Tempranillo and “the river of human history”

Like music, snowflakes or presidential tweets, wines are miracles of variety. Every country has its wines, every state in the union has its unique terroir out of which grow dinner wines, picnic wines, dessert wines, dry, sweet, austere, bold or tropical wines. Cheap burgundies and unaffordable Chassagne-Montrachets. No two alike!

Clifton Fadiman, the literary critic and wine lover, observed that “Water and milk may be excellent drinks, but their charms are repetitive. God granted them swallowability, and rested.”

The other god, Dionysus, worked weekends and nights to ensure that the words “wine” and “repetitive” would never appear in the same sentence (apart from the one you just read). So infinitely varied is the phylum drinkus winus that you can find diversity within the same grape. Example: Tempranillo … the multi-tasker.

Tempranillo is Spain’s own grape, though it may have originated in the Middle East back when the Middle East was known as Phoenicia. A long time ago, like 3,000 years back, Phoenician traders introduced tempranillo to the Iberian Peninsula back before the Iberian Peninsula was known as Spain and Portugal.

Harvested young, it’s light and fruity. Longer on the vine, and even longer in French oak, it’s deep and dark and delicious.

Last Wednesday we had the great pleasure of working our way through a $15.99 bottle (John Edwards) of Museum Reserva 2011 Tinta del Pais Tempranillo from (where else?) Spain. Well aged in oak, it was a purple feast of cherries and plums of such character and strength that it would have paired nicely with brontosaurus. And wasn’t half bad with turkey tetrazzini.

One taste and you conjured up Castilian plateaus, pebbly soils and ancient vines. And you could understand why the very quotable Clifton Fadiman claimed that “to take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history.”

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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