12 wines for International Tempranillo Day

Tempranillo dayThese 12 wines show tempranillo in many of its 21st century styles. There’s classic tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain; post-modern Spanish tempranillo; regional tempranillo from Texas and Colorado; a highly-regarded Oregon label; and even one from Argentina.

Tempranillo for years languished in wine’s outer orbit, though that banishment had little to do with quality. Rijoa’s wines are some of the best in the world. Rather, tempranillo wasn’t cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or pinot noir, and those are the reds that got most of the attention. Wine geeks knew about it, but the grape deserves a wider audience than that.

Enter the Internet, which has allowed tempranillo and its advocates to sidestep the Winestream Media, as with today’s fourth annual International Tempranillo Day. Also important: The discovery that tempranillo does well outside of Spain, something that no one understood before and that has revolutionized Texas wine. I’ve even had tempranillo from Idaho, about as different a region from Rioja as imaginable. No castles, for one thing.

Why is tempranillo worth drinking? First, the Spanish versions are among the best values in the world. Second, it’s a food-friendly wine that doesn’t insult the wine drinker; in fact, most tempranillo needs food, be it red meat or roast chicken. Third, it’s not the usual red wine, and anyone who wants to enjoy wine should be eager to try something that isn’t the usual.

After the jump, the wines:

? Finca Copete Tempranillo 2011 ($11, purchased, 14%): This Argentine wine was the least impressive of the group, with little tempranillo character and an off aroma. I was surprised that it was this poorly made.

? McPherson La Herencia 2012 ($12, sample, 13.9%): This tempranillo blend is one of my favorite Texas red wines, with a funky Spanish-style aroma and juicy red fruit. but it’s starting to show its age and starts to lose that rich fruit after being open an hour or so.

? Brennan Tempranillo 2011 ($26, sample, 13.9%): This Texas red, a previous vintage, is showing its age, and I wish I had tasted the 2012, given the quality of the 2011 when it was new. But not much fruit left.

? Abacela Tempranillo Reserve 2009 ($40, sample, 13.9%): This southern Oregon producer is one of the leaders in post-modern tempranillo. This wine is is elegant and subtle in a way Rioja will never be, with an almost pinot noir-like grace. Look for fresh black fruit and an almost graphite aroma, as opposed to red fruit and tell-tale oak. Let it decant for at least 30 minutes.

? Boulder Creek Tempranillo 2012 ($24, sample, 14.1%): The star of the tasting, displaying varietal character — leather and red cherry fruit — and Colorado terroir, which tends toward a certain dustiness. I tasted this seven months ago, and it was nowhere near what it was this time. Legendary winemaker Warren Winiarski, who also tasted it then, said the wine would improve in the bottle, and he was spot on. Which is why he’s a legend.

? Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2008 ($17, purchased, 13.5%): This Spanish wine needs decanting and to sit even longer than the Abacela. But when it finally opens up, you’ll taste sour cherry fruit, almost orange-ish tannins, and layers of oak weaving in and out. It’s still young, even at this age, but that’s not unusual for quality Rioja. The best value in the group.

? Veleta Tempranillo Privilegio 2009 ($30, sample, 15.1%): Inky and almost syrupy, this Spanish wine has more in common with New World syrah. But it won double gold at this year’s San Francisco International Wine Competition.

? Lleiroso Tempranillo 2009 ($65, sample, 14.5%): Voted best tempranillo at San Francisco competition, with more heft and fruit than similar wines from Rioja. Fine example of direction that some Spanish are going, though not for all tastes and especially at this price.

? Duchman Tempranillo 2011 ($34, sample, 13.5%): Texas’ Duchman is best known for its Italian varietals, and this wine isn’t up to those. Some red fruit, but starting to get old.

? Pedernales Texas Tempranillo 2012 ($20, sample, 13.2%): Pedernales, only a couple of years old, is already one of Texas’ best wineries. This tempranillo needs more balance; the acidity almost overwhelms all. But the grapes are high quality, and experience should point the winery in the right direction.

? Bending Branch Tempranillo 2011 ($40, sample, 13.2%): Lots and lots of oak in this Texas tempranillo, and then more oak just in case you missed it. And then a little more.

? El Coto Rioja Crianza 2010 ($11, purchased, 13%): My personal favorite — a terrific everyday red wine from Spain that’s very crisp with decent cherry fruit, and just enough oak so the first two don’t overwhelm the whole. It’s nowhere near as inspiring as the Riscal, which you could build a meal around, but it’s not supposed to be.

For more on tempranillo:
? Bodega Montecillo ?s Maria Martinez-Sierra
? The final bottle of Solaz
? Spanish wine may offer the best value in the world
? Expensive wine 37: Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva 2001