Vinopolpick Thursday- March 27

March 27, 2014

Spain’s Chameleon Grape

Known as Cencibel, Tinto del Pais and several other synonyms throughout Spain, Tempranillo is the foundation of Spanish red wine. From Rioja to La Mancha, this black grape variety is widely grown in its native Spain to make rich reds, providing the area with wines that can range from bright, lively, and fruit driven to dark, concentrated and spicy.

Winemaking in Spain extends back over 2,000 years, beginning with the Phoenicians. Though there are only scattered references to the name Tempranillo early on, it is likely one of Spain’s earliest varietals, its name appearing in writing dating back as far as the 13th century. Translated as ‘little early one’, Tempranillo was given this name by Spanish grape growers who observed its habit of ripening earlier than Garnacha, its traditional Spanish blending partner. Tempranillo grapes, due to early ripening, are not known for naturally high acidity, but do thrive in areas with high diurnal temperature variation, where hot, sunny days allow its thick-skinned berries to ripen fully, and cold nights help them to retain their natural acid balance. Spain’s continental climate and landscape make it Tempranillo’s natural homeland, where it has continued to thrive for hundreds of years.

During the 1990s, Tempranillo started experiencing a renaissance in wine production, a result of the efforts of a ‘new wave’ of Spanish winemakers who showed that it was possible to produce wines of great character and quality in areas outside of the home-base Rioja region. With its rise in production, Tempranillo varietal wines have become more common, especially in the well-suited, cooler Spanish regions like Ribera del Duero and Navarra. Increasing worldwide popularity of Tempranillo shows that when the grape is grown in the right spot and with real care, it can produce extremely delicious, long-lasting wines.

So vital is Tempranillo to all Spanish wine regions that it travels under many local aliases. In the small, warmer Toro wine region, the local, loose-bunched fruity Tempranillo is known as Tinto del Toro. In Valdepeñas, Tempranillo is known as Cencibel. In Levante and in Manchuela it is known as Jancivera. In Navarra, north-east of Rioja, Tempranillo is gaining increasing superiority over its traditional blending partner Garnacha, as the area gains more worldwide attention for its deeply colored, rich wines.

Rioja’s beautiful mountains in the backdrop at Bodegas Muga

Tempranillo is best known as the dominant red grape in wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Spain’s two most famous wine regions. In general, Riojas tend to be medium bodied wines, with more acid, while Riberas tend more toward richness and dense structure. These wines generally feature Tempranillo blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano, though there has been an increase in more single varietal Tempranillos recently.

In Rioja, oak aging is employed to generate increased complexity and harmony, American oak is the traditional choice of winemakers in Rioja, and Tempranillo integrates beautifully with the notes imparted by new oak barrels. From the best sites, these wines can be remarkably concentrated with great aging potential. In Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo is equally important and is known simply as Tinto Fino or Tinto del Pais, the wines generally darker and more powerful than the most traditional Riojas. These wines also often see less new oak treatment, as winemakers prefer neutral barrels to allow Tempranillo’s fruit to shine, with a focus on more spiced flavors. For the wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, there are three quality levels that appear on the label. Everyday drinking wines fall under the category of “Crianza”, “Reserva” denotes more complex and concentrated wines that see more barrel aging, and “Gran Reserva” refers to the most intense wines, with even more barrel age, made only in great vintages.

Trained lines of Tempranillo at Vina Sastre’s estate in Ribera del Duero

Regardless of style, Tempranillo wines are deep red in color and can provide a variety of character, with aromas and flavors that can include berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb. Tempranillo’s complex layers of flavor make it perhaps one of the most food friendly wines around. These Spanish reds, offered here today, provide versatility and value for any wine lover!



Amezola Inigo Rioja 2010 ($39.95) $18 special 24+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points
 “The 2009 Inigo Amezola is 100% Tempranillo. It has a super-ripe, almost Rancio-like bouquet with notes of kirsch and eau-de-vie. The palate has supple entry and is beautifully balanced with notes of allspice and a touch of sweet raisin. This is very composed and supremely well-crafted. Drink: 2012-2018+.”

