Unoaked Tempranillo for Summer’s Heat



Summer can be a tough time for reds. The sweltering weather says that we should be lying on deck chairs drinking ice-cold rosé, but summer foods like grilled burgers, sausages and steaks cry out for red wine. What to do?

We’ve found that unoaked reds can be the perfect solution. In fact, for the last couple of years, we’ve been having a little love affair with unoaked Spanish reds.

Tempranillo is a perfect example. This medium-bodied grape has a fair amount of acidity, which is one of the main things that make wines food-friendly. When it’s given lavish American oak treatment like traditional Rioja often is, some of that fruit is lost, the tannins can get heavy, and the wine is best with rich foods in cooler weather.

Unoaked Tempranillos, on the other hand, have proven to be especially versatile. An unoaked Tempranillo retains all that fresh fruit and mouthwatering acidity, with no oak to weigh it down. It becomes a red you can chill down for a few minutes in the refrigerator and sip on its own, or pair with something heartier off the grill.

Norberto Miguel

Winemaker Norberto Miguel

One favorite: Bodegas Laukote ‘Borg’. Winemaker Norberto Miguel begins with Tempranillo grapes from what he calls his “younger” vines – merely 20-30 years old.

The grapes go into stainless steel tanks and Norberto blankets them with CO2, allowing the fermentation to start by carbonic maceration. This retains more fresh, fruity top notes in the grapes, and keeps tannins in check – exactly what you want in a warm weather red.

After this, things get even more interesting. To extract maximum color, structure and flavor, without using oak barrels, Norberto puts on breathing gear and jumps right into the tank to move things around. It sounds crazy, but the results speak for themselves – a wine that looks dark and brooding, explodes with aromas of blackberries, plum and smoke, and has plenty of ripe tanning, but still isn’t too heavy to drink with those delicious grilled summer foods.

Do you have a favorite summer red?



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