Campo Viejo Reserva 2004

Finally, here’s the second part of my tasting notes for tonight. It took me a few minutes to decide what to do with the Campo Viejo Crianza 2006 – at first, I thought I could merely cork the bottle, sit it outside on the sidewalk, and – to paraphrase Mao – let a thousand unintended pregnancies bloom, but that would of course have been grossly irresponsible of me. Down the sink it went; yes, I did recycle.Now, on to this wine. My first thought on opening the bottle was simple “Oh, wait, this is a real wine.” I know, how haughty of me, but really: this didn’t smell of simple berries and fruit. This wine smells of, well, wine. There’s almost a hazelnut or roasted-coffee-biscotti note around the edge of it; it seems clear to me that this wine has seen a fair whack of oak. There’s also a lingering hint of some of the same vanilla berry notes from the regular version of the wine, but in a very tastefully restrained manner: it’s the difference between Versailles before and after Jeff Koons. What it really smells like, though, is proper Rioja: this reminds me of random bottles of Spanish wines happily drunk on holiday in Madrid with friends a few years back. What fruit there is is fastidiously framed by a hint of sourness, appetizing woody-coffee notes, and a sense of place. In short, whatever went missing from the crianza is here in the reserva.Taste-wise, there’s a brief, soft opening of gentle fruit that fairly rapidly fans out into an elegant, lacy interplay between reasonable, appetizing acidity, something like gentle earth, restrained berry fruits, soft vanillic effects, and then it all rides out quietly on somber, toasty oak. It’s the acidity that really ties the glass together, though; without it, this would be too soft, too easy. The overall effect is of eating delicious cake with a short espresso, I reckon; you get both the vanilla cherry pie and the upright tannins – but not too much, because then this wine wouldn’t really be Spanish.The most impressive thing here is to me the remarkable lightness of this wine. Compare to New World wines, this just doesn’t go as far down the tonal register, which makes it a refreshing change from the usual. This also means (I think) that this is another one to pair with sausages or grilled meats: it would work wonders. For me, it’s doing just fine with simple spaghetti bolognese, but it could have been so much more.Finally, I feel compelled to publicly wonder about something that utterly baffles me: this wine is selling for just $10 at The Wine Exchange in Orange, California. How can this be? If the cheap version of this is $9, why is this only a buck more and – more interestingly – why is it so much better?Disclaimer: I didn’t spend my own money on this bottle, but I also didn’t agree to anything.Campo Viejo
Price: $10
Closure: Cork

Campo Viejo Crianza 2006

Much to my surprise, I found myself accepting free samples of wine from a certain publicly traded French drinks behemoth. Why? Simple: I figured what the heck; if the wine sucked, I’d have fun complaining in a really boring, Adbusters-esque way about corporate wine blah blah blah. But if it was good… then what? In a world filled with small, struggling producers that produce original, interesting wines in this price range, do we really need one more review saying anything good about wines that are presumably produced in unspeakable quantities and then drunk in cruise ships and indifferent hotel restaurants the world over?The short answer is yes. Not everyone has the access to a wide range of indie wine shops that we have here in California; not everyone lives in a state that allows direct shipping. In many places in North America, you either get it from the liquor board shop or you don’t get it at all. And in places that really don’t drink “fine wine” (leaving aside the discussion of what exactly that is for now), then all you’re going to get is “industrial wine” – so why shouldn’t you be aware of the good stuff?First off: a disclaimer. Full Pour’s review policy is simple: you can send us free wine, but we don’t promise we’ll review it. And if we do review it, we don’t promise we’ll publish the review. And if we do publish our review, we don’t promise it’s going to be a good one.OK, that’s out of the way. How is this $9 wine courtesy of Behemoth French Industrial Producer?The nose offers up super friendly, inviting, warm red berry aromas. It smells better than any strawberry rhubarb pie I’ve ever baked, at any rate. There’s also a kind of woodsy perfume there as well, just a hint of something like candied oak. Not too bad.Sadly, however, once you get some of this in your mouth, it all falls apart. Dang it, I was hoping to like this wine so that I could say yes, sometimes the big guys get it right… just not this time. Everything here seems loose, unstructured, out of focus: it’s a bit flabby, perhaps even just a tiny bit sweet, with an unpleasant raw acidity sneaking in to bust up the party the second it wobbles to a start. The overall effect is frankly unpleasant: it tastes cheap, unfinished. The one good thing I will say, though, is that the tannic structure of the wine is just fine, keeping some kind of firm hold on the whole endeavor.So what to do with this wine? The tannins suggest it needs meat; the rest of it suggests it needs to be obscured by something else; I’m thinking heavy barbecue smoke would do the job just fine. If you’re somewhere where you can get funky, indie bottles of unknown French reds, then go for it. If, however, your choice is between this and [yellow tail], then I’d say go with the Campo Viejo – it’s in the same price range but has a little bit more interest. Otherwise, though, can you remember the last time you drank a Coors? No? Well, it might be time to start over again…Campo Viejo
Price: $9
Closure: Cork