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Tempranillo deserves Texas - (Part 1 of 3)

Tempranillo may have been developed in Rioja, but it was designed for Texas. Recognized around the world, it comes with many synonyms. I have made it in California & Oregon and tasted it in Spain. Washington State has acreage, and so does Argentina & Australia. Tempranillo thrives at higher, arid altitudes of about 3,000 feet in the hills of the Pyrenees. Wait a minute; we just described the terroir and soils of the Texas High Plains. This red-noir varietal can make delicious medium to full-bodied wines at the hands of the winemaker.

Tempranillo has been referred to as Spain's noble grape – a well-deserved title. Be careful not to let things go overripe; the pH can shoot up if left on the vine. Tempranillo has been on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of the Phoenicians. We can even make rosé for those hot summer nights (and yes, that is a Van Halen quote.) The vine is planted on over 600,000 acres around the world, with more than 500,000 being in Spain. We have started the adoption of these vines here in the High Plains of Texas, with more planting next month.

Although Tempranillo is an old grape variety thriving in Rioja, where it originated, it flourishes in climates with diurnal shifts and warm, even hot, days that cool down overnight. It can even manage a drought so long as it is not extreme. Yes, it does produce volumes of wines without distinction (aka plunk) from vast vineyards in the land of Don Quixote known as La Mancha. The Texas High Plains offers Tempranillo nuances and complexity. As a winemaker, I have found it very manipulatable in the cellar, from a light-bodied rosé, a medium sangria, a full-bodied table wine, and even fortified as Tinta Roriz – think Portejas! Tempranillo is one of the few varieties you can take into the winery one way and has three or four styles at the end of the day. Not to mention Tempranillo as a blending component, which this grape is also great for.

What are the different dimensions of Tempranillo? It can be fruit-forward with cherries, raspberries, and even blackberries. Initially aged in the barrel, you will find licorice, leather, and tobacco layers. Give a little more aging, and black tea-like tannins can emerge. The longer it is aged in a bottle or cask, the more it improves. Patience can unlock new nuances to this variety. It is versatile and can pair with numerous cuisines. American oak, French oak, new or seasoned, either or both will work; what style do you want from your cellar?

Let's have a conversation about your Tempranillo.

FERMFORGE/Texas Vine Country


Director of Winemaking


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