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I like my wine, but wine is an arena where it is extremely easy to get a bad wine for a mid range price. By mid range I mean between £8 - £15. Regular disappointment comes from France, followed by Italy and Spain. You may be lucky enough to get a decent bottle one day and a bad one the next, while still choosing the same marque and style.
Rioja is no different. Beware of most special offers, as you can end up with a bottle of table vinegar. However, Faustino Rioja is dependably good. I have had some Faustino V's that have been better than others, but I've never had a bad bottle of Faustino.
Rioja is a region, just like Bordeaux. Bodegas Faustino produce principally three grades of Rioja, all characterised by a roman numeral and a portrait of a man on the front. The lower the number, the older the man, the older the wine and the more money you will have to part with. Faustino V sits in the middle of the range and costs typically £14.
The current Faustino V rioja can be between the 2004-2006 vintages. I personally recommend the 2005, as the 2006 is too overpowering and the 2004 a little too subtle. If your own tastes run more to either end of the spectrum, adjust accordingly.
Faustino V needs a couple of hours to breathe, so that the tannins can mellow. A decanter or other device can aid this process. The wine is a deep red colour, with the unmistakable aroma of aged tempranillo grapes grown in the region. Also present is around 8% mazuelo grapes which help deepen the colour.
A poor wine is typically characterised by a poor finish. This is not a poor wine. The flavours are deep and complex. They linger nicely on the palate, nicely enough to be served on its own. As an accompaniment to dinner, it goes well with beef and particularly game.
The bottle is a nice one, and serves as a reminder that this is not a cheap bottle of plonk. If you are feeling really flush, try a Fasutino I. The 2001 is very nice, but if you can source a 1999 bottle, it is really special.
Bodegas Faustino produce bottles that may cause a wince at the checkout, but their quality assurance is good enough to ensure that's where the wincing ends.
Faustino is one of the great names of Spanish winemaking - the group was founded over 140 years ago - and it's a brand you'll find in supermarkets as well as specialist wine stores. In recent years I've found that the space on supermarket shelves has increasingly been taken up with the big brand names and I've found it harder and harder to find something interesting and unusual, but if there is one brand I'm happy to buy it's Faustino. As a group Faustino produces all kinds of wines - roses, sparkling whites, both classic and modern reds and whites - but it's the red riojas that I most associate with the Faustino name and if I can't see another rioja that appeals I know I can count on Faustino. This red rioja (Faustino also make a whote rioja)comes from Faustino's vineyards in northern Spain.
If we see it on offer we'll buy a bottle or two of Faustino V; Faustino wines do look very similar so you need to check which one you're buying. With closer inspection you'll see that although the bottles look superficially similar, each one bears a different picture painted (for the most part) by Rembrandt or El Greco; Faustino V depicts the composer Gluck, I believe. Priced on average between £10.00 and £15.00, Faustino V is a Reserva Rioja, a bit more special than the standard Faustino VII.
This is a typical rioja, instantly recognisable if it's a type of wine you're familiar with. The grapes are tempranillo (92%) and mazuelo (8%) and the wine is aged for 16 months in Californian oak casks. Colour wise I find it slightly brighter than most riojas, more towards a cherry red than a very dark red. Opening the bottle releases a warm aroma that has a rich slightly spicy sweetness; vanilla is quite prominent and there's a wonderful toasty note that must come from the oak casks. The aroma of fruit is intense and to my nose this comes in the form of late summer or autumn berries; it's fruity but very sensual and almost mulled but not quite as medicinal as a mulled wine might smell.
Rioja is not a wine for the faint hearted; it's a wine with a lot of tradition and it's a lot more of an acquired taste than the easy drinking wines that make the supermarket shelves groan. For me a Faustino rioja, even Faustino VII, is a wine to go with food, not one for just drinking. Faustino V has a bold and dramatic flavour but it is a rounded wine and after the initial punch it reveals itself to be deep and smooth. The finish is lingering but not in a heavy way.
The robust flavours of stewed fruit in this wine are the perfect compliment to red meat such as lamb. I find it goes particularly well with a spicy lamb tagine but it's also good with a spicy chicken curry. It does fight a bit with strong cheeses but goes nicely with milder ones. If you're looking for a good robust red to go with a Sunday roast, you won't be disappointed by Faustino V.
Right now we're buying the 2005 Reserva; it's great drinking right now but you can certainly put it by for a few years and enjoy it at some time in the future. Now is a good time to snap up a few bottles because ASDA are currently selling this at just £8.00, down from £10.48; even their full price is good value because some on line retailers are selling this for a touch over £15 at the time of writing (December 2012).
Colour: Bright, intense cherry-red with a tawny rim. Aroma: Intense, with fine toasty notes from the oak and hints of red berries against a light background of stewed fruit. Notes of vanilla and spices contributed by the oak during cask ageing. Palate: Round, velvet and meaty with a lovely integration of the sweet tannins from the graps and those from the wood, resulting in a smooth yet robust wine. Grape:92% Tempranillo, 8% Mazuelo.