I learned just yesterday that Thursday, November 13, 2014, is International Tempranillo Day.
What? You didn’t get the memo either?
As you’ll recall, I also learned about Champagne Day and Languedoc Day only a couple of days before they first took place. I know they’re marketing devices, but even assuming you’re game anyway, how is anyone supposed to take these things seriously? First Vine isn’t the first one informed about these things, but the earliest PR bit I can find on “International” Tempranillo Day is November 4. That didn’t give the world at large much time to plan, did it?
[While I’m not superstitious, I do wonder about picking the date of November 13, since it means that 2015’s International Tempranillo Day will fall on Friday the 13th. Just another indication this might not have been well thought-out.]
And what makes this one seem even more hashtag-gy than usual is the come-on by the fine folks doing PR for Rioja, a wine region in Spain that, naturally, produces Tempranillo. As you can see in the photo, the Rioja PR enterprise would like you to know that Rioja is the “Greatest Expression of Tempranillo.” Not one of the greatest, but the greatest.
I have nothing against Rioja wines. They’re tasty, sometimes mighty tasty. But the “greatest expression?” I’m sure the producers in other DOs and DOCs like Ribera del Duero, Toro, Cigales, etc. would have something to say about that. You’ll also notice the claim of the most stringent and consistent quality control in Spain. But Ribera del Duero and Priorat have the same quality appellation designation as Rioja. So perhaps this is just over-enthusiasm on Rioja’s part. Call it a hashtag high.
What I can say about Rioja is that in my experience it’s the most ubiquitous expression of Temparanillo, at least here in the U.S. The wine producers of Rioja, along with the regional and national governments, were pretty much the first advocates for quality Spanish red wine outside the country. Rioja wines have been available in the U.S. for a long time. And for at least the last four years, the PR push has only been increasing.
So while other regions are making their own PR moves, Rioja has a big head start. Good for them for doing it and finding a way to reach their market. Here’s what it means for this wine equivalent of a Hallmark holiday, though: assuming that you only found out about it at the last minute, like I did, you’ll go looking for Tempranillo Thursday evening on your way home from work. If you stop at a well-stocked wine shop you’ll be able to find Tempranillos from all over Spain, and possibly from Portugal. But if you stop at the grocery store, or even your local market, what you’ll probably find is Tempranillo from Rioja. The cynic in me is inclined to think this was part of the plan, but perhaps I’m wrong about that.
Anyway, I wouldn’t dream of telling you not to enjoy any Tempranillo you can find on #TempranilloDay if you plan to indulge. But I do have a suggestion. Put off your Tempranillo celebration until the weekend and look for a few different Tempranillos from across Spain and Portugal, including one from Rioja.
One of the reasons the grape is planted all over Spain is because it responds well to different growing conditions. And the name “Tempranillo” refers to the Spanish word for “early.” So the grape is generally harvested before other wine grapes, making it easier for wineries to plan their harvest and vinification. This also accounts for Tempranillo’s spread to other winemaking countries. Of course, the more carefully it’s grown and vinified, the better the wine will be. You can find all levels of quality, price, and intensity in Spanish Tempranillos, and it’s fun to try different ones. I think you’ll find that you’ll want to make #TempranilloDay a more than once-a-year occasion, with or without the hashtag.
Since I don’t think we’ll escape these breathless and not-very-timely attempts to draw attention to one wine region or another anytime soon, we should have a proper name for them. While I’ve called this both a hashtag and a Hallmark holiday, I think there needs to be a special designation for wine holidays dreamed up by marketers that have no historical basis. My best try was “Pop-Top Holiday,” since it would definitely mean the lowest beverage common denominator. But I welcome any and all suggestions!**
Naturally, First Vine has two Tempranillos (otherwise why would I be writing about this? :-0 ) Both are from Bodega Hiriart in Cigales. While the village (and DO) of Cigales is better known for its rosados (Spanish rosés), wineries in Cigales also make red wines. Bodega Hiriart makes two, both from Tempranillo — or Tinta del País as it’s known locally — a Roble and a Crianza. The Roble ($14) is made from younger vine Tempranillo, aged in oak for about six months, then at least six months in the bottle before release. The Crianza ($19) is old-vine Tempranillo, aged in oak for a year then in the bottle for a year. It’s a nice mini-education in wine to try them both since they’re from the same producer. The Roble is lighter-bodied and so has a different food pairing profile than the Crianza, which shines with more intensely-flavored foods.
