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).
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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.
|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.
|Garnacha at its finest!|
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.
|Vineyard in Rioja|
2007 Roda Reserva $100.00ea Plum, smoke, bacon, hint flora. Dry, savoury and pristine on the palate. Very enjoyable.
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.
|Vineyard in Ribera del Duero|