CASTILLO DE ALMANSA RESERVA (2008)—When you’re looking for a deal
My Fellow Inebriates,
When in doubt at the liquor store, buy one known and one unknown item. This gives you, if you happen to have a booze blog, something to review, as well as something reliable to get you ripped out of your head if the new item doesn’t work out.
On Saturday we searched the liquor store for our favorite consultant, a dude who has literally NEVER BEEN WRONG about any recommendation and who, when asked about, for instance, the appropriateness of daily wine drinking, will snort derisively and say, “I grew up in Europe. We always had wine—dinner, noon, Wednesday, whatever.” Confronted with the notion of alcoholism, our guy would no doubt scoff again and point you toward an extraordinary find for under $15.
Which is one of the reasons we shop there. Our family tree may dangle one or two alcoholic berries, but at LBHQ we haven’t started worrying seriously yet (at least about the humans). Our main problem is guilt—every time we buy a bottle of wine, that’s a couple of kids’ swimming or gymnastics lessons, right? Seriously, we’ll bankrupt ourselves long before we the humans disappear clinically into the bottle.
And so, carrying this perpetual guilt about what we might be depriving the kids of by spending money on liquor, we nevertheless entered the hallowed store seeking two cheap bottles in the hope they would overdeliver quality-wise for Easter dinner. But our guy wasn’t there to help us choose them. Instead we got this oily clown whose habit is to wander the aisles pitching hard liquor while describing his own drunken exploits.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy this very much, but my mother isn’t a fan. She thinks this idiot is a major douche—an opportunist who uses his liquor-store gig to maintain a permanent buzz.
Again, this sounds fine to me. We could both tolerate it, in fact, if he wasn’t such a condescending git. Compounding it: My mother was wearing her low-rent rocker jeans and hoodie rather than the usual semi-presentable trenchcoat. She had a mangy well-loved bear in her purse. So this douchebag consultant’s immediate impulse was to divert her to the discount section. When she said, “Actually, I’d like a wine recommendation for Easter,” he proceeded to read verbatim from the shelf-talkers, mentioning after this epic customer-service effort that he’d just been to a wine show himself, “but of course all the wines I liked were very expensive.”
Holy crap, we were both starting to feel hostile—maybe even marginalized. Never mind that, for complicated reasons, we were carrying a tube sock stuffed with large(ish) bills and we could have rocked our oenophilic world were it not for the persistent voice of conscience reminding us of P and V’s swimming and gymnastics fees. This dickhead had no right to point us toward the expired Budweiser in the corner. Okay, maybe we looked a little sketchy, but we had business there. Only one of us would have drunk our purchase out of a paper bag in the park—and lacks the thumbs to accomplish such antics. My mother had respectable plans for our wine purchase, otherwise she would have made a beeline for something offensive like GRAY FOX CHARDONNAY.
If you haven’t given up on this post yet, you may wonder what we bought.
We decided to stick with two cheap winners, FINCA LOS PRIMOS TORRONTES (2011) and a Spanish fave, CASTILLO DE ALMANSA RESERVA (2008). A blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Garnacha varietals, this $12.99 red wine was aged for a year in oak barrels before bottling, then cellared. The result is a mature, inky wine with considerable weight and structure—loads of dark berry character and a boozy finish. While some might argue that CASTILLO DE ALMANSA goes best with food, those of us who eschew food think it’s awesome by itself.
This wine is well known to bargain hunters. It’s big and bold, moderately tannic, and offers decent complexity in the licorice-cherry-oak vein. If you have the patience, which I usually don’t, it benefits from decanting and breathing. Or you can just pound it.