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¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Tempranillo

29 May

My favorite wine anecdote is one I could share during one of those silly business “icebreakers” where you have to tell a group of complete strangers your most embarrassing moment. I was talking vino at a party with some people I’d just met and I mentioned a Tempranillo I had tried at a new tapas bar that had opened nearby. Being a Latina, I pronounced the word “tapas” with a native Spanish accent.

I started getting uncomfortable looks from the others, and finally one of them cleared his throat and said, “Um, you go to topless bars?”

For the record, I do not, but if you ever find yourself at a Spanish-themed topless bar–or at a restaurant with an eclectic wine list–here’s all you need to know about Tempranillo.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Tempranillo, a red wine, gets its name from the Spanish word temprano, which means early (the grape ripens early). Depending on where you are, Tempranillo goes by a host of aliases: Cencibel, Ull de Lliebre, Tinto del País or Tinto del Toro in other regions of Spain; Tinta Roriz or Tinta Aragones in Portugal; and Tempranilla in Argentina.

MY ROOTS: Tempranillo’s birthplace is the Rioja region of Spain, but some folks think that it was brought there by French monks who were making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Tempranillo is the core grape of red Rioja wines, where it’s often blended with Garnacha. It’s also one of the main red grapes in Ribera del Duero, where it’s been used for more than 100 years at the prestigious Vega Sicilia winery. Today, Tempranillo is grown in Mexico, California, Italy, Argentina, Australia and South Africa.

ALL ABOUT ME: If you like cherry and plum on the palate, you’ll enjoy Tempranillo. Grapes that were grown in iron-rich soil may show some iron-mineral notes. When it’s aged, Tempranillo displays beautiful caramel, tobacco and tea leaf aromas. This is a dry wine with medium tannins, medium alcohol and medium to high acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: Break out the jamón serrano and the chorizo. Tempranillo is dreamy with a charcuterie plate, and if you happen to be at a tapas bar, it’s a great match for croquetas (ham croquettes), meatballs in tomato sauce and pinches (lamb or pork kabobs). Tempranillo is also tasty with roasted lamb and Indian food.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: A bottle of Tempranillo can cost anywhere from $10 to $300. Some budget-friendly wines worth trying include: Luis Alegre Koden 2011, Sancho Barón 2009, Lar de Sotomayor Vendimia Seleccoinada 2010, and from Mexico, Alximia Alma 2012.

Something to ponder as you sip your next glass of Tempranillo: You can enjoy Tempranillo and still keep your top on, while getting your tapas on.



¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Barbaresco

22 Jan

Happy Wednesday, chicas y chicos!

I’m still reveling in the newness of 2014, and in my never-ending quest to bring you snob-free wine knowledge, I’d like to introduce you to ¡Mucho Gusto!, a brand-new feature on Señorita Vino. Well, it’s not literally on me, but you get the picture.

Once or twice a month, I’ll be focusing on a different wine, with a bit of history, flavor and aroma characteristics, pairing ideas and maybe even a recommended label or two. The purpose of this new department is to inspire you to learn about and taste wines you may not typically drink. Some you may have heard of, others not, but I promise you’ll learn something new, even about wines you already drink.

So without further ado, heeeeeeeere’s Barbaresco!


HOLA, ME LLAMO: Barbaresco is a red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape.

MY ROOTS: Barbaresco hails from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. It’s a DOCG wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest quality ranking for Italian wines. Bear in mind that California, Chile and Mexico also make wine from the Nebbiolo grape, but the wine can only be called Barbaresco if it’s produced in designated districts in Italy’s Piedmont region.

ALL ABOUT ME: Barbaresco is a dry wine known for having softer tannins than its “cousin,” Barolo, an Italian wine also made from Nebbiolo grapes. For this reason, Barbaresco is considered by some to be easier to drink than Barolo. Because the wine is aged in wood for a maximum of two years, you may smell cedar or oak. Barbaresco has lush berry and plum aromas, along with floral notes of violet and spices such as vanilla and licorice. This is a full-bodied wine, which means it will feel heavier on the palate and have a higher alcohol content.

