When I first got into wine, I was obsessed with finding a good bargain. I knew there were plenty of complex and interesting wines in the $50+ price range, but I’ve always wanted to find a good wine at $8 that tastes like a $50 bottle. Last summer I stumbled across the 2005 vintage of Vina Alarba Grenache for $9 and I was really impressed by how good it was especially for the price. I found this 2006 at my local grocery store for $7.
Viña Alarba 2006 Old Vines Grenache
In the picture the wine looks really dark, but it’s actually medium red that is typical of most grenache wines I’ve tasted. On the nose this wine is really spicy; ash, dried pepper and smoke are the predominant scents. I get a hint of eucalyptus as well. The smell reminds me of a summer barbeque actually with it’s expression of charcoal and light smoke. Wow, I really like this wine. I get a wave of cherries and strawberries that transitions into a spicy, but extremely smooth mid-palate. Balanced and bulging with generous fruit on the finish this wine is very good, especially for $7.
Looking back, I think the 2005 vintage might have been slightly lighter and fruiter, but the 2006 is not far off. It’s a medium-bodied wine that I think most people would like because it’s not overbearing and tannic. However, it’s still complex and the finish is long and interesting. It’s rare that a wine this drinkable and delicious is so affordable.
I’m going to pair this wine with some chocolate (because grenache and chocolate are an amazing combination).
Scharffen Berger 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate
By itself, the Berger 70% is VERY interesting. Most people I know think of chocolate as chocolate and when they think of dark chocolate they think of Lindt or Ghirardelli. The Scharffen Berger is far more unusual and nuanced. It’s dark, but extremely smooth and far from bitter despite the high cacao content. When the chocolate starts to melt in my mouth I taste burnt blueberries (I have no idea what they taste like, but that’s the first thing that came to mind). Luscious citrus and espresso flavors follow with a distinctive caramel aftertaste.
When paired with the wine the flavor profile changes dramatically. Chocolate covered strawberries and cake-like qualities are released. The bitterness of the chocolate melts away and makes the wine seem sweeter and somehow smoother. This is a tremendous combination and if you run across this wine I highly recommend it (as well as the chocolate).