It isn't often that a bottle of red cheaper than $10 has the substance to age or improve with extra air time. Either it's soft and fruity from the moment you open it, or, if it's rough, those edges never fade. That wasn't the case, though, with this charmingly rustic 2008 Callabriga from Sogrape Vinhos in the Douro of Portugal, a region famed for Port but increasingly known for dry red values. And this one - made from Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional - delivered surprising balance and complexity once it had an hour or so to breathe.
The tannic gruffness of its first impression quickly blew off. What emerged was a perfect companion for our meal of roasted meats and garlicky pastas - a gulp of ripe blackberry, tart plum, and peppery spice that rode high on a lingering juicy tang. Two days later, preserved with a vacuum cork, it was surprisingly just as good, making this Chairman's Selection (marked down from $17) a legitimate bargain. It will only improve for the next year or two.