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Wine Reviews: Bodegas Borsao
by: Vino Joe (e-mail

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Banzai for Borsao!

In Japan, people cry out “Banzai!” to express their happiness. (The literal translation is “10,000 years of life.”) I’m not Japanese, but I nearly yelled “Banzai” to express my happiness in finding this six-dollar bottle of Borsao.

It’s not a wine from Japan -- sorry to throw you off -- but from Spain, in a fairly undiscovered winegrowing area called Campo de Borja. Okay, crack out your map: Campo de Borja is in the north central area of Spain, located on the south bank of the river Ebro and just below the border of Navarra. (If you don’t have a map, but have an idea where Rioja is located, visualize a small area just southeast of there.) The region was named after Alfonso de Borja, who Renaissance history buffs may know became Pope Calixtus III in 1455, and whose family changed their name to Borgia. For those who don’t watch the History Channel, the Borgia family was one of most powerful families of the Renaissance, and their name is synonymous with greed, murder and incest. Their lives were like a cross between a Shakespearean tragedy and a Coppola mob film (only worse -- certainly great material for a mini-series.

Enough of the history lesson, as you don’t need to know about crime families of the Renaissance to enjoy the wine. What you do need to know is to go to the area of your wine shop that holds wines from Spain, and find this red wine with the dark-colored label from Bodegas Borsao (BOOR-suh-ow).

Borsao has an open, forward nose full of fresh red raspberries and oaky vanilla spice, with hints of black fruit and a touch of something floral -- maybe violet. A soft, velvety texture in the mouth carries bright berry flavors -- mostly ripe raspberry, with a nice touch of vanilla oak spice. It finishes rather quickly, with a chalky acidity. Very mild tannins make a cameo appearance at the tail end of the finish. 

This is a soft, pleasant, berry-filled, spicy red wine with a flavor profile that many people will find appealing. It is enjoyable by itself, and will match well with beef (stews, meatloaf, burgers) and sausage dishes (can you say “meat lover’s pizza” ?). I made the mistake of trying to match the wine with salmon (before tasting it for the first time) and it didn’t work because of the oaky vanilla element -- which is not overpowering in the wine, but is too much for fish. I had a much better experience drinking it with a meatball sandwich, and believe it will also go well with chili, tacos and similar Latin cuisine based on ground beef and beans. 

If you like low-priced ($10 and under) Australian Shiraz (Banrock Station comes to mind), you probably will enjoy this wine. And, if you like to spend less than seven bucks for a nice bottle of red -- something that is getting harder to do every day -- then you will be utterly pleased with this selection. There aren’t too many gems at this price anymore. Banzai!

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