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2012 Bodegas Atalaya Laya Red Blend 

Almansa, Spain

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Retail $9-$10

The Spanish wine import boom in the United States continues as more wine enthusiasts explore the country's offerings. This bottling is a good example of a finely crafted, well-balanced entry-level wine. Almansa, located in southeastern Spain's Albacete province, is one of the smallest outposts of the Castilla-La Mancha wine region. Viticulture has thrived there since the 16th century. Situated between the provinces of Valencia, Alicante and Murcia, and bordering Jumilla to the south, Almansa's old vine vineyards are planted largely in limestone soil at 2,600 feet above sea level. A blend of 70 percent Garnacha tintorera (a hybrid developed by crossing garnacha with petit Bouschet) and 30 percent Monastrell (aka Mourvedre), the wine spent four months aging in French oak barrels before bottling. In the glass, there are concentrated aromas of ripe dark fruits, earth and hints of pepper and spice. On the palate, this dense, bold wine shows deep plum, black cherries, raspberries, espresso and oak notes with well-integrated tannins on the persistent finish. Drink now and over the next three to five years. For best results, decant 30 to 40 minutes to aerate. It pairs well with paella, grilled red meats, roasts, stews, pasta and meat sauce or sausages, grilled vegetables and firm cheeses. Buy it at: Pearl Wine Co., Sidney's Wine Cellar and Acquistapace's Covington Supermarket. Drink it at: Marti's Restaurant, Toups' Meatery, Cane & Table, Bellocq in Hotel Modern, R Bar and Nuvolari's Ristorante in Mandeville. — BRENDA MAITLAND

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