Tempranillo Here in Robot Land, June is Tempranillo month.
As you may have heard when I cornered you in that bar recently and went on and on about it, for 2009 I am trying to have a wine theme for each month. Whether it is a specific grape or region or style or importer or whatnot.
Here's a quick overview of this tasty grape.
What is it?
It's a grape. When you discuss Tempranillo you end up spending a lot of time discussing Spain - or if you are discussing Spanish wine, you end up spending a lot of time with Tempranillo, Spain's primary and most popular indigenous grape.
So, the basic specifications for this grape are that it is thick skinned meaning that the wines can very deep color (not like Pinot Noir two months ago) and can have a lot of tannins - although usually smooooth tannins. Traditionally the wines aren't high in alcohol and they age very nicely (we had a 1995 Rioja the other night that was superb).
The grapes ripen early, so their growing season can be a few weeks shorter than other grapes. There are some other neat facts that I won't harass you with at least for the moment.
You pronounce it: tem pran nee yo
Where is it grown?
Many places. Spain. Portugal (used in Port). Parts of South America. California. Australia. The usual suspects.
For most people though, they will find the majority of it from Spain - but of course Spain, like many old-world markets, labels their wines by place and not by grape. In Spain, the main areas for Tempranillo are Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, but you'll also find it Penedès, Navarra, Valdepeñas, and Toro.
We should talk about Spain next.
What does it taste like?
Kind of wine-y.
The style of the wine can vary greatly depending on yields and techniques of the winemaker, but the general flavor profile has flavors of sour cherry, tobacco (especially something people call "cigar box"), leather, spice, dark berries, and 'earthiness'.
Actually, for me, it's the smell of the pieces of leather that were left over from a craft project stored in the cedar drawers in my parent's house.
Pairs well with the usual suspects for red wines - I like it with meats that have a bit of fat on them.
As a maybe too dorky sidenote, winemakers in Spain have been using French and American oak in the barrels for aging purposes. Sometimes only French. Sometimes only American. Sometimes a mixture. Each type of oak imparts it's own flavors that affect the final wine.
What's the catch?
Funnily, this grape has a few aliases which can make it a bit pesky from a studying and purchasing point-of-view. For instance, in Toro it is known as Tinto de Toro. In Ribera Del Duero it goes by Tinto Fino. In other areas it goes by Steve.