Tasting Wine: 

You made a resolution of no alcohol for an entire month. OK, that’s extreme, you told yourself — just two weeks on the wagon. But here you are, five days into January, the weather is terrible (at least as of this writing) and there is nothing you would like more than a glass of red wine.

Far be it from my place to pull you off the wagon. A cleansing is a good thing sometimes, especially if you overdid it during the holidays. That said, I’m a fan of moderation, so if you are not one of those countless people who made a New Year’s pledge to take a break from alcohol, read on.

I realize many of you spent a lot of dough during the last month. That is why I am going to write about the top three inexpensive wines of 2007. Inexpensive is a relative term, I realize, but for the sake of this column, let’s say it’s no more than $15.

Bodegas Luzdivina Amigo, "Baloiro," 2003 (Bierzo, Spain)

Bierzo is one of the hot, up and coming regions in Spain. Mencia, a spicy red grape is the mainstay here. The Amigo family has been growing grapes for generations but only started making wine commercially in 2002. Made from 50-year-old vines, this fresh, vibrant wine is a great expression of mencia with earthy, tobacco, peppery notes against red fruits, rose petals and ripe tannins.

Suggested retail: $14

Bretz "Fleurent," 2006 (Rheinhessen, Germany)

The Bretz family has been making wine since the 18th century. In addition to riesling, they grow huxelrebe and other more obscure grapes. "Fleurent" is a blend of sylvaner and pinot blanc. Light-bodied with floral aromatics and apricot, orange zest and slightly buttery flavors, this is a simple delight.

Suggested retail: $12

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, "Clos des Briords," 2005 (Loire Valley, France)

Supposedly this wine will age for at least a decade, though I have not had the pleasure of trying one so old. At any rate, Marc Olivier, the proprietor and winemaker at Pepiere, is meticulous, and his wines reflect great purity. The Clos des Briords vineyard was planted in 1930, and the wine has concentration that is rare with Muscadet. Medium-bodied with rich minerality, lemon-lime flavors and an almondlike essence, this is as good as Muscadet gets.

Suggested retail: $12

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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