Where else can you find, on a regular basis, a well-aged bottle of red that’s been held back from release onto the market until it’s good and ready to drink—and, moreover, frequently priced at less than 30 bucks? The answer is Spain. And the magical word you’re looking for is “Reserva.” Case in point: the 2008 ARES Rioja Reserva is the current release of the wine available across the Atlantic. Want a 2008 vintage Napa, Tuscan, Piedmont, Burgundy or Bordeaux bottle of red? Good luck finding one on the market today without paying a premium. In order to receive the “Reserva” classification, the winery must age the wine in oak casks for at least one year and in the bottle a minimum of three years thereafter. Wineries in Rioja don’t make a Reserva every year, just in the years they consider the grapes good enough. Wow, for the casual but enthusiastic wine consumer, add up all these factors and that’s called winning.
The 2008 Ares Reserva, made of 100% Tempranillo, has spent 24 months in French oak, making for a red that’s integrated and mellow in flavor while distinctively masculine, earthy and dark-toned in character. Think of it like a Spanish cowboy after a long journey on his horse—he’s picked up some dirt and grit along the way. You get a woodsy tannic grip right upfront, which gives way to notes of black cherry, blackberry, dark cacao, balsamic and tobacco. Easy drinkin’ and easy ridin’—giddy up. –J.M.
Hidden Gem Winery: SHALE OAK | Paso Robles, California