FOODS I LOVE: Because of the tannins and body, Barbaresco pairs nicely with the traditional meat and game stews of northwestern Italy. Want a little Latin sabor? Pair it with carne asada, seco de cordero (Peruvian lamb stew), carnitas or roast pork. If you love a good charcuterie plate as much as I do, try it with salami,  mortadella, and if your arteries can handle it, lardo di Colonnata.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Expect to pay anywhere from $14 to $400 or more for a bottle of Barbaresco. You can get a good one for $30-$60. Some respected labels include: Ceretto, Gaja, Pio Cesare, Bruno Rocca and Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy.

Now that you’ve met Barbaresco, what do you think? Is it a wine you think you’ll try? Are there other wines you’d like to see in a future ¡Mucho Gusto!? Share your comments – I’d love to hear from you.


Vino 101: Say ‘Hola’ to Albarniño

19 Sep

What’s  thick-skinned and refreshing and is reported to have traveled along the Camino de Santiago in Galicia, Spain? If you guessed Señorita Vino on a spiritual journey, think again.

Photo credit: CRDO Rías Baixas

Photo credit: CRDO Rías Baixas

Although I have yet to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, I know what I’d drink along the way: Albariño, a crisp white wine made from the hearty Albariño grape. I have a feeling Albariño could become your new go-to white wine: It’s easy to drink, won’t break the bank, and it plays nicely with food. Here are some quick facts to help you get acquainted.

Photo credit: Adega Condes de Albarei

Photo credit: Adega Condes de Albarei

What is Albariño?

Albariño is a white wine made from grapes that grow primarily in Spain’s Galicia region. Galcia is home to Rías Baixas, the most important Denomination of Origin, or official wine growing region, in the area.  Albariño  accounts for 90 percent of the grapes grown in Rias Baixas. In case anybody’s wondering,  Rías Baixas is Galician for lower estuaries. This part of Spain has a cooler, damp climate (heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean), so save the bikini for Ibiza.

Legend has it that German pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago planted Riesling vines along the way, giving rise to Albariño over time. Spoiler alert: it didn’t really happen.

How does it taste?

Albariño has delicate citrus flavors and traces of wet gravel and minerals from the soil. When it’s ripe or grown in a warmer climate, you’ll get beautiful white peach and apricot flavors.  I tried two different Albariños for this blog post (I know, tough job). One is from Spain (El Full Disclosure: I received a sample bottle from the importer), and the other is from California (bought with my own hard-earned dólares).


The Columna Albariño 2011 is a classic example of a Rías Baixas Albariño. Delicate white floral aromas (think honeysuckle) hover on the palate, with distinct mineral notes of granite. The wine is not oak aged, so you won’t get any butter or toasty aromas. It’s light-bodied with a crisp acidity. Retail: about $16.


The Viñedos Aurora Albariño 2011 from Lodi, California is a mouth-watering burst of citrus with ripe peach and notes of saffron and honeysuckle. The fruit and floral flavors are nicely balanced by the zingy acidity. It’s fermented in stainless steel, so again, you won’t get vanilla or smoky notes. Retail: $17

What  foods should I serve with Albariño?

Photo credit: Rías Baixas Albariño

Photo credit: Rías Baixas Albariño

One of my favorite wine pairing tips  is “if it grows together, it goes together.” Wines from a certain region usually go well with foods from the same area.  Galicia is known for its shellfish and seafood dishes, so the next time you’re grilling shrimp, steaming mussels or ordering fish tacos, Albariño is a great alternative to Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. And because Albariño generally is un-oaked and light-bodied, it’s a great companion to spicier foods such as Thai, Indian and Mexican food.

As my globe-trekking BFF from high school would tell you, if you decide to take on the  Camino de Santiago, you’ll need a little vino to wash down the typical pilgrim’s meal of bread, cheese and fresh fruit. I can’t think of a better way to rack up some spiritual brownie points.


