Desperately seeking red wines with personality 0
Bodegas Castaño 2009 Hécula Monastrell, Yecla, Spain. (Supplied)
Having recently tasted a wide range of red wines that sell for less than $20, it was hard to shake the notion that wine lovers are living in the best of times and the worst of times.
The bounty of well-made and affordable wines available is seemingly endless. We are spoiled for choice from the traditional wine-growing countries as well as emerging regions where vines are relatively new additions to the landscape. (The selective buying policies of our liquor stores and provincial booze monopolies notwithstanding.)
The potential selection is so good that some have gone as far to call this the Golden Age of Wine.
The downside? A lot of these international selections are too well made, too fruity and too similar. At a recent blind tasting of 15 bargain Cabernets from around the world, I wondered if the same wine wasn't being presented multiple times. It wasn't.
There was uniformity to the lineup. Wine after wine offering abundant chocolate and red fruit flavours without any points of difference. These were Stepford wines.
For some, my complaint is a perfect example of what anyone posting on Twitter might call a #firstworldproblem. "Oh, these tasty, affordable Cabernets are really bugging me."
But, really, what's the point of buying Cabernet from Australia, Argentina or France if they don't reveal some local colour or personality. Shouldn't these wines have something akin to a regional accent?
One surefire way of finding dramatically different wines is shopping outside of the usual Cabernet, Malbec or Shiraz confines. Two of the most exciting red wines I have tasted recently -- not to mention, best values -- were made in Spain from the Monastrell grape, which is better known to some as Mourvèdre.
These robust, flavourful wines offer terrific concentration and a rustic edge that makes them stand out from the crowd. Adventurous wine lovers take note.
Wines of the Week:
Bodegas Castaño 2009 Hécula Monastrell, Yecla, Spain
BC $15.99 (583690) | AB $16.99 | MB $17 | ON $11.95 (300673) Here's a red with a spicy personality that makes the most of its rustic character. Bold peppery spice and concentrated fruit make for an earthy and gusty wine that works with grilled meat and baked pasta dishes. It will be a new listing in Ontario, in the coming month.
Bodegas Castaño 2011 La Casona de Castaño Old Vines Monastrell, Yecla, Spain
BC $9.48 (400002) | ON $8.90 (143743)
Anytime I get asked about good cheap wine, La Casona tops the list. It's rich, flavourful and distinctive. Plus it offers the best of both worlds so to speak. Fruit from old vines is used to produce this concentrated and juicy red, which is bottled with a screw cap, meaning the wine is kept safe and sound until opening. Highly recommended.