Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spanish Table Wines - Exploring the Tempranillo grape

Breaking out of my West Coast wine persuasion, I bought a Spanish wine the other night at Kiva, the quintessential Eugene, Oregon health-food store. Including their aisle of beeswax products and a line of patchouli-scented everything, they have a great wine selection. Nearly every single bottle comes with a recommendation or, at the least, an index card covered in tasting notes. What was supposed to be a quick trip turned into an hour’s worth of reading and selecting a wine. I finally settled on a 2008 Protocolo Tinto (a traditional red table wine from Spain made of 100% Tempranillo grapes). At only $7.99 I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the rave reviews from the Kiva staff seemed recommendation enough. It turned out to be a delicious wine and a really great deal. The wine was medium-bodied which made it perfect for drinking before, with and after dinner. Without being sweet, the Protocolo was fruit-forward with hints of berry and the finish was smooth. Though I had my wine with fresh pesto on penne pasta and a side salad of fresh tomatoes, I would have loved it paired with lasagna or a red sauce on pasta. I'd definitely recommend giving this wine a try (especially at such a low price).
Happy with the Protocolo Tinto, I picked up another tempranillo at Fred Meyer, a Vintage 2009 Tapeña Tempranillo ($8.99) from Spain. The Tapeña, however, had a totally different taste. Opening up the bottle, the cork came out dripping with bright purple wine which turned out to be indicative of the bright, juicy taste. It smelled faintly of berries and the taste was even sweeter. The most noticeable flavor was of strawberry, followed by a smooth fruity finish. I had this wine before dinner and then after dinner so as to avoid overpowering the wine with my meal. For those less inclined to sweeter, fruiter wines but still interested in trying this Spanish grape, I would recommend the Protocolo Tinto. But if you’re in the market for a sweeter red and a fun summer wine then give the Tapeña a try!
Having never tried a wine made from tempranillo grapes before and finding myself stumbling over the pronunciation, I did a little bit of research about the grape. The traditional Spanish grape (there are only tiny amounts of it in Oregon and California) has a short growing season, ripens early and prefers a colder climate. According to the Tapeña website, tempranillo is pronounced “temp-rah-NEE-yo” and is considered (by their winery at least) as “Pinot Noir in blue jeans.” This isn't surprising given that the tempranillo wines I tried had a strong fruit aroma and taste, yet lacked the spicy, earthy flavors that Pinot Noir is known for.
Keep reading, as I’ll be tasting the 2006 Lan Rioja Crianza next!

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