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Wine without pretense: Light white wine tastes linger on tip of tongue
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The wine: Las Rocas Garnacha 2011.

The grapes: 100 percent Garnacha.

The source: Calatayud Region of Spain.

The verdict: Looking for a big-bodied, muscular red wine? Park the car, you’ve found it. I have liked Las Rocas wines for several years. And this big, dry red is yet another reason why. The Garnacha grape is essentially the Grenache grape of France’s Rhone region. It gives blended Rhone reds lots of character and color. It does better in many regions of Spain, such as the hot, dry Calatayud. Sparse soils and arid conditions stress these vines so the wines they produce are intense. Alcohol is high — 14.9 percent — but the fullness of the fruit flavors provides balance. I haven’t found many wines I would serve with a good ol’ Georgia barbecue, but this one comes mighty close. Otherwise, pair it with a marinated beef roast or leg of lamb with lots of rosemary.

The price: About $15.

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz.

I wonder where the birdies is.

My apologies to poets everywhere. But after the winter we just suffered through, I hope to be excused for a little irrational exuberance, in the words of Alan Greenspan (not a poet).

So it’s spring. Balmy, warm days with lots of sun. Time to think about light, chilled flavorful wines for the quaffing. Light white wines, served nicely chilled, are the order of the day in this halcyon season. And, surprise, I’ve found a few.

Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2013

You won’t find a better seafood/white meat wine than this one. It’s crisp, dry, with a hint of lemon in the finish. Sample this with a nice mixed seafood dish — lots of fish, crab, scallops and shrimp. It’s the perfect match, at a stunningly reasonable price, about $11.

Re Midas Soave 2012

Italian whites too often skip past our attention. And that’s a shame. Many of these are great values and wonderful sippers and food wines.

This fresh white comes from the not-well-known (in this country) Garganega grape. The wine gets no oak exposure, only stainless steel. This ensures the capture of the fruit flavors in the finished wine. You may find a hint of pear (I did) and some citrus. This makes it a nice aperitif, sipping wine before dinner, or a partner with seafood or chicken.

Mionetto Prosecco Brut

Prosecco is the hot (actually served chilled) sparkling wine of this decade. It’s softer and fruitier than Champagne; friendly and warm-puppy like. It’s a great bubbly to serve as the beginning to an evening, or with appetizers.

This one comes from the Treviso area of the Veneto region of Italy. It’s made from the Glera grape, also called Prosecco grape. It’s semidry, with a hint of Granny Smith apple. Fun to quaff with snacks.

Mionetto Il Prosecco Frizzante

Here’s an interesting variation on the previous wine. That difference becomes apparent when you go to open the bottles. This one has a crown cap, like a beer bottle — don’t even think about a corkscrew. The aforementioned Brut has a traditional Champagne-style cork. No corkscrew either, but it is a cork.

Frizzante means this is a little less sparkly and not quite the quality of the previous Prosecco. Still it is a fun, enjoyable sparkler, best served as a hot-weather refresher.

Both the Proseccos are relatively low alcohol, about 10.5 percent to 11 percent. They work well in hot weather.

All of these springtime wines can be had for less than $15.

* * *

OMG! We noted recently the 50th anniversary of a wine that got a lot of us in my generation interested in (semi) dry, red table wines: Gallo Hearty Burgundy.

No need to hide under the table in shame. We drank a lot of it, and it introduced us to wines beyond the very limited offerings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

For many of us, Hearty Burgundy was the gatekeeper wine.

Got a note recently about Hearty Burgundy’s birthday from Stephanie Gallo, who is vice president of marketing for E&J Gallo Winery.

“First crafted in 1964, America’s first truly iconic red blend had two goals in mind: To be affordable in price and approachable in taste.”

She made reference to the strong family ties to the wine in regard to the founders of the winery, Ernest and Julio Gallo.

“My grandfather and great-uncle were no strangers to a big, hearty meal, and they needed a wine to hold its own. Enter Hearty Burgundy.”

The bride and I have not sipped a drop of Hearty Burgundy for nearly 35 years. But that’s not to say anything negative about this wine. It’s just that we’ve grown beyond it.

But tasting the sample bottle Gallo sent brought memories cascading back. Is it the same wine it was in 1967? Of course not. The grape blend changes from year to year. The two dominant varieties have been Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. But there remains the strong generational tie that helped open the door to quality table wines so many years ago.

Gallo Hearty Burgundy is the red wine that guided us to cabernet sauvignon, merlot and zinfandel. For that it deserves a niche in the Red Wine Hall of Fame.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on

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