Rusty Sly’s Grape of the Night: Tempranillo

Once again we had a fantastic turnout which meant more wines to sample and compare.  This month, the wine varietal selected was Tempranillo.  This is one of my favorite wines that originated and is found in most parts of Spain.  Tempranillo grapes were believed to have been brought to Spain by pilgrims during the Crusades and to be related to the Pinot Noir grape.
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  This has been proven through ampelographical studies to  be untrue.  There is evidence that it may be related to the grape varietal Valdepenas of California.  Tempranillo is one of the primary grapes of Spain.  Two regions that produce and are best known for this grape are Ribera del Duero and the Rioja Alta.  Tempranillo vines prefer a cooler climate and have low resistance to many vine diseases.  Tempranillo grapes tend to be low both in overall acidity and in sugar, but are often high in pH, and nearly always high in tannin from their thick skins.  In favorable climates such as the cool higher elevation of Ribera del Duero, tempranillo (aka tinto fino, tinta del pais) can make wine that are low in alcohol content, but can be cellared for a long time.

The first Tempranillo that blew me away was a 1995 Rioja Alta Grand Reserva 904.  A lot of Rioja wines are aged for some years before releasing.  I believe this bottle was released in 2005.  Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels.  This wine was rated 90 points by Parker.  For those of you that know me, you know my love of old world wines where aromas of earthiness and minerality prevail.  This wine was very much like an old world Bordeaux. The flavors were that of red currants, sweet cherries, and spices.  Just a spectacular wine for $40-50.

The name Tempranillo is from the Spanish word temprano which means early.  The Tempranillo grape has a short growing season and ripens much earlier than other Spanish varietals.  In the last 100 years it has been planted in Mexico, New Zealand, South America, USA, South Africa, Australia, Turkey and Canada.

Tempranillo wines are ruby red in color, generally have aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb. Not often bottled as a single varietal wine, it is frequently blended with grenache, carignan and, cabernet sauvignon.

The wines brought by each member of the GOTN group showed a nice diversity.  Spain (for obvious reasons) was the largest percentage.  We also had wines from Australia and California to allow us a chance to analyze the characteristics based on terroir and wine making processes.  Let’s review the wines that were brought.

·         2009 Robert Oakley King Valley Australia – 14.3% ABV.  Aromas and Tastes were found to be berries (raspberries and strawberries).

·         2009 Cortijo Rioja Spain – 80% Tempranillo and 20% Granacia. Very mild aroma with tastes of berries and leather.

·         2009 La Mancha (Casa Gualda) Spain – 13% ABV.  100% Tempranillo.  Aroma of lighter berries and smoke.  Taste had lots of tannins and tobacco.

·         2009 Cala Blanca Spain – 90% Tempranillo, 5% Carignon and 5% Merlot.  13.5% ABV.  Aroma was slightly gamey, no discernable fruits. Taste also displayed little fruit.

·         2007 Rideau Silverspoon Vineyard Santa Ynez Calif. – 14.7% ABV.  Earthy with a light berry nose.  Taste displayed light fruits and tobacco.  Wine was well balanced.

·         2007 Bodegas Volver Tempranillo La Mancha Spain –  Aroma was like a very light port.  Taste presented flavors of medium red berries and leather.

·       2006 Tinta Del Pais Central Spain – 14.5% ABV.  The word Tinta means  a wine of a deep red color from Galicia or Malaga in Spain called also tent wine.  This wine was definitely old world in profile with a lot of barnyard in the aroma with flavors of earth and tobacco.

·         2006 Crianza Navarro Lopez Old Vines Spain –  13% ABV.  Aroma displayed figs and light spices.  Taste was of cranberry (light) with vanilla (light).  This wine used 80% American Oak.  American oak imparts more vanilla flavors than oak barrels from France.

·         2006 Crianza an Rioja Tempranillo Spain –  13.5% ABV.  Aroma was licorice.  The taste was of cherry and spice with a light tobacco finish.

·         2005 Allende Rioja Spain – 13.5% ABV.  Dark Purple in color.  It had aromas of barnyard with tastes of light berries and light to medium tobacco.  This wine was silky smooth.

·         2002 Rodai Reserva Spain –  14% ABV.  Aroma consisted of red cherries, berries and spice.  The tastes was that of cherries and spice.

I hope that everyone in attendance enjoyed this unusual grape varietal.  It is a fantastic wine displaying flavors of tart red fruits like raspberries and cherries.  Add to these wonderful fruit flavors the aroma of rustic saddle leather and you have hit my soft spot. These wines are medium bodied showing a delicate finesse.
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  Tempranillo wines display a lot of complexity in their aroma and tastes much like French Bordeaux wines from France.

As always, I would like to thanks Guy and Gino of Valencia wine company for hosting and tending to our needs.  I also want to thank Victor for pouring and keeping everyone’s glass filled.
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  And last but not least, my editor that helps promote GOTN.  Hope to see everyone at the next GOTN.
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Rusty Sly