Arroyo Val Sotillo Crianza 2006 ($34.95) $21.90 special 24+ bottles available
Case-12 Arroyo Val Sotillo Crianza ($299.95) $239 special (that’s $19 / bottle!)
Wine Enthusiast 91 points
 “Vibrant and honest, with expressive raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors accented by mint leaf, liqueur and cassis. Really hits the spot and then fades away in no hurry. A smoking-good crianza that hammers home the fact that Ismael Arroyo’s wines are still leaders in RDD. Drink now-2015”

Artadi Pagos Viejos Rioja 2007 ($99.95) $79 special 13 bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points
 “The 2007 Pagos Viejos is sourced from Artadi’s three best and most elevated vineyard sites, all planted to Tempranillo over 75 years of age. The wine was aged for 18 months in new French oak. It sports a superb aromatic array of toasty new oak, pencil lead, violets, incense, black cherry, and blueberry. Elegant, ripe, and velvety on the palate, it has superb depth and concentration, savory flavors, a firm structure, and a 45-second finish. Give it 6-8 years of additional bottle age and drink it from 2016 to 2032.”

Artadi Vinas De Gain Rioja 2009 ($26.95) $19 special 24+ bottles available
The 2009 Vinas de Gain is a 100% Tempranillo wine from vines between 25 and 40 years of age, matured in new, one- and two-year-old casks. This is Artadi’s entry-level Rioja which affords a brilliant insight into this Bodega’s style at a fantastic price.

Baron De Ley Rioja Gran Reserva 2001 ($49.95) $39 special 7 bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points
 “The 2001 Gran Reserva, from another superb vintage, spent 30 months in French and American oak. It reveals beautiful, nearly ethereal aromatics from its extended stay in barrel and bottle. Smoke, Asian spices, incense, violets, black cherry, and blackberry notes are followed by a round, silky wine of finesse. As approachable as it is now, it still has the balance and structure for continued evolution. Drink this lovely (and well priced) offering over the next 8-10 years.”

Benjamin Romeo La Cueva Contador 2009 ($99.95) $79 special 9 bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points
 “The 2009 La Cueva de Contador is sourced from declassified Contador fruit: pure Tempranillo cropped at 1.2kg per vine that is aged in new French oak for 18 months. Its name is derived from the ancient caves under San Vicente de la Sonsierra castle where the old cellar is located. It has a seductive bouquet with beautifully defined, precise, graphite-tinged black and blueberry fruit that unfolds with passing moments. The palate has immense purity and sense of symmetry and gently grips the mouth on the long, elegant finish. If you cannot afford Contador, well, this sure as hell comes close!”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Prado Enea 2004 1.5 LITER ($129.95) $99 special 13 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “80% tempranillo, with garnacha, mazuelo and graciano):  Dark ruby.  An intensely perfumed nose displays cherry-cola, cassis, licorice and woodsmoke, with a sexy floral quality and very good focus.  Juicy, penetrating dark fruit flavors are given spine by tangy acidity and pick up bitter chocolate and spicecake nuances with air.  Supple tannins add shape to the very long, sappy, smoke-accented finish.  This is still a baby.”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Prado Enea 2005 ($69.95) $49 special 24+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points 
“The 2005 Prado Enea Gran Reserva spends 36-months in oak, nine months in new oak after which it is racked into American oak that is ‘semi-new’ (i.e. a new barrel that is ‘broken in’ with a wine beforehand). It has an unashamedly opulent bouquet of primal, ripe, boysenberry, mulberry, dark chocolate and crushed violets that blossom with aeration. The palate is full-bodied with crisp acidity cutting through the pure blackberry and cassis fruit. It has wonderful focus and intensity, though the finish demonstrates convincing composure. This is an outstanding Gran Reserva whose silky texture will instantly win you over. Drink 2013-2030+”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Seleccion Especiale 2006 ($39.95) $33 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
 “(70% tempranillo, 20% garnacha and the rest mazuelo and graciano):  Saturated ruby.  Pungent cherry and dark berry aromas, with spice and floral nuances adding complexity.  Sweet and concentrated, but with excellent cut and vivacity to its dark fruit flavors.  Builds and deepens toward the back, finishing with a sappy floral quality and resonating spiciness.  Offers very good richness of flavor with no excess fat.”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Seleccion Especiale 2009 ($49.95) $39 special 24+ bottles available
Wine Spectator 95 points
 “Powerful yet harmonious, this rich red delivers black cherry, licorice, fresh herb, smoke and mineral flavors that mingle seamlessly over firm, well-integrated tannins, while balsamic-tinged acidity drives the flavors through the long, spicy finish. Drink now through 2025.”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Torre Muga 2006 ($79.95) $59 special 18 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “($94; 75% tempranillo, 15% mazuelo and 10% graciano) Opaque ruby. Musky, complex and powerfully scented, with floral-accented red and dark berry aromas, complemented by notes of spicecake and minerals. Lush, sweet raspberry and mulberry flavors are given spine by juicy acidity and pick up a bitter chocolate note with air. Dusty tannins add grip to a very long, smoky finish, which leaves sweet red fruit and floral pastille notes behind. This was raised in all new French oak after fermentation in large American oak vats, but the wood is an afterthought.”

