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A few weeks ago I was faced with a difficult decision. What wine to serve in our last dinner at Amanecer 8, the house where we had lived for the last 15 months, a place by then full of good memories of wines tasted over countless dinners with friends. I decided to try Abadia Retuerta Selección Especial 2003. It was my lucky night. Everybody loved it and more importantly, wine led us to lucid conversation and after a few hours we had clarified, if not solved, some of the most pressing world problems, including the relationship between Europe and the US and were to buy the best ready made food if you are single, busy and live in Madrid.

Abadia Retuerta is surprisingly owned by Novartis, the pharmaceutical global giant. The vineyard is located at the heart of the Duero, around a XII century Abbey, and for a few inches does not belong to the official Ribera region. This geographical point has become actually an advantage and Novartis has spared nothing in terms of creativity and means to make wines that relate to their beauty of the hills and valleys were the grapes grow. Selección Especial 2003 is an amazing buy at around euros per bottle. It has a lot of personality and I found it splendid, smooth and delicate.

This wine maker is in the newspapers these days because a new highway is planned across some of its best vineyards, with terrible environmental consequences. Let’s hope our politicians and bureaucrats reconsider this decision and learn from these winemakers to combine modernity with passion for the terroir.

The question came out of the blue while enjoying a glass of wine at Barolo (Príncipe de Vergara 211, Madrid,

Maria hinted “The Jumilla’s Altos de Luzan”. A 13 € bottle of blended 50% monastrel, 25% cabernet sauvignon and 25% tempranillo. “And we will have some money left for tapas” she added. A purpled coloured wine with a dominant new oak and fruity aroma, overall equilibrium in mouth and persistent tannin nicely integrated. It was really a good start.

“What about Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas?” suggested Ignacio. I couldn’t agree more. A Bierzo made red wine (100% mencia), 12 € a bottle, medium to dark ruby, powerful fruity aroma, round and mouth filling and a hint of coffee in the finish. And still   enough money left to have a tapa.  A good buy.

“I rather go for Casa Castillo” said Blanca. “Well, things are looking up”, I thought. This estate bottle blend from Jumilla of 90% monastrel and 10% cabernet sauvignon is a dark ruby wine with sweet American oak scented nose, long in mouth. It must be tasted to be believed and for 9 €, real value for your money.

“What would you say to Baltasar Gracian, Grenache, Viñas Viejas (Calatayud)” I ventured to suggest. Dark intense cherry, depth scent with the Grenache thick, full bodied and superbly concentrated, with a straight forward and pleasant finish. For only 4, 5 €, a bargain.

“Not bad, not bad” Blanca answered me back,” but have you heard of Finca La Estacada?” Oh, come on, that was below the belt, a 3, 5 € bottle 100 % tempranillo coming from Cuenca (Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla). Bright cherry, fruity scent, strong and dry tannins, perhaps a bit toughs but with a future. A terrific bargain

“Can you beat it?” Pressed me Blanca again. Well, actually I could. For 2.2 € you can buy the Lavinia cosechero a medium bodied wine, with mild acidity, smooth berry taste. A superb every day wine. An unbeatable bargain. (Lavinia, José Ortega y Gasset 16, Madrid,

To wind up my gossiping, it’s up to you to work out the answer to the question.

by guest contributor Fernando Vigón