A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rufete - Castilla Y León, Spain

A few months back, I purchased and drank a wine made from a significant percentage of the grape Rufete, but I've been sitting on my tasting note without writing about the grape for a few reasons.  First of all, the wine that I tried was a blend with 60% Rufete and 40% Tempranillo and, whenever possible, if I'm writing about an individual grape, I like to use the US varietal labeling law as my guideline: if a wine contains 75% of a given varietal, then the bottle can be labeled with just that varietal name.  In other words, the US government feels that if a bottle has 75% juice from a single grape, then that grape commands enough of a presence within the wine that the bottle can carry only that grape's name and that this presentation is not in any way misleading to the consumer.  Now, that's plenty controversial and I understand that, but I had to make a decision for this site on what the limit would be and I chose that standard.  I'll confess that I didn't do it out of a conviction that 75% is sufficiently high enough to disregard the other 25%.  I did it because it gave me the most leeway in allowing me to write about individual grapes.  

The second reason is that the wine that I tried was a rosé.  If I'm writing about a grape I've never had before, I try as hard as I can to find a "classic" example of a wine made from that grape.  Generally I'm looking for a still, full red or full white dry table wine so I can try to get a sense for what the grape is all about.  Of course, the "classic" style for some grapes differs from that formula (like Brachetto d'Acqui, whose classic style is sweet and a little fizzy), but as a general rule, that's what I'm after.  Try as I might, I was unable to find another wine made primarily from (or even partially from) Rufete, so the rosé is all I've got.

The third reason I kept putting off writing about this grape is that there just isn't a lot of information out there about it.  Wikipedia only mentions Rufete in passing in an article about Port wine grapes (Rufete is considered to be merely "good" for Port production, apparently).  The Oxford Companion to Wine has a little more information, but not much.  From there we get the information that Rufete used to be known as Tinta Pinheira, and that it is grown in northern Portugal (5500 hectares under vine) and western Spain (686 hectares) where the grape is used to make light, fruity wines.  Ryan Opaz over at Catavino helps to round out a profile of the grape by telling us that the grape is prone to oxidation if not carefully handled in the vineyard and winery.  Further, while the tendency is for winemakers to make a lighter style wine from the grape, it is capable of producing denser, more structured wines if handled properly. The winery itself also has some information on the grape on their website, though it's a little tough to parse in places.

So with all of those things in mind, I still bought the wine and drank it and wrote my notes.  Understand that I'm going into my review with the full knowledge that this wine is not a perfect exemplar for the Rufete grape, but it's all I could find.  At the end of the day, there's not any valid judgement I can pass except on the wine itself (for the record, this is the general attitude I adopt for nearly every wine I write about and drink though there are exceptions).

The Rufete that I was able to pick up was the 2010 Bodegas Valdeáguila "Viña Salamanca" rosé that, as mentioned previously, is a blend of 60% Rufete and 40% Tempranillo.  I picked this wine up at a local shop for about $13.  It's a "Vino de la Tierra," which is roughly equivalent to the French Vin de Pays or the Italian IGT classification level.  The winery is located in the city of Salamanca, Spain, which is about halfway between the Portuguese border and the city of Madrid in Western Spain. 

In the glass, this wine had a deep, rosy red color.  The nose carried nice mouthwatering aromas of maraschino cherries and red berry fruit.  On the palate, the wine was medium bodied with medium acidity.  There were candied red fruit flavors with some maraschino cherry and strawberry licorice with a touch of spice.  The wine was completely dry, but the fruit had a candied quality to it that made it very easy to drink.  This isn't one of those lean, minerally rosé wines that make excellent aperitifs.  It's heavy on the fruit and drinks more like a light red.  It's certainly not a profound wine, but it's plenty enjoyable and was good company on a hot summer day.  I'm still on the hunt for a red wine made from Rufete so if anyone in the Boston area has a hot lead, please let me know about it.

**UPDATE** I was recently able to try a 100% Rufete rosado from this same producer and my tasting note for that wine can be found in this post.

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