Manchuela reds

As I keep on writing, Spain is just bursting with under-developed wine regions. Toro of course is now old hat, invaded by everyone and his dog. Calatayud, Cigales, Campo Borja... they already provide quite a range of wines for bargain hunters on both sides of the Atlantic.

Now look out for Manchuela, provenance of one of the best-value wines that form part of the Wine Relief 2003 fundraising operation in Britain about which I wrote recently. I admit, this is a crude way to remind those of you resident in the UK that you have only until Red Nose Day on Friday 14 March to contribute to this winey way of supporting seriously worthwhile projects in Britain and Africa by buying the specially marked Comic Relief bottles in your local supermarket.

Pergola Tempranillo 2001 is just £3.99 at Somerfield and is a very respectable, if completely unsophisticated, example of this grape with quite a bit of its savoury appeal (which I usually describe as fresh tobacco leaf without ever, to my knowledge, having smelt such a thing) and good juicy fruit. Australo-Portuguese flying winemaker Peter Bright did the necessary deeds at the San Antonio Abad coop, Villamalea, to make this excellent lesson in Tempranillo that is gentle, well-balanced and ready and is far from dominated by its very slightly sweet, smooth overlay of modern winemaking.

In the US, bargain hunters can seek out Protocolo Tempranillo 2000 (the US tends to be one vintage behind Europe for European wines and vice versa) which is currently on sale at $5.99 from The Party Source, Cincinnati, and doubtless elsewhere. It's made by the Eguren brothers of Rioja who also produce Sierra Cantabria and Señorío de San Vicente there. This wine, sold under the name Dominio de Eguren, is also made at the Villamalea coop so may indeed be the very same wine as Pergola. In the UK Majestic sell an all-Tempranillo Protocolo Tinto NV for £3.99, or £3.49 if two are bought.

This relatively hilly region east-south-east of Madrid is in future likely to attract rather more attention thanks to Finca Sandoval 2001, debut vintage from El Mundo wine nut Victor de la Serna, no stranger to subscribers to purple pages. This 2001 is the Syrah he has sweated blood over after wild commutes from Madrid and is, I must say, an extremely toothsome effort now that it's in bottle. It's a deft balancing act of young-vine Syrah that is almost, but just not, too ripe to express Syrah characteristics and some very flattering oak treatment. More than half the barrels were new but when I tasted the wine in dec it was not over-oaked and it was already possible to drink it with pleasure. This shows just what can be coaxed out of this little-known corner of Spain (just west of the source of Rozaleme Bobal/Tempranillo of Utiel-Requena, a recent wine of the week). There's a small proportion, seven per cent, of Monastrell (Mourvèdre) in the blend too for extra flesh.

Finca Sandoval is just making its way into retail distribution (see Reserva y Cata, Madrid
Pinard de Picard [ain't it a wonderful name?], Saarbrücken

United States:

Fine Estates from Spain (Jorge Ordóñez), Dedham, Mass