Wine 15: Tempranillo

Tempranillo! One of Spain’s native grapes, tempranillo is also more widely grown in Argentina, California, and Portugal (where it’s used to make Port). I love drinking wines from outside the States. It gives me a sense of what that country is like, and what flavors thrive there.

I don’t recall what wine-related thing I was reading, but the message of what I read stuck with me: in order to travel the world, you don’t have to hop a plane and fly to another country – you simply have to taste the wine from that country. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel, but for all the wine regions that exist in the world, my bank account would sure prefer to frequent my wine shops instead of shell out thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, etc.! So with that, let’s take a sip and explore our tempranillo a bit more:

As I mentioned, this wine originates in Spain (similar to our garnacha from a few weeks back), which pull in at number 3 on the list of largest wine-producing countries in the world.

In The Wine Bible, Karen notes that Spanish winemakers don’t use the verb fabricar (“to produce or manufacture”), but rather elaborar which means “to elaborate.” According to these winemakers, the latter expresses – and better conveys – the passion, consciousness, and time put into creating and nurturing wine. It’s beautiful when you think about it, really. There’s also a pretty interesting quote which I believe illustrates the importance and prestige placed on wine in this country:

[…] at some point after you have saved a little money, the first thing you want to do is own a winery. It is very important to the Spanish soul.

– Yolanda García Viadero, winemaker of Bodegas Valduero

Back to the grape itself: tempranillo is a black, thick-skinned grape of the vitis vinifera vine, which tends to ripen earlier than other varietals (makes sense, as the Spanish word temprano means “early”) and thrives in chalky soils. Thought it’s thick-skinned, it is very susceptible to disease, pests, and has a strong response to weather conditions (shrinking during drought, swelling with humidity and downpours – both of these conditions can negatively impact the yield during harvest).

It also requires a slightly cooler climate to bring out the acidity of the grape, but one that also gets hotter to help ripen (increase sugars, which then yields a higher ABV) these grapes and thicken the skins to give a deep color. Typically producing full-bodied wines, the flavor profile tends to be a bit more subdued than other varietals like cabernet sauvignon, so tempranillo is often blended with other grapes. Because of the dark skin, this wine tends to be high in tannin.

Spain has some fairly strict policies on aging requirements for labeling wines a certain way. These classifications and requirements are as follows:

  • Roble/Tinto: little to no oak aging
  • Crianza: 6-12 months aging in oak
  • Reserva: 12 months oak aging with up to 2 years of bottle aging
  • Gran Reserva: 18-24 months oak aging with up to 4 years of bottle aging

As you might expect, as this wine ages, the fruit flavors tend to turn from juicy, vibrant flavors into rich, dried fruits with more cedar and tobacco notes. The oak aging will absolutely impart some flavor on the wine, contributing some of those baking spices of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla into the juices.

This week I popped open a bottle of Bright Cellars’ 2015 Acopio Tempranillo. Remember, Bright Cellars works with vineyards around the world to make wines that meet its subscribers’ tastes. They make wines from all over the world, but this one hails from Spain.

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I was so excited to use my new corkscrew from my friend, Nina. Yes, that mini bottle with my name on it is a magnet AND a wine opener! Let me tell you – it worked like a dream.

Appearance: Medium garnet, with a slightly deeper hue rather than the brownish tinge you can sometimes get. The legs, or wine tears, reminded me of those movies that zoom in on a person’s face and you just see these huge alligator tears slowly moving down their cheeks. Sad and funny, all at the same time.

Nose: Bright red cherry, cranberry, white pepper.

Taste: Dried berries and red fruits with a slightly sweet tobacco note. I thought this was one of the lighter medium-bodied wines I’ve had. Also, the first night I opened it, I didn’t get much tannin, but the next day I tried it again and found more structure in the overall taste; those tannins started to shine through, as did the acidity. I’d still say the acidity was on the softer side, not as present as I’d imagine with the brightness of the fruit aromas. I guess the wine just needed to breathe a bit!

Overall: I think I’ve had some heftier tempranillos in the past, and ones that carried a  bit more earthiness. This is definitely a good introductory tempranillo, and one that I think is more middle of the road, which would appeal to red and white drinkers alike.

I’ve got another wine tasting coming up next week, so prepare yourself for the tasting!! Until then, cheers!!!

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