By the Glass

Spaniards with character to match your menu

(Stephen Meuse for The Boston Globe)
By Stephen Meuse
Globe Correspondent / May 25, 2011

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With its rituals of fuel-gathering, fire-laying, and ember-tending, grilling summons images of our hunter-gatherer ancestors with mammoth meat to cook and time on their hands. How they passed a weary hour waiting for the fire to settle down into a manageable bed of coals is an interesting question. We can’t fully address it here, except to say we are pretty sure it did not involve a glass of chilled rosé.

While meat roasted over an open fire is emblematic of man’s earliest days as an undomiciled wanderer, wine, a byproduct of village agriculture requiring both capital investment and skilled labor, is associated with our transition to urbanity. No wonder it’s so much fun to put them together. Your plate of ribs says, “This is what we were,’’ while your pitcher of wine says, “This is how far we’ve come.’’

To get our grill season off to a tasty start this weekend, we’re turning to Spain, specifically to the area north and east of Madrid cut by the River Duero, home to some fresh, lively whites and ink-hued but supple reds all made from the region’s indigenous varieties. There is plenty of savory character here and, we think, good value. And because no backyard ’cue session is complete without some spunky little pink, we have thrown one in.

These Ribera del Duero reds will be plenty hefty to pair with whatever meaty business you’ve got going on, but if mastodon is on the menu, you are probably going to need a bigger grill.

Con Class Rueda 2009 Lively citrus aromatics with some piney, resinous aspects; crisp and bright with a clean, pleasingly tart finish. Simple; refreshing picnicker. Sixty percent verdejo, 25 percent viura, 15 percent sauvignon blanc. Around $10. At Morrissey Boulevard Wines & Liquors, Dorchester, 617-533-8273; Curtis Liquors, South Weymouth, 781-331-2345; Marty’s Fine Wine, Newton, 617-332-1230.

Bodegas Valdeaguila “Vina Salamanca’’ Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2010 Rufete and tempranillo blend. Super juicy medium-bodied rosé that’s like biting into a crisp, ripe red apple, garnished with a shovelful of dirt. Sound good? It is. Around $11. At Federal Wine & Spirits, Boston, 617-367-8605; Medfield Wine Shop, Medfield, 508-359-4097; Lower Falls Wine, Newton, 617-332-3000.

Finca Resalso Ribera del Duero 2009 Earthy, black cherry-like aromas; palate displays nicely plump, plummy fruit supported with some perky acids. Mouth-filling, satisfying sip. Around $15. At The Wine and Cheese Cask, Somerville, 617-623-8656; Bauer Wine and Spirits, Back Bay, 617-262-0363; Lower Falls Wine.

Vina Sastre Ribera del Duero 2008 Some reductive aromas; mouth firm and juicy with dark red fruits dominant; shows fine zip and flesh. Will cut saucy wings and ribs. Around $20. At Ball Square Fine Wine & Liquors, Somerville, 617-623-9500; Vintages, West Concord, 978-369-2545; Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits, 617-742-8571.

Finca Villacreces “Pruno’’ Ribera del Duero 2008 Attractive, subtly perfumed aromatics; plum and black raspberry fruit is blocky and a little low on detail, but with good acid structure. A little bigger format and plus-level fruit. Flavorful and savory. Around $20. At Brix on Broad, Boston, 617-542-2749; Esprit du Vin, Milton, 617-296-9463; Shubie’s, Marblehead, 781-631-0149.

Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero 2006 Complex aromas with something very like bottle-age already apparent; mouth unusually rich with baked plums, cedar, and sage notes. Quite a surprising amount of acidity here. Uncommon combination of balance, power, and finesse. A lovely thing, probably seriously undervalued. Around $27. At Martignetti Liquors, Brighton, 617-782-3700; Colonial Spirits, Acton, 978-263-7775; WineConneXtion, North Andover, 978-965-8000.

Stephen Meuse can be reached at