Even if Tempranillo Day is an American invention, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate and talk about our most international and widely planted red variety (see Tempranillo, the Spanish red superstar). We couldn’t either resist recommending some Spanish Tempranillo-based reds. But instead of reviewing well-known brands we have decided to look for some special labels either for their novelty, quirkiness, wine-making, the vineyards they come from or the specific intention of their authors. Luckily, there are hundreds of good Tempranillos around to mark this date; the great news is that they are increasingly coming from the most varied places: Portugal, Argentina, Australia or other EU countries.
During the 2000s Frenchman Bertrand Sourdais was technical director at Dominio de Atauta, the winery that discovered the remote and stunning landscape full of old vines that laid hidden in the eastern end of Ribera del Duero, within the province of Soria. He now runs his new personal project in cooperation with agronomist David Hernando which focuses in the same area: vineyards planted at 1,000 metres above sea level on sandy soils that skipped phylloxera. Antídoto 2012 is Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) from vineyards located in Soto de San Esteban, in the vicinity of San Esteban de Gormaz, 80km east of Peñafiel. 70% of the grapes come from very old plots (80-100 old-year vines) that provide deep flavours and minerality; the rest is sourced from younger vines that add a dash of fruit to this affordable and lively red. US importer: The Rare Wine Co.: UK importer: H2Vin.
Telmo Rodríguez is one of the most famous Spanish winemakers. His Compañía de Vinos is committed to recovering vineyards, grape varieties and traditional winemaking methods in different Spanish regions with a prominent role in Rioja. Corriente 2012 (literally “common” or “ordinary”) is sourced from local winegrowers long established in Lanciego, 35km east of Haro. The wine ferments in cement tanks and is later aged in casks as well as used French and American oak barrels. The very own name of the wine is a challenge in itself –provocative and also campaigning for wine to return to everyday life. In the glass it skips the traditional aged Rioja and tries to capture the essence of a local winegrower red. Fruit appears quite tamed on the nose (more gentle than explosive) while the palate shows great acidity (there are some high-altitude vineyards in Lanciego. The grape’s tannic expression is prominent if a little rustic but it feels pure and expressive.
Viña Almate 2013 is one of my favourite natural wines in Spain. Not only does it offer great value for money, but I think it can appeal to anyone regardless of their position on the sulphur or natural debate. The wine drinks so well… what’s the point of arguing? Obviously no SO2 has been added; instead you will find lots of fresh fruit and an earthy edge that reminds me of the best young reds made in Ribera del Duero 15 years ago. It is fermented with stems and grapes are sourced from Penafiel (Valladolid) and Valtiendas (Segovia); the latter area is not included in the Ribera appellation so the wine is labeled as Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León. Winemaker Alfredo Maestro is one of the exciting new voices among young Spanish winegrowers. José Pastor is his importer in the US.
Baron de Ley Tempranillo is one of the most original labels within the eponymous winery new single-varietal great-value range from Rioja. Surrounded by white grapes, it grows at over 800 metres of altitude in the Sierra de la Hez (Rioja Baja) in which must be one of the highest estates in the appellation. This “mountain” Tempranillo -as it is often called- is tremendously balsamic (eucalyptus), with lots of red fruit and a fresh and pleasant herbaceous dimension. Its crisp acidity really makes a difference from other Tempranillos in Rioja. 2010 is my favourite vintage as it perfectly reflects that fresh northern profile; the recently launched 2011 vintage is somewhat less fresh and would probably please consumers looking for mouth-filling reds.
Find this wine in Spain at Tomevinos (€10,50).
This grape is the result of a red tempranillo mutation which was discovered in Rioja in the late eighties. White Tempranillo was officially accepted as a Rioja grape variety a few years ago and subsequently some wineries like Abel Mendoza, Vivanco, Inspiración or Juan Carlos Sancha started to grow it and bottled it separately as a single-variety white wine. One of the newest and most interesting Tempranillo Blanco we have tasted is Viuda Negra Villahuercos 2013. It is made by Javier San Pedro Ortega, a young winemaker who comes from a family with a long-tradition as growers and winemakers. Being his first vintage ever, San Pedro has come up with a surprisingly consistent wine made from a very young vineyard. The wine ferments in stainless steel and ages in barrel for four months where bâtonnage is generously applied. This is a vibrant and zesty white with lots of acidity perfectly combined with sweet fruit flavours (candied fruit, caramel), all wrapped-up by a generous round texture.
Find this wine in Spain at Ideavinos (16,80 €).