It’s clear that this wine was aged for a significant time in oak barrels. It is not shy about that. There is an undeniably masculine forwardness to the strength and depth of this flavor throughout this wine.
Alamgre produces this tempranillo in the infamous La Rioja region of Spain. It is a red crianza, meaning it is aged at least two years, one of them in oak barrels. This one tastes like it was born into the primordial soup in oak barrels and left to age since. Considering they’ve been making wine in this region since at least 873 A.D., it’s quite possible.
There’s a lot of emotion and effort being put into world foods these days, preserving a region’s food heritage by legally protecting the name. ‘Protected Geographical Status‘ means you can only buy Stilton in that name if it was made in one of three counties in England, and ouzo has to have been made in Greece or Cyprus. Rioja wine has to come from the La Rioja region of Spain. There’s a fancy label and authentication sticker on this bottle to verify this.
Alongside being of authentic origin, this Almagre is also certified organic. Not that I look for this specifically, but I like to have a bottle or two of organic wine on hand for those of my friends who feel very deeply about this topic. I would prefer to have organic food as a serious option in my life as well, but reality is much more stingy with me on time and money.
This 2001 Almagre was about $8 locally. The label looks like something designed in MS Word by someone who still uses a dial-up modem. But I don’t judge by the label, and neither should you. I take that back. I tend to shy away from the overly slick or kitschy labels for fear that money had been spent on marketing instead of wine-making.
If this wine was a cat, it would be an un-fixed male Tom cat. I find tempranillos tend to be mild, so this one threw me for a loop with its bold oak, dust, and leather flavors. A sparse but intense mood. It reminded me of when I lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas (that’s Cal-i-for-ni-ay or you Easterners). There was no rainfall in these hills through the summer, so by August everything had been dried and bleached the color of straw. Even the air. Outside at midday all you could smell was the dry grasses, the oak trees and the dusty earth. It permeated you until you felt like you were a dense, stoic, silent manzanita tree. This wine absolutely brought me back there, and this is what I imagine it would feel like to stand in the vineyard in Spain as well.
I enjoyed this wine on its own, over conversation with a friend. I did bring out some lovely green grapes that had been chilling in the fridge, and they seemed to balance out the masculinity of the wine. After a few grapes, a sip of wine tasted almost like frankincense–rich and dark and old. Next time I buy a bottle of this (yes there will be a next time), I will consider paring it with an equally bold dinner. Maybe even after dinner with a cigar.
Almagre Crianza Tempranillo
Rioja DOC 2001