My tastes run towards merlots, zinfindels, and shirazes, although I have no objections to cabernets. In truth, I am will to try anything, but as noted, I am far from a connoisseur. Indeed, I am still at the stage where each new label or grape is still part of a process of discovery.
My tastes and skills in regards to the fruit of the vine has only evolved so far, but I can certainly tell the difference between a $4.00 or $5.00 dollar bottle and an $8/$10/$12 bottle (the latter price range being my upper limit normally). I have to date avoided finding out what a $30/$40/$50+ bottle taste like for fear I would like it too much.
One aspect of my process of discovery of the world of wine is the desire to try out new wines. Of course, such exploration can be expensive and since my wife does not care for reds, an open bottle means committing to the whole thing myself (not, however, in one sitting, of course). Still, this makes me a bit cautious in trying out new labels.
I will confess that my main wine suppliers are Costco and World Market—not exactly fine bottle shops to be sure, but they do have nice selections for my skill level and the prices are agreeable. World Market’s propensity to have specials on new wines is especially appealing to my interest in exploration. This led to the sampling of a Spanish shiraz, Opera Prima ’08, for the remarkably low price of $4.97 a bottle (a price I typically find equals “undrinkable”). However, I was pleasantly surprised at its quality, so much so that I went back to stock up while the price remained low (and to date, it has remained such).
The Opera Prima shiraz is a full bodied wine, with a complex finish that suggests berries, which to me ranges from a dark cherry to a blackberry. I think it is one of the better shirazes that I have tried to date.
My positive experience with the Opera Prima shiraz led to the purchase of a couple bottles of their tempranillo, also only $4.97 at World Market and also impressive for that price. I found the tempranillo to have a pleasant, almost floral aroma and had a pleasant finish. I would say that the tempranillo is a drier wine than the shiraz.
My general experience with the wines above led me to try a few other Spanish wines, each of which were in the $9-$12 range. One was at Garnacha de Fuego and the other was a Zestos tempranillo/garnacha blend. Neither was, to me, as good as the far cheaper Opera Prima. In fact, the Zestos had a disappointing finish that I associate with run of the mill cheap cocktail party reds.
However, not all the cheap Spanish wines at World Market are worth trying. I also gave a Solaz 2006 tempranillo/shiraz blend a try. It, like the Opera Prima, was $4.97, but unlike the Opera Prima, it tasted like a $5 bottle of wine.
Bottom line: if you come across the Opera Prima shiraz (or tempranillo) it is worth a try, even if it seems too cheap to be any good.
Photo by Steven Taylor