Tempranillo is the premier grape of Spain. It makes more of Spain’s top wines than any other grape. It has been successfully replanted in just about every wine growing region with a warm climate including Texas, where it is currently the state’s standard-bearer for red wine.
Below are three Tempranillo wines each of which is interesting in its own way.
The 2007 Bodegas Montecillo Crianza, Rioja, Spain ($12 retail) is a great wine to taste if you want to know what ‘typical’ Tempranillo tastes like. The color is ruby red, the nose redolent with red fruit (raspberries, cherries) and a little oakiness. ‘Crianza’ implies 12 months aging, so the latter is no surprise. In the mouth, this wine tastes mainly of Tempranillo fruit. It is crisp due to good acid levels and the finish is very fruity and pleasant. Create a memory footprint of this wine and you will have a mental record that will serve as a template whenever you try Tempranillo-based wines in the future.
That is not the end of the story, however. The flipside of such textbook correctness at an every day price is that the wine is fairly simple. If you are new to Tempranillo the best way to discover this is to try the 2003 Bodegas Montecillo Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($18). Think of this wine as one gear up from the Crianza. It is darker in color than the 2007 Crianza despite the extra four years of age. This wine is a lot more complex in every respect. The nose has a lot more dark fruit (blueberries) and herbal notes (oregano) and cedar is present from the oak aging. The taste is a multifaceted combination of dark fruit, robust tannin and cedar. The finish is longer and more intense in its Tempranillo fruit than the Crianza. Drink now as I sense that this wine may be at its peak and has started drying out.
Finally, in case you know anybody who thinks that my eulogies to Texas Tempranillo are unsupported state pride, check out the 2008 Inwood Estates Vineyards, ‘Cornelious’, High Plains AVA, Texas ($40). It is 100% Tempranillo from the part of the High Plains above 3,500ft altitude where the night air cools sufficiently to let the grapes undergo a long, slow ripening. It is a complex and powerful blend of Tempranillo fruit, long aging in French oak and the mineral qualities of Texas soil. Decant this wine to aerate it before drinking and the reserves of fruit aromas will flow out. It can be kept for five years if you like your wines older.