Official Red Wine of Summer!
By Evan Williams
What it is: Stupid-cheap Bobal from Spain that is both delicious and complex.
Why you need it: When Ryder first offered out a Bobal a few months ago, I was intrigued. Now, I'm a convert. This grape does magical things and the price (sub-$10) is too sweet to pass up. This needs to be in your house by the caseload for the coming months.
It's no secret that summer reds are a difficult animal. Oh, sure, anyone can throw a carbonic-macerated fruit bomb in the fridge and pretend it's a white with a little more tannic grip, but finding the perfect balance between complexity, refreshment, and deliciousness is a particularly tall order.
Well, as you could've guessed, I've found one that needs to be front and center at your barbecues, patio parties, picnics, dinners, and anywhere in between. You may remember Ryder's Bobal offer from a couple months ago - as a result of that offer, I quickly became a huge fan of this varietal. Now, I'd never step on his toes and just double-up with another similar wine, but having had plenty of the Bovale, I can say that this one is a very different monster, and something that will please crowds all summer (and even into the fall).
Above all, the Biftu Bobal is fun. I don't throw this descriptor around willy-nilly - plenty of wines are delicious, or contemplative, or refreshing, or quirky, but when a wine is all of those things, it's just pure fun. Ryder went into the background of this grape and this place (Utiel Requena, in eastern Spain just inland from Valencia), but I'll just note that this sub-$10 wine comes from sustainable, low-yield, hand-harvested vineyards. All of which seems impossible at this price, but I don't ask too many questions when it comes to gift horses!
The nose here is replete with ripe forest berries - blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, wineberry - with a brambly, gruff backdrop. It instantly reminds you of the southern Rhone, and more specifically, Grenache. So much earthy grit transposed onto delicate, floral fruitiness. It is a perfumed genius, with no shortage of substance and freshness, intensity and structure, stones and salinity. At this point, just smelling the wine, you'll sit back in your chair and wonder how exactly this wine isn't $25.
When this juice first splashes across your tongue, though, you really know that it's legit, that the bouquet wasn't a tease. It has grip, but richness too, and bright acidity, and a sprightly vibrancy that draws you further and further into its grasp. Suddenly, you're captive, held tight to your glass by the association game that is transpiring - is that oatmeal-raisin cookie? Cherry tart? A leather shop? The longer you sit with this wine, the more you sniff-and-swirl, the more it reveals, and the more it suggests might be hidden beyond.
And yet, on an entirely different plane, you can straight gulp this stuff. And that (along with the silly price tag) is what makes it a perfect wine for, well, anytime of year, but especially for spring and summer. I put a chill on this bad boy, and took it outside into the recent mini-heat-wave, and it was refreshing and light and sleek - all I'm looking for in a warm-weather red. Yet, later in the day, as the temps dropped and the wine warmed up a bit, it struck me like a villages-level Southern Rhone (see: Vacqueyras, et al). I just love how this wine adapts to fit so many scenarios.
Best of all: you know those people in your life who claim they "don't care for reds"? This will change their mind. The tannins are soft enough, the acidity is present but not abrasive, and the fruit is a centerpiece. You couldn't please more crowds if you tried!
Also, unsurprisingly, James Suckling digs it too:
Bright summer berries and vanilla in a really pretty, youthful style. The succulent tannins carry a heap of sweet red-berry flavor. 90 points.
Oh, did I mention it's under $10?