PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am

Tempranillo doesn't want to stand on its own two feet. Our grocery store shelves are laden with bottles of tempranillo blended with popular international varieties such as shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Maybe on its own, tempranillo doesn't command enough attention. Or, perhaps, tempranillo is a rag doll, seeking backbone and structure from varieties with stiffer stuffing. Even in its much respected ancestral home, Spain's Rioja region, tempranillo is usually blended with garnacha (grenache) and mazuelo (carignan).

Castillo de Liria Cabernet-Tempranillo 2007 is produced by Vicente Gandia, a leading exporter of Spanish wines. The Vicente Gandia Winery was established in 1885, with production of Castillo de Liria beginning almost 40 years ago.

At first rustic, the wine opens with time, displaying the simple but pretty strawberry-scented fruit characteristic of tempranillo. The palate is soft but structured with a vanilla-scented finish almost like strawberry ice cream. With an alcohol level of only 12.5 per cent per volume, this is not a fruit-packed blockbuster, nor is it a wine you'll find at auction, but at HK$59 per bottle (at ParknShop), it's not a bad drop.

Debra is also drinking:

Ash Tree Estate Merlot Tempranillo 2008, Spain. Plummy, meaty fruit with a faint hint of smoke. Silky, simple, soft-textured, medium length. HK$68 (ParknShop).

De Bortoli Sero Shiraz Tempranillo 2006, King Valley, Australia. Distinctively shiraz-dominated wine with ripe, lush blueberry and blackberry fruit. Juicy, soft palate finishing with a spicy flourish, but where's my tempranillo? HK$108 (ParknShop).

Bud Naked Shiraz Tempranillo (non-vintage), McLaren Vale, Australia. It is hard to resist the play on words. In an easy to carry foil pack, Bud Naked is a bag-in-box wine without the box. Though from McLaren Vale, it would be right at home in California, with warm climate and long hang-time raisined notes atop red and black fruit. HK$199 (1.5 litres; ParknShop).

fuZion (Familia Zuccardi) Tempranillo Malbec 2008, Argentina. Malbec's famed tannins provide a stalwart frame to the spiced but restrained fruit. Not very weighty, it's an easy food match and a bargain at HK$39 (ParknShop).

Alta Marca 2007, Madrid, Spain. Comprised of four grape varieties (merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo), this is the most rioja-like of all, perhaps due to creamy vanilla notes from its stint in American oak. Not much structure, so drink quickly. HK$68 (ParknShop).

Debra Meiburg is a master of wine.