Another Glass, Please - no. 5

 

If I were to offer you a glass of Tempranillo, you’d probably expect to receive a fine red Rioja, bursting with berry fruit when young or, after a bit of bottle-ageing, a rich, oaky treat, suffused with notes of leather and tobacco - right? Right. Well, actually, half-right.
 
Have you heard of Tempranillo Blanco? Has anyone? It’s something of a trick question, as before 1988, the answer would have been an emphatic ‘no’.
 
It turns out that Tempranillo Blanco is a mutation of the red variety, spotted in a Riojan vineyard in 1988 by a sharp-eyed vigneron called Jesus Galilea Esteban. Amidst the ripening red grapes, he noticed a single cluster of yellowy-green berries. Señor Esteban reported the finding to CIDA, Spain’s centre for agricultural research. After lengthy debate and analysis, in 2007 Tempranillo Blanco became a recognised variety for inclusion within the white Rioja canon.

Traditionally, white Rioja is an oaky, heavy-duty wine made from Viura, Grenache Blanc and Malvasia grapes, and frequently aged for long periods. Whilst these barrel-aged styles still predominate (it’s what the customer has come to expect), a trend for freshness has led to the production of livelier, fruitier and earlier-released white wines made from the same grape varieties but now including Tempranillo Blanco.
 
Most often employed to perk up the acidity and freshness of (often rather bland) Riojan blends, I had never experienced a wine made from 100% Tempranillo Blanco. Luckily, on a trade visit to progressive winemakers Bodegas Manzanos (headed by the sickeningly youthful fourth-generation owner and CEO, Victor Manzanos), I had the opportunity to taste a gorgeous single-varietal Rioja, made entirely of Tempranillo Blanco. (Another notable highlight of this trip was the journey to the vineyard itself: instead of the customary dusty minibus, our delegation were ferried to see the vines in a fleet of brand-new Porsches. As it happens, Victor is also the owner of the premier Porsche dealership in northern Spain. Clearly, the boy done good.)
 
Victor chooses to pick these grapes earlier than usual, to retain their freshness and acidity, then ages the wine in oak barrels for four months to add complexity and roundness. His plan has certainly paid off, as Bodegas Manzanos Finca Manzanos Tempranillo Blanco Rioja 2017 is a delicious mouthful, resplendent with lime and pineapple fruit, touched lightly with creamy, spicy notes and a gentle, toasty sweetness. It’s eminently suitable for pairing with any sort of seafood. Mind you, it’s pretty stunning all by itself. Not bad for a genetic mutation which could have gone completely overlooked had it not been for an observant chap in a northern Spanish vineyard.
 
Bodegas Manzanos Finca Manzanos Tempranillo Bianco Rioja 2017 is available from Banstead Vintners, www.bansteadvintners.co.uk, 01737 350 168 or BOB Wines, www.bobwines.co.uk (see website for branches), priced at approximately £11.50.

 

Richard Dudley Craig, Wine Consultant and Importer

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