While I was in Navarra this summer, I was told that, due to fierce competition from other Spanish wine regions (as well as European and New World wines) there has been a push for quality since 2007, and I found plenty of evidence to back this up. Briefly, here is what is going on at a sampling of wineries in Navarra.
Clear, bright, ruby red color. Aromas of cherry, strawberry, baking spice, oak, and Good & Plenty. Dry, medium-light tannin, low acid, medium-light body. Red fruits and diluted savory herbs on the palate. Very short finish. Let it open for a bit before drinking, otherwise, not recommended.
Both Chile and Argentina are also producing unique wines of real character, many of them at prices that are fractions of their Old World European or even U.S. counterparts thanks their to the much lower labor and land costs. You just need to know where to find them.
Russ Kane and Steve Krueger (Sommelier at the Westin La Cantera) recently hosted the Culinaria Texas Two-Sip tasting at San Antonio’s Hilton Palacios Del Rio. The tasting pitted carefully selected Texas wines against comparable wines from around the world. Six pairs of wines were tasted blind, with one wine in each pair hailing from a Texas producer. The audience and panel were then invited to vote on their favorites and to guess which wine was made in Texas. The results were, to say the least, eye-opening.
A slightly dusty-looking brickish red. Aroma is of brick dust and freshly tilled earth, dried cherries, and cocoa powder. Rough tannins hover across the early- and mid-palate and linger on the (moderately long) finish. Beneath the tannins, dried cherry and clove notes add to a profile that is surprisingly light and freshened by plenty of acidity. Overall impression is raspy and astringent, but flavorful and reasonably well-rounded. This would be splendid with smoked trout or a substantial grilled fish like mahi or swordfish, or with a vegetarian entree laden with lots of garlic and a bit of cream.
Let's start with the conclusion: this is a QPR crazy bottle of wine. What do you do when you're having a couple of dozen people over for a barbecue, but one is your wine-loving boss? Buy this wine. Bright cherry fruit flavors dusted with cocoa powder lead to vanilla from the obvious use of wood. But acids balance tannins, and wood does not overwhelm or collapse into a maple-vanilla mess, but rather complements the fruit. Serve with a crowd and don't worry about disappointing the wine lovers or giving the wine snobs a reason to whine.