Tag Archives: Rioja

Happy #TempranilloDay! Fun facts and #food pairing tips for this popular Spanish #wine

12 Nov

Chicas y chicos, today is Tempranillo Day, and in this “Mucho Gusto” post from 2014, you’ll have all the fun facts you’ll need to impress your friends–and your palate–with your knowledge of one of Spain’s most popular vinos. A shout-out to the fine folks at Rioja Wine for providing the bee-you-tee-ful graphic featured in this post. 

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.

Image courtesy of Rioja Wine.

Image courtesy of Rioja Wine.

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.


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!

Love story–wines and foods of Latin America

16 Feb

 “Where love is concerned, too much is not even enough.”

–  Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)

In my world, too much Valentine’s Day is not enough. Maybe I’m a sucker for love, or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to eat chocolate all day long. Regardless, I thought I’d spread the amor by sharing my experience providing wine pairings for a pre-Valentine’s fiesta this past Sunday.  The passionate affair between Latin American foods and the wines that adore them is like a sweeping romantic drama I never get sick of watching. So dim the lights, grab a box of bonbons, and find out what happens when a spicy dish meets a suave Latin American.

The Prologue

It all started with those randy Spanish conquistadores, who had the insight to bring the grapevine to the Americas. The Spaniards had a winemaking tradition dating back to the Roman Empire, circa 210 B.C. Fast forward to modern times, circa four days ago. A macho Spanish Rioja falls in lust with a picante Latin version of an American classic: beef sliders with potatoes in a creamy jalapeño cilantro sauce. The result is nothing short of explosive.

 A splash of 2009 Aspaldi Rioja Cosecha with jalapeño beef sliders. ¡Caliente!

Scene 1: Peru and Uruguay – a mouthwatering match

So this saucy Peruvian dish walks into a bar and collides with a crisp Uruguayan. Her name: Tallarín Verde. Chicas y chicos, this is the stuff telenovelas are made of. In case you’re wondering, the Uruguayan is none other than a 2010 Pisano Torrontes Rio de los Pájaros from Progreso, Uruguay. The reason these two are such a good match: The crisp acidity of the wine harmonizes with the rich, cheesy sauce of tallarín verde, or ‘green spaghetti.’ This classic Peruvian pasta dish features a creamy basil sauce that’s heavy on the garlic and cheese. Two words: Qué sexy.

Scene 2: It takes two to tango

The plot thickens: Red wine and chocolate become Latin lovers in the form of chicken mole tacos and an Argentine Malbec. Call them Latin America’s sweethearts. The reason they work well is that the spice of the mole sauce matches the spicy notes in the Malbec. Tango Trivia Time: The smoldering dance was born in the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Fittingly, you don’t have to marry a millionaire to be able to afford this 2008 Flichman Malbec Tupungato, a steal at $15.99.

If this tall, dark and handsome Malbec asks you to tango, say ¡Sí!

Scene 3: Chile verde and Chilean Chardonnay meet cute

Chile verde. Wine from Chile. Irresistible, especially when you add a sweet cream corn sauce. The smooth, buttery flavor of the 2010 Chateau Los Boldos Cuvée Tradition Chardonnay complements the creaminess of the sauce. ¡Qué romántico!

Happy Ending: Red Velvet Cake falls for an Italian 

How could anyone not fall in love with Brachetto, a salmon-pink, sweet Italian sparkling wine? Rumor has it that this was the beverage of choice among Italian high school students back in the 80s, which makes my own youthful dalliances with strawberry daiquiris sound muy cheesy by comparison. Brachetto is a hit at all the pairings Señorita Vino has recently created, so hurry on over to your local wine shop for a bottle of Sant Orsola Brachetto d’Acqui. That’s amore!

Stay for the Credits:

All of the wines featured in this post were purchased by Señorita Vino at Total Wine and Spirits in Redondo Beach, Calif. Total Wine is a national retailer with an extensive selection of wines from all over the world. Look them up online to find the nearest location.

The delectable dishes mentioned were the creative genius of Art Rodriguez, who with his partner Stephen Chavez are co-founders of LatinoFoodie.com. They graciously invited Señorita Vino to select wines for the food tasting menu at their first-ever My Foodie Valentine party. ¡Besos, muchachos!

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