If you’re having a Tempranillo Thursday and want to make a great but quick dinner to accompany your bottle of choice, this is an easy recipe. It’s my Spanish-style stew, a version of a chicken and sausage dish that my mother has made for years (that recipe is here). But you can make it with rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. And most good supermarkets now have Spanish-style chorizo too. Use any spicy, fully-cooked stick sausage for the recipe if you can’t find chorizo.
First, remove the sausage casing and cut the sausage in small pieces. Brown the sausage in a little olive oil and remove the pieces. Then sauté the onion, add the garlic and some smoked paprika and cook for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken stock, along with some canned chickpeas that you’ve rinsed and drained. Add the sausage pieces back in with some green olives and strips of roasted red peppers, and simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, cut up your rotisserie chicken into serving pieces, then add them to the pot and cook for 10 more minutes to heat the chicken through. Serve it with rice, pasta (I like bow ties with it), mashed potatoes, or polenta. You can have everything ready in less than 45 minutes, and that gives you plenty of time to let the Tempranillo breathe.
Both the Roble and the Crianza pair well with the stew, so you can try either one. The Rioja PR folks asked me to tell you to tweet photos with #TempranilloDay in the message. They also suggest you use #RiojaBuzz. But I think the stew is pretty enough you should tweet a photo of it. And I won’t object if you want to include @firstvine, either.
** If you’ve got a good idea for a nickname or acronym to describe wine-based hashtag holidays, send it in an e-mail to first dot vine at verizon dot net. The best selection, judged by Cy and me, probably under the influence of Tempranillo, will get a bottle of the Hiriart Crianza, and the one we like second-best will get a bottle of the Hiriart Roble, with the following fine-print conditions: (1) You must live in or near Washington, DC. If you live in DC, we will deliver the wine to you when we’re making other deliveries in your neighborhood, subject to your agreement on a delivery time; and (2) Since we can’t deliver outside of DC, you must be willing to pick up the wine under the will-call policies explained in the Customer Service information on the First Vine website if you live outside the District of Columbia. No exceptions.
1 Good tasting supermarket rotisserie chicken
3 ounces Spanish-style chorizo (or hard stick salami), casing removed, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 large onion, peeled, cut in half through the poles, and cut crosswise into thin half-moons
3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice
2 cups chicken broth (canned or boxed is fine)
2 15-ounce cans cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 roasted red peppers from a jar, drained, patted dry with paper towels, and cut into strips (I like Divina brand, they seem to stay together better)
3/4 cup small pimento-stuffed green olives
For serving: cooked rice, couscous, pasta, noodles, or polenta
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot, then fry the chorizo pieces until they’re browned. Remove the sausage pieces with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper-toweled lined plate. You should have about 3 tablespoons of oil in the pot — if not, add more olive oil. Add the onions and a little salt and pepper and saute until the onions just start to brown. Stir in the garlic and the smoked paprika, and cook for another minute or two. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and chicken broth, along with the chorizo pieces. Stir in the olives and the red pepper strips. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Start with the pot uncovered, and once the level drops by a third, cover the pot and continue to cook until the 20 minutes are up.
While the stew is cooking, cut the chicken into serving pieces. You can either leave the skin on, or remove it and use it to garnish the dish (see the note, below). When the stew has cooked for 20 minutes, stir in the chicken pieces and allow the stew to simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with any of the rice or pasta accompaniments.
A note on the chicken skin: If you want the dish to be extra-special, remove the chicken skin when you cut up the chicken. While the chicken is heating in the stew, spread the skin pieces in a large, non-stick skillet. Put the skillet over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, turning the pieces at least once. The skin will crisp up beautifully. Serve the stew with a piece of the crispy skin on top of each portion.