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Through the Grapevine: Accept mediocrity

Do you want to know a secret? No? That’s unfortunate, because I believe I’ve stumbled across the best $4 bottle of wine I’ll find, and I have no one to tell.

If I could tell someone about Don Simon tempranillo, I would tell them the wine’s deep aromas of cherries, blackberries and vanilla, preceded by sharp overtones of peppercorns, currants and burnt wood hold the nose in a warm and loving embrace.

If someone wanted to know how this wine tasted them I would likely offer a resounding, “good,” in efforts to ward them off so I could keep the bottle to myself (which, in fact, I did do).

But in reality, this wine is an explosion of intense jammy flavor. Flavors of fat, juicy berries erupt in the mouth as hints of bergamot come to the front in a surprising twist. The wine has a long, tannic finish with bursts of vanilla, clove and soft spices that linger in the mouth post-glug. This tempranillo’s label states, “ripe strawberry and cherry flavors burst forth from Spain’s signature Tempranillo grape.” While I don’t pick up on strawberry flavor, I sense the subtle sweetness that would be provided by the fruit.

The tempranillo grape, whose name means “little early one” for its tendency to ripen early, does not have a high natural acidity and can sometimes produce wines with flat flavors if grown in dry, hot conditions. With Don Simon tempranillo, this is somewhat the case.

The fruit-forward flavor packs a punch, this cannot be denied, but the mouthfeel leaves some to be desired. Not rounded, the flavors of the wine come in waves and do not blend as they should. This wine would fail its own field sobriety test — it lacks balance.

I cannot say this wine is completely deterred by its lack of body or balance. Its big, bold flavors more than compensate for what it lacks underneath.

I must apologize to readers, however, especially to those residing in Orono. This wine was purchased in Chicago at a Whole Foods, the only market in which this wine is available. Its maker, Don Simon, is quite elusive, having no information available online. It is almost as if this wine seems to have just appeared on store shelves, showing itself to shoppers who prove themselves worthy of its presence.

And, apparently, I was worth it.

If you’re wondering what food to pair with this wine, Don Simon keeps it classy by suggesting pizza, burgers and other fried foods. Normally, I would tell you that you are above mediocrity, that you should serve this wine with a hearty bolognese, a fat steak or roasted vegetables.

But, you know what? C’est la vie. I have another secret for you: sometimes, mediocrity is okay. Splurge if you want, but this wine would make the perfect accompaniment to a slice of cheap pizza or some good fried chicken. I mean, an excuse to eat pizza and drink wine? To quote the great Ina Garten, “who wouldn’t love that?”

If you’re wondering, Don Simon also produces a Chardonnay and a shiraz, but this tempranillo is really all you’ll need. This is a wine I can come home to and be proud to call mine. I can look at this wine and say, “wow, how did I get so lucky?” This wine is a treat, so if someone asks if they may try it, tell them no. It’s all yours. And, at $4 a bottle, they can get their own.

Don Simon tempranillo is available at Whole Foods markets at $4 for a 750-milliliter bottle.


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