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Spanish Wine Values

Friday - 7/22/2011, 3:48pm  ET

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

What do Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and Portugal all have in common? At one time or another, each of these wine-producing countries was considered the little darling of wines values.

Well, today, there's a new country in town. Spain. The third largest wine producing country in the world is now gaining a reputation on the world wine stage as making very good wines at very reasonable prices.

Capital investments in modern winemaking equipment and a new breed of young winemakers with contemporary winemaking ideas have revolutionized the industry. This combination has added up to one great bang-for-the-buck for the American consumer.

There are some terrific white wines under $15 and a plethora of delicious red wines for under $25. Surprisingly, many of the red wines can be enjoyed at both a young or considered for long-term cellaring, thanks to prominent tannin structure.

For a summer white wine treat, try the 2009 Protos Verdejo from the Rueda region. Produced from 100 percent verdejo grapes and fermented in stainless steel vats, the wine features floral scents of honeysuckle, green apple and nectarine. Flavors of apple, orange blossom and tropical fruits are buoyed by delicate mineral notes and nice acidity. $14

One does not often hear about wines from the Coast Brava section of Spain, but the 2009 Oliver Conti Turo Negre could change that. Turo Negre is Catalonian for the "black hill" that sits at the edge of the estate, located in the Empordą region. A red wine blend made from separately vinified and aged cabernet sauvignon, merlot, granacha, cabernet franc and a touch of carignano, it spends about one year aging in French oak barrels, just enough time to give the juicy black cherry fruit, plums and licorice flavors a chance to mellow and meld with the refreshing acidity. The touch of pepper on the deep finish is just right. $15

The 2004 Castillo Labastida Rioja Reserva from Rioja is made exclusively from old-vine tempranillo grapes. It is superbly balanced and refined with notes of ripe red cherry, cocoa and vanilla on the front of the palate and hints of tobacco and smoke on the elegant finish. $19

An example of a remarkable value in hand-crafted wine is the 2006 Convento San Francisco Crianza from Ribera Del Duero. The fruit, a blend of 90 percent tempranillo and 10 percent merlot, is sourced from a number of vineyard sites around Ribera del Duero, including 50 percent from pre-phylloxera old vines.

The wine is aged in a combination of French and American barrels for 14 months and sports a bouquet of black plums and tobacco. Stylish flavors of blackberry, dark plum and cherry dominate the palate. Lovely notes of licorice and tobacco mingle with soft tannins and bright acidity to provide remarkable balance and structure on the lingering finish. All this for $25.

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