Abacela Barrel Select Tempranillo 2013
Tempranillo is a world-famous grape because of its starring role in the historic Spanish region of Rioja. Great wines are also made from the grape in Ribera del Duero and it plays an important part in blends in Portugal for port and the red wines of Douro and Alentejo.
For those reasons, it’s no surprise that winemakers across the world have experimented with the grape. However, wines from California, Argentina, and Australia are attractive and fruity but without the complexity and subtlety that marks the best Rioja or Ribera del Duero.
That’s because Tempranillo is a particular grape. It’s early ripening, so if it’s planted in warm climates it just doesn’t develop sufficiently concentrated aromas. In Rioja, altitude and Atlantic influence cool the environment, while in hot, inland Ribera del Duero the best wines come from vines planted as high as 850m.
Back in the 1990s, a Florida dermatologist called Earl Jones questioned why there was no world-class Tempranillo grown in the United States. Together with his son, a trained climatologist, they spent three years searching for a climate that matched the conditions found in Spain. The result was Umpqua Valley in Oregon.
The winery is called Abacela and their Barrel Reserve Tempranillo is the best wine from the grape from outside of Spain I have tasted. It’s fruity but not overtly so; the tannins are firm, dry, and grainy; and there’s a smoky, tobacco quality: all characteristics one would expect from the best Spanish wines and proof that thorough research should always be carried out when planting grape varieties for the first time.
Price: $33. In the USA, Abacela have a wine club (their other wines are also excellent); in the U.K., Savage Selection import the wines.
Grape Variety: Tempranillo
Region: Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Ageing: 31% new, mostly French, oak; aged for just under 2 years
Food pairing: lamb and/or a roasted vegetable casserole; hard cheese.