Wine Report-Conde de Valdemar Crianza Rioja 2005

The Best $10 Wine of the Moment

I guess I’ve had every vintage of Bodeges Valdemar’s Conde de Valdemar Crianza Rioja sine 1995 (the first time was at a great tapas restaurant in San Francisco called Zarzuela). To me, the Conde de Valdemar is everything you look for in $10 wine and the 2005 is no exception (I often see it from $9.99 to $12.99 on the East Coast): the fruit is focused if not elaborate; it’s balanced with fresh acidity and no overwhelming oak; and it possesses a geographic point of view, in this case, it tastes like you’d expect a crianza Rioja to taste.

Made from 90% tempranillo, the wine is made in a restrained, old-world style showing light black plum and cherry flavors with a nice whiff of spice and a hint of dust, bramble and earth. There’s a lot of saturation for the price and the impression of latent power behind the fruit, like it’s on the verge bursting through but manages restraint.

There are inexpensive reds—even riojas—that deliver more up front punch and richness, but few that consistently show more balance and complexity. I have noticed some bottle variation over the last year, so if you happen to taste the 2005 and come away unimpressed, locate another bottle and try again. It’s worth the experiment at $10. Get it while it lasts.

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