My husband and I recently discussed out-of-fashion wines and realized that based on the bulk of our experience, our assessments of what’s in and what’s out are different depending on our contexts. He, with his buzzing around his many restaurants on a nightly basis, sees folks struggle with the pressure of public choice: “I really don’t want to look like an idiot, but I also don’t know anything so I’m going to go for what I think will garner the least attention and judgment.” For my customers in the shop, people were buying wine to drink in their house behind their closed doors. Retail shoppers buy the wine they want to drink when nobody’s looking. So I’m going out on a limb here, exposing a list of a few culprits that find rest in my own fridge and basement and glass where I think nobody will find them.
What is the most embarrassing of my behind-drawn-curtains wine drinking habits? Could it be the $5 Barbera I drank without shame or ceasing a few summers back? Or the same bottling of a California Zinfandel I enjoyed literally every night for about a month? What about the Vinho Verde I drank through a straw? No, none of these…I think it has to be the constant presence of bottom shelf, easy to love Tempranillo.
There’s nothing unfashionable about Tempranillo; people can still barely pronounce it, let alone remember that it’s a grape from Spain used in making some top tier Riojas and Ribera del Dueros. It’s a great buy, hardly touches the hem of top shelf Cabernet Sauvignon, and is by no means the most common or expected thing to choose. It’s the fact that there are so many in the sub-$15 range that really are stellar, not because they have much complexity or age-worthiness, but because they’re so damn tasty now.
The fresh, unoaked versions I like to keep around (and drink from big old juice glasses with maybe a few ice cubes if I’m feeling crude…don’t tell) taste like grape soda with a kick: soft, round, fruity, plush, a little acid but never too much. It’s what you want to have for your sangria, but also what you want to accompany you as you watch four consecutive hours of competitive food television. It’s ripe, not abrasive at all, low in tannins, and will go with whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. I’m not always proud of it, but I’d be foolish to denounce its usefulness, availability, and tastiness.