The Journey from Spain into the Rustic Tuscan Hills
The black grape variety known as Tempranillo is famed in its native land of Spain. These grapes are responsible for the creation of full-bodied red wines, ripening much earlier than other grape varieties, hence the name which comes from the Spanish word “temprano,” meaning “early.” Tempranillo has been growing on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of the Phoenician settlements, though in recent years, it has begun to be cultivated elsewhere in the world such as California, Mexico, Canada, and even Israel with much deliberate intention.
However, Tempranillo was thought to be Malvasia Nera by many, until DNA testing on several 100 year old vines proved otherwise. These results suggest that documented Tempranillo has been in Tuscany since the 19th Century under the erroneous alias of Malvasia Nera. Spaniards are often surprised to learn of this since for almost all of time as man has known it, Tempranillo grapes natively grew in Spain.
Famed Tuscan winemaker, Pietro Beconcini, was the only winemaker in all of Tuscany boasting Tempranillo grapes. As the story goes, an ancient road known as the Via Francigena, was the very road that people made their pilgrimage through as they journeyed from France to Rome. Beconcini’s vineyards as they stand today, now run by his son Leonardo, are directly alongside this old route. It’s believed that those making their religious trek to Rome passed directly through this point.
People taking this road came all the way from Canterbury, England, one starting point of the ancient trail as well as Santiago di Compostela in Spain, another point. During these times, priests and their followers took care of agriculture so it was not at all uncommon for them to be in possession of seeds, particularly seeds from grapes.
That’s how new vineyards sprouted up, thanks to these seeds. And it is believed, that is how Tempranillo began to take root and grow in the hills of Tuscany. Much to Leonardo’s great luck, it was on his estate land. DNA testing of these grapes on his vineyard confirms this theory as they are a genetic match to the Tempranillo found in Spain with only small discrepancies noted due to evolution because these Tempranillo vines grew from seeds. Experts were able to date the vines back to 1920! Despite the age of the plants the grapes were healthy and thriving.
Tempranillo has unique qualities that are directly affected on it by the terrain, which gives it its very own distinction. This is called intravarietal variability, the condition by which the same grape looks different in distinct areas via adaptation to its environmental conditions, thus creating a biotype of the Spanish Tempranillo. It flourishes in the acidic grounds of the Tuscan hills, much like coveted white truffles do, seemingly immune to pests and highly adaptable to the surrounding land.
Its good genetics allows it to thrive in this region, with versatile grapes that go on to produce wines that are smooth and long-lived. The grounds of Tuscany add a savory hint with a twinge of mineral much thanks to the limestone-filled soil.
In the Tuscan hills, Tempranillo buds later which makes it less likely to succumb to the frosts of spring. With cool temperatures in the bottom of the valley where they happily grow in the dense clay-filled soil that retains moisture even during drought, these grapes would slowly ripen and build upon their complexity as they did so. This was special because the other varietals of grapes could not withstand these environmental forces nor could they thrive in the soil. But Tempranillo could, and it did, much to Leonardo’s delight, not to mention the delight of wine connoisseurs everywhere.
While this area is not well-known for wine, the lack of reputation here is coming to an end. With Tempranillo becoming more highly-sought after, particularly for the enjoyment alongside other delicacies such as Italy’s prized white truffles, Tuscan Tempranillo from the Beconcini estate is becoming intensely popular.
After taking over the winemaking business from his father Pietro, Leonardo lined the cement tanks located in their cellar that his father had installed with glass to help with the production of the Tempranillo wine. He also switched from small wooden barrels to large Slavonian oak barrels. It was all a matter of taste as the brilliant winemaker was all too familiar with how smaller barrels can change the style of the wine, imparting a different flavor than desired. The Slavonian oak barrels doesn’t make such a heavy impact on the flavor, allowing it to be enjoyed for the perfect complexity it possesses.
Leonardo had no name for the Tempranillo when he first found it on his vineyard and took to calling it “X.” You’ll find that reflected in the name of his Tempranillo, Pietro Beconcini IXE Tempranillo. With each vintage, there is variance, but you can expect to open it up and be greeted by a heavenly aroma of violets and red plum with a hint of the kind of leather scent you’d find in the world’s most luxurious automobiles. Once it hits your palate, you’re treated to a smooth drinking experience tinged with an exotic spice and black cherry medley. It’s a very good wine that is rather affordable.
If you’ve sampled Tempranillo from its native Spain, try looking for Beconcini’s bottles to discover the difference the Tuscan foothills makes on the production of this incredible, enduring varietal of black grape. You can also sample Tempranillo from other areas of the world, but the true wine enthusiasts have declared that there is indeed something even more revered from the Tempranillo that grows in Tuscany.