Good taste: Spanish reds

By Rebecca Gibb

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2007 Bodegas Arrocal Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, $23.99. Photo / Supplied
2007 Bodegas Arrocal Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, $23.99. Photo / Supplied

The nights are drawing in and those early morning starts are made even harder by the lingering darkness. Autumn has arrived and suddenly a cold glass of savvy or rosé doesn't seem quite so appealing. It'll soon be time to crank up that heat pump and drink a wine that warms our cockles.

A timely flying visit to Auckland by a Spanish winemaker reminded me there's nowhere better than Iberia for a good value, gutsy red.

Telmo Rodriguez is renowned for making wines across Spain - from Malaga in the south to Galicia in the north. He is a pocket rocket, full of enthusiasm for wine and, boy, can he talk.

The Spanish wine industry has been transformed in the past 20 years by his generation. Previously, big business and local co-operative wineries dominated the Spanish wine industry, making vast quantities of plonk from potentially great vineyards.

Most New Zealand producers would kill to have the 30, 40 or 50-year-old vines the Spanish were mistreating and it took the likes of Rodriguez and other renegades to realise the vines could be returned to greatness with a little bit of tender loving care.

The industry in Spain also has a wealth of native varieties to play with, including tempranillo (which tastes like "merlot with nuts", according to Spanish wine importer, Steve Bennett MW), garnacha, graciano, verdejo and albarino. These varieties help it stand out from the crowd.

The country's most famous wine region, Rioja, produces medium-weight Tempranillo-based wines with a lick of vanilla oak - but there are also fantastic areas like Ribera del Duero making Tempranillo on steroids: deeply coloured, alcoholic, structured wines. Toro is also a good value option for people who love Rioja.

There are many other regions making great value reds, from Calatayud to Jumilla. You could say there's never been a better time to discover a whole new world in the old world.

2008 Armantes Old Bush Vine Garnacha, Calatayud
($17.99, fine wine stores including Fine Wine Delivery Co La Vino, Wine Vault, Point Wines)

Intensely juicy and full-fruited garnacha, produced by Master of Wine Norrel Robertson.

Bursting with fresh red cherries, herbs and spices, it's as smooth as Barry White. Better still, you get change from a twenty.

2007 Bodegas Arrocal Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero
($23.99, La Barrique stores)

This is a hulk of a wine: dark and concentrated with ripe blackberries, liquorice and lashings of vanilla.

Firm tannins give massive structure and mouth-watering freshness.

2008 Telmo Rodriguez LZ, Rioja
($28.99, Caro Wines, Point Wines, Wine and More, The Fine Wine Delivery Company, Moore Wilson & Co)

This tempranillo-based rioja combines pure damson and blackberry fruit with the spice and smoke of chorizo.

It's not a massive wine but it is deeply satisfying at the price, and also has a gentle savoury tannin.

- NZ Herald

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