Tempranillo blanco was a natural genetic mutation of the traditional red Tempranillo grape. It was discovered in the Orientale area of the Rioja region of northern Spain in the late 1980s. The plant it was discovered on grew mostly clusters of the red grape but one cluster was yellow. From this point, the plant was sent off to be genetically studied. It was found to be over 95% similar to red Tempranillo. The blanco version was then propagated so it could be intentionally planted around the region. It is still quite rare but an accepted grape variety to be grown in Rioja.
The bottle I came across was from Conde Valdemar. They are a fifth generation wine family that became the first internationally owned winery when they opened in Walla Walla, WA in 2019. It really stands out from the generally modest wineries in the area. Valdemar Estates produces wines with locally sourced fruit but they also sell some of the Bodegas Valdemar wines from Rioja. Bodegas Valdemar plants a few uncommon but native grapes to the Rioja region including Vuira and Maturana. They planted the Tempranillo Blanco vines in 2005 and a few years later became the first winery to market a single varietal bottle from the grape.
Typically, the grape is known for its rapid ripening, high acid and high alcohol with intense aromatis of banana, apple, and citrus. They commonly have a green-lemon color. First, upon pouring my glass of 2019 Conde Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco, the clear deep lemon color was impossible to ignore. This was indicative of an aging process because this wine is far darker than I anticipated. After reading the tech sheet from the winery, they state it is ‘lees aged’. This is a process commonly seen in champagne or sparkling wine manufacturing. It is the act of leaving the fermented juice on fine dead yeast cells and stirring them periodically to increase the texture of the wine while adding depth of flavor. Next, I noticed the legs weren’t as viscous as I’d expect from a wine with a high alcohol percentage so it told me the content was probably less than the standard. The clean aromas of yellow apple (reminiscent of apple cider) were most evident but gave way to slightly under ripe banana, honeydew, pear, and almond blossoms. On the palate, it was definitely fuller bodied due to the lees aging. It was dry and the acid was more subdued than anticipated. It definitely wasn’t the high acid previously noted. The alcohol was on the moderate level, not overwhelming. The most notable flavors were dried banana chips, honeydew melon, ripe pears, green apple, white peaches and a hint of biscuit that all slowly faded until I took my next sip. It would be wonderful with a light scallop dish (if they weren’t almost impossible to find right now), oysters or other shellfish or white fish. It is also easy to sip on its own! Would be lovely on a nice spring evening with a chill in the air!