American Sketches of Spain -Tempranillo
Tempranillo is the flagship grape of Spain. Originally the main grape in the Rioja region, it has spread throughout the counrtry and around the world. As a result of globalization, Spain adopted American technology such as stainless steel fermentation tanks, and America adopted Tempranillo. We wanted to see the result so we had a comparison tasting of Tempranillo from Spain, Washington, Oregon and California. Five of the wines were tasted single blind with our friends, Hans and Trude, and three were tasted stark naked with our friends Norm and Verni. The results were eye-opening.
Here are the results of the blind tasting ( 1=highest)
1.75 2006 Lan Rioja, Rioja, Spain - about $15 in supermarkets
2.13 2007 Pomum Tinto, Columbia Valley, Wa.- about $30 at the winery
2.37 2007 Opolo Tempranillo, Paso Robles, Ca. - about $30 at the winery
3.13 2009 Temenal, Yecla, Spain - about $4 at Trader Joe's
3.50 2006 Dominio IV "Sketches of Spain", Columbia Gorge, Or.- about $25
So, one could simplistically say that the Rioja was the winner and the Sketches of Spain the loser, but this is not so. There was so much variability among ratings that these are probably not meaningful differences. One of our number was a winemaker who was rating to his prototype of Tempranillo rather than simple hedonistic pleasure. All of the wines were good, but made in different styles. The blow away wine was the "Tinto" from Washington. So Spanish in style, yet fresher, fruitier and rounder than the Lan. Perhaps this should be no surprise as it was made by a winemaker from Spain, Javier Alfonso, a Boeing engineer who lives in Seattle.The Opolo was big, round and fruity, very American, very California. The Dominio had more tannin and seemed to need some more age, though it would be fine now with a roast or stew. The "Joker" or "Ringer", the "Four Buck Tempranillo" from Trader Joe did quite well. It was much rougher with too much tannin and acid, but it, too would go well with food. Don't try this one as a cocktail alone!
Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It may be a little early to tell ( tempranillo means a little early in Spanish), but it definitely is a candidate, especially in Washington. Since the overall quality in this tasting was so high, we thought we would check out a few more wines. We tasted two different vintages of Montobuena Rioja (about $10 at Total Wines), the 07 and 09. The 09 was lighter brighter and more acidic than the 07 which was more structured, more balanced and fuller flavored. We had the the 09 with the salad, the 07 with the Chicken Tagine, and the 06 Abecela Tempranillo, from Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon, with the appetizer. Abecela was a Northwest pioneer with Tempranillo, but I've always found it to be kind of flat and dry. It did have enough fruit in it for one taster to describe it as being like Merlot. More good Tempranillo!
It looks like Spain has joined its former colonies in the New World, Argentina and Chile, in making high quality wine at reasonable prices. And North America, seems to have taken Tempranillo to a new level of fullness and fruitiness. Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It's a lttle early to tell.