5 to Try: Age-Worthy Tempranillo Wines - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

5 to Try: Age-Worthy Tempranillo Wines

For our September/October 2023 issue, wine writer Shana Clarke took a trip through time in northern Spain’s La Rioja. She tasted wines from as far back as 1862 as she explored what characteristics make for age-worthy Tempranillo wines. When it comes to coveted vintages, collectors still often look toward expected regions like Bordeaux. “Could Tempranillo be one of the world’s most overlooked age-worthy grapes?” Clarke asks. Here she recommends five bottles that capture the quality, and history, coming from the region.

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890

Founded in 1890 by five families, La Rioja Alta has since consolidated under a single family, operating four wineries in three regions throughout Spain. “The Gran Reserva 890, their most prestigious wine, is only produced during ideal vintage years,” says Clarke. “And like any wine labeled ‘Gran Reserva’ in Rioja, it’s aged at least five years, between time in barrel and bottle, before release.” The winery is currently touting its 2010 vintage as “One of the best of the 21st century.” $199.99, nyc.flatiron-wines.com

Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva

Marqués de Riscal is a historically important estate in the Rioja region,” notes Clarke. “It was instrumental in introducing French winemaking techniques to the area.” These practices date all the way back to the mid-1800s, and the winery maintains an impressively intact cellar with nearly every vintage since, documenting the supreme ageability of Tempranillo. Full bodied yet smooth, their classic Gran Reserva makes an ideal entry point for the category. $39.95, wineexpress.com

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Red Gran Reserva

Four generations of the López de Heredia family have been making wine in Rioja for nearly a century and half, and their Tondonia label remains their most globally renowned. Vintages dating back to the ’80s, ’70s and even beyond (if you’re ready to drop a thousand bucks) can still be found on the market, depending on your level of patience for aging. Or simply grab a few bottles of a more current vintage and experiment yourself. $49.99, astorwines.com

Contino Gran Reserva

The family behind Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España has been making wine since 1879 and now operates eight wineries throughout Spain. Viñedos del Contino was founded in 1973 in Rioja along the Ebro River and focuses on single vineyard estate wines. The Contino Gran Reserva is a Tempranillo forward blend (70 percent, along with Graciano, Mazuelo, and Garnacha) and offers an elegant representation of the estate. $68.99, wine.com

Vega Sicilia Unico

When the estate that is now Vega Sicilia was purchased in 1982 by Pablo Álvarez, there were only 14 wineries in the Ribero del Duero region. Today, there are more than 300. “Many point to Vega Sicilia as the catalyst for this growth,” Clarke says. For good reason, as the winery has been producing wines that have positioned the region as one of the global greats. “Vega Sicilia’s flagship wine, Unico, often commands prices on par with Burgundy and Bordeaux,” says Clarke. It’s a splurge bottle to be sure, but worth it for a taste of what well-crafted, age-worthy Tempranillo can be. $549.99, wine.com

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