Amazing Spanish Red Bargains

If you are looking for a good, well-priced bottle of red for drinking during the summer, Spanish wines are muy bueno

In the under-$20-a-bottle category, Spain continues to offer more bang for the buck than just about any wine region. The enormous number of superb terroirs, old vines, and a young generation of men and women pushing the envelope of quality, combined with top vintages in 2004 and 2005 as well as a good one in 2006, have resulted in a bevy of exceptional bargain-priced wines. These have emerged from relatively unknown appellations, such as Almansa, Bullas, Cariñena, Cigales, Montsant, Pla de Bages, Ribera del Jucar, Somontano, Valdeorras, Valdepenas, Valencia, and Yecla. Many of these wines are often made from indigenous grapes. Readers should keep in mind that all of these appellations were virtually unknown a mere five or six years ago. Following are 10 of the finest Spanish wine bargains in today's marketplace. These are selections from my colleague, Dr. Jay Miller, who specializes in the wines of Spain.

90 points

Albada 2005 Tinto (Calatayud)

This is 100% Garnacha aged in seasoned oak for one year. Cherry red-colored, it offers up an expressive nose of cedar, vanilla, spice box, cherry, and black raspberry. This leads to a layered wine with gobs of spicy black fruits, a silky texture, and ripe tannins. It will evolve for 1-2 years and drink well through 2015. $15

90 points

Bodegas Peique 2006 Joven (Bierzo)

Fashioned from 100% Mencia from the newly prominent D.O. of Bierzo, the 2006 Joven saw no oak. Its dark ruby color is followed by an expressive bouquet of mineral, blue fruits, and black cherry. Smooth, seamless, and elegant, this is a superb introduction to the Mencia grape. Drink it over the next 3-4 years. $14

90 points

Bodegas Sabor Real 2006 Toro (Toro)

Aged in French and American oak (50% new), this purple-colored Toro displays an excellent, slightly roasted perfume of wood smoke, espresso, and blackberry. Full-bodied, fat, and well-endowed on the palate, the wine has gobs of spicy, forward fruit, excellent balance, and enough structure to last for another 8 years. $13

90 points

Bodegas Viña Magaña 2004 Baron de Magaña (Navarra)

The 2004 Baron de Magaña is a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Tempranillo aged for 14 months in 70% new French oak. Inky purple, it has an alluring perfume of pain grillé, pencil lead, wood smoke, blackberry, and black currant. Ripe, sweet, and more structured than the Dignus, it merits 3-5 years of additional cellaring and should drink well through 2018. $20

90 points

Exopto Cellars 2006 Big Bang (Rioja)

A blend of 50% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, and 10% Graciano (the Tempranillo and Graciano were aged for nine months in barrel), this purple-colored wine offers up aromas of cedar, spice box, lavender, black cherry, and blackberry. The bouquet is followed by a full-flavored, loaded, primary wine with a supple texture, layers of fruit, excellent richness and balance, and a pure finish. This tasty wine will evolve for 2-3 years but can be enjoyed now and over the next 6-8 years. $18

90 points

Heretat de Taverners 2005 Graciano (Valencia)

This 2005 Graciano spent 14 months in a mix of new and used French oak. It is dark ruby/purple-colored with an expressive nose of balsamic, pepper, spice box, cedar, and black cherry. Forward, full-flavored, and layered, it is meant for near-term gratification. It should provide pleasure over the next 6-8 years. $20

90 points

Vinyes d'En Gabriel 2006 L'Heravi (Montsant)

The 2006 L'Heravi (60% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena, and 20% Syrah) saw no oak, but spent two months on its lees in tank before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Purple-colored, the wine's nose offers aromas of mineral, earth, black cherry, and blueberry. This leads to a forward, seamless wine with layers of spicy flavors and a lengthy finish. Drink it over the next 3-4 years. This is a superb introduction to the wines of Montsant. $15

91 points

Bodegas Ateca 2006 Atteca (Calatayud)

This cuvée is 100% Garnacha old-vines ranging from 80-120 years.

Dark ruby-colored, it delivers an alluring bouquet of Asian spices, wild black cherry, and blueberry. Layered and sweetly-fruited, the wine is nicely balanced and lengthy. It has enough stuffing to evolve for 1-2 years but can be enjoyed now. $16

91 points

Bodegas Borsao 2006 Tres Picos Garnacha (Campo de Borja)

An enticing bouquet of wild cherry, spice box, and floral notes leaps from the glass of this remarkably rich, balanced, and intensely flavored wine. It can best be described as cherry pie in a glass. For hedonists only. $13

91 points

Bodegas Otto Bestué 2005 Finca Santa Sabina (Somontano)

A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Tempranillo aged for 13 months in French and American oak, this deeply colored wine offers an alluring perfume as well as opulence and body on the palate. Spicy and complex already, it will continue to blossom with another 3-4 years in the bottle and will drink well through 2020. $22

91 points

Liberalia 2003 Cabeza de Cuba (Toro)

The 2003 Cabeza de Cuba is 100% Tinta de Toro sourced from vines over 70 years of age and raised in new French oak for 12 months. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up a bouquet of pain grillé, Asian spices, mineral, and blackberry. Smooth-textured, intense, and layered with spicy black fruits, the wine has enough structure to evolve for 3-5 years. This lengthy effort will be at its best from 2012 to 2020. $20

91 points

Viñas del Cenit 2005 Venta Mazzarron (Tierra del Vino de Zamora)

Made from 100% Tinta de Toro, this 2005 offers up a smoky, complex bouquet with notes of mineral and blackberry. Ripe, sweet, forward, and altogether pleasurable, it can be enjoyed over the next 6-8 years. $17

92 points

Bodegas Almanseñas 2005 La Huella de Adaras (Almansa)

The 2005 La Huella de Adaras is a blend of 60% Garnacha Tintorera, 30% Monastrell, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up an alluring bouquet of mineral, lavender, blueberry, and black raspberry. Super-rich, layered, and well-balanced, it has 1-2 years of aging potential. However, there is no obvious reason to delay gratification. This is what over-delivering is all about. $12

92 points

Celler Baronia del Montsant 2006 Flor de Englora (Montsant)

The 2006 Flor de Englora is a blend of 63% Garnacha, 32% Cariñena, and the balance Syrah and Merlot aged in stainless steel. Purple-colored, it offers a captivating bouquet of mineral, black cherry, and black raspberry. This is followed by a plush, rich, layered wine with gobs of sweet fruit and no hard edges. It exhibits superb balance and a long finish. It is all about pure pleasure. Drink it over the next 4-5 years. $16

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