You may remember that we visited the Netofa Winery not long ago. This is one of the wines that we brought home and tonight we opened it for this tasting. The vintner was inspired by Spanish oenology in blending two Iberian grape varieties in a mixture of 65% Touriga National and 35% Tempranillo. These were then aged in oak barrels for eight months, giving us a rich complexity of interwoven aromas and flavors.
Temprano means early in Spanish and the Tempranillo grape probably earns its name from its propensity to ripen early. It has become the most popular red wine grape in Spain and was planted there on 453,000 acres in 2004. According to Jancise Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, Tempranillo is “Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon, the vine variety that puts the spine into a high proportion of Spain’s most respected red wines, and is increasingly planted elsewhere. Its grapes are thick skinned and capable of making deep-coloured, long-lasting wines that are not, unusually for Spain, notably high in alcohol.” Get the “not, unusually” double negative? It threw me for a loop at first. So, it seems that Robinson is saying that most Spanish wines are high in alcohol. It would seem to me that Pierre Miodownick’s use of early picking of these grapes at a lower sugar content would allow the wine to be made with a lower alcohol content such as the 12.8% in this wine. In fact, as of today, he has already completed this year’s batzir, which is what the grape harvest is called in Hebrew.
We have discussed the Touriga Nacional grape before, as it is used in Yarden’s 2T wine where it is blended 50-50 with Tinta Cao. The Oxford Companion to Wine refers to Touriga Nacional as “the most revered vine variety for port and, increasingly, for fine dry reds, and not just in Portugal.” Because of its tendency to produce very small berries resulting in deep colored, very tannic, concentrated wines, it became unpopular with growers. This almost led to its becoming extinct until clonal selection resulted in newer cuttings which are more productive and have higher sugar levels.
We did our tasting of this Netofa Tinto from the 2010 vintage, with it accompanying our robust and spicy vegetarian dinner of black beans with figs, curried quinoa and brussels sprouts. The wine is deep purple in color (we are not British, so we don’t spell it “colour”) and has aromas of prunes and dark berries. Nurit said its nose reminded her of smoky lingonberry jam and brought images of the sea. She said, “I see a winter fire on an ocean beach with roses growing nearby.” Netofa Tinto has a big mouth with combinations of vanilla, rich grapes, and Swiss chocolate with a background of tobacco. It is smooth and has a full of body with no bite. Because of its high tannin level, it should age well, but make sure you give it full time for breathing after removal of the cork. The wine has a long and easy finish with lingering taste of apple pies. I can almost describe it as a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend on steroids.
At a price of 75 ($18.75 at current conversion rate) shekels at the winery, we give it our highest rating, A*** (revised IWT rating system) and prefer it to Yarden’s Iberian-style 2T.