match for rice and pasta dishes.

Medium cherry red color. Good ripe berry fruit nose with a touch of vanilla and spice. Ripe blackberry fruit palate with gentle oaky-vanilla tones, smooth tannins, and a pleasant, spicy aftertaste. Good wine, good value.

{13 July 1998}

Cosme Palacio y Hermanos Crianza 1995
DOC Rioja (Bodegas Palacio)

.The Cosme Palacio crianzas have become very popular in recent years. The 1994 vintage was very well received, and sold out very quickly indeed. The recently released '95 has also seen its fair share of positive press - perhaps edged out by the '94, but still a fine, full bodied Rioja that probably needs a bit more cellar time to reach its full potential.

Deep, dark bing cherry color with blueish-purple tints. Excellent (but not fully integrated) aromas of blackberry fruit and good oak. Surprisingly young, fresh palate for a "crianza", spicy blackberry, currant fruit with abundant but balanced vainilla-oak, a bit astringent and acidic finish. Looks like it needs some time to marry and mellow both nose and palate.

{3 July 1998}

Barón de Oña Reserva 1992
DOC Rioja (Torre de Oña)

Torre de Oña is one of the few 100% estate-style wineries in Rioja. Acquired by La Rioja Alta, SA in 1995, the winery maintains its original approach to "build" just one reserva grade red. The '92 is in fact the last of the original owners vintages - there will be no '93 due to the quality of the harvest, and the '94 will be the first of the 100% La Rioja Alta winemaker's vintages - which we'll certainly try as soon as it's available.

Rich, dark cherry red color. Rounded, balanced aromas of well blended ripe fruit with light, oaky-vanilla accents. Well formed palate with potent, but soft tannins and gentle oak. Lengthy, pleasant aftertaste.

{19 June 1998}

Gran Feudo Crianza 1994
DO Navarra (Julián Chivite)

1994 was a good vintage in many parts of Spain, and Navarra (which borders on Rioja) is no exception. A pleasant full bodied (but not heavy) red made from an interesting coupage of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with 12 months of oak ageing. Good to drink now, but with plenty of cellar life left, this tasty red is good on its own, will combine well with appetizers, roasts, stews and so on.

Dark cherry red color with no signs of ageing. Good, complex nose of nicely ripened fruit and balanced oak. Smooth, rounded palate again showing the fruity complexity of the three grape varieties with a pleasant, gentle oaky aftertaste,

{10 June 1998}

Marqués de Velilla Crianza 1994
DO Ribera del Duero (Grandes Bodegas)

In the last year or so many of the '94 barrel aged Riberas have received rave reviews at home and abroad. This Marqués de Velilla "crianza" is no exception - a hearty full bodied wine and a good value as well. Ready to drink now, and a perfect combination for barbecued meats or roast lamb.

Dark cherry-garnet color with just a hint of orange on the rim. Well defined aromas of ripe berry fruit and toasted vanilla oak. Tasty, concentrated palate showing well ripened fruit, balanced wood and with enough gently astringent acidity to indicate it will hold up well for a few years to come.

{31 May 1998}

Dominio de Ugarte Crianza 1995
DOC Rioja (Heredad Ugarte)

The Rioja Alavesa sub-region is known for both young "cosechero" reds and quality barrel aged "crianzas" and "reservas" - and the Ugarte winery seems to do both very well. Here's another smooth, tasty 1995 "crianza" with lots of character - good with meats, stews and so on, but would also combine nicely with pasta or a nice "paella"·.

Deep cherry red color. Aromas of mature, jammy berry fruit and good oak. Tasty balanced palate with mouthfilling fruit and spicy, toasty vanilla-oak overtones. Good length and body, balanced acidity.

{20 May 1998}

Conde de Valdemar Crianza 1995
DOC Rioja (Martínez Bujanda)

The 1995 crop of Riojas is proving to be an excellent one indeed. Conde de Valdemar is known for consistent quality, and this "crianza" is no exception. Made from Tempranillo and Mazuelo grapes, this is an excellent Rioja which will go well with roasts, steaks, game, and mature cheeses.

Good cherry-garnet color with just a hint of violet. Well arranged aromas of blackberry fruit and quality wood. Slightly acidic, astringent palate showing smooth oak tannins and ripe berry fruit, mouthfilling, tasty. Good to drink now, but will improve over the next few years.

{11 May 1998}

Mauro 1995
Valladolid (Mauro, SA)

Mauro's a wine I've been meaning to try for some time now. At just over $10 here in Spain it's sold without any DO label (or rating such as "crianza" or "reserva"), but this is a truly splendid wine. Rumor has it that Mariano García (until just a few weeks ago Vega Sicilia's top winemaker), provided the technical expertise in the building of Mauro - and it shows!

Dark almost inky cherry red color. Rich jammy blackberry and currant nose with well integrated woody accents. Healthy, meaty palate - balanced, complex, long.

{20 Apr 1998}

Raimat Abadía 1995
DO Costers del Segre (Raimat)

This is the third time Abadía has been reviewed (and enjoyed). Made from a balanced mix of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with 12 months of barrel ageing, it's a superb full-bodied red with an attractive price tag. Probably best with roasts or a good steak, but we enjoyed it with vegetable & rice "paella".

