If, like us, you break with tradition when it comes to drinking sherry with tapas, or if you're just in the mood to experiment, we suggest a bold and lively Spanish red as an alternative. A fine place to start would be with the 2006 PradoRey Roble (about $12 at wine shops), a blend of 95 percent tinto fino (a tempranillo alias) abetted by dashes of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
This charmer begins with a heady aroma compounded of mellow leather and roses and segues into a smooth and soft fruit-forward palate with plenty of complexity. Flavors of blackberry, chocolate and a bit of bramble lead off, followed by nuances of plum (John thinks it's thundercloud plum, but Colette thinks he's pushing it), vanilla and a faint whiff of coffee. It finishes medium long and medium dry, making it perfect for quaffing with a variety of small plates involving anything from cheeses to red and white meats to seafood.
The wines of PradoRey come from the Real Sitio de Ventosilla estate in Spain's Ribera del Duero appellation, where the tempranillo grape reigns supreme and goes by its tinto fino handle. Vintage estate bottlings can fetch prices as high as the mid hundreds, but for everyday sipping and pairing with tapas, this modestly priced gem is just right.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.