The Gratification of Discovery. While there are many reasons that wine is a fun and an interesting subject to explore, one thing I’ve learned in my involvement in the wine world is this: few experiences rival the gratification of discovering a great value wine. One constantly hears the refrain that never before has the consumer been so spoiled by such a diverse and extensive selection of value-driven wines. Yet, I can’t name the large number of times I’ve opened a wine that the critics have declared a fantastic value, only to be let down. Perhaps I expect too much…or so I thought until recently. The Cote Est was certainly a pleasant revelation this summer and with the seasonal plunge in temperature, the focus of my consumption has shifted to red wines. Fortunately, thanks in part to reading the critics, but also to my luck and, dare I say, intuition, I’ve lately unearthed several shining examples of great everyday (under $12) red wines and of these, I am most excited about the 2008 Altovinum Evodia.
Unearthing Values in Spain. No country is churning out more high quality, low-end wine today than Spain. One of the principal reasons is that there is more vineyard land in Spain (2.9 million acres) than in any other country on the face of the planet; moreover, Spain is blessed with some of the oldest vines in Europe. Before the wine quality revolution of the late 90s, which revitalized many of Spain’s once forgotten wine producing regions (Campo de Borja, Calatayud, Jumilla/Yecla, etc…), farmers in these areas made so little income from their low-yield, old vine vineyards that replanting them was an uneconomical afterthought. The result is an abundance of old vine vineyard sources in these up and coming regions. This is no more apparent than in the wines from the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Calatayud in the southwestern corner of Aragon. With its ancient high altitude vineyards, Calatayud has attracted lots of attention and investment. During the last decade, a steady stream of popular value Garnachas have hit our shores from Calatayud: Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha, Bodegas Ateca “Garnacha de Fuego” and “Ateca” are prime examples.
A Charismatic Wine at this Price Point. Evodia (Greek for “aroma”) is a new project from the American importer, Eric Solomon (European Cellars) and the seemingly irrepressible enologist, Jean Marc Lafage. Sourced from the highest vineyards in the DO (2400-3000 ft. in elevation), the quality of the low-yield, old vine (up to 100 years old) Garnacha fruit is apparent in the glass. An alluring bouquet of fraises du bois complemented by an undertone of herbs issues forth after a few seconds of swirling. In the mouth, soft, lush strawberry and cherry fruit flavors spread across the palate and the concentrated old vine fruit offers excellent weight and length. In sum, it is a strikingly charismatic wine for the price point.
Fresh Fruit Character. One of the most appealing aspects of Evodia is the fresh quality of the fruit. In part, this is the result of excellent vineyard site selection. The cooler high altitude sites mitigate the hot climate of Aragon, helping the fruit retain acidity and keeping the sugar/alcohol in check. In other words, Evodia is not your typical jammy, super alcoholic Garnacha. Finally, the wine is fermented and aged in tank, which preserves the wonderful fresh fruit character and does not impart any distracting flavors.
The 2008 Altovinum Evodia is a delicious bargain that is a perfect every day red for now and the colder months that lie ahead.
Drinking Window: 2010-2012
Pairing Ideas: Pork and lamb pair especially well with Garnacha, but other good pairings include: beef stew, aged cheddar and Manchego, sweet potato soup. The relatively low acidity and low tannin levels make it an appealing wine to drink on its own as well.
Price: Under $12.
Josh Reynolds (Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar): “Bright ruby. Fresh strawberry and raspberry aromas are deepened by notes of licorice, black tea and pungent herbs. Supple in texture, offering sweet red fruit flavors and showing no rough edges. A smoky note comes up with air, adding complexity to a nicely persistent, red berry-dominated finish. Extremely easy to drink, and offering excellent depth and clarity for the money.” (89 pts).