10 Favorite Wines

The title is self-explanatory. I love (red) wine. Specifically, I like heavier red wines (that is, if I feel it’s a wine that could be placed in a carafe on your dinner table and could be sipped all night like water, I’m not interested) and–since my vacation there a few years back–I’ve really been getting into Spanish wines. Below are some of my favorites–most are budget-friendly, some are “special occasion” only (with respect to graduate student budgets).

  • Alamos Malbec
    • Price: $7-13. (Wide range, but you can find this in just about any grocery or liquor store)
    • Origin: Argentina
    • Alcohol Level: Approximately 13-14%
    • Awards: Wine Enthusiast gives it an 88/100.
    • Description from TotalWine: “The nose offers bright black cherry aromas with light floral notes and a touch of toast. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with ripe, concentrated cassis and black raspberry fruit flavors interwoven with a touch of chocolate and sweet spice from light oak aging.”
    • Personal note: The first time I bought this I was headed to a girls night. This is perfect for such occasions, and at my grocery store it is frequently on sale. Just about everyone likes this wine–definite crowd pleaser.
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  • Evodia Calatayud Garnacha
    • Price range: $9-12
    • Origin: Spain
    • Alcohol Level: 15%
    • Awards: Wine Advocate gives in 89/100
    • Description from TotalWine: “Produced from old vines. Dark ruby-colored, it gives up an expressive nose of fragrant cherry blossom and cassis. Racy on the palate with plenty of juicy fruit, this is a surprisingly substantial, pleasure-bent effort.”
    • Personal notes: While I like this wine, I definitely need to be in the right mood to drink it. It does not go with every meal or every situation. This is a wine to go with a nicer meal–NOT with your regular Tuesday night casserole. As you can probably tell by the alcohol content, it also can hit you pretty hard, so do NOT consume without food!
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  • Luzon Jumilla
    • Price: $6-10
    • Origin: Spain
    • Alcohol Level: 14%
    • Awards: Robert Parker gives it an 88/100 (at least 2006 vintage)
    • Description from TotalWine: “This Monastell based red offers deep, intense black fruit flavors with plenty of licorice and earthy notes. This is a seriously good wine at a ridiculous price.”
    • Personal notes: I first had this wine at my parents’ place on December 28, 2010. The fact that I remember the time and place that I first had this wine should tell you how magical the moment was. This is DEFINITELY budget friendly, and definitely a keeper.
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  • Maipe Malbec
    • Price: $7-12
    • Origin: Argentina
    • Alcohol Level:
    • Awards: Robert Parker gives the “reserve” 90+ points. Can’t find any info on the non-“reserve”
    • Description from TotalWine: “Medium-bodied with a dark purple color and complex nose of plum and fig framed with floral notes. The well-balanced palate shows ripe dark fruit with the right amount of acidity ending in a long lasting finish. This classic wine pairs well with red meats and cheeses.”
    • Personal Notes: Embarrassing admission: I first bought this wine because I liked the label. But it was really good! But beware: this stuff sells out. Fast. I don’t care if you shop at a grocery store, liquor store, or wine-specific store. Despite this being a little hard to find, I wouldn’t pay more than $9/bottle. It’s good, but it’s not worth killing yourself for a bottle–and with it selling out all the damn time, you learn to find other substitutes. Still, if you can find it, you should try it.
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  • Marques de Caceres Rioja
    • Price: $10-14
    • Origin: Spain
    • Alcohol Level: 13%
    • Awards: 87 points, Wine Enthusiast
    • Description from TotalWine: “This delightful wine is noted for its spicy varietal character, its balance and lingering finish. Made from 85% Tempranillo grapes, with the balance split between the Granciano and the Mazuelo varieties.”
    • Personal Notes: So, I actually first had this wine in Spain. It was in every supermarket I came across, for approximately 2-3 euros. Thanks to import taxes, the wine is MUCH more expensive here. Maybe it’s because of the memories I hold, but this one honestly is my favorite of the bunch. Despite not being a “table wine,” I could drink this all night. It’s smooth but rich. It’s not weak but it’s also not over-powering. I cannot say enough good things about this wine.
