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We tasted all the Spanish reds under $10, and this one was the best. The Garnacha Tintorera grape, a variety grown widely throughout southern Spain, is not the Grenache you might assume. A nice bright purple, the resulting wine builds its appeal from earthy, dusty sage flavours and a bit of bright, spicy black currant. Rustic but not stewed or overcooked, it’s got a bit more complexity than most at this price. It’ll go with burgers or barbecue but is a treat with chorizo cooked with potatoes, red peppers, and paprika.
When money’s tight, it’s time to look at litre bottles again. Best of the bunch is the perennial spaghetti red from Citra, a favourite of both Prince Charles and former British prime minister John Major. The 2007 vintage from Citra’s big, modern co-op is surprisingly tasty, a bit rustic but with some real character and a good woodsy, smoky blackberry flavour that marries well with anything tomato-based. This solid recession red should appeal to penny-pinchers and daily drinkers alike.
Familia Zuccardi’s Shiraz Malbec from Argentina sparked plenty of debate when it debuted, trashed by some as no better than Yellowtail but selling thousands of cases. Decent enough, it’s now upstaged by the 2008 Fuzion White, a blend of Chenin Blanc and the indigenous Torrontés. Clean, crisp, and lively with plenty of mango and papaya flavours, the white is perfect for summer lunches on the patio with a couple of salads. Buy by the case.
Negroamaro is the charmingly precise name for the “black bitter” grape from Puglia, the high heel of the Italian boot. Hot weather, large estates, and modern technology mean some decent wines, even at rock-bottom prices. The Mezzomondo is darkly purple, a simple wine that opens sweet and finishes as tart as its name suggests. What makes it work is the upfront blueberry fruit that leads to baked plums spiced with cinnamon sticks. Great with pizza or a quick braise of pork, red peppers, and potato spiked with chili flakes.
Portugal is one of the few places in the wine world where it’s still possible to find bargains (as well as some stunningly good $50 wines). This one comes from scorching-hot Douro port country, so its dark garnet colour is no surprise. It tastes of sour cherries and baked fruit, savoury and smoky, almost gamy. You wouldn’t pick this wine for a glass before dinner with friends, but it works surprisingly well with dishes from pasta to roast vegetables. Grilled linguiça or chorizo would be the best bets.