Campillo Rioja Reserva Selecta 2001($37.95) $29 special 24+ bottles available      

Finca De La Rica El Buscador Crianza ($14.95) $8.80 special 13 bottles available
90% Tempranillo & 10% Garnacha

Lopez Heredia Bosconia Gran Reserva 1995 ($99.95) $89 special 1 bottle available
Wine Advocate 94 points
 “The 1995 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva has an alluring leather, dried orange peel and strawberry leaf scented bouquet that blossoms beautifully in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine, elegant tannins. It is both precise and exquisitely defined with hints of cured meat and leather towards the graceful finish. Drink now-2018+”

Lopez Heredia Rioja Bosconia Reserva 2003($37.95) $26 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points 
“(80% tempranillo, 15% garnacha, 3% graciano and 2% mazuelo):  Medium red.  Ripe red fruit, flowers and spices on the nose, with a smoky nuance emerging with aeration; very fresh for this notoriously hot vintage.  Concentrated but not at all heavy, with intense red berry and floral pastille flavors and a deeper note of singed plum.  The finish is bright and high-pitched, with lingering cherry and raspberry flavors and a hint of candied licorice.”

Lopez Heredia Tondonia Rsva Rioja 2001 375ml ($29.95) $24 special 24+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points 
“The 2001 Vina Tondonia Reserva is bridled with a lovely nose of decayed red fruit, fireside hearth, a touch of mulberry and small red cherry. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, crisp red fruits (wild strawberry and cranberry) with a sharp, vibrant, tense, tannic finish that has immense precision. There is a slight saline note lingering in the mouth after the wine has (regretfully) departed…”

Marques De Legarda Rioja Crianza 2008 ($17.95) $14 special 24+ bottles available
Case-12 Marques De Legarda Rioja Crianza 2008 ($179.95) $149 special (that’s 12.40 / bottle!)
Wine Advocate 91 points
 “The 2008 Marques de Legarda Crianza has an attractive bouquet of brambly red berry fruits tinged with marmalade and Moroccan leather. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and is well-balanced. It builds gently to a lovely, dusky dark chocolate-coated finish that maintains freshness and tradition to the very finish. This is very commendable. Drink now-2015. ”

Marques De Legarda Rioja Gran Reserva 2001 ($49.95) $24 special 17 bottles available
Marques De Legarda Rioja Reserva Familia 1995 ($99.95) $79 special 18 bottles available 

Remelluri Lindes De Remelluri Rioja 2009 ($29.95) $24 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points “Bright ruby-red. Sexy, floral-accented aromas of candied red fruits, cherry-cola and Asian spices, with slow-building tobacco and licorice nuances. Fleshy and expansive on the palate, offering sweet cherry and black raspberry flavors and a touch of cracked pepper. Finishes with very good energy and length, leaving floral and cola notes behind.”

Remelluri Rioja 2008 ($39.95) $33 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
 “(mostly tempranillo, with garnacha, graciano, viura and malvasia):  Ruby-red.  Redcurrant, cherry, rose pastille and spicecake on the highly perfumed nose and in the mouth. Silky, sweet and penetrating, with slow-building tannins and excellent finishing cut and length.  A very successful wine for this difficult vintage, and it’s built to reward at least another ten years of aging.”

Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 ($89.95) $79 special 13 bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points
 “The 2005 Gran Reserva is the first since 1999 selected from the best casks, where it is aged for 25 months in used French and American oak. It has a wonderful, wild mint-scented bouquet with hints of licorice and white fennel. The palate is medium-bodied with bold tannins that bolster its vaulted structure. It has very good weight with grippy, dry, tertiary tannins towards the long finish. It will need several years in the cellar. Drink 2016-2025.”

Riojanas Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva 1998 ($59.95) $39 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “Dark red with a pale rim. Pungent, spicy nose shows pure cherry, redcurrant and plum complemented by succulent herbs, vanillin oak spice and a hint of dried flowers. Supple, lush and deep, with sweet red fruit flavors framed by gentle, harmonious tannins. Fleshy and sweet on the back end, with impressive concentration and focus. This should age well.”

