Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Soft Landing in Spain: the 2003 Tarantas Tempranillo-Cabernet Crianza

Determined not to fall completely off the wagon with respect to my New Year's wine resolutions, tonight I opened up my first bottle of Spanish wine: the 2003 Tarantas Crianza ($8.99, Whole Foods). Made from 70% Tempranillo (which Tim Elliott predicted would become the hot red in 2007) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this was a nice, soft entry into Spanish wines for a relative beginner. (image from their importer, Natural Merchants)

Made in the Utiel Requena DOC of Valencia, a region distinguished by very cold winter temperatures, followed by hot summers., all the grapes in this wine were sourced from 25+-year-old vines that are farmed organically. Bright garnet in color, the wine delivers a lot of flavor for the price, with the cab providing some extra acidity to balance out the typical fatness of the tempranillo. (fatness here being winespeak for low-acid wines, not big or alcoholic wines) At last, a red blend that makes sense! Hurray!

Even with the blending, I was able to discern the aromas of herbs and berries characteristic of Tempranillo. These aromas were echoed in the flavors, along with some black currant notes from the Cabernet. Like all wines labeled "crianza," the Tarantas Tempranillo-Cabernet was aged for at least 6 months, in this case in new American oak, so that contributed aroma and flavor notes of sweet wood. The whole package was wrapped up in a pleasant, slightly silky texture. It represents very good QPR, and as it was featured in the Whole Foods Top Holiday Wines List it should be widely available through those stores.

I'm still a neophyte with Spanish wine and food pairings, so I played it safe with a grilled steak accompanied by chimichurri sauce and a huge, deconstructed Caesar salad with torn romaine, parmesan crisps, shaved parmesan, lots of cracked pepper, and dressing just drizzled on top. The herbs in the sauce really accentuated the herbal flavors of the Tempranillo, while the grilled steak was an ideal partner to both of the red varietals in this blend. I suspect that the wine would be equally good with food that had an acidic tomato component.


Anonymous said...

Tempranillo, try it with some lamb and you'll see it's true calling! Nice write up, I'll need to see if I can find it in Spain.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks Ryan! Lamb,huh. Will do. I've got some more pure tempranillo here to taste as well as some monastrell. I imagine the lamb would be really good, actually, since it has that sweetness and silky texture.

Tom Kobylarz said...

Hi there! I made it here via Asimov's "The Pour"! Spanish wine is one of the hottest growth segments in wine the past few years (no surprise as the quality years ago had a lot of room to improve). I live just outside NYC in Hoboken NJ and will have to try and hunt some of this Temp/Cab down! If your NY resolution is for more Spanish wines of value try some Muga Reserva (A rare bargain from the Rioja for about $20). As for a region, Jumilla (pronounced who-mee-ya) is hot-hot-hot! Monastrell (known in Southern Rhone as Mourvedre) is the main grape grown in this region on the south east of Spain. It blends exceptionally well and most of the examples I have had are blended with 20-30% cabernet. Luzon is about $7, Altos De Luzon is about $12, Jaun Gil $15, and for a splurge, El Nido's Clio for $35-40 is awesome! These are new world like wines. Most are all full bodied, nicely extracted, and tannic. Just make sure you have someone to share a bottle with - they tend to pack wallop of fruit and thus at times alcohol. Cheers! Tom


Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Tom! Thanks for the tips. I've got a bottle of the Luzon Jumilla and had a Muga Rioja Blanco at Colorado Wine's Sunday Tasting that was really impressive. I'm eager to try the monastrell, and also have some 100% tempranillo to taste in the upcoming weeks. Thanks for coming by and also for leaving a link to your site. Hope to see you back here soon!

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