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Opinion: International wines have much to offer

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When I first started writing about wines, only two languages were needed: French to read the “better wine labels’’ and English for the rest of them. As time progressed, German wines became the rage. So, the next language to learn was German, to know what “trockenbeerenauslese” or “spatlese” really mean. Italian was next up, as Chianti soared through colleges and universities as the students’ favorite. As the Chianti fad subsided, the price of wine began to climb and the public was introduced to the very affordable and well-made wines of Spain, Chile and Argentina, and Spanish became the language of wine.

I believe that all the language requirements make one aware that the world is a very big place, and wine is a better uniter than is the United Nations. That said, I would like to introduce to you wines of several nations that are both excellent and affordable.

Art Of The Earth 2019 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ($12)
Both the name and the words “Made With Italian Organic Grapes” are boldly emblazoned on the label of this almost black-colored red wine.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo wines are also tannic and acidic when new, but given a little time, as this wine already has been given, these resolve themselves into a very interesting wine. The aroma is that of kitchen spices – black pepper and oregano – and, of course, the summer black fruits. The flavor and finish reprise the black fruits with a background of chocolate and tobacco and that signature Italian mineral element. This impressive wine accompanies barbecue beef and almost everything off the grill, as well as being a very enjoyable sipping wine for those calm evenings when you are just sitting around.

Riva Leone Barbaresco 2016 ($25)
Another of the fine Italian wines often overlooked, because the name Barbaresco may be unfamiliar, this well-aged wine projects the aromas of leather and pomegranates, cherry and other red fruits. The fruits carry over to the flavor, where cherry shines through but not enough to cover the substantial pomegranate and cranberry flavors also to be found. As one might expect, these fruit flavors also are in the finish, along with oak, in beautifully balanced amounts. Again, this is a wine perfect for the grilled heavy meats and full-flavored fowls. As a personal side note, Barbaresco is among my favorite wines from Italy.

Cune Rioja 2019 Red Wine ($18)
The name Rioja alone indicates that this wine is of Spanish origin and, typical of most Rioja red wines, was made with the tempranillo grape. In this case, 100% organic tempranillo. This is a dry, clean wine that displays a dark red color and the flavors and aromas of strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and oak that continue to its very long finish. This wine, and the others of its type, has raised Spanish wines to world class where they now reside and deserve to be. As an added extra, this wine is made vegan. Historically, though, European vintners often use egg whites to clear their wines and that is a definite vegan no-no.

Veramonte 2018 Chilean Organic Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)
As you should, you might be suspicious of a cabernet sauvignon made from organically grown grapes selling for under $12. In this case, the price is not indicative of the quality, which is true to the style and character of the variety. I was surprised to find this wine displayed all the classical flavors of a cabernet sauvignon but in the big fruit and wide-open Chilean style. The flavors are large and remind the taste buds of jam, showcasing ripe plums and fresh summer berries intertwined with vanilla and oak. A long and delightfully fruity finish caps off the wine. Forget about what goes best with a cabernet sauvignon and forget about its low selling price while you sit back and enjoy this one.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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