Everyday: The wines that stay steeped in tradition but don’t mind a bit of New World ripeness tend to be my favorite offerings from Europe. The 2008 Bodegas Muriel Vendimia Seleccionada Crianza Rioja ($15) fits squarely in that mode, with very tasty red fruit (actually more like dried red fruit) and nice touches of dirt and smoke on the firm midpalate and long finish. The nose is alluringly fruity and earthy, and the fruit/acidity balance is spot-on in this high-value beauty. Break out some beef or vegetable stew or just a good burger, pizza, pasta with meat sauce, etc.
Occasion: Greece is better known for its distinctive whites, but not for long if more wines like the 2010 Alpha Estate Xinomavro “Hedgehog” ($22) keep showing up. This is a world-class wine made from an indigenous grape whose name (xinomavro) translates as “acid black.” It lives up to the latter part more than the former, with deep, dark fruit and big but under-control tannins leavening the acidity. Another dusty Old World offering, this bold red has a nice chocolate-y tinge on the robust finish. Roasted or grilled lamb (bring on the garlic and mint) fits the grows-together/goes-together bill, but similar preps with game or beef should work just as well.