Sometimes formal dinner parties are stressful and big parties complicated and often messy. There are occasions when at the spur of the moment you want to invite a couple of good friends over for cheese and crackers and a simple but tasty glass or two of wine. You want to relax with no pressure and this fruit forward red will work perfectly.

The 2010 Burgo Viejo Rioja Crianza is a classic old-style Rioja from Spain made from 90% Tempranillo & 10% Graciano. This wine is fermented in steel vats and aged in American oak barrels for a year. The color is deep ruby to violet.

On the nose cherry tobacco and vanilla is prominent with a touch of smokiness. It tastes slightly sweet and smoky with dark berry and cherry flavors and an interesting bit of coconut. The wine is more complex than expected and finishes smooth and juicy. It pairs well with a variety of foods including grilled meats, spicy food dishes like Paella with spicy sausage or even lasagna. Probably my favorite pairing is the wonderful Manchego sheep’s milk cheese from Spain and crusty bread.

So go ahead and call some friends tonight for some delightful wine and cheese without the fuss. This Rioja is a terrific bargain at 9.99 and was rated 90 points by Stephen Tanzer.