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Mano a Mano La Mancha 2012
The sandy soils (up to 1 meter in depth) have an underlayment of large river stones, with a lot of iron, clay, and chalk. The vines produce very low yields of 1-2 kgs of grapes per vine. Winters are very cold; summers are hot with cool nights and it is a very arid climate.
The Spanish enologist, Rafael Cañizares seeks to achieve the maximum expression of the Tempranillo grape grown in this environment. After very careful vineyard selections, only the best vines of Tempranillo grapes are hand harvested.
The Moors gave it the name, ‘Manxa,’ which fittingly means ‘parched earth.’ La Mancha, the largest wine producing region in all of Spain, is one of its hottest and driest. Sturdy and drought-resistant white varieietes like Airen, Viura and Verdejo thrive in this environment.
Notoriously food-friendly with soft tannins, modest alcohol, and bright acidity, Tempranillo is the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. It is important throughout Spain as well as in Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz and is an important component of Port wines and the table wines of the Douro region that Port calls home. California, Washington, and Oregon have all had moderate success with Tempranillo, producing a riper, more fruit-forward style of wine.
In the Glass
Tempranillo is often aged in new oak for the integration of spicy, woodsy, and herbal flavors, often with hints of vanilla, coconut, and dill. The grape itself produces medium-weight reds with bright red and black fruit aromas and hints of spice, leather, and tobacco, with no shortage of flavor.
Tempranillo’s modest, fine-grained tannins and bright acidity make it extremely food friendly, pairing with a wide variety of Spanish-inspired dishes—especially grilled lamb chops, a rich chorizo and bean stew, or paella.
The Spanish take their oak aging requirements very seriously, especially in Rioja. There, a system is in place to indicate on the label how much time the wine has spent in both barrel and bottle before release, which is helpful to the consumer trying to determine the style of an unfamiliar wine. Rioja can range from Joven (fresh, fruity, and unoaked) to Gran Reserva (complex and oxidized from extended barrel aging), with Crianza and Reserva in between.