The most important varietal to Spain, Tempranillo, has been grown in the region since the time of Phoenician settlements. Referred to as Spain’s noble grape, it is most widely planted and known for in the Rioja region. It is both made to stand on its own as a varietal as well as being used as a blending grape. Tempranillo can range from a light/medium to full-bodied wine, depending on where is it grown. It generally has rich red to black fruit as well as a characteristic known as balsamico. Balsamico is a combination of flavors that include herbal (marjoram, cilantro, oregano and rosemary), the exotic (sandalwood, incense, curry and hyssop) and the distinctive (thyme, lemon thyme, peppermint, chocolate mint and spearmint).
In Rioja, Tempranillo shines as a blending partner with varietals like Gaciano, Manzuelo (Carignon), and Garnacha (Grenache). The varietal also ranges from an easy drinking wine to age-worthy and serious. The expression, in Spain, can been seen in the multiple classifications used. They range from joven (unaoked and easy), to crianza (a little oak aging and some bottle aging), then reserva (more oak and bottle aging), and finally gran reserva (even more aging, and cannot be released until six years after harvest).
In Ribero del Duero, Tempranillo is grown to produce wines that are powerful, chunky and complex. While in the rest of the country, it is still the staple varietal and is used both as a single signature varietal as well as blending partner.
Outside of Spain, where the Duero River becomes the Douro River (in Portugal), Tempranillo is known for its blending ability in port wines. Here the varietal is called Tinta Roriz. In Mendoza, the wine has become a lovely contrast to Malbec and a nice alternative for Argentine wine drinkers. Tempranillo is also being produced in Chile and Uruguay, but typically being blended off in nice but not exceptional bottles. Efforts are being made in the United States to bring the varietal some acknowledgement in regions such as Lodi and Paso Robles in California as well as the Umpqua Valley in Oregon. It is also giving Sangiovese a run as the rising star coming out of Australia.
But, no matter where Tempranillo is being grown, it has one characteristic that wine lovers are attracted to: an incredible food-friendliness! Most Tempranillo based wines are a great pairing with red meats, especially lamb and pork, as well dried, cured and uncured sausages, vegetarian and herbal based dishes and risotto or lasagna.
Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza Spain 2008
Appearance: light garnet red
Aroma: nose of black cherry and a touch of herbs
Flavors: black cherry with a hint of thyme and chocolate is layered with spice and red plums notes
Finishing Notes: complex in flavors and ends crisp and fresh
Perfect Pairing: Being a younger Tempranillo wine, as compared to a reserva or gran reserva, we would pair this to a roast leg of lamb accompanied by stewed vegetable ratatouille and thyme, oregano and wild mushroom risotto.
WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett, who are both longtime residents of Door County. Jody is the owner operator of Chop Restaurant in the Sister Bay Country Walk Shops and Karl is the General Manager and Executive Chef of the Mission Grille in Sister Bay. They have both been awarded the first level of certification from the Court of the Master Sommeliers.