Monday, April 28, 2014

2005 Lopez de Heredia "Viña Cubillo" Crianza, Rioja

The second and final red wine we sampled in the tasting group on April 13th after the Cabernet Franc from Chinon was a Tempranillo blend from Rioja, Spain.

Tempranillo is a “grid wine” for the Advanced and Master Sommelier levels that was not on the list for the Certified Sommelier exams. The only classic region for this grape is Rioja Spain. There are producers that make wines in a “new world” style and more traditional winemakers who produce wines in a more traditional style. However, this wine only contains 65% Tempranillo so it may not qualify as a testable wine for an exam.

López de Heredia

The López de Heredia family winery was founded in 1877 in Rioja, Spain by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta.  The winery has an annual production of 41,748 cases of 100% estate grown wine from their 170 hectares (420 acres) of vineyards.

The Vineyard

This wine comes from the López de Heredia family’s Cubillas vineyard, 59 acres of vines averaging 40 years of age, two-thirds of which are tempranillo, the balance planted to garnacha, mazuelo and graciano.

Standard Aging Requirements for Spain

This wine is a Crianza indicating that before it was released it underwent at least 2 years of aging, 6 of which were in wood.

The Grape: Tempranillo

Although this wine is a blend with only 65% Tempranillo I’ll provide a profile for this grape. One of the confusing things about this grape is that it is known by many different names throughout Spain and Portugal.  In Spain it is known as Cencibel (Valdepeñas), Tinto Fino (Ribera del Duero), Tinto del País (Ribera del Duero), Tinta de Toro (Toro), Ull de Llebre/Ojo de Liebre (Catalonia), Jacivera (Manchuela), as well as Tinto Madrid  and Grenache de Logrono (Rioja). In Portugal it is known as Aragonez (Alentejo), Tinto Roriz (Douro Valley) and Tinto de Santiago (Península de Setúbal)

The key indicators that a wine is a Tempranillo that I have experienced are: Cooked strawberries such as from a jar of Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves, a distinctive spice that reminds me of paprika or barbeque potato chips, a rustic earthy-minerality, indicators of American oak such as dill and vanilla and the structure is usually medium to medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ to high alcohol and a moderate length finish with moderate complexity.

According to the Guild of Sommeliers web site which requires membership to access (, the following is a general description for Tempranillo which is very similar to my own:

Typical Descriptors and Structure for Rioja
(100% Tempranillo or Tempranillo-dominated blend) 

  • Visual: Ruby, Moderate Minus to Moderate Concentration
  • Aromas/Flavors: Moderate Plus Intensity
    • Fruit: Tart/Sweet Red Fruit (Red Cherry, Strawberry, Red Currant), Sour Asian Plum, Dried Plum
    • Significant Oxidation and Brettanomyces for Gran Reserva Styles
    • Floral: Red and Dried Flowers
    • Herbal: Tobacco, Dill
    • Other: Sweet and Sour Sauce, Iodine, Leather, Spice
    • Earth: Moderate to High Minerality, Baked Earth, Clay, Compost
    • Oak: Low to Moderate Use of New American or Mixed American/French Barrels (Long Aging in Oak for Reserva and Gran Reserva Styles), Vanilla, Coconut, Dill, Cumin, Curry, Fenugreek, Sandalwood
  • Structure: Dry, Moderate Plus Body, Moderate Plus Tannin, Moderate to Moderate Plus Acidity, Moderate to Moderate Plus Alcohol

The Wine

The following are my tasting notes of the wine, the descriptors that match my own profile for this grape and/or that of the Guild of Sommeliers are in bold:

The 2005 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Cubillo” Crianza is a blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacho and the remainder is Mazuelo and Graciano. This red wine is ruby at the core to garnet at the rim with medium viscosity. It has moderate intense aromas of dried wild strawberries, cherry vanilla crème, and spice, powered black pepper, and dill. On the palate it has flavors of dried strawberries, rhubarb, sage, dried herbs, barbequed potato chips, paprika, and dried potting soil with obvious notes of vanilla and wood. It has moderate tannins, medium+ alcohol, medium+ acidity, and medium length finish. This wine sells for about $26 per bottle.

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