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The tantalising Tempranillo grape - wine's hidden gem

Mon 19 Oct 2009 14:52

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The exact origins of wine, in terms of where and when it was first made, is something that is still not known, and is still a hotly debated topic today.

The date when wine first appeared is at least 6,000 year BC and most authorities believe that the tipple was first made in either Georgia, the ex-Soviet state at borders with Turkey, or in the middle east, in the country that is now known as Iran.

Wine quickly spread though Europe, and over the centuries France became the greatest exponent of growing grapes to make it, finding out the best soils to use for growing grapes, and how to make wine in a variety of styles.

In fact, most of the world's most famous grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay were developed in France and are considered to be French varieties - even though they are now grown around the world.

But other countries such as Greece, Italy and Portugal have their own native grapes, some of which have become famous in their own right.

And the most important grape in Spain is undoubtedly Tempranillo, which is the main grape of many wines from the country, including Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

This grape produces a rich, fruity wine often with hints of tobacco and spice. Here wine expert Tom Cannavan gives his top picks of this type of wine.

1. Murviedro, Crianza 2006, Spain, priced at £6.99 from Sainsbury’s (or £5 until October 27)

This wine, which hails from Valencia in the south-east of Spain, is mostly Tempranillo with some Syrah and Monastrell grapes. It is aged in American oak barrels to give extra spice and  vanilla to the ripe, fruity aromas and flavours, and has tasting cues of blackberries.

It goes well with most roast meats, especially lamb and pork and mature cheddar.

2. Wrattonbully Tempranillo 2008, Australia, priced at £7.99 from Marks & Spencer

This wine comes from rattonbully in South Australia. There are more and more Tempranillo being planted in Australia, and winemakers there are very excited about its future for making high quality, medium-priced wines.

This one is aged in only older, large barrels so there's not too much oak influence. It’s a wine with suppleness and a bit of structure, and has flavours of strawberries and spices.

If drinking with a meal, it goes well with roast lamb, as well as chorizo or a nice steak.

3. Bodegas Altanza, Rioja Crianza 2005, Spain, priced at £10.05 from L’Art du Vin (in Edinburgh)
Rioja is perhaps the most famous name behind the Tempranillo grape and this 'Crianza' - meaning it spent a relatively short time in oak barrels compared to a Reserva or Gran Reserva - is a lovely wine made in a modern, very fruity and plush style, with some French and American oak barrels adding tobacco and coffee notes.

It drinks beautifully, but should also cellar for five years or more.

With flavours of plums, black cherries, leather and coffee beans, it goes great with casseroles, wild mushrooms, roast duck or lamb.

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