I Made a Quest to Find a Gran Reserva Tempranillo

Is a Gran Reserva Worth the Hype and Price?

First of all, I hope that everyone had a great holiday time with family and friends.  I took some time off from writing to take a break and get some focus for this year.  During that time, I was on the hunt for the elusive Gran Reserva Tempranillo. 

Gran Reserva?

I’m going to step back for a second and explain what a Gran Reserva is.  In recent articles, I’ve been taking the time to help expose you to lighter red wine varieties out in the market.  Again, I love my heavier reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, etc.) but I’m not a tannin fan.  I like my wines (like my tea) to have moderate tannins.  For the heavier reds I drink, I normally let them sit in a wine fridge ageing for a bit to reduce the tannins or serve them with rare beef (myoglobin in beef reduces tannins).

Great but what will I serve with pork or a sausage?  I have an incredible butcher less than a mile from my house that makes bacon sausage.  Yes, it’s everything you would dream of in regard to being amazing.  Tannic wines would mask the flavor of the sausage.  Therefore, I have to select a wine that will not overpower this gem made with love.

I’ve always been a fan of Tempranillo.  A huge fan.  When I started drinking in college, it was affordable (huge plus) and tasted amazing.  Until I was able to take my first wine class, I didn’t know the reason I liked it.  Spain does something amazing which is they preage their wines before releasing them.

Referring back to a previous article, the winemaker can age their wines using a government regulated system.  Gran Reserva means:

  1. The wine was aged for a min of 3 years in oak,
  2. Aged two years in the bottle after, and
  3. Can not be released for sale until it’s 6 years after the vintage date (when the grapes were picked).

This is an amazing system to note.  However, this only applies to Spanish wines.  If you see these terms for other countries, they have different meanings or in some cases mean absolutely nothing.  Knowing this, now my task is to find a location that sells these wines. 

The Search

I did find a Gran Reserva where I live in an upscale wine shop.  The price?  $120 per bottle.  Hmmmm, I think not.  Please understand one thing.  I’m not saying that the wine was not worth the price because that particular vintage and producer was.  If I had spare money, I would love to try it.  Ladies and Gentlemen…. I’m frugal (ok cheap).  I have always believed that exceptional wine can be found for incredible pricing if you know where to look.

Hence the trek to Total Wine in Detroit.  I had done some research to see what they may have off of their website.  I found a few options and decided to make the drive.  I was extremely happy to find several options at different price points.  The next question is what to purchase.  Here’s a quick hint:

  • Always use your phone to research a label in the store.

I typically do not look at the notes that a store will post but rather look at several sources.  I love having several reviews of a wine instead of a little note written by someone who works there.  They may not be wrong, but I don’t know them or their taste buds and like to get multiple opinions.  Therefore, I take a few minutes on each bottle and look up reviews on them. 

Brian, did you really drive 100 plus miles for a Bottle of Wine?

People ask me all the time why I do things like this.  I counter with questions such as:

  • Do you really get up out of bed and drive to a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee and then come home?

People do things like this because it’s worth it to them.  I’m a foodie.  That means that I won’t settle for substandard food or beverages. 

I have no problem going to Chicago to go to the Berghoff or Frontera for food.  Why?  Life is all about experiences and the excursion to get these tasty gems is worth it.  Some people go on cruises, some travel on planes to lie on a beach, some play golf.  I eat and drink well 😊 Making that drive was a blast.  The end results were fantastic.  I picked out two great ones that I’ll share with you briefly.

Manzanos Gran Reserva 2015 Rioja

This one I picked out after performing some quick research on the web because it was intriguing.  They had another one of their wines which was a Special bottle of their 125 anniversary Reserva for $94.  That alone had my interest going.  This one I took to a great party at a friend’s house and opened it and it was fantastic.

Quick notes:

Incredibly smooth, beautiful acidity and balance.  This one is a bit sharp on the acidity but it’s quite refreshing.  It was hard to stand in the kitchen and get all of the aromas, but the deep red fruit stood out,

Great fruit flavor with deep red plum, unripe strawberry and notes of raspberries and cranberries (incredibly unique) with notes of toasted oak and molasses (I’m thinking this gave me an off-dry perception, but I found the wine to be dry).

This wine had it all and I highly recommend it.


Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2015 Rioja

I was also able to find this gem.  I know that you have seen their label on other products.  In fact, in my local stores, they sell their Crianza for a great price.

Quick notes:

Beautiful acidity blends in with the soft tannins and light cream mouthfeel.  Aromas of ripe plums and blueberries, blackberries with toasted oak and hints of herbs (thyme oregano, marjoram, and sage).

The flavors of soft juicy black plums mixed with a hint of unripe red plums with the incredible mouthfeel are amazing.  It’s like drinking a softened unsweetened fruit punch with a lasting finish.  Super happy with this bottle and need to get a few more.  Surprisingly, it paired with a sauteed strip loin very well as it had enough depth and weight to match the food.  However, this is a smoked pork or chicken natural pairing.

Final Thoughts

Overall were the wines worth the drive to seek out and try?  Absolutely.  I feel that half of the fun is finding wines and the journey to get them.  When I lived in Texas, I was able to go anywhere and get great bottles.  Now living in a smaller area of the country (where beer is King, I might add), I have less product availability.  Making the drive is a great adventure that I look forward to.

For the price point, these were amazing finds that I would always pick over similar bottles of heavier reds.  Just ensure that you slightly chill it (and I mean slightly), do small pours in your glass and finish the bottle as I find tempranillo does not last.  That means drink responsibly, but you should never leave a tempranillo unfinished.  It’s not as good the next day.

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