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  • Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere ($20–for special occasions only!!!)
    • Price: $20-25
    • Origin: Chile
    • Alcohol Level: 14-15% (depending upon the year)
    • Awards: 91 points, Wine Advocate
    • Description from Wine Advocate: “The Marques de Casa Concha series begins with the 2007 Carmenere which spent 16 months in French oak. Saturated purple in color, it offers up a splendid bouquet of toasty oak, tobacco, Asian spices, plum, and blueberry. Mouth-coating, layered, and bordering on opulent, there is plenty of ripe tannin lurking under the fruit, succulent flavors, and excellent balance. This awesome value will be at its best from 2012 to 2020.”
    • Personal Notes: This wine is definitely too expensive for (my) everyday drinking concerns. I first had this wine at a wine-bar that did not sell any food; I only mention this to say that it is totally possible to have this wine and enjoy it without needing any food. Still, I see this going really well with a nice steak. It’s spicy enough that it’ll hold its own against the meat, but it’s not so strong that it’ll overpower the food.
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  • Marques de Riscal Rioja
    • Price: $13-20
    • Origin: Spain
    • Alcohol Level: 14.1%
    • Awards: 90 points, Wine Advocate
    • Description from Wine.com: ” Cherry-red color with good robe. Spicy, balsamic aromas of great complexity, with notes of ripe dark berries and light toasted nuances. On the palate it is full and tasty, with good structure and rounded, elegant tannins. The finish is long and fresh, with a slight reminder of the fine oak. This wine goes well with ham, mild cheeses, casseroles which are not highly spiced, bean and pulse dishes, poultry, red meat, grills and roasts.”
    • Personal Notes: This wine looks fancy, and it’s definitely (at least for my current budget) a special occasion wine. It’s magical, though. It’s a LITTLE too strong to have on its own, but it’s a wine you should “honor.” When you have this wine, it should be the star.
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  • Protocolo
    • Price: $7-10
    • Origin: Spain
    • Alcohol Level: 13.5%
    • Awards: Apparently has been ranked #2 in the Top 100 Best Buys in the World by Wine Enthusiast.
    • Description from Total Wine: “Offering lovely fresh blackberry and strawberry flavors, this Tempranillo is an easy drinking effort from Spain’s hot interior. This pleasant red goes great with casual fare.”
    • Personal Notes: This wine is just awesome. You can sip it with friends. You can cook with it. You can have it with an everyday meal. You can even have it with a nice meal. This is probably the most versatile AND “classy” wine on the list. You must have this. NOW.
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  • Root 1 Cab
    • Price: $9-11
    • Origin: Chile
    • Alcohol Level: 14%
    • Awards: Wine Enthusiast gives it 88/100 and has it under its “Best Buys” category (at least the 2008 Root 1’s)
    • Description from TotalWine: “Deep, ruby red with intense aromas of red fruit and cassis. Notes of plum and blackberry followed by vanilla. Full-bodied with medium tannins.”
    • Personal Notes: Not sure if this really is a “good” thing or not, but this is the wine I buy at the grocery store when I’ve been having a really bad day. It’s strong, though, so beware. I definitely need my comfort foods with the wine. Well, my non-creamy comfort foods. This goes great with pizza but not so much with creamy pasta dishes, if you know what I mean.
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  • Santa Julia Malbec (and Temperanillo)
    • Price: $8-11
    • Origin: Argentina
    • Alcohol Content: 13.5%
    • Awards: NA
    • Description from TotalWine: “Intense purple in color with aromatic notes of ripe fruits, figs and raisins. Full body with nice balance, pronounced sweet tannins and lingering finish. Perfect partner to grilled meat dishes.”
    • Personal Notes: I first bought this wine (a) because it was cheap and (b) because I had never heard of an organic wine. This tastes a little weak for me, but it is a FANTASTIC wine for cooking (yes, I am one of those people who only cooks with wines she would drink). Also, probably in part because it’s a weaker wine, it’s a more likely crowd pleaser, and it’d probably make a very good hostess gift.
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