Texas tempranillo

Viticultural science may speed things up, but winemaking nuances move at their own pace even if Texas producers want ‘em to get-a-goin’ now.

In great wine regions, perfecting for place, time, and technique is the unfinished toil of centuries.

It will take time in Texas, too, although the state has made strides. Texans produce quality vines and wines—if not yet the jaw-dropping wonders of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Vino de Pago (Spain), or Piedmont (Italy).

Texans report they’re getting there. Surprise: they report grape varieties that do well in hot and dry (with cool nights) are worth watching in the Lone Star State.

For red, many bets are on tempranillo, Spain’s thick-skinned, low acidity, early-ripening mainstay. Sometimes called Spain’s cabernet sauvignon, vineyard and wine-making decisions help determine tempranillo’s character—plum, strawberry, red fruits, blackberry, currant, earthiness, tobacco, coffee. As with chardonnay, flexibility is an asset.

Tempranillo is classic blender, which is why it will take time for really good stuff to shake out. In Spain, the marriage is with grenacha, but also with other varietals. When you discover which two or three or four play well together in your Texas vineyard, you will have big time wine. That magic doesn’t happen overnight.

Several High Plains makers—and Christoval Vineyards near San Angelo—do well with varietal tempranillos. Eventually they will get blends sorted out, and our great grandchildren will experience delight.

Tasting notes:

• CapRock Winery Sweet Tempranillo 2011. Raspberry, cherry, no oak, fruity, not syrupy sweet as name suggests. $11.

CapRock Winery Tempranillo 2012. Cherry, coffee, more traditional effort. $11.

• Fiesta Winery Tempranillo NV. Quirky Texan; plum, cherry, smoke nose; earthy, tart cherry dominates medium body; non-standard, not bad. $24.

• Christoval Vineyards Tempranillo 2010. Rustic; cherries, red fruits, leather; nice tannins, oak, medium-full body; CV’s most serious wine. $28.

• Search to find: Alamosa Wine Cellars El Guapo ($18); Pedernales Cellars Texas Tempranillo ($19); Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo ($30); Inwood Estates Vineyards “Cornelious” Tempranillo (tempranillo-only winery $40).

Last round: Person with basement full of vodka: pitied alcoholic. Person with basement full of wine: admired connoisseur.