WINES OF RIOJA, SPAIN AND OUR SOON-TO-BE TRIP
For the past several years it has been my goal to learn, taste and appreciate great wines of Spain. In fact, we had a trip to Spain planned for this year; we would have left May 24th for a 10 day journey, which would have started in Madrid and ended in the heart of the Rioja region.
OUR FAVORITE SPANISH WINES
Our first experience with Spanish wines started many years ago while tasting Garnacha, a very fruit forward style of red wine with great characteristics of ripe cherry, blackberry and hints of candied-apple aromas. The Garnacha grape is grown in many parts of Spain, such as Valencia and La Mancha. It really suits many people who are just getting started on their wine journey, or those who enjoy Merlot.
Tempranillo and Graciano are two other Spanish favorites. Our introduction to Tempranillo and Graciano was a nice surprise! The the flavor profiles were much different from other European “Old World” wines we have enjoyed. Tempranillo was introduced to Spain by the monks from the monasteries of Cluny and Citeaux at the time of medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
In this article, I want to focus on Tempranillo. Tempranillo grows so well in Rioja and has become the region’s principal grape of notoriety. It stands well to aging, making it perfect for the title of Gran Reserva (aged three years, at least one year in the barrel).
One of our current Gran Reserva Tempranillo is available on our website here.
RIOJA: THE LAND OF TEMPRANILLO
The landscape of Spain is rich and diverse. In the north, Segovia contains vineyards galore. The Ribera del Duero region is also known for spectacular growing conditions. And, of course, the “heartbeat” of Spain: Rioja.
Rioja is the most impressive region to look, taste and tour the vineyards along the Oja River. The Rioja regions of Rioja Alta, Alavesa, and Baja are well known for their production of Tempranillo grapes. Vineyards in these regions are often sought after by many fine restaurants, collectors, and make award-winning dinner pairings. We agree that Tempranillo grows best in Rioja Alavesa and also flourishes in Rioja Alta. Wines from these two regions really knock our socks off. The grapes that grow here are more robust with thick skins and intensely black color.
Each sub-region in Rioja has a unique soil that give different structure and characteristics to its own Tempranillo grape. Believe it or not, something as simple as soil makes a big difference in the acidity and richness of a wine, whether the soil consists of calcareous clay, ferruginous clay, or alluvial silt.
TIME TO TASTE TEMPRANILLO, NOW AND LATER!
The aging potential for Tempranillo is outstanding. These wines are categorized as Crianza, Reserva, and finally Gran Reserva. The lush Tempranillo fruit from Rioja transforms itself as it ages into a wonderful with aromas of black cherry, plums, with some spice and cedar aromas. The Crianza is aged for 12 months in oak barrels and another 12 months in the bottle. Next we get to the Reserva, which is aged 18 to 24 months in oak barrels and then 12 months in the bottle. The ultimate is the Gran Reserva, aging for 24 months in oak and another 36 months in the bottle. Wow! You can imagine how robust and complex the wine flavors become after all of that aging.
Spanish wines of all varieties will pair so well with a variety of foods. We love sipping Tempranillo alongside assorted cheeses, always including Spanish manchego and a creamy havarti. Throw in some cured meats and marinated olives and you have a winning charcuterie presentation.
We have been loving our Hidalgo “H” Tradicion with a hearty entree of roast beef dishes or braised short ribs. Add a side of Spanish rice and pan-fried peppers and you simply cannot go wrong.
Regardless of your taste preference in wines, I love to say this: Take the Journey Glass by Glass, Bottle by Bottle!
We say “Salud!” to Spain and the passion of Rioja!