Texas wineries found their footing and began establishing the region as bona fide wine country when they started planting grapes that didn’t just survive, but thrived, in Texas’ warm climate and particular soil type.
One such grape is Tempranillo: a black grape varietal, native to Spain, that produces full-bodied red wines with aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, leather and herbs. It’s now the world’s fourth-most planted grape to make wine, and 400 acres in Texas are devoted to growing it.
But when four Texas wineries celebrate International Tempranillo Day next week with a Twitter chat with wine enthusiasts, one thing they might mention is that Tempranillo didn’t always have such a following in this state. Although Pedernales Cellars’ Fredrik Osterberg estimates that some 60 Texas wineries now produce Tempranillo wines, in Pedernales’ early days — the winery first opened in 2006 — only two or three of the state’s wineries were bottling Tempranillo.
“We were one of the early promotors of Tempranillo and Viognier on the white side,” Osterberg said. “Everywhere I went, at wine dinners and meetings with sommeliers, I told them the Tempranillo is going to be the Texas grape in the way Malbec is for Argentina and Cabernet is for California. It does exceptionally well here. So our philosophy is, if we grow the right grapes, we will make world-class wines. That seems obvious now, but at the time the logic wasn’t there — tourists wanted Chardonnay. Now things are changing.”
Because Texas’ climate, soil and other important growing conditions are similar to Spain’s, where the grape originated, Texas’ version of Tempranillo isn’t far off from Spain’s, imparting a distinct, comparable terroir to the wine. After noticing that with several of Pedernales’ Tempranillo-based wines, Stout Vineyards owner and master sommelier Guy Stout said, he felt compelled to grow the grape, too.
“Texas is the only place I have tasted Tempranillo other than in Spain where the varietal expresses that character I know as Tempranillo,” he said.
On Nov. 13, International Tempranillo Day, Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery and Pedernales, all of which grow the Tempranillo grape and sell bottles of the wine, will host a #TXWine Twitter chat about Tempranillo from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., answering all manner of questions about the varietal and sharing their appreciation for it.
The chat pairs best with a glass of your favorite Tempranillo, of course.