Deep, dark cherry red color with just a tinge of purple. Well balanced, potent oak and fruit nose. Solid meaty palate, complex mix of fruit with a peppery background and good length. Still youthful and surely will improve with a bit more bottle ageing.*[$M]
{13 Apr 1998}

Pata Negra Gran Reserva 1987
DO Valdepeñas (Los Llanos)

Talk about price vs. quality! To find a ten year old, oak aged red wine with a "Gran Reserva" rating at less than $5 sounds like science fiction, but "Pata Negra '87" is for real. While it may not have the depth and character of its Rioja counterparts, this wine's a genuine bargain.

Good, clean but not particularly deep garnet color, with no signs of excessive oxidation. Pleasant aromas of fruit, oak and leathery hints of its age. Pleasant, tasty palate with ample fruit and gentle oak.*[$M]
{5 Abr 1998}

Viña Pedrosa Crianza 1994
DO Ribera del Duero (Hermanos Pérez Pascuas)

Another of the fine crop of '94, this Viña Pedrosa "crianza" is a good, meaty, mouthfilling red - we drank it with a hearty slice of roast beef, but it's also just right for steaks or even a well cured cheese.

Deep dark cherry red color - still showing a bit of youth with purple tints. Rich fruity aroma with great compelexity - spice, vanilla and toasted oak. Thick, full bodied tasty palate.*[$M]
{30 Mar 1998}
* Alión Reserva 1994
DO Ribera del Duero (Bodegas y Viñedos Alión)

Since their first wine was introduced (vintage 1992), Alión, Vega Sicilia's "second" winery, has been a huge sucess. Limited production and the same basic technology have shown winemaker Mariano Garcia's wines to be among Spain's very best. The 1994 is no exception: an elegant, fullbodied red which will surely improve with bottle ageing over the next 5 years or so.

Rich, dark cherry red color. Elegant, complex aromas of fine oak and ripe, jammy fruit. Tasty, tannic palate - well balanced and long. The oak tannins are just a bit noticeable, but will certainly soften with time, makeing it even better. *[$H]
{20 Mar 1998}

Altún 1995
DOC Rioja (Bodegas Luberri)

Not long ago, we tried the 1994 version of this same wine with excellent results. Although 1994 was one of Rioja truly great vintages, the 1995 Altún doesn't come up short in any way. A good multi-purpose wine with enough body to stand up to hearty meats and cheeses, but gentle enough for lighter dishes like pasta or even fish.

Good dark cherry red color. Potent nose with lots of up front berry fruit, with spicy vanilla tones and smooth, integrated oak. Smooth, fruity palate with green pepper spice and balsamic hints. Good length. *[$M]
{1 Mar 1998}

Montesierra 1996
DO Somontano (Bodega Pirineos)

Somontano is one of the smaller wine producing area in Spain, nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees. Montesierra is a young wine, made from a coupage that includes Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the unique local variety known as Moristel. A wine with the character to stand up to roasts and aged cheese, but gentle enough to accompany pasta or even roast chicken and turkey.

Bright cherry red color with violet tints. Crisp aromas of red berry fruit with flowery, violet tones. Smooth, tasty and balanced on the palate. A fun and pleasantly different sort of wine. *[$L]
{2 Feb 1998}

Altún 1994
DOC Rioja (Luberri)

1994 is one of the up and comming vintages. Rated Excellent by the regional authorities, we're just beginning to see the first of the aged '94s. While Altún doen't qualify as a "crianza", the careful oak ageing shows in this superb red. A good wine to accompany roasts, casseroles and so on.

Deep, dark cherry red color, with a hint of purple on the edge. Potent aromas of ripe blackberry fruit and gentle, aromatic spice (cinnamon and clove). Rounded, powerful complex palate, with perfectly integrated wood tones and a long finish. A wine built to last. *[$M]
{22 Jan 1998}

Beronia Gran Reserva 1982
DOC Rioja (Beronia)

1982 is one of the best Rioja vintages of the century, so it was something special to taste a legendary '82 "Gran Reserva". There's plenty of power left in this wine, and it would go well with beef, game or well cured cheese.

Cherry red color with brick tones around the edge, good color but thinning slightly. Aromas of old leather, tobacco, oak and mature fruit. Good fruit and gentle tannins on the palate with a touch of spice. Balanced and tasty with a lasting aftertaste. *[$H]
{12 Jan 1998}


Carrasviñas 1996
DO Rueda (Félix Lorenzo Cachazo)

In recent years, the young fruity whites from the Rueda region have made a name for themselves in Spain and around the globe. The Félix Lorenzo Cachazo winery is a modern, family winery making both "Rueda Superior" and "Rueda" grade white. A great "first course" wine to accompany shrimp or marinated salmon.

100% Verdejo grapes (Rueda Superior must be at least 85%) with a pale golden straw color and slightly greenish tints. Good varietal aromas with grassy, floral overtones. Dry, fresh and tasty with a thick, almost buttery palate. Good acidity and balance. *[$M]
{20 Dec 1997}


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

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.

{1 Sept 1998}

Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez [Dessert]
DO Montilla-Moriles (Péerez 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)

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, D.O. Cava, (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.

*[$L] = Low (less than $5)
*[$M] = Medium ($5 to $10)
*[$H] = High (more than $10)

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