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Column: Spanish, Portuguese, and South African Bargains

An eclectic selection of wines priced right for inflationary times.
Impressive wines that offer good value: Alvear Fino, Quid Pro Quo, and The Grinder Pinotage.

Today we have an eclectic selection of wines from the Iberian Peninsula and Southern Africa that are priced right for inflationary times. First is a white from Spain, the Alvear Fino ($21.99, 91 points; Outstanding.)

It’s produced by one of the most prestigious bodegas in Andalucía. The Alvear family has been producing wine for almost three centuries and currently the business is in the hands of the eighth generation. They know what they’re doing!

Here’s a dry white wine for those that want to try something different and delicious. And if you’re fond of tapas or other Spanish food, the Alvear Fino is a must (no pun intended!)  It tastes like a dry sherry but it's from nearby Montilla-Moriles D.O, not Jerez.

It has a vibrant medium straw colour that dazzles in the glass. Expect an aroma that is salty, yeasty, oaky, and pungent.  On the palate there’s more brine, tang, green olives, almond, walnuts, mushrooms, earthiness with a lengthy bone-dry finish. It’s a unique but delightful experience. Enjoy it chilled.

The Alvear is made entirely from Pedro Ximenez grapes. Unlike sherry, it is unfortified because the grapes are ripe enough to produce 15% alcohol. The Alvear Fino develops a flor yeast in American oak barrels and is blended in a solera method.

Enjoy with sushi, olives, salted nuts, fresh anchovies, or any tapas you might be serving. Available at Ironwood and Seafair BC Liquor Stores.

From southwestern Spain, we head west to the Alentejano region of Portugal. It's a hot inland region that covers about a third of Portugal producing red wines, which are easy drinking, full bodied and fruit-forward. Frequently wines from this region are blends of several grapes. Traditional Portuguese grape varieties dominate Alentejano, but many reds incorporate international grape varieties such as Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.

My recommendation today is the Casa Santos Lima 2019 Quid Pro Quo ($12.99 on sale; 91 points, Outstanding). It's a rich solid blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet that’s aged four months in French and American Oak.

In the glass there’s a dark purple ruby colour that foreshadows a wine with lots of character! On the nose there’s violets, black cherries and tobacco. Meanwhile the palate is engaged with full body flavours of blackberries, boysenberries, vanilla, cherries, with smooth tannins and refreshing acidity.

Enjoy with Manchego, Bella Vitano, Iberico, Parmigiano cheeses, and grilled lamb or rib-eye. How good is this wine for $12.99? The prestigious British wine magazine Decanter gave it 92 points and it was their wine of the year in 2021! Quid Pro Quo is available at all three Richmond BC Liquor Stores.

Our final selection is a South African red, the 2019 Grinder Pinotage from Paarl in the Western Cape ($14.99; 90 points, Outstanding.) The 2019 vintage was awarded Gold from the Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards.

Pinotage is a hybrid grape developed in South Africa in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault. Surprisingly, the resulting wine is bolder than both its parent grapes

Today South Africa produces most of the world’s Pinotage, although some BC wineries such as Stoneboat, Back Door, The View, and Lake Breeze make small amounts of Pinotage.

The Grinder Pinotage displays a deep garnet colour indicating that the customer is in for wine packed with flavour and lots of body! It's a complex red with aromas and flavours of boysenberries, black cherries, cranberries, and mushrooms, along with toast and a hint of mocha. It reveals moderate tannins and a slightly bitter finish with clove and cinnamon spice.

Enjoy with paté, pasta with meat sauce, grilled pork shoulder, tacos and hamburgers. The Grinder Pinotage is available at Richmond Seafair, Brighouse, and Ironwood BC Liquor Stores.