Rioja's Unsung Hero
Think you know Rioja wine? Well, I have something fun and new for you.
Quickie crash course on Rioja grapes. The region we call "Rioja" is actually comprised of 3 different sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. They all have different climates so a variety of grapes are grown in each region based on what succeeds in each. The major grape players are Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha. From there, they are blended into what we know to be Rioja wines.
However, there is a red grape that's not often mentioned. While other grapes have gone on to international waters, seeking fame and fortune in other vineyards and regions, there's a local variety that's quietly become a bit of a celebrity in its own right. Maturana, rarely mentioned and minimally utilized, is now bringing its unique style to an international arena. And as a single varietal wine, no less.
The Baron de Ley, Maturana, Spain, 2010, is rather confusing upon first sip. The high acid is reminiscent of an Italian wine, such as a Nebbiolo, and a plum essence was immediately apparent. The nose revealed that chewy purple fruit, green peppers, black pepper, cumin and a few whiffs of sweeter baking spices. Sipping on it, the term "jam" came to mind, both in weight and fruit, but the spices again came through. "Purple!" my mind kept saying and as the acid and tannins did their thing in my mouth. Maturana, it's your turn to shine.