Faces of Tempranillo with Howard Friedman

We’re a little bit selfish, it’s true.  We host all these classes and events at the store so you have a chance to sample great wine, meet other wine lovers, and enjoy a discount, to be sure.  But we also relish the chance to continue learning ourselves.  This past Thursday was no exception, when we had Howard Friedman, Spanish wine importer and industry veteran, to the store for a class and tasting.

We started with a refreshing Verdejo from Tamaral in Rueda.  Verdejo is a grape that to many tasters is similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but with a bit more depth and body.

Then it was on to the main event, starting with two different unoaked examples of Tempranillo, one from Bodegas Valduero and one from Don Peduz.  These were fascinating to compare and contrast for two reasons.  One was that they are from different areas of Spain – the Bodegas Valduero from Toro, and the Don Peduz from Rioja.

These areas are also home to different clones of Tempranillo, the Rioja clone being the one we’re most used to, with its lighter color and bright acidity.  The Tinta de Toro, on the other hand, is darker, with more intense berry fruit and fuller body.  The Don Peduz was also fermented by carbonic maceration, so it was interesting to taste two different fermentation methods with  no oak to obscure their differences in aroma and flavor.

From then on we tasted a variety of Tempranillos of different vintages, all but one from Ribera del Duero.  It was enlightening to taste examples that saw different amounts of oak and different lengths of aging.  We’re so used to thinking of Rioja when we think of Tempranillo, so it was great to taste a variety of wines side by side from another part of Spain.

The fact that a different clone of Tempranillo, known as Tinto Fino, is grown in this area was also evident in these wines, especially in the younger wines like the Bodegas Valduero Ribera Del Duero Crianza 2009.  While traditional Rioja can take time to absorb its oak, these wines, with their fuller body and more intense fruit flavors, seemed better able to handle the oak treatment as young wines.  The Tamaral Ribera del Duero Crianza 2008 showed beautifully as well.

One of the best things about the evening was how much time Howard spent talking about the culture, history and geography of Spain.  With every wine we tasted, we talked about what we’d pair with it, and what would be traditional to pair with it in Spain.

This is a familiar conversation to us, because we spend most of our time at the shop talking about what we’ve eaten, will eat, or want to eat, and what wine would go best with it!  With their freshness, purity of fruit, and moderate acidity, all of these wines, even the most mature examples, would be immensely flexible at the table, with everything from roast pork to, of course, tapas!

Howard also talked a bit about the trip he organizes every year for customers who are interested in learning more about Spain.  This 12-day extravaganza in September focuses on wine and visiting wineries, but there are trips to museums, cathedrals, restaurants, and a few days in Madrid as well.

Thanks to everyone who joined us last Thursday and thanks most of all to Howard, whose wealth of industry and travel experience was a privilege to learn from.

Here are the wines we enjoyed:

Tamaral Rueda 2011

Bodegas Valduero Arbucala Toro Joven Esencia 2010

Don Peduz Rioja Joven Selección 2010

Bodegas Valduero Arbucala Toro Crianza Esencia 2009

Valdrinal Ribera Del Duero “6 Mesas” 2010

Tamaral Ribera Del Duero Crianza 2008

Bodegas Valduero Ribera Del Duero Crianza 2009

Bodegas Valduero Ribera Del Duero Reserva 2005

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