In lieu of a provocative title for this post — “Give Babies More Booze!” — I’ll just be straightforward and get to the point; here are 10 worthwhile red wines that won’t deliver a sucker punch to your wallet. They’re from all over the place. Inexpensive means from about $10 to $17. I won’t make special notations about “Good Value” and so on, because all of these wines represent Excellent Value for the quality and price.
Buy the Maximo Tempranillo 2006, Vino de la Tierra de Castillo, by the case. Produced by Grupo Baron de Ley, owners of the well-known El Coto de Rioja brand, Maximo Tempranillo 2006 is young, fresh, bright, vigorous and quite attractive. The wine features a deep ruby color, scents and flavors of red and black currents and plums and a hint of dried herbs. Moderate tannins and modest oak — the wine ages six months in new American and French barrels — provide a firm structure, and the wine is, overall, nicely balanced and harmonious. Made for simple and hearty fare: pizzas, pasta, red meat dishes. Very good. About $10.
Can you imagine a wine called “The Spirit of Italy” or “The Spirit of Australia”? In any case, here’s Espiritu de Chile Carmenère 2006, Valle Central, and son-of-a-gun if it’s not a well-made little wine that displays surprising character for the price. Aromas of black olive and bell pepper, cedar and tobacco are wreathed with black currants, black cherries and herbs de Provence; the wine fills the mouth, where spicy oak supports fleshy red and black fruit flavors that deepen slightly with hints of fruit cake, dried floral elements and clean earth. Tannins grow more prominent on the finish. Bottled with a screw-cap for easy opening. Very good. About $11.
I was not so fond of the Espiritu de chile Shiraz Cabernet 2006, which was pleasant and agreeable but indistinguishable from 100 other wines of the same genre.
Imported by Racke USA, Sonoma, Ca.
The Domaine de Régusse Pinot Noir 2007 comes from the Vin de Pays des Alpes de Haute Provence appellation, north of Marseilles in the foothills of the Luberon mountains. It’s a dark, warm and appealing mouthful of wine, smelling and tasting of dried currents and cranberries infused with touches of sandalwood and cloves, underbrush, black tea and leather. An attractive and intriguing rendition of pinot noir, fresh and drinkable, but with something of the antique about it, like faded flowers pressed between the fragile pages of an old book. This would be seductive with a veal roast with rosemary and thyme. Very Good. About $12.
There’s five percent shiraz (syrah) in the Don Miguel Gascon Malbec 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, a point of interest, I’m sure, but the wine feels all malbec, all the way. This is dark, leathery and earthy, robust, fleshy and meaty. Flavors of black currant, black raspberry and some wild berry are charged with spice and dried herbs, briers and brambles. The texture is sleek yet dense and chewy, while plenty of brushy tannins and vibrant acid provide essential structure. Bring on the steak or pork chops. Very Good+. About $12.
Imported by Gascon USA, Haywood, Ca., a division of E&J Gallo.
Twist a few arms if you must to get hold of some bottles of the Castelmaure Col des Vents 2006, Corbières. This blend of 50 percent carignan, 35 percent grenache and 15 percent syrah is produced by a cooperative that receives consulting from the great Tardieu Laurent winery in the northern Rhone Valley; the attention to detail is evident. The wine is bright, clean and attractive, bursting with scents and flavors of spiced and roasted black currants and blueberries infused with smoke and minerals. It feels a bit untamed, lively and peppery, nestled on dusty briers, brambles and underbrush, a sort of velvety yet prickly Br’er Rabbit of a wine for everyday drinking. This would be a great addition to restaurant wine by the glass programs. Very Good+. About $12.
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
The Bodega Tamari Reserva Malbec 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, is rich, warm and spicy, robust and rugged, intense and concentrated, dense and chewy; what more do you want from a malbec? Loads of vivid black fruit flavors are permeated by smoke, cedar and tobacco leaf, moss, underbrush and leather. Savory woody-spicy qualities expand after a few minutes in the glass, while the taut, tannic structure feels generous yet firm and solid. A very well-made malbec. Very Good+. About $14.
Imported by Terlato Wines International, Napa, Ca.
A word one seldom uses with petite sirah is “pretty,” but by golly, the Spellbound Petite Sirah 2005, Lodi, with “2 percent other red varietials,” is the prettiest petite sirah I have ever tried. The wine teems with seductive mulberry, blackberry and black current scents and flavors permeated by licorice, lavender and minerals; you could eat it with a spoon. After a few minutes in the glass, the wine pulls up tannins that are fairly rugged and rustic, belying the first impression of sheer prettiness but proving that the wine should be taken seriously after all. Now through 2010. Very Good+. About $15.
A classic blend of 40 percent corvino, 30 percent molinara and 30 percent rondinella grapes, the Lamberti “Santepietre” Valpolicella Ripasso 2006 is almost volatile in its bold spicy and fruity qualities; it make your scent receptors want to do the right thing. This is deep and dark, rich and robust, a magnetic amalgam of black and red currents and plums infused with smoky mulberry jam. Don’t think, however, that the wine is merely a sensualist’s fruit-basket turnover; you feel the wood, the smooth tannins, the attention-getting mineral qualities, and the wine finishes with dry austerity that you might call dignified on the one hand, and demanding, on the other. Drink this with braised short ribs, roasted veal and the like, through 2011 or ’12. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York.
The Hess Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 could carry a “North Coast” designation, but instead the label spells out the origin of the grapes: Mendocino County 45 percent, Lake County 30 percent, Napa County 25 percent. A blend of 88 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8 percent syran and 4 percent merlot, the wine offers vivid black currant and black cherry flavors wrapped in furry tannins and polished oak. A core of minerals, potpourri and very intense bitter chocolate expands as you sip the wine and appreciate its firm, solid structure and slightly velvety texture. Yeah, it sounds pretty standard for a cabernet in its price range, but this example delivers an extra measure of resonance and vibrancy. Drink through 2011 or ’12 with steaks and chops. Very Good+. About $17.
Well, now, the Hook & Ladder Station Number Ten Red Wine 2006, Sonoma County, delivers a bounteous snootful of ripe and roasted black and blue fruit scents boosted by sandalwood and cloves, ancho chili and the smoke from a grill holding barbecue ribs over smoldering coals. This riotously strapping, robust, luscious and juicy wine is a blend of 83 percent zinfandel, 10 percent petite sirah, 5 percent carignane and 2 percent alicante, picked from 100-year-old vines. Lip-smacking tannins contribute to a texture that’s almost viscous, while elements of briers and brambles and underbrush lead to a dry, austere finish. Nowhere but in Sonoma County would you find a wine like this; it’s like drinking a piece of history with your steak or, I guess, barbecue ribs. Now through 2011 or ’12. Very good+. About $17.