I picked out the Sierra Salinas 2005 Mira from DO Alicante (to the left of the bottle in the picture, in south-eastern Spain) for several reasons. For one, the blend is an intriguing 65% Monastrell (aka Mourvedré), 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet). This is the wine to potentially answer what happens when you start with dark and meaty Monastrell, then throw in the king of reds, Cabernet, and the practically black teinturier Alicante Bouschet. It also is priced under $20 and has a few positive notes from critics.
But there's a catch, of course. The critics are just a little too bullish and about 2/3 of the wine's components saw new oak. As I suspected, this is an oak wine. It could be from anywhere and the varietals could be anything that is dense enough to carry all of the oakiness. But it is nonetheless a very good internationally styled wine. The wooden astringency does show in the tannic finish. Yet the ultra-creamy mid-palate and floral yet musky bouquet are rather nicely woven into the fabric of the wine. The texture and non-vanillafied nose save this wine. Meanwhile, hints of blackberry and gaminess are present. The acidity is nicely balanced to prop up the potentially fat fruit and oak flavors. At 15% ABV there is certainly some weight to the wine, but no heat is evident.
At $19, this embarrasses wines at much higher prices that aim for the same effect. I like the occaisional oak (or fruit) bomb, and cocktail wines like this make the point that you don't need to pay much for a wine in this style. They all taste pretty much the same, so who cares what the label says. New World wines are primarily about texture, in terms of oak, fruit extract and elevated alcohol level. Many are grotesque caricatures of themselves. The Sierra Salinas Mira is enjoyable and only moderately grotesque as texture-driven wines go. That's a win in my book, though I'm left wondering why the producer wasted all that money on new oak when he he could have made a much more serious wine with about half as much of it.
Price: $19 from K&L Wines