Tempranillo is one of Spain’s most favoured varetials. It’s a black grape that is grown widely across the entire country. As a result, it is harvested and turned into wine of either single varietal, or added with other varietals of the country, including Graciano, Garnacha (Spanish for Grenache), Mazuelo, or some international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Tempranillo is a thick-skinned grape, and it needs hot heat to significantly ripen on the vine. As a result, Spain is a superior area of the world to grow Tempranillo, although we are seeing a few plantings here and there in the Pacific Northwest. Elevation Cellars out of Washington State makes a gorgeous Tempranillo, and some vineyards even in the Okanagan are attempting to grow Tempranillo and experiment with their micro-climates.
Anciano Wines right out of Spain, are making 100% single varietal Tempranillo wines that are age worthy. I tried their 2001 Gran Reserva Tempranillo, and it was
Spain traditionally loves to age their wines for many years. Spanish law defines wine ageing categories that winemakers must follow. Wines can fall into any of the following categories:
Joven: A wine may or may not see any oak.
Crianza: Reds must be aged for a minimum of 24 months, 6 of which are in small oak barrels. Rose & white wines aged at least 18 months.
Reserva: Red wines aged a minimum of 36 months, 12 of which must be in small oak barrels, and the rest in bottle. Rose and white wines aged for at least 18 months, including 6 months in small oak barrels, and the rest in bottle.
Gran Reserva: Red wines must be aged at least 60 months (Wow!), including at least 18 months in small oak barrels, and the rest in bottle. Rose and white wines must be aged for 48 months, including 6 months in barrels, the rest in bottles.
Take note, dear wine lovers, that Reserva wines are generally from better vintages, and Gran Reserva wines are from amazing ones. As mentioned earlier, as Tempranillo needs a lot of heat to ripen, the kind of fruit that a producer harvests, will determine how far up the “ageing scale” the wine makes it to.
Anciano 2001 Gran Reserva Tempranillo was such a treat. At a P-H-E-N-O-M-E-N-A-L price point, this wine was a gorgeous garnet colour. Normally Tempranillo is a dark purple colour, but because of its age, it is beginning to move towards tawny — the colour of older, mature wines. Still developing, it showed clear expressions of cherry, blackberry, brambleberry, and sweet vanilla from the oaking. It was dry on the palate, and sat at 13% alcohol. The tannins were not overbearing, and I set them at a medium scale, signifying to me that this wine is totally still ageable. As the fruit is still bright and alive even after 11 years, and the tannins are still visible, I would completely put this wine down for at least another 5-7 years. On the palate, sour cherry and redcurrant appeared, with a spiciness that complemented the smokiness of the oak. The length was very long, so even though I had consumed the wine, I was able to enjoy the complexity of this wine for long afterwards. Well-balanced, this wine is most definitely approachable at this very moment in time, but one could enjoy it in future as well.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tempranillo as a varietal, click here.