Emma says: “Week one and the pressure is on. Have I selected the right wines that will show Andy exactly what Tempranillo and Rioja is capable of? This is a complication I hadn’t quite factored into the challenge.
Here are the wines I chose: Perez Burton Rioja and Romeral Crianza Rioja.
I tried to select two close in price and not too pricey, just a touch over £10. One was from a producer I know is modern – the “Perez Burton Rioja” by winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. He originates from Rioja, and studied winemaking in Bordeaux before returning to Spain, bringing new ideas and techniques. His wine did exactly what I hoped, it has a lively strawberry fruit aroma, then more bramble berry richness to taste, plus that lick of oak flavour giving chocolate sweetness; but all in all it is the fruit that is the star of this wine. And it has this purity in taste, plus a rich but fine texture that is the hallmark of modern styles.
And the second wine, Romeral Crianza Rioja was different from the Perez as I had hoped. The aroma was definitely more cedar noted, and spicy. The fruit wasn’t quite as showy, it was mixing in with those more savoury spicy characters that are a feature of traditional styles. I have to admit there is a year more age in this wine which does account for why the Perez Burton is more fruity, as the fruit does start to be overtaken by these other characters as it ages. I also think if we’d chosen a Reserva or Gran Reserva of the Romeral wines we’d have seen a bigger difference. When you taste those styles the fruit goes to strawberry compote and the spices get softer, more cinnamon and cocoa powder.
So what creates this difference between traditional and modern styles? Well there are lots of factors, but for me the simplest way to explain it is that modernistas try to make the wine so that the fruit flavours remain bright even as the wine ages. Sometimes traditional styles have been criticised for getting dried out and tired as they age, but to be honest I’m actually a real fan of the traditional style because I love the complexity of how all the savoury and spice notes start to overlay the fruit after time. However in this experiment I was more on the side of the Perez Burton.”
Andy says: “So week one and two Riojas / Tempranillos to taste, a modern and a classic. I didn’t know which was which and attempted to work it out following the guidelines above. I ballsed it up.
I know very little (nothing?) about wine, but I have had quite a few bottles of Rioja in my time. It’s usually smokey, smooth and creamy. Of our two, the Perez Burton was closest to what I recall as being Rioja, so I guessed it was the traditional one. It wasn’t. It was the fruitier of the two, and if I put my arty farty wine cap on, I’d say I could taste blackcurrant jam. The label informs me to taste cocoa, sorry label, but I can’t.
The Romeral by comparison, was a little ‘thinner’ and less tasty than the Perez. Again with the arty farty wine cap on, I’d say it had a little more volatile acidity (‘VA’ as the experts say. I’m probably wrong, but the way I detect VA is to get acetone-y, nail varnish remover-y notes on the nose).
A little disappointed in both (where’s the smoke?!), but of the two I’d choose the Perez.”
Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. We chose this for week one as we assumed most of you would be familiar with it, and so it can be a good introduction to writing down your thoughts as the taste might be already well known.
Just in case you hadn’t clicked, the idea is that each week, within reason, we all taste the ‘same’ wine. The safest and easiest way to find a wine to match ours this week is to head to the Spanish section of the wine aisle. Find the Riojas and look for a bottle that says Tempranillo on the front or back label, as that way you can be sure it is made predominantly with that grape in the blend. If it doesn’t say Tempranillo on either label, then we can’t be sure that that is the predominant grape.
We want to taste a real “classic” Tempranillo which is aged in oak, so look for a Rioja called “Crianza” or “Reserva”. Those are terms used to mean the wine has spent some time ageing in oak.
Wineries tend to split into two style camps; traditional or modern, and we can’t be sure of the style of producer you will select. The traditional styles have gentler, sweet fruit, more cinnamon, sweet spice and savoury characters, whilst the modern style is more structured, more vibrant, blackcurrant fruit and peppery, clove-y spice. When tasting, see if you can spot which style you have.
We’ll pick up two bottles and comment on both styles. It would be impossible to guide everyone how to do the same. This way we thought that we can cover the bases so nobody should be left out.
For people who want to go slightly off the beaten track, you can pick another Tempranillo from Spain – the Ribera del Duero region makes wines from often 100% Tempranillo and can be a lovely option if you want to explore styles a little and join in that way.