Bodegas Franco-Españolas is a Spanish winery with a 125-year history and a well-deserved reputation for sturdy and dependable wines. As you can tell by the name, the original company had French roots, and the wine's reputation rests on its Bordeaux style. Like all of the best Rioja wines, they only release the wines when they are ready to drink, so you never have to worry about getting something too young or raw. For those who don't know the system in Rioja, the quasi-governmental agency that runs wine in Spain sets three primary categories of red wine in increasing age, quality and price: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Bodegas Franco-Españolas' traditional red Riojas are called Rioja Bordón. They are slightly different from other Rioja wineries because they age their wines – both in barrel and in bottle – longer than is legally required. These are all incredible deals. The Crianza is $13, the Reserva is $15, and the Gran Reserva is $25. The Reserva is the bargain of the bunch, with bright cherry flavors and big leathery aromas that work perfectly with roasted meats or fatty fish. You'll be hard pressed to find many other Riojas that beats it at this price.
But the real stunner of their red portfolio is a wine that really doesn't fit within Spain's rigid formulas. It's called Bárbaro, and this little masterpiece is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. It is a simple wine that relies solely on the quality of the grapes. It's meant to be drunk young and cool (around 60 degrees), and I fell in love after the first swig. The fact that it is often for sale at under $10 a bottle is a nice plus, but it is so good that I would have been happy paying $15. Try it with burgers or pizza and enjoy the fact that you are drinking terrific wine at a ludicrous price. Bodegas Franco-Españolas wines are available at East End Wines, Whip In, Beverage World, Winebelly, and the Grove.
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