Monday, June 11, 2012

The Interesting Facets of Tempranillo

I’m a big fan of wines that aren’t Bordeaux. Don’t get me wrong. Oh, do I love the rich flavors of a good Cabernet or Merlot. Although, there is just something so mysterious about wines that aren’t like anything else. So many times I just want to step out of the box and try something a little different and mysterious for a change.

One of my favorite regions for wines with an interesting set of flavors is Spain. And, one of my favorite wines from that region is Tempranillo. Named from the diminutive Spanish word “Temperanillo” which means early, the grapes are some of the first harvested in the warm Spanish growing season. Often times Tempranillo is harvested weeks before any of the other varieties.

This grape, used to make Rioja, is considered to be the noble grape of Spain. It was used up until just a few decades ago to produce mostly jug wines. Over the past few years it has become more and more popular as a blend or single variety high end specialty wine. Tempranillo has gained quite a following in the last few years, and now it is becoming a popular grape even here in the Western U.S..

What I like about Tempranillo is it’s rich and spicy flavors of berries, plum, leather, and fresh tobacco as a general set of characteristics. It is low in acidity and sugar making it great for those who don’t like acidic wines. Other flavors such as vanilla can be easily infused through the oak of good barrel aging.

In my very difficult research for this article I decided to talk about two different methods for Tempranillo out of the same winemaker. I received two bottles from Matchbook wines out of Dunnigan Hills. I chose a bottle of mostly Tempranillo blend, and another bottle that was a Tempranillo Rose’.

The Matchbook 2009 Tempranillo is 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine offers rich flavors of black berries, cinnamon, clove, cocoa, and vanilla. It is dark in color and has just enough umph to hold up to a pesto or tapas.

The 2011 Rose’ of Tempranillo. Unlike the blend I just talked about, this wine was bled from the skins right at crush before the colors would darken. It was then cold fermented in stainless steel for 3 months rather than barrel aged for up to 18 months in oak barrels. The result is a much more delicate wine with a nose of cream soda, with flavors of watermelon and peaches. With a residual sugar of under .5% this fairly dry wine has most of its flavor from the fruit and malolactic fermentation.

These versions of Tempranillo are very soft and delicate. I’ve also had many from the northwest that were much more full bodied. The results are always an overall spiciness with great food pairing abillites.

The next time you’re a little weary of the same old merlot I hope you’ll give Tempranillo a try. There are several offerings on most grocery shelves, and many of our local wine shops have even more choices.


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