While nearly everyone knows that Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November, it is much less known that another celebration – this one heralding the Tempranillo grape variety – takes place two weeks earlier on the second Thursday of the month.
Created in 2011 by TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society), International Tempranillo Day occurs on November 12 this year. While not a formal holiday, of course, this is a great excuse to trade out your usual wine of choice and taste some Tempranillo, particularly if you are less familiar with this grape. These are typically wines with great red fruit character, some complexity with tobacco and leafy notes, medium to full body, pleasant acidity and can be wonderful with food.
The Tempranillo variety is most closely associated with Spain, where it finds a home throughout the country and is known by over 60 different regional synonyms. Not surprisingly, given its proximity to Spain, Tempranillo is also widely planted in Portugal, where it is called Tinta Roriz in the Douro and Aragonez in the Alentejo. Now, more widely planted – it is presently the 4th most grown wine grape in the world – the grape has also found its way to the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa to name a few.
But, despite its more global nature, Tempranillo is perhaps best known for the Spanish wines of Rioja and Ribero del Duero. Situated in north-central Spain, along the Ebro River, the Rioja region is made up of three subregions – Alta, Alavesa and Baja – and holds Spain’s highest quality wine classification, DOCa. Although Rioja wines may include Garnacha (aka Grenache), Mazuelo and Graciano in the blend, they are primarily produced with Tempranillo. Interestingly, a recent tasting of Rioja wines included three of four wines that were 100% Tempranillo, making them even more perfect for International Tempranillo Day!
Artadi Tempranillo 2012, $17.00
This wine was lush and generous on the palate, with red fruits, slight oak, leaf and tobacco notes, typical of Tempranillo. The fruit was concentrated with spicy and woody notes that lingered in the long finish.
Carlos Serres Old Vines Tempranillo 2012, $11.00
This wine was lighter-bodied than the first, with lots of leafy and tobacco aromas and flavors, punctuated by red fruit and flowers.
Bodegas Ontanon Viticultura Ecologica Tempranillo 2012, $12.00
Produced with Certified Organic grapes, this wine was the most tannic, with equal parts red fruit, wood and leaf aromas and flavors, culminating in long length.
Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva Tempranillo 2005, $25.00
This wine’s designation as Gran Reserva means that it has met the minimum aging requirement of 36 months aging in oak plus another three years in bottle before release. Despite its age, the wine was quite youthful, with bright acidity, lots of spice and leafy notes in the foreground, with red fruit lingering in the background.