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Tall Tales: Tasting Tempranillo

Tempranillo is a Spanish variety, perhaps the Spanish variety. It is grown all over Spain and Portugal (under various and confusing local names) and produces wines from light and fresh Roses, tart and fruity unoaked reds to dense, complex and structured reds that sit somewhere between and rival Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone or Piedmont.

I was recently able to taste a range of Tempranillo based wines from the two best Tempranillo regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. My brief tasting notes are below. But first, a small bit of info on each region or D.O. (Denominacion de Origen).  

All of these wines are available for sale, if you want to place an order or have questions/comments please email me philip@thewinedepository.com.au
Rioja is quite diverse in varieties used, styles made, and terroir. The wines range from rich, dark and powerful through to subtle, refined and refreshing. This means that there is as much focus on the producers and their respective styles as the sub region it comes from. There are three sub regions in Rioja:
Baja; the hot, dry low lands where Garnacha (Grenache) prospers. Powerful and ripe wines prevail.
Alavesa; home of the highest altitude vineyards and Basque influenced. Elegant Tempranillo is made here.
Alta; also high altitude and producing elegant wines but Castille dominated culturally.

The Ribera del Duero region shares the same focal point as the famous Portuguese region of Port; namely the Duero River (known as the Douro when it crosses the border in to Portugal). The region is a valley that follows the rivers course and is a bit more even in terms of terroir (compared to Rioja) and the focus tends to be on single variety Tempranillo. Elegance and perfume is the order of the day here. Wines are either made on the sandy river flats or slightly elevated stoney soils further up the valley.

Remelluri, Artadi and Roda - Looking good.
A few of the best Rioja to be had.

Artadi, D.O Rioja (Rioja Alavesa) A good producer of fruity and aromatic wines with character and charm. Plenty of structure and personality in the top level wines.
2009 Artadi ‘Estate’ Tempranillo $33.00ea Bright and crunchy red fruits. The palate is soft and spicy with fluffy red & blue fruits.
2008 Artadi ’Vinas De Gain’ Tempranillo $58.00ea Increased depth (compared to Estate), meaty and spicy. Denser palate that shows more oak, tannin and intensity. Still quite subtle and enjoyable though.

Palacios Remondo Propiedad - beautiful Rioja.
Garnacha at its finest!
Palacios Remondo, D.O Rioja (Rioja Baja) A favourite producer of mine. These wines display the strong suits of Garnacha and Tempranillo together. The Propiedad is a seriously impressive drink.
2010 Palacios Remondo ‘La Vendimia’ Garnacha Tempranillo $30.00ea Simple, easy drinking red jubey fruit. The palate is mid-weight rounded and a bit firm. The Garnacha certainly leads the way here but there is nice elegance from the Tempranillo.
2008 Palacios Remondo ‘La Montesa’ Garnacha Tempranillo $45.00ea  Dark, curranty fruit with a hint of fruit cake. It is quite rounded and generous with a long finish. This is a definite step up in quality.
2008 Palacios Remondo ‘Propiedad’ Garnacha Tempranillo $78.00ea Dark, savoury and earthy nose, it really needs a bit of time. Silky, sexy and savoury/truffle notes in the mouth, long finishing and extremely enjoyable. 
Telmo Rodriguez, D.O Rioja (Rioja Alavesa) A vinous equivalent of a ‘rockstar’. Telmo makes excellent wines from the best regions and varieties in Spain. He gives a great overview of the country’s styles in a modern form.
2008 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Lanzaga’ Tempranillo $66.00ea Hint of sulphur and flint, the nose is dark, gamey, with spice and pepper. There is a rounded mouthfeel, red fruits with good length of flavour.
Rioja vineyard.
Vineyard in Rioja
Remelluri, D.O Rioja (Rioja Alavesa) The family Estate of Telmo Rodriguez. This is more traditional and savoury with a strong tie in with the Old School Bordeaux influenced Rioja style. These are great wines.
2006 Remelluri Reserva $75.00ea A strong whiff of volatile acidity first off which leads to currants and lavender and blueberry fruits. It is full, thick, tannic, earthy and creamy/vanilla oaky. I think this bottle was faulty – I’ve had wines from this producer that are outstanding.
Bodegas Roda, D.O Rioja (La Rioja Alta) Pure, pristine, perfumed and almost haunting. These guys really play up the Burgundian leanings of Tempranillo. They should be on your must try list.
2007 Roda Reserva $100.00ea Plum, smoke, bacon, hint flora. Dry, savoury and pristine on the palate. Very enjoyable. 
Ébano Viñedos y Bodegas, D.O. Ribera del Duero An Estate owned by the awesome producer Valminor in Rias Baixas (great Albarino white wines). Still a young venture but looks promising.
2010 ‘Ébano 6’ (Tinta del Pais) Tempranillo $29.00ea Tart, red fruited and bright almost white wine like lift. Lighter bodied, good core of fruit with a quite tannic backbone.
Telmo Rodriguez, D.O Ribera del Duero Telmo’s wines are all made in a similar way, it is great to be able to try his Rioja and Ribera wines next to each other to see the differences and nuances of the regions.
2010 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Gazur’ Tempranillo $37.00ea Pepper, red fruits, floral and soot. Sweet red currants, a hint bitter and clean. Beautifully refreshing Tempranillo.
Hernando y Sourdais, D.O. Ribera del Duero Wines made from high altitude, organic vineyards some of which pre-date phylloxera – impressive potential.
2009 Hernado y Sourdais ‘Antidoto’ Tempranillo $46.00ea Bright, grapey & estery punctuated by tart and crunchy red fruits, floral hints and a fine tannic structure.

Cillar De Silos, D.O Ribera del Duero A lovely producer and one of the few wines I buy every year. Their elegance and balance belie the fact that these wines age gracefully for a very long time. Highly recommended. 
2008 Silos ‘Estate’ Tempranillo $75.00ea Smoke, meat, dark fruits, bitter chocolate, cola and a sweet nutty note. It is mid-weight, silky, red and blue fruited, currants and bitter chocolate. This is an elegant wine of great balance and a long savoury finish.

Ribera del Duero - King of Tempranillo.
Vineyard in Ribera del Duero
Telmo Rodriguez, D.O Ribera del Duero
2007 Telmo Rodriguez ‘M2 de Matallana’ Tempranillo $75.00ea Oxy dark fruits, oaky with dense earth almost terracotta like character. Blue & purple fruits, spicy oak, smoke, good length. This is a beefier and riper style of Tempranillo.
 
Bodegas y Vinedos Arnaldo, D.O. Ribera del Duero Run by the genius behind Iconic Spanish winery Pingus. This is a new project that could be Spain’s next big thing.
2009 Bodegas y Vinedos Arnaldo ‘PSI’ Tempranillo $85.00ea Ferment esters, tart red and blue berry fruits. Dry palate, light bodied.