Senorio de P. Pecina Rioja Crianza 2003 ($21.95) $14 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 89 points
 “Medium red. Dried cherry and plum aromas show a slightly roasted character, in the style of the vintage. Fleshy and gently sweet, offering cherry-vanilla and red berry preserve flavors and no rough edges or tannins. Finishes smooth, broad and sweet, with a lingering vanilla note. This is delicious now and would stand up to a rich red meat dish.”

Zuazo Gaston Rioja Crianza 2008 ($17.95) $14 special 6 bottles available


Bodegas Alion Ribera Del Duero 2008 ($89.95) $66 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
 “Deep ruby.  Expressive aromas of candied cherry and cassis, with complicating notes of cola, anise and violet.  Plush and seamless on the palate, offering sweet red and dark berry flavors and slow-building oak spice and licorice nuances.  Closes on a smoky note, with spiciness and very good persistence.  Pretty impressive for the year.”

Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Ribera 2010 ($17.95) $14 special 11 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 90 points
 “Saturated ruby.  Primary dark berry and cherry skin aromas are complicated by notes of rose and anise.  Juicy and precise on the palate, with very good energy to its redcurrant and bitter cherry flavors.  Finishes tight and energetic, with the redcurrant and anise notes repeating.  This is a baby.”

Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Ribera 2011 ($17.95) $10.90 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 90+ points
 “Dark purple.  Intense, spice-accented aromas and flavors of cherry compote and cassis, with cola nuance building with air.  Sappy, penetrating and extremely young, but promising, with strong finishing cut and silky tannins.”

Emilio Moro Malleolus 2009 ($49.95) $39 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “Opaque purple.  A heady, complex bouquet evokes blackberry and blackcurrant liqueur, with suave oak spice and potpourri elements.  Sweet, broad and pliant, the  intense dark fruit flavors showing great power, richness and depth.  Very young but flat-out seductive, finishing on a sweet, sappy note of candied dark fruits, with lush, harmonious tannins.”

Emilio Moro Malleolus Sanchomartin 2009 ($179.95) $149 special 3 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “Dark purple.  Sexy black and blue fruit aromas are complicated by vanilla, incense and cola qualities.  Fleshy cassis and blueberry preserve flavors are sharpened by tangy acidity and given depth by notes of licorice and bitter chocolate.  Gains sweetness and depth with air, finishing on a sweet black raspberry note, with slow-building tannins.  This wine is shockingly elegant for its level of concentration and power. ”

Emilio Moro Malleolus Valderramiro 2008 1.5 LITER ($249.95) $199.90 special 1 bottle available
Wine Advocate 93-96 points
 “The 2008 Malleolus de Valderramiro will be bottled soon. It is slightly lighter in color than the 2009 as well as a bit more structured. It lacks the unctuousness of the 2009 but is nonetheless an outstanding young wine. The Moro family believes that frost in the last week of harvest kept the 2008 vintage from being at the same level as 2009.”

Emilio Moro Malleolus Valderramiro 2009 ($159.95) $99 special 17 bottles available
Wine Advocate 97-100 points
 “The 2009 Malleolus de Valderramiro was tasted from a barrel sample. Opaque purple in color, it offers up an alluring bouquet of Asian spices, incense, licorice, blueberry, and blackberry. Dense, rich, and full-bodied, it has great flavors and balance. Once in bottle it looks to be a candidate for perfection.”

Fescenino Ribera Del Duero 2008 ($14.95) $11.90 special 24+ bottles available

Pingus PSI Ribera Del Duero 2010($41.95) $29 special 9 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points “Bright purple.  Pungent, expressive scents of cherry and dark berries, dried flowers and incense.  Sappy cherry and cassis flavors are braced by tangy acidity and gain sweetness with air.  Richer on the finish, with its resounding notes of cherry compote and Asian spices.  This vibrant wine drinks very easily right now.”

Pingus PSI Ribera Del Duero 2011 ($41.95) $33 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
 “Glass-staining ruby.  Dark berry, bitter chocolate and potpourri on the perfumed nose.  Spicy, penetrating black and blue fruit flavors show impressive clarity and lift, with a zesty mineral nuance adding bite.  Smooth and seamless on the subtly tannic finish, which leaves juicy blueberry and violet pastille notes behind.”

