The retirement project to sample the product of every major grape variety listed in Hugh Johnson’s pocket wine book.
Tempranillo (with Grenacha)
Hugh Johnson says: “Aromatic, fine Rioja grape. Now Australia, too. V. fashionable; elegant in cool climates, beefy in warm.”
What it says on the label: “Smooth, fruity and elegant with hints of fine oak. A well-balanced velvety structure lingering on the finish.”
I say: There’s nothing outlandish about any of that. It sums up most Rioja I’ve drunk – and being from Swansea, I’ve drunk my share. A local chef once got himself into hot water by indiscreetly telling a magazine interviewer that Swansea was “Riojaville” because its unsophisticated diners tended to order Rioja with everything.
Food combination: “Great with lamb, beef and strong flavoured cheeses.” We started the bottle with a lamb and apricot tagine; the wine complemented it very well. The next night we drank the rest of the bottle with fried steak, when I thought it was a bit too ‘elegant’. But the last glass, just on its own, was very enjoyable.
One for the wine rack? Need you ask? I am a ‘Swansea Jack,’ after all.
It’s not about the wine: The town of Haro in north western La Rioja province holds an annual Batalla de Vino wine fight.