Grape of the Night explored a varietal that originated in Spain. In fact, it is known as the native or noble grape of Spain. That grape is Tempranillo. This varietal originated in Spain and was believed to be related to Pinot Noir, however, ampelographic studies have shown this not to be the case. This wine is definitely old world in terms of its origin, dating back 2000 years during Roman times in the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain. Another region of Spain that grows and produces fantastic wines made from Tempranillo is Rioja. Today we see this wine grown in many regions of Spain, Portugal, US, Australia, Argentina, etc. In Portugal it is called Tinta Roriz and it is blended with other select varietals to produce those lovely Port wines that we all love on those cold winter nights or after a chocolate soufflé.
The name Tempranillo means “little early one” because it ripens early and does well with a short growing season. This varietal adapts also to large diurnal temperature changes allowing it to be very successful in regions such as California for example. One of the problems with getting Tempranillo established in California was that it was planted initially in the Central Valley where it is hot. Tempranillos are not at their best when grown in this type of climate. The results of these first attempts from this region of California was low quality and fit for jug wine blends only. This has changed once this varietal was understood and now Tempranillo has evolved throughout the world as a fine wine.
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The reason that Tempranillo is blended with a small amount of other red wines is due to a unique characteristic of the vine and chemistry. Tempranillo vine roots absorb potassium out of the ground readily. The potassium causes the grape chemistry to become more basic rather than maintaining a normal acid level, which is required to brighten up a wine and add crispness. In order to correct for this other selected red wines are blended with the Tempranillo to add the bright crispness required for a good wine.
Tempranillos are very unique in flavors and aromas. On the nose and palate you will get strawberry, plum, herbal, vanilla and tobacco. Many Tempranillos are aged in oak increasing the complexity of the wine. This is the source of the vanilla that is found in many Tempranillo wines.
For this tasting the GOTN brought some very unique examples to review.
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Here is the list along with inputs from everyone on their findings:
2010 Prima Toro
Aroma: Dark cherry and light tobacco
Taste: Dry, long finish acidic when first opened
Notes: Spain; 90% Tempranillo and 10% Granacha
2010 Volver La Mancha
Aroma: Wet cardboard and eucalyptus
Taste: Fruit forward
Notes: Spain; 100% Tempranillo and 10% Granacha. This wine created a lot of discussion based on what appeared to be a wet cardboard smell. The smell of wet cardboard or newspaper is often the result of 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA), which is a chemical compound that is a chlorinated derivative of anisole and is termed corked. However, I have found that people mistakenly place this label on a lot of old world wines that present the aromas of barnyard smells. I leave this as food for thought for you to decide on your own.
2009 Calma Rioja
Aroma: Leather, cigar box and dark cherry
Taste: Graphite (minerals) and earthy
Notes: Spain; 90% Tempranillo and 10% Granacha
2008 Pulchella Tempranillo
Taste: Cherry; opinions were diverse from sour-acidic to balanced
Notes: Paso, California; 100% Tempranillo
2009 Pulchella Tempranillo
Aroma: Cherry, musky, white pepper and bacon
Taste: Cherry, white pepper and vanilla
Notes: Bella Collina Vineyard Paso, California; 100% Tempranillo; 94 points
2009 Valserrano Crianza Rioja
Aroma: Dark cherry, plum and herbaceous
Taste: Cherry, plum and high tannins
Notes: Spain; 90% Tempranillo and 10% Mazuela; 92 points Wine Advocate
What was interesting at GOTN was five of the seven bottles brought were from Spain. The two that were not were from Paso California were made by the same winery but two different vintages and two different grape sources. All of the wines brought were quite unique and different. The tasting notes from the group were very much in line with what has been written in literature for expected tastes and aromatics. As always, I thought that it was a very enjoyable evening and I look forward to our next GOTN.
I want to thank Alexa and the Valencia Wine Company for hosting our event and the fantastic hospitality. Thank you all for coming and I will see you at the next GOTN.