Pingus Flor De Pingus 2010 ($109.95) $69 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “Vivid purple.  Ripe cherry, cassis, potpourri and cracked pepper on the intensely perfumed nose, with subtle licorice and woodsmoke qualities adding complexity.  Deep, sweet and expansive, offering explosive dark berry compote, floral pastille and anise flavors.  A spicy quality gains strength on the finish, which leaves smoke and mineral notes behind.  This bottling has been going from strength to strength in recent years and offers superb value relative to its ritzy Pingus sibling.”

Pingus Flor De Pingus 2011 ($99.95) $79 special 24+ bottles available
Wine Advocate 93-95 points
 “The 2011 Flor de Pingus demonstrates wonderful purity on the nose, perhaps more feminine and wily than the 2010 with luscious raspberry, blackberry and forest floor notes. The palate is full-bodied with filigree tannins and a little more volume than the 2010. It seems generous and very supple at this early juncture with a caressing, peppery finish that is extremely well focused. There 2011 has awesome potential and I cannot wait to taste this after two or three years in bottle.”

Vega Sicilia Unico Ribera Del Duero 2003 ($399.95) $289 special 9 bottles available
Wine Spectator 94 points
 “This red is generous and expressive, delivering dried cherry, tobacco, mineral and spice flavors in a rich, round texture, with a good balance of well-integrated tannins and racy acidity. More harmonious than assertive, but shows plenty of depth. Drink now through 2023.”

Vega Sicilia Valbuena Ribera Del Duero 2008 ($149.95) $119 special 5 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “Opaque ruby.  Sexy, oak-spicy aromas of dark berry preserves, pipe tobacco, licorice and vanilla, with a smoky overtone.  Plush, expansive blueberry and cherry-vanilla flavors show superb depth and pick up Indian spice and bitter chocolate nuances with air.  Finishes sweet and seamless, with slow-building tannins and a whiplash of sweet blue fruit.”

Vina Sastre Ribera Del Duero 2011 ($19.95) $16 special 24+ bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points 
“Bright purple. Pungent aromas of blueberry, cherry-cola and smoky minerals, with a spicy overtone.  Expansive black and blue fruit flavors show impressive depth and energy, picking up a smoky nuance with air. Closes on a spicy note, with gentle tannic grip and excellent length. Pretty impressive for an entry-level wine, especially from this vintage.”

Vina Sastre Pagos De Santa Cruz 2010 ($79.95) $69 special 11 bottles available     

Vina Sastre Santa Cruz Grand Reserva 1996 ($149.95) $119 special 11 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “Dark red. Captivating aromas of dried rose, dark chocolate and truffle. Silky on entry, then suave and perfumed in the middle palate, with subtle flavors of minerals and baking spices. Offers superb intensity without any excess weight. Rising finish features very fine tannins and superb persistence. Not a fleshy wine but classy and highly complex.”

Vina Sastre Santa Cruz Grand Reserva 1999 ($129.95) $99 special 11 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “Ruby-red. Sexy, expansive aromas of cherry-vanilla, blueberry, spicecake and potpourri. Lush, palate-coating dark fruit flavors display liqueur-like depth and sweetness but are unexpectedly energetic, with notes of zesty minerals and candied flowers adding complexity. The floral note resonates on the endless, juicy, sharply focused finish. Sastre thinks that when this wine is mature, “in about 10 or 15 more years,” it will smell and taste a lot like a Barolo”

Vivir, Vivir Ribera Del Duero 2007($17.95) $14.90 special 9 bottles available
Wine Advocate 90 points 
“The 2007 Vivir, vivir is 100% Tempranillo sourced from 20- to 60-year-old vines in La Horra. It was aged for ten months in tank prior to bottling. Dark ruby-colored, it features racy aromatics of mineral, spice box, black cherry and blackberry. Silky on the palate with no hard edges, this tasty wine will provide pleasure over the next three years.”


Bodegas Leda Mas De Leda 2007($24.95) $16 special 2 bottles available

Valpiculata Valpculata Tinta De Toro 2007 ($39.95) $29 special 10 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92+ points “The 2007 Valpiculata was sourced from 100+-year-old, ungrafted Tinto de Toro vines and aged for 18 months in new French oak. Purple/black with a brooding bouquet of pain grille, graphite, espresso, spice box, black cherry, and blackberry, on the palate this full-bodied wine has terrific volume and concentration, layered fruit, savory black fruit flavors, and exceptional length. In the scheme of things, it is a great value in serious red wine. Valpiculata’s wines are bottled without fining or filtration, directly into the bottle from the cask.”