Tasting: Top-Shelf Tempranillo From Spain’s Figuero

Spanish wine has room to grow in America.

Despite the country’s exceptional wine industry, one steeped in history, many American consumers remain unfamiliar with Spanish wine. Among countries of origin its wine was only the sixth-most imported in 2014, after the traditional titans of Italy, Australia and France, and the trendy risers, Chile and Argentina.

That there are comparatively fewer Spanish restaurants in America, meaning fewer customers are exposed to Spanish wine, helps explain this disparity.

But current trends favor Spain. U.S. consumers today explore aggressively across brands and countries, and willingly spend more for premium product.

Which bodes well for a Spanish winery the caliber of Figuero. Located in the town of La Horra in the Ribera Del Duero region (about 150 miles southwest of Rioja), this winery for nearly nine decades has cultivated top-flight vines. But Figuero grew grapes only for regional winemakers — until 2001, when its owners began bottling their own labels.

I had opportunity to taste the fruits of their labors at a dinner hosted this week by Quintessential Wines, Figuero’s importer, at Toledo in Mahattan. The winery’s Export Managing Director Felipe Martin Cabezon was on hand to present his product.

Figuero makes only wines that are 100% Tempranillo. This is Spain’s traditional red grape, and the dominant varietal of Ribera Del Duero.

Tinto Figuero 4 (SRP: $21.99 per 750-ml. bottle) is the winery’s entry-level bottle. Classic, solid Tempranillo. The “4” in the title refers to four months spent aging in new oak. We sampled the 2014. It drank clean with aromas of red and black fruits. Flavors included sweet black fruit, chocolate notes and subtle herb spices. This is an approachable, flavorful bottle to test a customer’s taste for Tempranillo. Pair it with any red meats, rice, vegetables dishes or cheese.

Next we vertically tasted 12-month releases: The 2014 Tinto Figuero 12, 2012 Figuero 12 and 2011 Crianza Twelve Months In Barrel ($31.99 all). They shared drinkability and balance, silky medium bodies, and red fruit aromas and flavors that deepened and darkened with age. The subtle herb spice was similar to the 4, while the chocolate notes turned into toffee and coffee. Red meats and hard cheeses are natural pairings for the 12’s.

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From left: the 2014 Tinto Figuero 12, 2012 Figuero 12 and 2011 Crianza Twelve Months In Barrel ($31.99 all).

For customers who enjoyed the 4, any 12 is a logical next purchase to recommend. Tinto Figuero also offers an array of premium and super-premium bottles.

Beginning with the 2012 Tinto Figuero 15 ($65.99). With 15 months in new oak, this meets the Denominación de Origen requirements for a Reserva: three years aging, at least one in oak. (The “Crianza” of the 12 requires two years aging, six months in oak).

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The 2011 Figuero Tinus ($399.99) is a collector’s item.

The 15 comes from bush vines at least 60 years old. The result is a flavorful, balanced bouquet of back and red fruits layered upon undercurrents of herb and pepper spices. Aromas leap from the glass, and this power continues upon the palate. Quintessential Wines will import only 300 12-bottles cases.

Next we drank the 2013 Tinto Figuero Vinas Viejas (Old Vines) ($67.99). Again from bush vines a minimum of 60 years in age, Old Vines had darker fruit flavors than the 15 — and was just as complex, balanced and flavorful. Either goes well with red meats and hard cheeses. Only 100 12-bottles cases will be imported of the Old Vines.

The final three wines, all small-batch, were decanted prior to serving. They should be poured alongside heartier fare such as stews or roasts.

The 2009 Noble ($161.99) and 2011 Figuero Noble ($161.99) came from vines older than 70 and 75 years, respectively. The tapestry of red and black fruits, herbs, chocolate, coffee, and toffee flavors that were painted by prior bottles grew here in intensity and depth, with the subtle additions of minerality and various other fruit flavors.

The 2011 Figuero Tinus ($399.99) is a collector’s item. Aged for a maximum of 22 months in 225-L. French oak barrels, it reminds one of fine scotch or Japanese whisky with a complexity that begs to be explored and peeled away with slow sipping. To drink it is to journey through the best of what’s possible from top-shelf Tempranillo and Spanish wine.

Kyle Swartz is associate editor of Beverage Dynamics. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com

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