Of Spanish Wines and Soccer Championships

6 Jul

Those of you who have followed Señorita Vino for a while know that she is an avid fan of fútbol, or soccer, as it’s known this side of the Atlantic (and the Rio Grande). In case you  were too busy watching NASCAR, last Sunday Spain secured its spot as a world class fútbol nation by slaughtering Italy 4-0 and winning the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, known as Euro 2012. This of course follows their 2010 World Cup championship and their previous UEFA Euro victory in 2008.

“No hay 2 sin 3!

In honor of España’s recent triumph on the soccer field, it’s my pleasure to wax poetic about one of the Iberian nation’s top wine producing regions, Rioja. I attended a trade tasting of Rioja wines a couple of months ago, and these are some of the highlights. So sit back, pour yourself a glass of Tempranillo and read on…

Wines from Spain’s Rioja region.

The Rioja region is located in north central Spain and lies between mountain ranges. The river Ebro runs through it, resulting in fertile soil on its banks. Divided into three sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa, the diversity of the terrain and climate makes the region ideal for growing the versatile Tempranillo grape.

Tempranillo is the signature grape of the Rioja region.

Soils in the Rioja region are of three distinct types–chalky clay, alluvial (clay or silt carried by rivers and streams), or ferrous clay. ‘Ferrous’ comes from the Latin word for iron, and these soils are distinctive because of their reddish color from the high iron content. So why am I talking about dirt, when you came here to read about wine? Because the earth in which grapes are grown will have some influence on the flavor and style of the wine. This is one aspect of terroir, a word that comes from the French and is used in the wine world to describe the sense of place that typifies a wine. Climate, geology and farming techniques all play a role in the evolution of a wine.

Lovely Rioja (image courtesy of Vibrant Rioja)

One way you can identify a wine made from grapes grown in ferrous soil is a subtle metallic taste, not unlike the taste you get when you accidentally bite the inside of your cheek and taste a bit of blood. If I had one of those uber-cool product placement jobs, I would score points with wine geeks for placing a few bottles of Rioja in a future “Twilight” flick, maybe in a scene where Bella goes out for a drink with the girls after  finally leaving pasty, high-maintenance Edward and his erratic mood swings.

This is *not* a Spanish wine, but I thought the picture went well with the preceding sentence about moody vampires and girls’ night out. If you’re offended by profanity, just cover your eyes.

Although Rioja is best known for red wines made primarily from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graziano and Mazuelo grapes, there’s a little something for white wine lovers, as well. White grapes grown in Rioja include Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca and Tempranillo Blanca. Now comes the timeless question, which foods go with wines from Rioja?

Hard cheese and charcuterie are a fine match for wines from the Rioja region.

My personal favorite is cheese and charcuterie. But Rioja wines pair beautifully with foods that won’t overwhelm their delicate flavors. More youthful Rioja wines, or those with the label “Crianza” or “Cosecha,” will complement a turkey dinner, pasta or roasted fish. Barrel fermented white Riojas pair well with fish, shellfish and salads. If you’re looking for something a little more robust in terms of wine and food, go with an older Rioja (look for “Reserva” or “Gran Reserva”), which will be an elegant fit for lamb, risotto, beef stews or game.

Spanish wines are an excellent value, so stock up!

And speaking of game, that brings us back to where we started, and that was Spain’s glorious Euro 2012 victory. You’ll feel victorious yourself when you pick up a bottle or two of  Spanish wine. If you remember anything at all from today’s post, it’s this: Spanish wines are an excellent value, and you won’t go broke adding a few bottles to your wine collection. You can get a quality bottle of Tempranillo for as little as $7 or $8. Of course, there are high-priced Spanish wines out there, and you trust fund babies may need to stock up.

So this weekend, my darlings, make it a point to raise a glass to España for its prowess on the pitch–and in the vineyard. ¡Salud!

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