Run Rafa Run Tempranillo 2018 $10

There’s a whole cannon of songs on the theme of not knowing what you have until it’s gone and this wine makes me want to channel my inner Joni Mitchell and lament that it sat on the shelves at the BCLDB for years and I never paid it any mind. But sometime in the last few years, it disappeared into the labyrinth of private stores and it was only then that I realized what a unicorn it was: a honest wine, with a sense of place, that was under $10.

The wines that fit this bill are an exclusive group indeed. The Grao Vasco from Portugal comes to mind. Vinho Verde from Portugal always used to be a reliable class for this but now only qualifies when it’s on sale. That’s about it. The reality is making good wine for this price is near impossible. Land has to be cheap, labour has to be even cheaper (too cheap, some might argue). And even then, you have to be appeal to such a large and€”let’s be honest€”non-discerning group that most wineries in this class make their wines overly sweet and tricked up with all sorts of junk that take away whatever varietal character they might have.

But this wine is different. For starters the grape€”Tempranillo€”is not a good one for modification in the way heartier varieties like Merlot, Grenache or Cabernet Sauvignon are. It’s medium weight and will fold with too much poking around. And the mere fact that they put Tempranillo on the label is a good sign: the grape isn’t exactly a household name in North America, but they clearly want to separate it from the plonk that usually checks in at this price. And it is a different fish€”it’s lower in alcohol (11 percent) and even though there’s ample fruit (of the cherry and raspberry clans), it avoid being heavy of cloying. And then there’s that bit of peppery spiciness that underscores that it’s Tempranillo. Finally, the medium body and low alcohol means that this wine actually takes a chill nicely, so it’s perfect to sit on the ice at an outdoor BBQ.

I should also note there’s a companion white to this, made with the soft Airen grape, that’s also an idiosyncratic winner€”sort of an anti-Sauvignon Blanc. So if you’re looking for something special as a present for your parents’ 50th Anniversary€”spend some more money, you cheap screw. But if you need a case of something for the ensuing party, you could do a lot worse for a lot more money than this li’l firecracker of a wine.